God Spirit

You are currently browsing articles tagged God Spirit.

Divine Providence Ordered the Choice of a Vocation and Decided the Course of A Life
by David T. Myers

Our title for this post is a long one, but it was certainly the case for our featured character today, namely, David Blair. Born November 21, 1787, David was the eighth of eleven children born in the parish of Donagor, County Antrim, Ireland, to Hugh and Jane Blair. They all attended a Presbyterian church until for some unknown reason, they transferred their membership to a Seceder Presbyterian church in the same county. In good weather, the local Covenanter pastor would preach in the barns and groves of their fields. But in time, the whole family decided to travel to America for a new life. With a family this large, some five different times were scheduled to take the family to the American colonies. The part of the family which included young David, took 66 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Upon landing, the family traveled by wagon to Pittsburgh, and on to Steubenville, Ohio, where a married daughter was living with her family. Eventually, the entire family moved to Crawford County in Pennsylvania, where several hundred acres were purchased and cabins built for the family. At this time, David Blair was around sixteen years of age. Reading a book which his older brother had given him, the young teen was encouraged to apply to the gospel ministry in 1805. Attendance at Jefferson College in Canonsburg and eventually at the theological Seminary of the Associate Presbyterian Church, David began his preparation for the ministry, pursuing those studies diligently. Licensed to preach on August 29, 1816, David received a call from three Congregations in Pennsylvania. However, rather than immediately receiving it, David begged for an opportunity to travel for a year in ministry throughout the South. He did that on horseback, and then returned to the three congregations. Eventually, he was ordained on October 7, 1818, a full two years after he had been licensed for the ministry. Married to Margaret Steele of Huntington in 1821, she proved to be the woman who helped him greatly in his life and ministry. Forty-four years of pastoral ministry characterized his service to His God and church in Pennsylvania.

Another minister summed up those pastoral laborers saying, “David Blair remains like the venerable oak that has withstood many storms and tempests. Many in his congregations look to him as their spiritual father. He baptized you in infancy. He first gave you the emblems of a Savior’s broken body. He joined you in marriage with the companions whom you call the fathers and mothers of your children. His deep toned voice and direct prayer has gone up from your chambers of sickness. His venerable form has led the processions that carried your loved ones to the grave. Thiese congregations should still honor him as their spiritual father.” David Blair would go on to glory on February 28, 1882.

And so, by this post, we authors and readers own him as one of the spiritual fathers of the church in America, who faithfully labored in small and large fields of ministry, faithfully proclaiming the blessed Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Words to Live By:
Reader! Think of some pastoral minister who was instrumental by God’s Spirit to be that one who was described in the above paragraphs as “the venerable oak” to you and yours. Thank God for him right now. Reflect on how he was used of the Holy Spirit to minister God’s Word to you and your family for a time, carrying out the ministerial actions mentioned in the above paragraphs. Question? If still alive, has he been the recipient of your gratitude spoken and written? Can you not return the spiritual favors rendered by various means, perhaps even monetary gifts, in time of need? Writing as a retired pastor, I can recount with joy various expressions of gratitude, even monetary, which former members of my  several congregations have given to me. Do other pastors need to hear some such encouragement from you?

Tags: , , ,

A Message to our Faithful Subscribers:

Three years ago, I pitched the idea to Wayne Sparkman, archivist of the PCA History Center, about a day by day Presbyterian web site to focus in on persons, places, and events associated with historic Presbyterianism. He graciously received the idea and This Day in Presbyterian History was born. We wanted it to be a devotional, so Scripture reading through the Bible, confessional readings in our Westminster Standards, and a  practical Words to Live By section were placed along with each historical post.

By and large, after three years of one thousand and ninety six posts, we believe that it has turned out to be what we prayed and planned it to be, in His providence. However now, I am leaving the co-authorship of it, so as to engage in other writing pursuits. (By Wayne’s kind invitation, I plan to write some posts for 2015 as a guest author.)  My prayer is that God’s Spirit will continue to help our subscribers learn from the past and continue to engage in the work of the Lord for His glory.

—David T. Myers

It has been a pleasure working with David these past four years. When he called to suggest the project, I was cautious, having some idea of the time it would involve. When I did finally agree that the PCA Historical Center would host the blog, I asked David to write a year’s worth of posts in advance. And he did it! No backing out then. So we unveiled the blog on January 1 of 2013. Now we are about to enter our fourth year, and there is still so very much that we can write about.

From time to time you may notice that we might repeat a post from a prior year. Generally this is when time simply doesn’t permit writing new material. Or on a few occasions, even with a deeper pool of resources at hand, there still are a few dates when it seems that not much happened.

I will sorely miss David’s invaluable help with this blog. He’ll be back with a few posts through the coming year, and who knows, maybe in 2016 he’ll return with still more frequent contributions. I feel I’ve gotten to know him rather well, even though we’ve never met face to face. May our Lord bless these projects that David has laid out for the new year, and may our Lord strengthen my hand to continue this blog, to His glory and praise.

—Wayne Sparkman, director, PCA Historical Center.

Tags: , , ,

The Life of a Man Who Walked with God

Our title came from the pen of C.H. Spurgeon who recommended the reading of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This author was given the Memoir to read in the beginning of his college years in preparation for the gospel ministry. I have returned to it frequently in some fifty years of ministry. It is that beneficial.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (sometimes spelled McCheyne) lived between May 21, 1813 and March 25, 1843. If you count those years, you immediately realize that he lived on this earth for only thirty years. And only seven of those years were spent in pastoral ministry. Yet the shortness of his life and ministry were abundantly fruitful in many respects, not the least of which was evangelistic at home and abroad. Countless Scottish people acknowledged him as their spiritual father in the faith.

He was born on May 21, 1813 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest child of Adam M’Cheyne. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in 1827, distinguishing himself in all of his classes. His lifestyle was however given over to the pursuits of pleasure rather than the pursuit of holiness. The death of his older brother, David M’Cheyne, brought him to a sense of personal spiritual need.  David had often prayed for his conversion. Robert resolved to “seek a Brother who cannot die.” Reading the Bible and various books were  eventually used of the Lord to bring that spiritual change in his soul. His diary records evidences of a spiritual change.

Licensed to preach the Word by the Presbytery of Annan in 1835, after a brief stint as an assistant pastor, he was ordained  on November 24, 1836 and called by a new congregation in Dundee, Scotland. Soon crowds were attending the preached Word.  However, the labors of the pastoral ministry brought physical problems, which required him to desist for a season during the winter at Edinburgh.

Later, to a fellow laborer in the Lord’s work, he wrote, “Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity.”

Pastor M’Cheyne always felt that his time on earth would be short. Whether this was revealed to him by God’s Spirit in some way, or it was simply a recognition of his own bodily weakness, this author doesn’t know. But he always had a sense of his own mortality. And indeed, after a church-sanctioned trip with Andrew Bonar and other ministers to Palestine, to determine opportunities for the conversion of Jews in 1839, he returned to Scotland. It was but four years later in 1843, that he was seized with typhus fever and went to be with the Lord on March 25, 1843.

Words to Live By: It was his closest friend Andrew Bonar who wrote his Memoirs in 1844. In less than three years, seventeen editions were sold. Banner of Truth first reprinted it in 1960. Moody Press also came out with an edition of it. If you, dear reader, have never opened its pages, buy and read the book. If it has been some time since you have perused its pages, read it again, and feast upon the Spirit’s work in the life and ministry of this young man. It will repay your time and effort.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – (Ps. 90:12, KJV)

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

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 1:26-29, 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.

Through the Scriptures: 
Luke 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Everyone is to read the word of God

WLC 156 “Is the word of God to be read by all?
A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families; to which end, the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar (e.g. common) languages.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History

A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise

Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith.  But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this.  So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be required to subscribe to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly in their entirety, or just for their essential truths?  The fact that so many officers were still in the process of emigrating to the colonies made this a relevant question for the infant church to resolve.

Conscious of the potential for schism, on September 17, 1729, Jonathan Dickinson became the main proponent against the total subscriptionist party in the church.  His argument was simple.  He believed the Bible was the sufficient rule for faith and life.  Subscription must be adhered to it and to it alone, not to some man-made summary of it, as good as it might be.

The total subscriptionist side also believed the Bible was all-sufficient for doctrine and life, but were equally convinced that the Westminster standards of confession and catechisms offer an adequate summary of the Old and New Testaments.  To receive it and adopt it in its entirely would stop any heresies which may invade the church from either within or without the church.

At the synod in 1729, Dickinson and his followers won the day with what has become known at the Adopting Act of 1729.  The document stated that on the one hand, there was a clear requirement to receive and adopt the Westminster Standards.  However, if an elder, whether teaching or ruling elder, had an exception to those standards, he was to make known to the church or presbytery his exception.  The latter body would then judge whether the exception dealt with essential and necessary articles of doctrine, worship, or government. If it did not, then he could be ordained without official censure or social ostracism.

The entire body of elders gathered at the Philadelphia Synod gave thanks to God in solemn praise and prayer that the resolution of this potential schism had been averted and unity was maintained in the infant Presbyterian church.

Words to live by:  It is always good that disunity should be avoided and unity be maintained.  But at what cost, is the question?   The compromise here looked good on the surface.  But presbyteries and synods and assemblies are made up of fallible men who can, sadly, declare that the basic truths of the Christian religion are not necessary to be held, as is the case now with several liberal Presbyterian bodies.   Obviously, much prayer must be made for those who instruct and rule over us, that God’s Spirit will keep the visible church pure in both faith and life. The true key to doctrinal unity springs from a daily awareness of our own sinfulness, from hearts broken before the Lord in godly humility, Seeking the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone.

See also, The Meaning of Subscrption, by Rev. Benjamin McKee Gemmill.

Through the Scriptures: Ezekiel 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Shorter Catechism

WSC 105  “What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A.  In the fifth petition, (which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) we pray, That God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Christianizing of the Christian

With no relevant date readily associated with historic Presbyterianism on this June 30th day, we turn to the benefit of effectual calling known as sanctification.  Question and answer 35 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks and answers that “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed, in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live  unto righteousness.”

If you can remember the answers to justification and adoption (S.C. 33 and 34), you see immediately that this benefit is a “work of God’s free grace,” not an “act of God’s free grace.”  The latter definition for justification and adoption spoke of something completed at once by God’s Spirit.  Sanctification is a work, that is, one of progress in this spiritual life.  As our title puts it, it is the Christianizing of the Christian.

The sphere and extent of this work of sanctification is “in the whole man,” or throughout the whole man.  Sanctification, like depravity, is total in extent, though partial in degree. Why is that?  Because sanctification is imperfect in this life.  There abides in each one of His people still some remnants of the corruption of sin in every part of us.  Paul realized this in Romans 7, when he acknowledged in verses 22, 23 “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (ESV)  The result of this is continual conflict between the flesh and the spirit, which are two opposite principles.

This work of God’s free grace has two aspects to it.  The first speaks of “dying unto sin.”  To die unto anything is to become indifferent to it, to shake off its power, to be superior to its attractions.  In sanctification, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed and the several lusts are to be more and more weakened and put to death.

The other aspect of sanctification is “living unto righteousness.”  Holiness is to be our constant aim and lifestyle.  In fact, “sanctification” and “holiness” come from the same root word in the original.

The end of sanctification is “the image of God.”  Through His Spirit and Word, we are seeking to have a better likeness of God in our life.  He is to be seen in our thoughts, words, and actions.  This is the whole issue of sanctification.

Words to Live By: So, how is the work of sanctification going in your life?  Are you going forward or backward?  Two steps forward and one step backward?  This work is a lifelong work.  One day, in glory, we will have the final victory.  Look forward to that day, and be zealous in growing in grace and the knowledge of the LordJesus Christ on this day.

Through the Scriptures: Amos 7 – 9

Through the Standards: The Second Commandment: duties required

WLC 107, S.C. 49 — “Which is the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

WLC 108 — “What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A.  The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”

WSC 50 — “What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his Word.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Prayer From the Catechism

With little or no Presbyterian history to find on this May 14 day, we go to the words of Shorter Catechism No. 31.   It tells us that Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

On the one hand, this is rich theology.  It defines for us the biblical doctrine of vocation.    It follows catechisms which tells us that we are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of the Spirit of God who works faith in us and unites us to Christ.  It precedes catechisms which define the benefits of vocation as being justification, adoption, and sanctification.

But on the other hand, this is devotional.  This is an evangelistic prayer.  It can formulate the requests which we make every time we or someone else shares the gospel of eternal life with the lost.  We can make each one of the verbal phrases in this catechism a prayer petition for our unsaved loved ones, or our neighbors outside of Christ.

Let’s look at the teaching first.  The Spirit first applies the effectual calling upon our minds by convincing us of our sin and misery.  This work of God’s Word, and especially His law, as well as His  Spirit convinces the heart of the unsaved as to his deserved guilt, the dreadful wrath of God, and endless miseries of hell, if we reject his gospel.    Then a second application of the mind by the Word and Spirit is  enlightening in the knowledge of Christ.  We know with conviction that Christ is the only answer to our sin and misery, that He has undertaken to save us and will be faithful to perform it.   We in short discover Christ in the gospel.  Our spiritual eyes are opened to His person and work on our behalf.

Second, the Spirit applies the effectual call upon our wills, by renewing them.  This is a secret, spiritual. and mysterious work, as Christ compares it to the wind which we hear but don’t know where it comes from or goes to in John 3.

But the full result of all this convicting work upon the mind and will of the sinner will be to persuade and enable him to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Christian, recognize that this is your spiritual history.  You might not have been aware that all this was happening inside of you.  But while others might have been externally called by the Word of God, you were called externally by that same Word and internally persuaded to become a believer.  None but the elect of God are thus called and chosen by the Word and the Spirit.

But this is more than mere doctrine, as important as that is.  It is also devotional.  The next time you present the gospel to someone else, or you hear it presented in a public meeting, like a church service, turn these expressions into prayer requests.  Holy Spirit, convince the lost of their sin and misery.  Enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Christ.  Renew their wills.  Persuade and enable them to embrace Jesus Christ this day as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Words to Live By:   For the purposes of both doctrine and devotion, it is important to memorize this answer.  If you do, and this contributor did so a long time ago, it is a comforting assurance in days of doubt which the old serpent enemy casts towards us, as well as an effective evangelistic tool to use anywhere and everywhere.   Your assignment is, memorize Shorter Catechism 31.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 100 – 102

Through the Standards: Proof texts of saving faith

Ephesians 2:8
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NAS)

Romans 10:17
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NAS)

Romans 1:16 “For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .” (NAS)

Acts 16:31
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (NAS)

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Where Would We Be Without Christ being a Prophet

With an absence of Presbyterian historical dates for April 16, we return to the marvelous answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and specifically the doctrinal and experiential statement of Christ executing the office of a prophet to His people.  Answer 24 states, “Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.”

In defining the term “prophet,” we see someone who is qualified and authorized to speak for another.”  Immediately, we see  Jesus is  a “spokesman” or “mouthpiece” for the Father.  The writer to the Hebrews hits us right at the first in chapter 1, verse 1 and 2 of this office.  He writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son . . .” (ESV)  God the Father has spoken to us by His Son, the Lord Jesus.

The instrument and agent of Jesus as the prophet of His Father are specified as “his Word and Spirit.”  Notice the conjunction “and.”  Both God’s  written Word, the Bible, first spoken, and then written,  and God’s Spirit are necessary for the effectiveness of the  prophetic message.  Both were promised, and both were given to the church of the ages for their salvation and sanctification.

Revealed to the church as the subject of His prophetic words, our Confessional fathers tell us that it was “the will of God for our salvation.”  Jesus did not come to earth to answer every question upon the mind of man.  He didn’t come to speak of art and science and history and math, etc.   On one occasion, many of his professed followers left Him, because they had a false idea of His coming, believing it to be a political redemption from the empire of Rome.  So great was the exodus, that perhaps not many more than that original twelve apostles now reminded with Jesus.  Asking whether they would also leave, Peter sums up the convictions of those remaining when he replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (ESV – John 6:66 – 68).  Jesus did then, and does now, and ever will possess those words of the good news of eternal life.    We are all under a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death.  But God’s Son fulfilled that sentence of death on our behalf, giving those who repent of their sins and  trust in Him, eternal life instead.

Words to Live By: Summing up Christ’s prophetic office, as Prophet, his mediatorship is downward from God to us.  As a prophet, as the Prophet, He meets the problems of man’s spiritual ignorance, supplying us with spiritual knowledge of the most important kind, that which affects eternity, and where we will spend it.  Are you still ignorant, or have you been brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 16 – 18

Through the Standards:  The subjects of the effective call

WCF 10:2, 3
“This effective call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.  Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”;

WLC 68 — “Are the elect only effectually called?
A.  All the elect, and they only, are effectually called . . . .”

Tags: , , ,

%d bloggers like this: