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A short entry this day, with the hope that you would reflect on this through the day, and take it to heart. We find in the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway on this day, September 8, 1808, the following entry, well worth pondering :

“This day, agreeably to the recommendation of the General Assembly, has been observed as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, by the churches under their care. The reason of the recommendation was the aspect of our national affairs. Alas, that so few attend public worship! But God will hear, I hope, the prayers of the pious few. In other churches, perhaps the day was more generally observed. The Lord lend a listening ear, and in mercy spare our guilty land. My devotions in private were comfortable. I had liberty to mourn with grief over the sins of my country, this city, my family, my own, and to ask forgiveness. I concluded the whole by renewing my covenant. The Lord accept of my devotions, and pardon the sins of my holy things.”

[emphasis added]

Words to Live By:
In his sermon on Psalm 119:136, Thomas Manton concludes this doctrine from the text, “That it is the duty and property of a godly man to mourn bitterly, even for other men’s sins.” I dare say the times now demand such prayer. More than ever, this old doctrine of the Scripture must be revived and returned to practice. It is a duty resting upon all Christians, Manton says. God calls His people to grieve over the sins of those around them. Our prayers must be so focused and intentional.
There is more here than can be unfolded in short order, so with your indulgence, I present you with a reading list. You may have some of these works in your own library. If not, many are readily available on the Internet with a little searching. All are well worth your time to read, though the sermons by Thomas Manton are among the clearest in pressing home this vital doctrine.

Adams, Thomas, on the text of 2 Peter 2:7-10 in his commentary on 2 Peter.

Baynes, “A Caveat for Cold Christians,” in Naphtali Press Anthology, vol. 4, pp. 199-206. [text: Rev. 2:4-5]

Bridge, William, “Comfort to Mourners for the Loss of Solemn Assemblies,” Sermon 7 of “Seasonable Truths in Evil Times,” Works, 3. 407-426.

Bunyan, John, The Excellency of a Broken Heart, esp. pp. 42-43, 76.

Burroughs, Jeremiah, Gospel Fear (SDG, 1992), pp. 75-166, on 2 Kings 22:19.

Burroughs, Jeremiah, Sermons VI-XI, The Saints Happiness. Ligonier, PA: SDG, 1992, pp. 36-74.

Henry, Matthew, see his comments on Jer. 13:17; Ezek. 9:4; and 2 Peter 2:7-8.

Howe, John, “The Redeemer’s Tears Wept Over Lost Souls,” in Works, pp. 316-389.

Jenkin, William, “How Ought We to Bewail the Sins of the Places Where We Live?,” in The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate [aka Puritan Sermons], vol. 3, pp. 110-128. 

Kitchen, John, “How Must We Reprove, That We May Not Partake of Other Men’s Sins?,” in The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate [aka Puritan Sermons], vol. 1, pp. 121-142.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, “Blessed Are They That Mourn,” in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, pp. 53-62.

Manton, Thomas, on 2 Peter 2:8, Works, pp. 183-184 and 423-426.

*Manton, Thomas, on Psalm 119:137, Vol. 3 of the 1990 Banner of Truth reprint set, pp. 139-154.

McCrie, Thomas, “Sermon on Psalm 119:136: Grief for the Sins of Men” in Naphtali Press Anthology, 2.2: 42-47.

Roberts, Maurice, “The Remembrance of Old Sins,” in The Banner of Truth, October 1994, pp. 1-5.

Sibbes, Richard, “The Art of Mourning,” in Josiah’s Reformation, Works, vol. 6, pp. 59-75.

____________ , “Spiritual Mourning, Works, vol. 6, pp. 265-292.

Spurgeon, Charles H., Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 51, pp. 485b-486.

Watson, Thomas, The Godly Man’s Picture (Banner of Truth, 1992), pp. 55-60; 77-96; etc.

Welsh, John, Sermons on Repentance, in Naphtali Press Anthology, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 33-49 and 1.4, pp. 42-55.

Williams, Daniel, “What Repentance of National Sins Doth God Require, as ever we expect National Mercies?” in The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate [aka Puritan Sermons], vol. 4, pp. 585-616.

 

 

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Given some recent discussion on the Web, over whether it is appropriate to speak on political matters from the pulpit, the following seemed an appropriate post today, an excerpt from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century.

J.J. Janeway

Politics ran high, and Philadelphia was the headquarters of the excitement. The old federal party was fast losing its power. “War with Great Britain was advocated by one party, and deprecated by the other. The rancorous debates were unfavourable to religion, and the hopes of the pious were mocked then, as they have been since. Dr. Janeway would have been more than than human, not to have felt some of the influences around him. But we see from his journal, the jealous guard he maintained over his heart.

January 10, 1808, Sabbath.

“Praise to God for prolonging my life to another year. Oh! may this year be spent in the service of my God. Make thy grace, O my God, sufficient for me, and thy strength perfect in my weakness. At the commencement of the year I felt not right; may the latter end be better than the beginning. In conversing on politics, I am too apt to be too engaged, and to feel too keenly. May God give me grace to govern my temper and conversation, and preserve me from taking too great an interest in them. In the heat of debate, I am urged to say what is imprudent and unbecoming. Two instances of such behaviour have occurred last week. May no more occur. I fear lest our expectation of a revival of religion, may not be realized. O Lord God, let the blessing come, and bestow on us a spirit of prayer, that we may wrestle and prevail. Hope, still hope, my soul.”

LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 130-131.

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A Polymath of the First Order

miller01 copyThe following is Dr. Samuel Miller’s reply to William Buell Sprague’s request for a biographical account of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, who had long served as the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Rev. and dear Brother: It gives me pleasure to contribute the least effort toward the erection of an humble monument to the memory of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, late Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, whom I knew well, and whom I have much reason, on a variety of accounts, to remember with veneration and love.

Rev. Dr. John Ewing, D.D.He was a native of Maryland, born in the town of Nottingham, in Cecil County, on the 22d of June, 1732. Of his ancestors, little is known. They emigrated from Ireland at an early period of the settlement of our country, and fixed themselves on the banks of the Susquehanna, near to the spot on which he was later born. His father was in circumstances which enabled him to give his five sons as good an education as the state of the Colonies with respect to schools could then well furnish. After the first elementary school to which he was sent, he was placed at the Academy of the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison, an eminent Presbyterian clergyman, who had emigrated from Ireland, and who was greatly distinguished for his classical literature, and who became instrumental in forming a number of excellent scholars in the Middle Colonies. His literary institution at New London, in Pennsylvania, was long celebrated. There young Ewing passed the usual course of study; and after completing it, remained three years longer in the Academy as a Tutor; directing special attention to the Latin and Greek language, and mathematics, in all which he was eminent through life.

In 1774 he became a member of the College of New Jersey, then located at Newark, under the Presidency of the Rev. Mr. Burr; and, as he was so far advanced and matured in the principal studies of the College, he was graduated at the annual Commencement of the same year. At the same time he was the principal instructor in the grammar school, which was connected with the College, and spent a portion of almost every day in instructing others in the languages and mathematics. In 1756, he was chosen Tutor in the College in which he had been graduated, and continued in that station two full years, enlarging and maturing his knowledge. During this course of service as a Tutor, he removed with the College from Newark to Princeton, which removal took place in 1757. In pursuing the study of Theology, he returned to his former teacher and friend, the Rev. Dr. Alison, and was subsequently licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Newcastle. At the age of twenty-six, before he undertook the pastoral charge, he was selected to instruct the philosophical class in the College of Philadelphia, during the absence of the Provost, the Rev. Dr. Smith. While thus employed, he received, in the year 1759, a unanimous call from the First Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, to become their Pastor. This call he accepted, and was ordained to the work of the ministry, and installed as their Pastor, in the course of that year.

About this time, Mr. Ewing formed a matrimonial connection with Miss Hannah Sergeant, the eldest daughter of Jonathan Sergeant, Esq., of Princeton,–a lady of great beauty and domestic excellence, with whom he lived in happy union more than forty years, and who survived him a number of years.

In 1773, Mr. Ewing was commissioned, with the consent of his congregation, in company with Dr. Hugh Williamson, late a member of Congress from North Carolina, to solicit contributions in Great Britain for the support of the Academy of Newark, in Delaware. His high reputation in his own country, together with an ample supply of letters which he took with him, gave him access to a number of men eminent in Church and State, in Great Britain, and prepared the way for the formation of a number of acquaintances and friendships, which were highly interesting to him, and, in some cases, valuable, as long as he lived. He seems to have made a deep impression, especially in North Britain, in favour of American character. The cities of Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, and Perth, presented to him their freedom; and from the University of Edinburgh, of which Dr. Robertson was then the Principal, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Robertson, in presenting this diploma, declared that he had never before conferred a degree with greater pleasure. At this time the contest between the Colonies and the mother country was beginning to be serious. It was, of course, the theme of much conversation while he was in England. He had frequent interviews with the Prime Minister, Lord North, and with all the intelligence of one recently from the Colonies, and with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig, he warned his Lordship against the prosecution of the contest, and confidently predicted its issue; but without effect.

But the narrative which Dr. Ewing, after his return to America, was wont to give with most graphic interest, was that of his first interview with the celebrated Dr. [Samuel] Johnson, at the table of Mr. Dilly, the wealthy and hospitable Bookseller of London. Dr. Johnson, it is well known, was violent against the Colonies; had written a popular pamphlet against their claims [The Patriot, (1774)] ; and heaped upon them and their advocates the coarsest abuse. Mr. Dilly, in inviting Dr. Ewing to dinner, apprized him that Dr. Johnson was to be of the party, and cautioned him against contradicting or opposing the great literary despot. During the dinner the contest with America became the subject of animated conversation. Dr. Ewing, the only American present, being appealed to, began, with his usual frankness, to defend the Colonies. Dr. Johnson, looking at him with sternness, said, “What doyou know, Sir, on that subject?” Dr. Ewing calmly replied that, having resided in America all his life, he thought himself qualified to form and to express opinions on the situation and claims of the country. Dr. Johnson’s feelings were roused. The epithets of rebels and scoundrels were pretty liberally applied to the population of the Colonies. At length Johnson rudely said, “Sir, what do you know in America? You never read. You have no books there.” “Pardon me, Sir,” replied Dr. Ewing, “we have read the Rambler.” [a periodical published by Dr. Johnson, 1750-1752]. This civility instantly pacified him; and, after the rest of the company had retired, he sat with Dr. Ewing until midnight, in amiable, eloquent, and highly interesting conversation.

In the summer of 1775, Dr. Ewing returned from Europe. War was soon commenced between the United States and Great Britain. And he adhered to the cause of his country with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig. In 1779, the Legislature of Pennsylvania revoked the charter of the old College and Academy of Philadelphia, and gave a new one, creating the University of Pennsylvania. At the head of this new institution, Dr. Ewing was placed, under the title of Provost. In this station, united with that of pastor of a church, he continued to the end of life. Besides presiding over the whole University as its head, with dignity and commanding influence, he was Professor of Natural Philosophy, and every year delivered a course of lectures on that branch of science. But this was not all. Perhaps our country has never bred a man so deeply as well as extensively versed in every branch of knowledge commonly taught in our Colleges as was Dr. Ewing. Such was his familiarity with the Hebrew language, that I have been assured by those most intimately acquainted with his habits, that his Hebrew Bible was constantly by his side in his study, and that it was that which he used of choice, for devotional purposes. In Mathematics and Astronomy, in the Lating, Greek and Hebrew languages, in Logic, in Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, he was probably more accomplished than any other man in the United States. When any other Professor in the University was absent, the Provost would take his place, at an hour’s warning, and conduct the instruction appropriate to that Professorship with more skill, taste, and advantage than the incumbent of the chair himself. His skill in mathematical science was so pre-eminent and acknowledged, that he was more than once employed with Dr. Rittenhouse, of Philadelphia, in running the boundary lines between several of the States, in which he acquitted himself in the most able and honourable manner. He was one of the Vice Presidents of the American Philosophical Society, and made a number of contributions to the volumes of their Transactions, which do honour his memory.

Dr. Ewing had a strong constitution, and for a long course of years enjoyed vigorous health; being very seldom kept either out of the pulpit or from the Professor’s chair by indisposition. In the early part of the year 1802, he was attacked with a chronic disease, which gradually undermined his health, and finally terminated his important and useful life on the 8th of September of that year, in the seventy-first year of his age.

Few preachers in his day were more popular than Dr. Ewing, especially with the more intelligent and cultivated classes of hearers. His merits were all of the solid, instructive, and dignified character. And as a Collegiate Instructor, I suspect he had no superior.

This venerable man had a large family of children, ten or eleven of whom survived him; a number of respectable grandchildren still sustain the name and the honours of the family.

I am, Reverend and dear Brother, with the best wishes for the success of your biographical enterprise,

Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

SAMUEL MILLER.

[excerpted from Annals of the American Presbyterian Pulpit, by William Buell Sprague. Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005. Volume One, pp. 216-219.]

Words to Live By:
When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,
And put a knife to your throat, if you are a man of great appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies, For it is deceptive food.
[Proverbs 23:1-3, NASB]

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John, Father of Samuel

You see it in the Bible—when you wanted to bless someone, you looked to bless their father (1 Samuel 17:56). Conversely, a curse on a son was understood as a curse on the father (Gen. 9:25; 1 Kings 11:9-12). All Christians want their children to grow strong in the Lord, to be greatly used in His kingdom. So when we see such a child now grown, it is understandable that we might look to the parents, to see their character and method with their children, that we might learn and profit from their wisdom. Dr. Samuel Miller, of Princeton, was a man greatly used of the Lord, and so it fitting that we should look at the life of his father, the Rev. John Miller. This day, July 22, 1791, marks the date of Rev. John Miller’s passing.

John Miller was born in Boston, on December 24, 1722. By ancestry, he was the great-great-grandson of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. His father, John Miller, Senior, had immigrated from Scotland in 1710 and found remarkable success as a manufacturer, refining sugar. The Millers had two children, John, the eldest, and Joseph, who never married and who, in early adulthood, was lost at sea during a voyage to Great Britain. John, the subject of our post today, never graduated from any college, but did manage to obtain an excellent classical education at a public school of high reputation in Boston. Here he became proficient in Latin and Greek, and it was during this time that he also came to faith in Christ and began to aim toward the pulpit ministry.

In May of 1748, John was licensed to preach by the Congregational association in Boston and soon began to travel throughout the Delaware and Maryland colonies. When a call came to serve the Presbyterian church in Dover, Delaware, John returned to Boston to secure ordination. Once installed in the Dover church, it was not long before an additional call came, to also serve the Presbyterian church in Smyrna (also known as Duck Creek), which was twelve miles north of Dover. Rev. Miller’s solution was to pastor both churches concurrently, establishing his home between the two churches, some four miles from Dover. And in this arrangement he spent the remaining years of his ministerial career, serving as pastor of these two churches for over forty years.

As seems so often to have been the pattern in those times, Rev. Miller had deferred marriage until he was established in a charge. But now, wasting no time, he courted and then married Margaret Millington, the daughter of a successful planter.  Dr. John Rodgers of New York was  on one occasion heard to pay the compliment that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Yet her physical beauty was exceeded by her moral beauty, and she proved to be a great blessing to her husband, to her children, and to all who knew her. Margaret was known for her good sense, for her prudence, for her skill and wisdom in keeping her home, and for her active engagement in charity towards others. Above all, Margaret’s life was characterized by an honest and sincere love of her Lord.

Not long after having been settled as a pastor, Rev. Miller purchased a farm of 104 acres, and here he resided for the remainder of his life. Never a man of great means, the farm allowed him to supply many of the basic needs of his family, and by careful husbandry, allowed Rev. Miller to eventually send four sons to college.

“On this estate his children were born, and from here they went forth to do good.” Of his children, two sons died in infancy, and one son died before his own passing—John, a medical doctor, who died in 1777,  at age 25. The remaining children were present at his beside when the Rev. John Miller died, at the age of 69, and in the 44th year of his ministry. These were: Elizabeth [1755-1817], wife of Col. Samuel McLane; Mary [1762-1801, wife of (1) Vincent Loockerman, Jr. (he died in 1790,) and (2) wife of Major John Patten; Edward [1760-1812]; Joseph [1765-1798], who married Elizabeth Loockerman; Samuel [1769-1850],  who was twenty years pastor of the Wall Street Church in New York, then Professor of Theology in Princeton Seminary; and lastly, James [1772-1795]. Thus Samuel, who never enjoyed robust health himself, was the last surviving child of the Rev. John Miller, and that by over thirty years and more.

Words to Live By:
What distinguished the rearing of the Miller children? There are undoubtedly many things that we could look at and discuss. But one moment in their parents’ lives seems particularly significant. Ten years before Samuel Miller was born, his parents lost their first child, Joseph. A few days following, Joseph’s death, his father made this entry in his journal:

“October 5th, 1759. Last night my son Joseph, a promising child, aged nineteen months and eight days, departed this life, after a short but violent illness in the lungs. My heart was far too much bound up in the child. His little, pretty ways insensibly stole my affections from objects infinitely superior to all earthly comforts; the parting stroke has given me a much more affecting view of this than I had before. Oh that I may see the rod and him that has appointed it—see that God has a controversy to plead with me and my house.”

Our children belong to the Lord, and they are His alone. Perhaps what the Rev. John Miller learned is summed up in the words of Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

God gives us a great blessing in our children, but they belong to Him. And as difficult as it may be, our hearts must never be set upon His gifts, but always only upon the Giver.

 

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A Polymath of the First Order

miller01 copyReturning from the PCA’s General Assembly,  the body is weary and the mind weak, and so I think we will press the Rev. Dr. Miller into service as guest author for today’s post. The following is Dr. Miller’s reply to William Buell Sprague’s request for a biographical account of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, who had long served as the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.

Rev. and dear Brother: It gives me pleasure to contribute the least effort toward the erection of an humble monument to the memory of the Rev. Dr. John Ewing, late Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, whom I knew well, and whom I have much reason, on a variety of accounts, to remember with veneration and love.

Rev. Dr. John Ewing, D.D.He was a native of Maryland, born in the town of Nottingham, in Cecil County, on the 22d of June, 1732. Of his ancestors, little is known. They emigrated from Ireland at an early period of the settlement of our country, and fixed themselves on the banks of the Susquehanna, near to the spot on which he was later born. His father was in circumstances which enabled him to give his five sons as good an education as the state of the Colonies with respect to schools could then well furnish. After the first elementary school to which he was sent, he was placed at the Academy of the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison, an eminent Presbyterian clergyman, who had emigrated from Ireland, and who was greatly distinguished for his classical literature, and who became instrumental in forming a number of excellent scholars in the Middle Colonies. His literary institution at New London, in Pennsylvania, was long celebrated. There young Ewing passed the usual course of study; and after completing it, remained three years longer in the Academy as a Tutor; directing special attention to the Latin and Greek language, and mathematics, in all which he was eminent through life.

In 1774 he became a member of the College of New Jersey, then located at Newark, under the Presidency of the Rev. Mr. Burr; and, as he was so far advanced and matured in the principal studies of the College, he was graduated at the annual Commencement of the same year. At the same time he was the principal instructor in the grammar school, which was connected with the College, and spent a portion of almost every day in instructing others in the languages and mathematics. In 1756, he was chosen Tutor in the College in which he had been graduated, and continued in that station two full years, enlarging and maturing his knowledge. During this course of service as a Tutor, he removed with the College from Newark to Princeton, which removal took place in 1757. In pursuing the study of Theology, he returned to his former teacher and friend, the Rev. Dr. Alison, and was subsequently licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Newcastle. At the age of twenty-six, before he undertook the pastoral charge, he was selected to instruct the philosophical class in the College of Philadelphia, during the absence of the Provost, the Rev. Dr. Smith. While thus employed, he received, in the year 1759, a unanimous call from the First Presbyterian Church in the city of Philadelphia, to become their Pastor. This call he accepted, and was ordained to the work of the ministry, and installed as their Pastor, in the course of that year.

About this time, Mr. Ewing formed a matrimonial connection with Miss Hannah Sergeant, the eldest daughter of Jonathan Sergeant, Esq., of Princeton,–a lady of great beauty and domestic excellence, with whom he lived in happy union more than forty years, and who survived him a number of years.

In 1773, Mr. Ewing was commissioned, with the consent of his congregation, in company with Dr. Hugh Williamson, late a member of Congress from North Carolina, to solicit contributions in Great Britain for the support of the Academy of Newark, in Delaware. His high reputation in his own country, together with an ample supply of letters which he took with him, gave him access to a number of men eminent in Church and State, in Great Britain, and prepared the way for the formation of a number of acquaintances and friendships, which were highly interesting to him, and, in some cases, valuable, as long as he lived. He seems to have made a deep impression, especially in North Britain, in favour of American character. The cities of Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, and Perth, presented to him their freedom; and from the University of Edinburgh, of which Dr. Robertson was then the Principal, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Robertson, in presenting this diploma, declared that he had never before conferred a degree with greater pleasure. At this time the contest between the Colonies and the mother country was beginning to be serious. It was, of course, the theme of much conversation while he was in England. He had frequent interviews with the Prime Minister, Lord North, and with all the intelligence of one recently from the Colonies, and with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig, he warned his Lordship against the prosecution of the contest, and confidently predicted its issue; but without effect.

But the narrative which Dr. Ewing, after his return to America, was wont to give with most graphic interest, was that of his first interview with the celebrated Dr. [Samuel] Johnson, at the table of Mr. Dilly, the wealthy and hospitable Bookseller of London. Dr. Johnson, it is well known, was violent against the Colonies; had written a popular pamphlet against their claims [The Patriot, (1774)] ; and heaped upon them and their advocates the coarsest abuse. Mr. Dilly, in inviting Dr. Ewing to dinner, apprized him that Dr. Johnson was to be of the party, and cautioned him against contradicting or opposing the great literary despot. During the dinner the contest with America became the subject of animated conversation. Dr. Ewing, the only American present, being appealed to, began, with his usual frankness, to defend the Colonies. Dr. Johnson, looking at him with sternness, said, “What do you know, Sir, on that subject?” Dr. Ewing calmly replied that, having resided in America all his life, he thought himself qualified to form and to express opinions on the situation and claims of the country. Dr. Johnson’s feelings were roused. The epithets of rebels and scoundrels were pretty liberally applied to the population of the Colonies. At length Johnson rudely said, “Sir, what do you know in America? You never read. You have no books there.” “Pardon me, Sir,” replied Dr. Ewing, “we have read the Rambler.” [a periodical published by Dr. Johnson, 1750-1752]. This civility instantly pacified him; and, after the rest of the company had retired, he sat with Dr. Ewing until midnight, in amiable, eloquent, and highly interesting conversation.

In the summer of 1775, Dr. Ewing returned from Europe. War was soon commenced between the United States and Great Britain. And he adhered to the cause of his country with all the firmness and zeal of an ardent Whig. In 1779, the Legislature of Pennsylvania revoked the charter of the old College and Academy of Philadelphia, and gave a new one, creating the University of Pennsylvania. At the head of this new institution, Dr. Ewing was placed, under the title of Provost. In this station, united with that of pastor of a church, he continued to the end of life. Besides presiding over the whole University as its head, with dignity and commanding influence, he was Professor of Natural Philosophy, and every year delivered a course of lectures on that branch of science. But this was not all. Perhaps our country has never bred a man so deeply as well as extensively versed in every branch of knowledge commonly taught in our Colleges as was Dr. Ewing. Such was his familiarity with the Hebrew language, that I have been assured by those most intimately acquainted with his habits, that his Hebrew Bible was constantly by his side in his study, and that it was that which he used of choice, for devotional purposes. In Mathematics and Astronomy, in the Lating, Greek and Hebrew languages, in Logic, in Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, he was probably more accomplished than any other man in the United States. When any other Professor in the University was absent, the Provost would take his place, at an hour’s warning, and conduct the instruction appropriate to that Professorship with more skill, taste, and advantage than the incumbent of the chair himself. His skill in mathematical science was so pre-eminent and acknowledged, that he was more than once employed with Dr. Rittenhouse, of Philadelphia, in running the boundary lines between several of the States, in which he acquitted himself in the most able and honourable manner. He was one of the Vice Presidents of the American Philosophical Society, and made a number of contributions to the volumes of their Transactions, which do honour his memory.

Dr. Ewing had a strong constitution, and for a long course of years enjoyed vigorous health; being very seldom kept either out of the pulpit or from the Professor’s chair by indisposition. In the early part of the year 1802, he was attacked with a chronic disease, which gradually undermined his health, and finally terminated his important and useful life on the 8th of September of that year, in the seventy-first year of his age.

Few preachers in his day were more popular than Dr. Ewing, especially with the more intelligent and cultivated classes of hearers. His merits were all of the solid, instructive, and dignified character. And as a Collegiate Instructor, I suspect he had no superior.

This venerable man had a large family of children, ten or eleven of whom survived him; a number of respectable grandchildren still sustain the name and the honours of the family.

I am, Reverend and dear Brother, with the best wishes for the success of your biographical enterprise,

Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

SAMUEL MILLER.

[excerpted from Annals of the American Presbyterian Pulpit, by William Buell Sprague. Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005. Volume One, pp. 216-219.]

Words to Live By:
1 When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,
And put a knife to your throat, if you are a man of great appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies, For it is deceptive food.
[Proverbs 23:1-3, NASB]

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First in Declaring Independence

All Americans are familiar with the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776.  But precious few are familiar with the truth that in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, a declaration of independence from Great Britain was signed and sealed under the leadership of Presbyterians  a full thirteen months before July 4, on May 31, 1775.

Assembled in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 19, 1775 were 27 citizens, many of them members of the Presbyterian churches in the area. The chairman of the committee was Abraham Alexander, who was an elder of the Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church.  John Alexander, secretary of the committee, was an elder from Hopewell Presbyterian Church.  So was Hezekiah Alexander. Rev. Hezekiah Balch was the pastor of Poplar Creek Presbyterian Church. David Reese was also on the committee and a ruling elder from Poplar Creek. Adam Alexander and Robert Queary were elders from Rocky River Presbyterian Church, with Robert Irwin an elder from Steele Creek Presbyterian Church.

The proposed declaration, which was written by Ephraim Brevard, a members of the committee, was read before the assembly of the county in front of the courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It said:

I. That all commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the crown to be exercised in these colonies, are null and void, and the constitution of each particular colony wholly suspended.    II. That the Provincial Congress of each Province, under the direction of the great Continental Congress, is invested with all legislative and executive powers within their respective providences, and that no other legislative  or executive power does or can exist at this time in any of these colonies.

The assembly cried out with a loud voice their desire to be independent of Great Britain, and to defend that freedom with their lives and fortunes. And many a life and fortune would be sacrificed before gaining that freedom. The first voice to be a free and independent people in favor of American freedom, came from the Presbyterians in North Carolina. Scotch-Irish Presbyterians justly have the honor of recognition in speaking first for liberty.

Words to Live By:  True God-fearing people recognize that there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.  In that trust, we can go forth and stand for liberty for all.  And let us stand for that liberty in a day when challenges to that freedom of religion are being made each and every day.  Pray today, brothers and sisters,  for America.

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Old Mortality: Robert Patterson [ca. 1713-1801]

The purpose of this blog is to remind us of those saints who have gone before, and to recall something of our common history as Presbyterians, for regardless of our denomination, we are all connected, one with another. We learn from one another, are encouraged by one another, and are reminded to pray for one another.

dewittWmRAnd so it seemed very fitting when I stumbled across the content chosen for today’s post. Our entry for the day was to focus on the Rev. William Radcliffe DeWitt, (pictured in the photo at the right), who was born on this day, February 25, 1792, and who was for forty years the pastor of the English Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg, PA. Looking for more about his ministry, I was pleased to find among our church history collection a copy of The Centennial Memorial of the English Presbyterian Church, 1794-1894, with a section on DeWitt’s ministry at that church. That in turn led to the serendipitous discovery of the following poignant words which serve as the opening paragraphs for the chapter on that church’s history:

Now go write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever and ever.”–Isaiah 30:6.

“Walter Scott has very touchingly told us of Old Mortality, a religious itinerant of his times. He was first discovered in the burial ground of the Parish of Gaudercleugh. It was his custom to pass from one graveyard to another, and with the patient chisel of the engraver clear away the moss from the grey tombstones, and restore the names and the lines that Time’s finger had well nigh effaced. It mattered little to him whether it was the headstone of some early martyr to the faith, or only love’s memorial to some little child. It was his joy to do the quiet and unbidden work of bringing again to the notice of men the history and the heroism of some of God’s nobility of whom the world was not worthy, nor less to honor the unknown ones who were laid to rest with unseen tears.

abeel_graveOur work to-day bears something of the same character. Like Old Mortality, we step softly and reverently among the graves of the past. Chisel in hand we pass from memory to memory. We clear away the gathered moss. We refurnish the ancient stones and read again the names of the departed, dropping here and there a tear as precious memories are awakened, and reminding ourselves anew of a fellowship that is only interrupted for a little time. The past is ours. We are its heirs. Its good comes down to us in an apostolic succession of benedictions. The links that bind us to past days and years are golden links. It is one of the choicest gifts of grace, that we may at the same time live three lives in one. Past memories and present experiences and future hopes do blend to make human life noble and attractive. Our holy faith commemorates the past, gladdens the present and brightens the future.”

[excerpted from “A Century Plant,” by Rev. Thomas A. Robinson, in The Centennial Memorial of the English Presbyterian Congregation of Harrisburg, PA, 1794-1894, George B. Stewart, editor. Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1894, pp. 192-193. This book is available on the Internet, here.

And as it turns out, there was a real person behind the Walter Scott’s character of Old Mortality.

oldMortality_lg“Robert Patterson was born circa 1713 on the farm of Haggis Ha, in the parish of Hawick and as a married man moved to the village of Balmaclellan. A stonemason by trade and owner of a small quarry, he spent most of his life touring the lowlands of Scotland visiting and maintaining Covenanter grave sites. His method of cutting or incising letters and the ability to get so much into a limited space makes his work very distinctive. He gained some fame as ‘Old Mortality,’ the character in the book of the same name by Sir Walter Scott.”

To read more of that account, click here.

Words to Live By: Perhaps it is by divine design, but no monument lasts forever. Our worship is not for the saints or for their graves, but for the Lord of glory, whose love moved their hearts to serve Him. We remember them because of their testimony to the truth of the Gospel.

“And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’ ”
[Exodus 13:14, NASB]

 

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James Scrimgeour was born in the year 1757 in the vicinity of Edinburgh, Scotland. His mother, a member of the Secession Church, was known for her remarkable intelligence and piety, and raised young James in a godly home. Graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1772, James prepared for the ministry under the tutelage of the renowned John Brown of Haddington, and Rev. Brown came to have a high regard for Scrimgeour’s abilities and gifting for ministry. In 1782 he was licensed by the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh.

Rev. Scrimgeour supplied pulpits in various parts of Scotland for several years and then was settled as pastor of the Associate congregation of North Berwick, in 1784. Here he remained until mental and physical exhaustion overtook him, removing him from the pulpit in 1794.

In 1802, Dr. John M. Mason visited Great Britain, with the goal of finding ministers who would immigrate to the United States. Rev. Scrimgeour, having largely recovered his health, was among those who consented to the proposal, and upon reaching America he was installed as the pastor of the Scottish Church, in Newburgh, New York. Here he labored from 1802 until 1812. He then answered a call to serve the neighboring church in Little Britain, NY, and remained in that post until declining health forced his retirement. He lived but a few months more, and died on February 14, 1825.

Sprague’s Annals of the Presbyterian Pulpit provides some great anecdotes about various ministers. One such story regarding Rev. Scrimgeour says a good deal about his worth as a preacher:

“Those who knew him in the earlier years of his ministry have told me that he was then one of the most popular preachers in the denomination to which he belonged,–the Burgher Seceders; and, from what I know of the taste of Scottish Christians, as well as from my own recollection of his manner in the pulpit, I can easily credit the statement, and various reasons might be assigned if it were worth while to dwell upon the point, why his ministrations were not so generally acceptable in this country as in his native land. Not to mention others, his strong Scottish accent, if not positively distasteful, would not be particularly pleasing to most Americans;…His own people, however, were strongly attached to him, and, in other congregations, containing a large Scottish element, as in that of his old friend Dr. Mason, of New York, in Newburgh, and elsewhere, his appearance in the pulpit always gave pleasure to his audience. When he visited these places, he very well knew that he would be required to preach, and he always went from home with an ample equipment–that is, with from fifty to a hundred sermons in his portmanteau. On one occasion an excellent lady of my acquaintance travelled some fifteen miles to hear Dr. J. M. Mason, who was expected to preach in one of the Associate Reformed congregations, back from Newburgh.  When she reached the church, to her great disappointment, she saw Mr. Scrimgeour ascend the pulpit. Her first impulse was to quit the place and return home, but the ‘sober second thought’ of the Christian kept her in her seat. You may well suppose that she was not in the most favorable mood for appreciating the preacher, (whom she had often heard) yet she afterwards declared that she went away quite captivated with the sermon, and fully persuaded that even Dr. Mason himself (whom she also knew) could not have better recompensed her for her long journey.”

Words to Live By:
To take a few words from a sermon by Moses Hoge,
Do not expect too much from your Ministers.–Remember that they are men not angels. And were they even angels, they could do nothing for you without a diligent co-operation on your part. If the God of heaven has appointed Ministers to preach the gospel to you, will you not hear it and obey it, that you may not die but live for ever? Waste not the precious time given you for a much better purpose, in devising vain excuses. The time is not far off when you will be stripped of them all. And, surely, there cannot be a greater infatuation than to waste in this way your day of grace–the only season alloted for your repentance and amendment of life–the only season alloted for your preparation for an endless eternity.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

 First in Declaring Independence

All Americans are familiar with the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776.  But precious few are familiar with the truth that in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, a declaration of independence from Great Britain was signed and sealed under the leadership of Presbyterians  a full thirteen months before July 4, on May 31, 1775.

Assembled in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 19, 1775 were 27  citizens, many of them members of the Presbyterian churches in the area. The chairman of the committee was Abraham Alexander, who was an elder of the Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church.  John Alexander, secretary of the committee, was an elder from Hopewell Presbyterian Church.  So was Hezekiah Alexander. Rev. Hezekiah Balch was the pastor of Poplar Creek Presbyterian Church. David Reese was also on the committee and a ruling elder from Poplar Creek. Adam Alexander and Robert Queary were elders from Rocky River Presbyterian Church, with Robert Irwin an elder from Steele Creek Presbyterian Church.

The proposed declaration, which was written by Ephraim Brevard, a members of the committee, was read before the assembly of the county in front of the courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It said:

I. That all commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the crown to be exercised in these colonies, are null and void, and the constitution of each particular colony wholly suspended.    II. That the Provincial Congress of each Province, under the direction of the great Continental Congress, is invested with all legislative and executive powers within their respective providences, and that no other legislative  or executive power does or can exist at this time in any of these colonies.

The assembly cried out with a loud voice their desire to be independent of Great Britain, and to defend that freedom with their lives and fortunes. And many a life and fortune would be sacrificed before gaining that freedom. The first voice to be a free and independent people in favor of American freedom, came from the Presbyterians in North Carolina. Scotch-Irish Presbyterians justly have the honor of recognition in speaking first for liberty.

Words to Live By:  True God-fearing people recognize that there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.  In that trust, we can go forth and stand for liberty for all.  And let us stand for that liberty in a day when challenges to that freedom of religion are being made each and every day.  Pray today, brothers and sisters,  for America.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Kings 1 – 4

Through the Standards: The fact of the perseverance of the saints

WCF 17:1
‘They, who God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”

WLC 79 — “May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
A.  True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”

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