First Presbyterian Church

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They Had No Manual, but a New Presbyterian Church was Born.

Gathering in Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, were teaching and ruling elders ready to begin a new Presbyterian denomination.  Their date of gathering, or organization, was December 4, 1973, as date consciously chosen with an eye to the past. They began this new Reformed church on the same day and month as the organization date for the mother church that they were leaving, the Presbyterian Church, U.S., commonly known in those years as the Southern Presbyterian Church. That denomination had begun on December 4, 1861 as the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America. Later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, after the War between the States.

In choosing to organize the new denomination on that anniversary date, the new denomination was making a statement, laying claim as the faithful continuing church, the remnant leaving behind the unfaithful or disobedient. In fact, the Continuing Presbyterian Church was the name that they first gathered under in the years and months leading up to their official organization. That they did not desire to continue as yet another regional church was evidenced by the name they chose for the new denomination, the National Presbyterian Church (though a year later, that name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in America).

Reformed men were obviously interested in reforming the church. And so ever since it was clearly discovered that the Presbyterian Church in the United States had apostatized with no hope to bring it back to its historic roots, men and women had been praying and working, and working and praying, for this historic occasion. Ruling Elder W. Jack Williamson was chosen as the first moderator, with Dr. Morton Smith elected as Stated Clerk.  Ministries then in planning and those already exercised in action, came together in rapid fashion: Mission to the World, Mission to the United States, Christian Education and Publications were organized by the delegates.  With godly and wise coordinators to lead them, the work began to raise up a church faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

 Photo from the First General Assembly in 1973, with W. Jack Williamson at the podium, and Rev. Frank Barker seated, at the right.

Words to live by:  There is usually great excitement over a new birth in a family.  And so there was great excitement over the birth of a new denomination. Southern conservative Presbyterians had gone through many of the same struggles that Northern conservative Presbyterians endured just a few decades earlier. In both cases, the Church had been hijacked by the liberals. But godly men and women stood for the faith once delivered  unto the saints, and wouldn’t let historical attachments hold them captive to a decaying visible church. They voted with their feet and came out and were now separate. Praise God for their obedience to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

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The Rev. J. J. Janeway’s Review of The Divine Appointment, the Duties and the Qualifications of Ruling Elders; a Sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, in the City of New York, May 28, 1819, by Samuel Miller, D.D., in The Presbyterian Magazine, 1.4 (April 1821) 170-177.

[Rev. Janeway is pictured at left; Rev. Miller, at right]

The Church of God is that holy society established by Himself on earth for the maintenance of His worship, and the promotion of His glory, in the midst of a race of rebellious creatures. It is styled His house or family; and it ought not to be doubted, that this house of the living God, like that of every wise man, is subject to wholesome regulations.

Under the former dispensation it was governed by laws delivered with great solemnity, and placed under the ministry of men, whose offices and duties were defined with great precision. As government is as necessary to the welfare and prosperity of the church under the present, as under the preceding economy, it were marvelous indeed, if, at a period when God has blessed His people with the clearest light and the greatest privileges, he should have deprived them of the benefit of a government framed by His own wisdom, and committed to their interests to one devised by the wisdom and prudence of fallible men. We believe that He has provided a constitution, and appointed officers for the government of the Christian, as He had done before for the Jewish church.

Great diversity, it is true, does exist in the views of Christians in regard to the plan prescribed in the New Testament for ordering the affairs of this heavenly society; but this diversity of sentiment no more proves that no such plan is to be found in the inspired writings, than the discordance in the views which Christians of different denominations entertain in regard to revealed truths, proves that the particular doctrines in dispute are not taught by the sacred writers. That some doctrines are not revealed with such clearness as to secure uniformity of faith among all the pious disciples of Christ, is manifest; and therefore, while we deplore this want of unity of judgment, and pray for the arrival of that time when all shall be of one mind, we ought to bear with the infirmities and errors of others, and cordially love all who hold the head, Jesus Christ, how much soever they may differ from us in points not essential to the existence of unfeigned piety.

From the fact, that men of great learning and acknowledged godliness have differed widely from each other in regard to church government, it is equally manifest, that the principles of it laid down in the New Testament, are not stated with sufficient clearness to harmonize the views of all Christians on this important subject, in the present state of the world, liable as men are to have their sentiments affected by education and a thousand different circumstances. Whether one and the same ecclesiastical polity will prevail over the whole church, in that day of light and glory, to which the finger of prophecy directs the eye of faith, we shall not undertake to assert. But this we venture to affirm, that, although diversity of sentiment has sadly cut up the church into many sects, yet Christians, by whatever name called, are bound to love one another; and we see no reason why pious Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, and Methodists, and Baptists, &c. might not, in proper circumstances, hold occasional communion with each other at the table of our common Lord and Saviour.

Principles of ecclesiastical government, however, are not to be regarded as matters of indifference. They are important; and it is the duty of every church, to endeavour to discover those which have been laid down in the records of divine truth, and to adopt them in the management of its affairs. A greater degree of harmony of views on this subject existed among the reformers, than exists among ministers at present. Archibishop Cranmer, and many bishops and learned divines of the Episcopal Church of England, so far from advancing the exclusive notions embraced by some of their successors in that church, and elsewhere, entertained the same opinions on church government as the Helvetic churches. (See note N., p. 427, in Mr. McCrie’s Life of John Knox). As Presbyterians, we are sincerely attached to that form of ecclesiastical government which was adopted by the wisdom and piety of our forefathers; and we believe that it approaches nearer to the Scriptural plan than that of any other church.

The Christian public are indebted to the pen of the author of this sermon for an able and temperate vindication of the great doctrine of ministerial parity, in opposition to diocesan Episcopacy. In this discourse he has selected as the subject of discussion the office of ruling elders. It was preached in May, 1809, when several individuals were ordained to that office in the First Presbyterian Church in the city of New York, of which he was at that time one of the pastors; but owing to the delicate state of his health, and unavoidable engagements, he was prevented from complying with his promise to his friends, who had requested its publication, till January, 1811.

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These were tumultuous times in the history of the church, and in the midst of them Brumbaugh moved to Tacoma to become the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. He was forty-one years old and had a wife and four children. The First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma boasted a formal membership of 1,850, with about 1,000 attending regularly; it was one of the largest in the denomination on the West Coast. The church edifice was a grand structure, and the church was organized with programs for everyone. The church had been without a pastor for a year, and there were some strong elders on the session of the church who were in charge of the program. One of the foremost programs of the church was the Scofield Bible Study classes conducted by the elders. Dr. Brumbaugh came to Tacoma by car from Philadelphia, which was an exciting trip at that time. During most of the trip, his son Roy stood in the front passenger compartment with his hand on the top of the windshield. The issues that were present on the East Coast were also present on the West Coast to some degree.

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was formally organized on October 17,1933, and the Rev. J. Gresham Machen was elected as its first president. As new revelations continued to appear pertaining to the modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people converted over to support of the IBPFM. This support of the new board worried the denomination so that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. That general assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church is required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church in the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper. Each Presbytery was mandated to take action against its members who were also members of the IBPFM. The deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and the consequences of it would play out over the course of the next year. Finally the controversy that had simmered for more than a decade was going to be decided in the church courts.

Back in Tacoma, the First Presbyterian Church prospered in many respects, and Brumbaugh, the evangelist, preached the gospel, and many people made professions of faith. However, there was an undercurrent of dissension in the local church that was a microcosm of the denominational controversy. In the local church there was a group of elders who had their plan for the church and a strong pastor who had his plan. As the controversy intensified nationally, it intensified locally and small differences that might have been overlooked in a more peaceable climate became big issues. The lines of demarcation were established and it became apparent that there would eventually be a showdown. It took over a year for the Mandate to trickle down to the local level. It was the presbyteries that were instructed to implement the mandate and there were periods of notification in accordance with the Book of Discipline, and procedures that carried over till the summer and fall of 1935. All the while, sides were taken in the First Presbyterian Church and it was a difficult time to carry on the work of the church. If Brumbaugh left the church, he would lose the building, his pension, the prestige of being pastor to one of the largest churches in the denomination, and other attendant privileges.

In spite of all of this, on August 21, 1935, Brumbaugh informed the denomination of his withdrawal from the PCUSA. Finally he was free. On Thursday night, August 22, 1935, the first meeting of the First Independent Church of  Tacoma was held with over 700 in attendance. Ironically, the only facility available to accommodate the new church was a Scottish Rites Temple, right across the alley from the First Presbyterian Church. A new church had begun, fresh and free from denominational control. It was a wonderful feeling of excitement and expectation. As the different presbyteries dealt with other members of the Independent Board, many were suspended, some were admonished or rebuked; and one presbytery, the Presbytery of Chester, refused to take action against the Rev. Wilbur M. Smith, who had followed Brumbaugh at the Coatesville Presbyterian Church. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia and suspended from the PCUSA. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty in a sham of a trial and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA. A sad chapter in Presbyterian church history had come to an end. The same church that had suspended Dr. Charles A. Briggs for heresy in 1893, had, in 1935, suspended Dr. J. Gresham Machen from its ministry for his FAITHFUL ADHERANCE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh continued on as Pastor of the Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church until his death on January 3, 1957. The last twenty years of that ministry, although not without controversy, saw an active, enthusiastic, evangelistic church, with a special emphasis on the military personnel from the local military bases.

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Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, D.D., LL.D., by Richard H. Collins, LL.D., LOUISVILLE, Ky.

Rev. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, D.D., LL.D., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Ky., was born January 17th, 1886, in the village of Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama. He is now forty-nine years of age, just in the maturity of his powers.

His was a godly family; for his father and his father’s fathers for six generations were elders of the Presbyterian Church. And away back yonder, in the never dim but ever brightening distance, some of the gentle blood that now courses in his veins gave life and zeal and boldness and energy and vehemence and power unwonted to John Knox, the great leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, 1505-1372, more than three hundred years ago.

John Witherspoon, D.D., LL.D.. President of Princeton College, New Jersey, 1788-1788, a sturdy Scotch minister, theologian and statesman, whom readers of American history remember as a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a leader in the dark days of the American Revolution, was also in the line of direct ancestry: and a man of whom his children’s children to the latest generation may speak with honest pride. This pride of illustrious descent is with many people an excuse for lack of energy and personal excellence and success; but all those who have the root of the matter in them may well be thankful for God-fearing ancestors, who in their day and time were men of great excellence and boldness in the faith.

Robert Franklin Witherspoon and Sarah Agnes, his wife, were Presbyterians from principle, Christians of ardent piety. They were Bible readers and Bible scholars, and fond of theological inquiry; and in their admiration of the writings of the great theologian, Timothy Dwight, deemed it a graceful acknowledgment of the great things constantly found therein to name their boy Thomas Dwight—indulging a presentiment that the babe would some day grow to the stature of a theologian and leader in the Church. The training of the boy by the death of the father when he was only four years old, devolved upon the mother, and right bravely did she stand up to the responsibility thus cast upon her. At the early age of ten, her little boy gave beautiful proof of pious training, by publicly confessing Christ, one of a number brought into the fold under the preaching of Rev. Robert Nall, D.D., the evangelist of the Synod of Alabama.

In 1853, when seventeen years old, young Witherspoon entered upon his college course in the sophomore class of the University of Alabama; but in 1854 transferred his connection to the University of Mississippi, where he graduated in 1856 with the highest honors of his class. The same fall he entered the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina, where under the professorships of Doctors James H. Thornwell, Aaron W. Leland, George Howe, and John H. Adger, he completed the course, and in May, 1859, received his theological certificate or diploma.

The Presbytery of Chickasaw, of the Synod of Memphis, on June 6th, 1859, licensed him as a probationer for the Gospel ministry; and the same Presbytery on May 13th, 1860, ordained him to the full work of the ministry, and installed him as pastor of the Presbyterian church at Oxford, Mississippi.

This call to the church (his first church) in the town of the University from which he graduated with high honor in 1856, less than four years before, was a high compliment to him personally, and practically a high eulogy upon the character of his preaching—-its warmth and earnestness, and attractiveness to the young, of whom so many were gathered in the university and female schools of the town. His labors here were owned of God, in abundant blessing.

But in a twelvemonth a great change came over this quiet scene of peace and love between pastor and young people. The young men of his congregation and neighborhood, with the deep courage of their convictions, hesitated not for an hour when the tocsin of war—the War of the Rebellion—was sounded all over the land. The young preacher, no longer only their friend and pastor and spiritual adviser, became their fellow-soldier, enlisting as a private in the Lamar Rifles of the Eleventh Mississippi Volunteers. Thus the first year of the war passed; and thenceforward to the final surrender at Appomattox Court House, he was their chaplain, sharing in their hardships, nursing them in sickness, administering the consolations of the Gospel to the dying, and sending to the loved ones at home the messages entrusted to him at the last and painful parting.

The war was over at last, and the scene changed again. Laying aside the soldier and the chaplain, he entered upon another field, to preach again the Gospel of peace and love and mediatorial sacrifice, In August, he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church at Memphis, where he labored with marked success and blessing for five years—until August, 1870, when his health broke down under excessive exertion in a malarial climate, and forced him to resign a pastorate which had shown the ripe fruit of growth from 160 to 410 in membership, and became the strongest and most influential of that denomination in the city. And this, too, through epidemics of both cholera and yellow fever!

In the mountains of Virginia, as supply to the church at Christiansburg. Dr. Witherspoon spent the next years; and during the succeeding two years was chaplain of the University of Virginia, near Charlottesville.

In the summer of 1873, as a further means of restoring his impaired health, Dr. Witherspoon crossed the ocean, and travelled extensively in Europe. On his return, in October, 1873, he accepted the pastorate of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church, in Petersburg, Va., one of the largest in the South. After nine years of marked usefulness here, a unanimous call to the old First Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Ky., opened up a wider field, and which he felt it duty to accept.

Since settling there in the fall of 1882, as if the labor of that important church were not enough to tax his superabundant energy, he has been chairman of the Committee of Evangelistic Labor of the Synod of Kentucky—having the oversight of some twenty evangelists, as a result of whose labors over four thousand communicants have been added to the roll of the Synod!

In 1874, at the age of thirty-eight, Dr. Witherspoon took his seat for the first time in the General Assembly, at Columbus, Mississippi, only about one hundred miles east of where he began his ministerial life; and in 1884, just ten years later, at the age of forty-eight, he was elected Moderator of and presided over the General Assembly at Vicksburg, Mississippi, just two hundred miles southwest of the same beginning point, Oxford, Mississippi. And the same University that graduated him with high honor in 1858, at the age of twenty, conferred upon him in 1867, at the age of thirty-one, the distinguished honor of D.D., and in 1884, at the age of forty-eight, the more distinguished honor of LL.D. Such a succession of honors is almost unparalleled; and the State of Mississippi, while witnessing within her borders this high appreciation by the Presbyterian Church in the South of one of her favorite sons, has borne a beautiful testimony to his great energy, consecrated talent, and noble character.

As a writer in the Church newspapers, Dr. Witherspoon has written frequently, judiciously, and effectively. The following are among the larger and more important publications from his pen, in book form; “The Appeal of the South to its Educated Men” (1866);  “Children of the Covenant” (1873); “Materialism in its Relations  to Modem Civilization” (1878); and “Letters on Romanism” (1882).

Among the most decided evidences of the high appreciation of Dr. Witherspoon’s practical talents by the Presbyterian Church and people of the South, is the great number of calls he has had to prominent churches, his election to chairs in or the presidency of colleges and universities, and the professorships in theological seminaries that have been offered him. The latest distinction of this kind of which we have heard is his election as president of Davidson College, at Charlotte, North Carolina. This, and all others, he promptly declined; because he felt that the great mission of his life is to preach the Gospel. In the pulpit and on the platform he is emphatically extemporaneous; always trusting to the inspiration of the moment for words to clothe the ideas and emphasize the thoughts he has diligently studied out in his room.

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taylorgaikenGeorge Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor.  When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940.  He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941.  He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry.  He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.

Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942 and to this marriage, four children were born.

After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the B.D. degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948.  He was also ordained in 1948.  He served as pastor of Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia for two years and then became pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina.  In 1950 he then entered Duke University for graduate study.  Later he was awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.

Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959.  He became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles, and wrote A Sober Faith in 1953.  His book St. Luke’s Life of Jesus was published in 1954.

In 1959 Dr. Taylor became editor of The Presbyterian Journal, an independent weekly with an international circulation and with offices in Asheville, North Carolina.  He served in this capacity for twenty-four years, and during that time was active in the conservative movement in the PCUS which eventuated in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), formed in 1973.  He was a leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of its General Assembly in 1978.

In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and was inaugurated in December of that year.  However, three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly.  Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, and funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina.  Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.

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Yesterday, if you remember, it was noted that in 1783, a day of thanksgiving was observed on December 11th. So perhaps it should not be quite such a surprise to find that in 1850, Thanksgiving Day was on December 12th! Here below is a list of some of the sermons we’ve compiled that were preached on that occasion by various Presbyterian pastors, and as it is a Saturday today, I invite you to select one from among those below where a link is provided, and then take up and read!:—

Beaman, Nathan Sidney Smith [1785-1871]
Characteristics of the Age : A discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Troy, N.Y., on Thanksgiving Day, December 12, 1850. (Troy, N.Y. : Young and Hartt, 1851), 32 p.

Boardman, Henry A.[1808-1880]
The American union : a discourse delivered on Thursday, December 121850, the day of the annual thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, and repeated on Thursday, December 19, in the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

Schenck, William Edward [1819-1903]
An historical account of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, N.J. : being a sermon preached on Thanksgiving Day, December 12, 1850 (Princeton, N.J. : Printed by John T. Robinson, 1850), 74pp.

Skinner, Thomas Harvey, [1791-1871]
Love of Country: A Discourse, Delivered on Thanksgiving Day, December 12th, 1850, in the …

Smith, Asa Dodge [1804-1877]
Obedience to human law : a discourse delivered on the day of public thanksgiving, December 12, 1850, in the Brainerd Presbyterian Church, New York (New York : Leavitt, 1851), 32 p.

Smith, Edward Dunlap, 1802-1883
Our country, and our country’s constitution and laws : a discourse delivered on Thanksgiving Day, December 12th,1850, in the Chelsea Presbyterian Church, New York

Yeomans, John William [1800-1863]
Signs of the country’s future : a discourse delivered in the Presbyterian Church in Danville, Pennsylvania, December 12, 1850, on occasion of the annual thanksgiving (Danville, Pa. : E.W. Conkling, 1851), 30 p.

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Don’t Be Misled By Popular Bible Teachers

You would have thought that the writer could be trusted. Hadn’t the Notes he had published, covering all the New Testament books and some of the Old Testament, been received by over one million readers? Surely, such a response by the Christian public meant that his words were doctrinally sound.  But these books were not doctrinally sound, and neither was their author, who was a minister in the Presbyterian Church, namely, Albert Barnes.

By now, hopefully, our readers know something of the Old School – New School Division in the Presbyterian Church in the 1830’s in our nation. The Plan of Union with the Congregational Church, which had been entered into in 1801 was abrogated in 1837.  A key leader of the New School Presbyterian branch was the Rev. Albert Barnes.

Albert  Barnes was born on December 1, 1798 in Rome, New York.  After schooling at Fairfield Academy, he entered Hamilton College in New York.  At this time, he was a skeptic in  matters of Christianity.  After reading however an article by Dr. Chalmers on Christianity, he became a Christian.  After graduation from Hamilton College in 1820, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated from there in 1823. He had as his professors Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge. Ordained by the Presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1825, he went to a Presbyterian Church as its pastor for five years until 1830. The bulk of his pastoral ministry however would be spent at the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1830 – 1867.

The latter span was the height of the division between the Old School and New School branches of the Presbyterian Church, and Albert Barnes was a key to the division. He took the New School slant in denying the imputation of Adam’s sin to mankind, and therefore the denial of original sin. He affirmed, in contrast to the Westminster Standards, that free will was within the picture of salvation for every sinner.

If he had been simply the pastor of a local church, these denials would have been bad enough. But Albert Barnes was also the author of the Notes on the Bible which were being received by over one million readers all over the globe. Thus his heresy was wide-spread to the church at large. Twice, he was brought up for heresy by those in his presbytery. But he was not convicted by the same church, though once he was suspended briefly.

To his credit, Albert Barnes also worked for the abolition of slavery and on behalf of the Temperance crusade. He would have eye problems near the end of his ministry in Philadelphia, and he died in 1870. Before he died, the Old School and New School re-united, though the reunion was opposed by his former professors from Princeton Seminary.

Words to live by:  Just because a person graduated from all the “right” schools and seminaries doesn’t cause that individual to be acceptable to a pulpit. Careful examinations must be done to make sure that his convictions agree with his words. Ordination vows are only as good as the men who make up the Presbytery in which the person resides. The Presbytery is committed with the duty of guarding the historic Christian faith, insuring that those who take those vows are equally committed to this same faith. Pray faithfully for the elders of the church—both teaching and ruling elders—that they will remain true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Despise not the day of small beginnings. It was on this day, October 30, in 1973 that a small group of men representing just three churches came together to form the Presbytery of Texas, soon to become part of the National Presbyterian Church on December 4, 1973. The young denomination would be renamed the Presbyterian Church in America a year later, and the Presbytery itself would be split into North Texas and South Texas on January 1, 1985. Houston Metro Presbytery would later be formed from South Texas Presbytery on January 1, 2004. The other three Presbyteries with churches in Texas—Korean Southern, Korean Southwest, and Southwest—are multi-state presbyteries, and these latter three were not formed from the original Presbytery of Texas.

Our post today focuses on the minutes of that first Stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas:—

FIRST STATED MEETING

THE PRESBYTERY OF TEXAS

October 30, 1973

The first stated meeting of the Presbytery of Texas was held in the First Presbyterian Church of Paris, Texas, October 30, 1973. A quorum was present.  The meeting was opened with prayer by the Moderator, the Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]. A Welcome was given by the Pastor of the Host Church, the Rev. Eric McQuitty.  The docket was adopted.

Jimmy Stewart, a candidate for the ministry, delivered a thoughtful ser­mon on the subject “The Measureless Love of God”, using John 3:16 as a text. He was examined by the Committee on Reception of Ministers and was received in the Presbytery as such. November 18, 1973 was set as the time for his or­dination and installation as Minister of Youth for the Fifth Street Presbyterian Church of Tyler.

The Rev. John Knox Bowling of Adamsville, Texas and the Rev. Lardner W. Moore of Sherman, Texas were examined and received into the Presbytery. Both men are honorably retired. The Rev. Bill Buckner of Strawn, Texas was examin­ed. He passed the examination but was not ready to join the Presbytery until he had taken care of two obligations.

The Treasurer, Alex McKenzie, gave his report and stated the Presbytery has received $300.00 and spent $63.50.

The Moderator gave a sunmary of the progress of the Continuing Church and discussed the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly to be held December 4th in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Oaklawn Presbyterian Church of Houston was received as a member of the Presbytery. Possible new churches and mission work was discussed and it was moved and adopted that a Home Mission chairman be appointed by the Moderator.

A commission to ordain and install James H. Stewart, composed of the following was elected: Presiding Officer, Rev. Dan McCown; Sermon, Rev. Carl Wilson; Charge to the Minister, Rev. Eric McQuitty; Charge to the Congregation Elder A. H. Burton; Prayer, Elder Jack Treloar, Raymond, Miss.

The next stated meeting of the Presbytery was set for January 29th, 1974 at the Oaklawn Presbyterian Church in Houston, the meeting to be called to order at 12:00 Noon.

The meeting was closed with prayer by Rev. Eric McQuitty.                                       ­­­­­­­­­

Dan H. McCown, Moderator

A. H. Burton, Clerk

Where are they now?
The Rev. James H. (Jimmy) Stewart was for many years a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong, then associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, and now works with Evangelism Explosion.

Many of the above mentioned men have now passed on to glory. They include:
Rev. John Knox Bowling [1904-1983]
Rev. Dan McCown [1924–1979]
Rev. Eric McQuitty [1930-2009]
Rev. Lardner Moore [1922-1987]

And the churches?

Fifth Street Presbyterian Church, Tyler, TX was organized in 1954.
Oaklawn Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX was organized in 1917.
First Presbyterian Church, Paris, TX, identified in the above minutes, was unable to retain its property and identity as First Presbyterian, so the congregation joining the PCA officially became Faith Presbyterian Church and is recognized as having been organized in 1973.

But look at what has happened in the years since, and how God has blessed:
When the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) began, just a small handful of churches left the mother church to form the new Texas Presbytery.
There are now 92 PCA churches in the State of Texas. Of these
14 are in Houston Metro Presbytery
16 are in Korean Southern Presbytery
1 are in Korean Southwest Presbytery
38 are in North Texas Presbytery
21 are in South Texas Presbytery, and
2 are in Southwest Presbytery

Words to Live By:
Clearly the Lord has blessed as His Word has been faithfully proclaimed.

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An Unusual Name No Hindrance to God’s Working

This writer has to acknowledge that I was curious regarding the name of this Presbyterian minister for this day of October 28, 1871. It was on this day that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. His name was Septimus Tustin.

My first thought upon seeing that name “Septimus” was what parent would possibly bestow upon their son such a name. But then, I noted that his father’s name was “Septimus,” so I understood that it was a case of “like father, like son.” He was the son of Septimus and Elizabeth Tustin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his father died when he was quite young. Septimus was reared by his mother, and she is described as a pious woman and a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. With such a home and church like that, it is no great surprise that he went into the pastoral ministry. Ordained by the Presbytery of the District of Columbia (the first such from that new Presbytery), he began his pastoral ministry in Leesburg, Virginia in 1825.

Between the years of 1826 and 1861, he ministered to six more Presbyterian churches, five of them in the Northern states and one in the South. The latter was in Mississippi, and his time there came quickly to an end when that Southern state joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Rev. Tustin worked hard to unify the two sectional Presbyterian churches, but without success.

What is interesting about this minister is that on two occasions, he was called to the halls of Congress as a chaplain. First, he was the House of Representatives Chaplain for two years, and following up that ministry with the United States Senate Chaplaincy for five years. He also served as a trustee of Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania.

Words to live by:

What might be seen as a hindrance to effective work in God’s kingdom, as in this case a name, is proven to be the opposite when God’s Spirit is in control. Indeed, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), this is the norm rather than the exception. From the Amplified, it reads, “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren: not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what is the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is low-born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.”

 

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LarnedSylvester02On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who could not afford to flee the city. It was in that context that “The whole of his discourse was solemn, and he himself was unusually affected by the considerations he presented to his hearers; and as he concluded, he wept.”

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’ — Philippians 1:21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).

“To a sentiment like this, my hearers, what can we conceive superior in dignity of thought, or loftiness of feeling? How majestic does he appear who can look with so triumphant an emotion upon the grave,—and that too, not in the sternness of philosophy, nor the torpor of fatalism, but simply in the meek and confiding hope of salvation in Jesus Christ! In the present case, also, there are some facts which render the spectacle still more illustrious. When St. Paul uttered the language of our text, he was a prisoner at Rome. The terrible Nero had hunted long and eagerly for the aged saint, till at last the apostle was seized and conducted to that imperial monster, who had so often feasted on the blood and tears of the Church. Here it was that the godly old man—chained to a soldier, to prevent his escape, uncertain what day might prove his last, and listening, at every sound, for the fearful tread of the executioner,—here it was, under circumstances which might have appalled the stoutest heart, that he exclaimed, more like a conquerer than a captive,

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’

Now what, my hearers, is life? It comprises, you well know, two leading ideas—activity and enjoyment. Every man has some great object upon which his activities are more awake than upon any other. Wealth to one, Beauty to a second, Fame to a third, and so on; and, I trust, experimental religion to a few, calls forth that paramount solicitude and exertion which show most decisively in what direction the main current of the feelings is set. By this rule, if you look at the apostle Paul, you may find out, at a glance, the real spring of his movements. His whole efforts were bent to the single aim of promoting Christianity, not only abroad, but in his own bosom—not alone in the display of its external embellishments, but in the urgency of its work upon the affections and thoughts.

The same is true in regard to the idea of enjoyment. There is scarcely a man in a thousand who does not show to the eye of his acquaintances, and indeed to his own eye, if he be candid and impartial, the actual feelings by which he loves chiefly to be engrossed. The secret will come out. The votary of pleasure, of fashion, of gold, and, may I add, of the Saviour, are sure to betray the supremacy of their attachment to their separate objects of pursuit.

By this rule, too, St. Paul appears in a character the most unequivocal. His enjoyments were in Christ. All his views of happiness appear to have centered on the one absorbing principle of union with Him, ‘in whom,’ to use his own words, ‘tho’ now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Well then did the great apostle of the Gentiles say, that ‘To him to live was Christ.’ But, my brethren, does not his language convey a sentiment of conviction and reproof to you? Could you adopt it, and assert that the Lord Jesus constitutes the primary object of your lives, either by making you supremely active in His service, or by making you supremely happy in His promises?

These are inquiries which lie, depend upon it, at the very basis of personal religion. Easy as it may be to carry about us the semblance of a hope for eternity, the Bible declares that God looketh at the life, not simply in its visible conformities and observances, but in the entireness of its dedication to Jesus Christ. But the venerable Paul goes on to say, that ‘to him to die was gain.‘ How is this? How should a poor frail mortal, who had known only one world, feel a confidence so strong in approaching the untried scenes of another? The reason, my hearers, plainly was, that he had an interest in the Saviour’s blood.

This inspired his triumph, and having this, Death, was to him, as it is to every believer, a subject of thanksgiving and praise. It released him from all his sorrows; and many a one have the children of God in walking through this vale of tears. The hand of God’s bereavement, or the reverses of His Providence, break in upon their happiness so often, that, ‘if , in this life only, they had hope in Christ, they were, of all men, most miserable.’

And besides, in entering the grave, the Christian leaves his sins behind him; and I know of no one consideration more glorious or more animating to a renovated heart. Certain it is, that by just how much we are assimilated to the Redeemer, by just so much will the bare danger of violating his commandments, or incurring his displeasure, be to us a source of the most lively uneasiness and anxiety.

And then, more than every thing else, the hour of death, however shrouded for the time in gloom, ushers the experimental believer into a better and a brighter world. To him it is that God has promised ‘an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.’ The very moment life is gone, the certainty of Heaven comes home to him; and thus it happens that every one, rich or poor, bond or free, who can truly say, with the apostle, that ‘to him to live is Christ’, may say also with the same assurance, that ‘to die is gain.’

And here, my brethren, let me again inquire, if the sentiment of our text do not tacitly imply a reproach—or an expostulation to yourselves? In what sense is it that death, to you, would be ‘gain’?—Death, which will stop you short in your pursuits, and lay you motionless and cold, beneath the lids of the coffin—death, which will put forever beyond your reach the offers of mercy—which will cut short the busy activities of the world, and dismiss you at once to the tribunal bar of the Omnipotent God. Justly indeed might St. Paul contemplate these things with joy; for he was prepared to put off his clayey tabernacle. But, to us, the question comes most impressively up, whether we have any evangelical and well-grounded reason to believe that Christ has been formed in us the hope of glory?

“Now, my hearers, in looking at the subject which has been briefly examined, I cannot repress a remark, adapted, I think, to the serious reality of our present circumstances. It is this: At all times a becoming preparation for eternity presents itself to us as a most desirable attainment—but now more than ever, for the simple reason that now the distance between time and eternity seems to be most solemnly short. You can all attest how suddenly a few weeks past have hurried some of our fellow-beings from health to the tomb. Do not, however, mistake my meaning,—do not think I say this with a design to alarm. By no means. Your own good sense will teach you, that at a moment like the present, composure and tranquility, even without religion, ought carefully to be sought. But what I say is, have an interest in Jesus Christ. Then death will have no terrors, and the grave no victory.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. Why will you put off the business of your immortal souls? Why will you rush forward with the infatuation of madness and the rashness of despair, when the arms of a compassionate Saviour are thrown open to welcome you with all your sins and all your fears? I entreat, and God grant you may remember the appeal—I entreat you to be up and doing—to work while it is called today, because the night cometh,—and how soon or suddenly we know not,—wherein no man can work.”

———

By the exertions of this Sabbath he appeared to be much overcome, but complained of no indisposition until early the next morning, when he was seized with fever, which no medical skill or appliances could subdue; and on Thursday evening, the 31st of August, the very day on which he completed his twenty-fourth year, he resigned, in the full confidence of a blessed immortality, his soul to God.

To read more of the life of the Rev. Sylvester Larned, along with a small collection of his sermons, click here :
Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned; first pastor of the First Presbyterian church in New Orleans, by Ralph Randolph Gurley (1844).

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