Great God

You are currently browsing articles tagged Great God.

He Preached His Own Funeral Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Subscribers to This Day in Presbyterian History, are familiar with our character today, namely, the Rev. Samuel Davies. If we would sum up his life and ministry, the following titles would adequately describe him: Presbyterian pastor, who in the early days of this country, before it was a country, rode a circuit of five hundred miles through forests and fields ministering to the hearts of saved and unsaved alike; church planter, the first non-Anglican minister in Virginia; hymn writer, author of “Great God of Wonders!” on page 82 of the red Trinity Hymnal, evangelist, defender of persons and places, being described at the best recruiter of the “military” in the French and Indian War; and yes, president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University and Seminary) in May 1759.

This last post of ministry, Samuel Davies, was most reluctant to take. It would mean giving up his scattered but effective ministry to the people of Virginia, especially at Polegreen Presbyterian Church in Virginia. Biblical Presbyterianism was just beginning to get a toe-hold in that area. Frankly, Virginia Presbyterians were not of the opinion that he should give up the fields which were white unto harvest. But he was convinced by the board of trustees of this young Presbyterian college to take the position. They saw that God has bestowed, as it was said then by one trustee, “prodigious, uncommon gifts” upon Samuel Davies. And so He had. Samuel Davies took reluctantly the position, though not a well man. Two years later, on February 4, 1761, Samuel Davies would entered heaven’s gates to receive his rewards.

But where does our title enter into the picture, you ask? Well, Samuel Davies did preach his own funeral sermon. It was on January 1, 1761 that Samuel Davies preached a sermon in Princeton, New Jersey on New Year’s day from Jeremiah 28:16, entitled “This Very Year You Are Going to Die!” And thirty-five days later, he did die on this day, February 4, 1761.

A few excerpts from that sermon, which is on-line, are important to recount, for they speak of the fervor of the gospel sermon which for all practical purposes was for himself, though unknown by him at the time. He preached on that Lord’s Day in Princeton, New Jersey,

“While we are entering into the threshold of a new year, it may be proper for us to stand, and pause, and take a serious view of the occurrences that may happen to us this year – that we may be prepared to meet them. Future contingencies are indeed unknown to us; and this ignorance is as agreeable to our present state, and as conducive to our improvement and happiness – as our knowledge of the things which it concerns us to know. But though we cannot predict to ourselves the particular events that may befall us – yet the events of life in general, in a vague indeterminate view, are not so contingent and unknowable as to leave no room for rationale suppositions, and probably expectations”

In the sixth paragraph of his sermon, Samuel Davies goes on to say, “Yes, it is highly probably, that if some prophet, like Jeremiah, should open to us the book of the divine decrees, one or another of us would there see our sentence, and the time of its execution fixed! ‘Thus says the Lord – This very year you are going to die!’”

In thirty-five days, after only two years as president of what later became Princeton University and Seminary, at the age of 37, Samuel Davies died! In a way, he preached his very own funeral sermon on that first day in 1761.

Words to Live By:
None of our readers, nor your two authors, like to think of this solemn and unchangeable event, but it is, as the Lord states, appointed unto us to die at some day at our Lord’s choosing. Far better for us to prepare for this eventuality, by first making sure that we have received by faith alone the Lord Jesus and His accomplished work on the cross for us. And then, in appreciation of that great salvation, seek while we are on this earth to buy up every opportunity for the Lord’s service, whether in the home, church, and/or society, by being the salt of the earth and shining the gospel light upon the spiritually dark world.(Matthew 5:13 – 16)

Tags: , , ,

America’s National Thanksgiving Hymn Two Centuries Ago

We start out this post with the words of a patriotic hymn.  Granted, it will not be found in the Trinity Hymnal, but it was found in the official hymnbook of the Presbyterian Psalms and Hymns, published in  Princeton, New Jersey in 1829.  The author of it was not a minister, but a physician.  Alfred Woodhull was his name and he was born on this day, March 25, 1810.  But back to the hymn.  Consider these majestic words:

          Great God of nations, now to Thee Our hymn of gratitude we raise; With humble heart and bending knee We offer Thee our songs of praise.

          Thy Name we bless, Almighty God, For all the kindness Thou hast shown To this fair land the Pilgrims trod, This land we fondly call our own.

          Here freedom spreads her banner wide And casts her soft and hallowed ray; Here Thou our father’s steps didst guide In safety through their dangerous way.

          We praise Thee that the gospel’s life Through all our land its radiance shed, Dispel the shades of error’s night, And heav’nly blessings round us spread.

          Great God, preserve us in Thy fear; In danger still our Guardian be; O spread Thy truth’s bright concepts here; Let all the people worship Thee.  Amen.

Alfred Alexander Woodhull had the benefit of a godly father who was himself a Presbyterian minister, George Woodhull.  The father’s first church was the Presbyterian church in Cranbury, New Jersey.  In 1820, the whole family moved to Princeton, New Jersey and stayed the next twelve years ministering to the people of God in that college and seminary town. The late William O. Harris, former archivist at the Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote something of the Woodhull family, focusing on young Alfred’s grandfather, the Rev. John Woodhull :—

“One of the founders of Princeton Seminary, the Reverend John Woodhull, while pastor of a Presbyterian church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1776, advocated from his pulpit so eloquently the cause of American independence that every male member of his congregation capable of bearing arms enlisted in the Continental Army. He went with them as their chaplain. During the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, he looked up and saw the Old Tennent Church high on a hill above the battlefield. He felt strongly that he would be called to that church, and he was. He continued as pastor there until his death in 1824. He helped to found Princeton Seminary in 1812, assisting in teaching practical theology and serving as vice president of the Board of Trustees from 1812 until his death in 1824. His son, George Woodhull, was a longtime pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton. His son, General Alfred A. Woodhull, served in the Army Medical Corps throughout his career, rising to be surgeon general. In retirement, he lived in Princeton and was a great friend to the Seminary.”

Meanwhile, Alfred, through independent study, was able to enter the  university as a second year student.  After graduating from it, he went to the Pennsylvania to study medicine, and after graduation and residency, became a medical doctor.  Eventually moving back to Princeton in 1835, he began a practice there.  Loved as a sincere, devout, and humble Christian Presbyterian, he contracted a fever and tragically died on October 5, 1836.  His death was greatly lamented by the citizens of the town and area.

Words to Live By:
James reminds us in chapter 4, verse 15 of his New Testament letter that we “are just like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”  All of our lives are that fragile, unless the Lord determines to keep us on this earth for a time.  Let us remember that and buy up every opportunity for worship and work in God’s kingdom.  And let us pray and work for our beloved country so that God would have his church “spread God’s  truth’s bright concepts  here” so that our citizens “would worship the God” of the Bible.

Tags: , , ,

A First for a Black Presbyterian Pastor

garnetHHIf you were among the visitors seeking a seat in the House of Representatives gallery that Sabbath day on February 12, 1865, you would have had to arrive early to accomplish your goal, for the gallery was packed with black and white individuals. It was a historical occasion in many aspects. First, the adoption of the 13th Amendment by the Congress banning the institution of slavery was within sight. Second, the decision of the Republican majority to commemorate the event by a public religious service was surprising, even in the middle of the nineteenth century of the republic. Next, President Abraham Lincoln’s choice of a speaker was the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, a former slave and then pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Blacks had been barred from entrance to the halls of Congress in recent days before this event. Now this six foot abolitionist, even by political and, failing that, physical means, was being invited to lead the worship service in the House of Representatives.

And it was a worship service. The memorable meeting began with the singing of the hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” That was followed up with a Scripture reading. The choir from the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church sang “Arise My Soul Arise, Shake off Thy Guilty Fears.” Then Rev. Garnet began to preach, following the text of Matthew 23:4, which describes the Pharisees of our Lord’s day “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” The title of his hour-long message was “Let the Monster Perish.” He would spare no words in the powerful address.

Listen to one paragraph: “Great God! I would as soon attempt to enslave Gabriel or Michael as to enslave a man made in the image of God, and for whom Christ died. Slavery is snatching man from the high place to which he was lifted by the hand of God, and dragging him down to the level of the brute creation, where he is made to be the companion of the horse and the fellow of the ox. It tears the crown of glory from his head and as far as possible obliterates the image of God that is in him.”

And another short exhortation in the closing words: “Let slavery die. It has had a long and fair trial. God himself has pleaded against it. The enlightened nations of the earth have condemned it. Its death warrant is signed by God and man. Do not commute its sentence. Give it no respite, but let it be ignominiously executed.”

The entire message can be found on Google for readers to read, but those who heard it that day went away, certainly having their curiosity satisfied. And whether we agree with his verbiage or not, what a memorable way to celebrate the passage of legislation than a worship service in the Congress.  Would to God that we would have political representatives who would desire to hear God’s Word and not worry about whether it was a violation of the separation of church and state!

Words to Live By: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34 (NASB)

Tags: , , ,

%d bloggers like this: