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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?

A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?

A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify him accordingly.

Scripture References: Exod. 20:3; I Chron. 28:9; Deut. 26:7; Matt. 4:10; Ps. 95:6; Ps. 29:2

Questions:

1. What are the three duties chiefly required in the first commandment?

The three duties are: (1) To know God. (2) To acknowledge God. (3) To worship and glorify God.

2. What is it we are to know regarding God?

We are to know that God is, or that there is a God. In addition we are to know God by acknowledging Him as the only true God as He is presented in His Word.

3. How are we to worship God?

We are to worship God by making Him the object of our desire and our delight.

4. How are we to glorify God?

We are to glorify God by first recognizing, in our heart, Christ as our Saviour and Lord and then living so that every action is aimed at the advancement of His glory and honor here on earth.

5. What are some practical ways by which we worship and glorify God?

We glorify God by putting nothing before Him in our thoughts, words, actions. By loving anything more than God, whether it is pleasure, our bodies, our loved ones, we would not be glorifying God.

6. Can we glorify God both inwardly and outwardly?

Yes, we can glorify God inwardly by trusting, by hoping, by delighting in Him, by thinking and meditating upon Him, by being filled with grief when we sin against Him. We can glorify God outwardly by praying, by praising, by being zealous to walk in the Spirit, by showing forth humility, and by seeking to do His will as expressed in His word. The Bible says, “Delight thyself in the Lord.” (Ps. 37:4). “Trust ye in the Lord forever.” Isa. 26 :4). “This thlng commanded I them, Obey my voice, and walk ye in all the ways I have commanded.” (Jer. 7:23),

THE DEAREST IDOL I HAVE KNOWN

When the Christian reads the first commandment and meditates upon it, a good commentary on it to be noted is one verse of the hymn entitled, “O For a Closer Walk With God”. This particular verse reads:

“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”

In order for the Christian to know, acknowledge, worship and glorify God it is certainly of foremost importance that the Christian know Christ as Saviour. This is indeed the foundation stone. But upon that rock-like foundation there must be added the gold, silver and precious stones of good works. This means a self discipline on the part of the Christian and has a lot to do with the Christian not putting other gods before the Almighty, Sovereign God.

Paul uses an interesting approach to this in 2 Cor. 5:9. “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” Or, as one translator puts it, “. . . we may be well pleasing to Him.” But it is so easy to put other things before this living solely to the glory of God, even things that seem, in themselves, right and proper. For example, the winning of souls or the leading in great revivals or the establishment of church or so many other things that could be mentioned. But our aim in life as born again believers is to do things purely to the glory of God. If we do otherwise we can be guilty of having little idols built up that become other gods. And such things trespass the first commandment.

Paul approaches the same question in another way: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (disapproved).” Not that he is in danger of losing his salvation, but that he is in danger of losing approval by God, of not living to the glory of God. This means approaching our daily life with an attitude of disciplining ourselves, the disciplining of our thoughts. words, deeds. This means that we must, moment by moment, “mortify” (make dead) those things of the flesh that would not please God. This means that daily we must die to these things and never let them become idols to us. It does not take much for them to reach that state. Satan will see to that if we relax our discipline. May God help us to tear such from ourselves that we have no other gods before Him!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 44 (August 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 39. — What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. — The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

Scripture References: Deut. 29:29. Micah 6:8. I Sam. 15:22.

Questions:

1. Why do believers have duties toward God?

(1) God is the Creator and Preserver of all men, but believers belong to Him also by right of redemption and have added reason for obedience.
(2) God has made it very plain in His Word that the duties of the believers are the responsibilities that go with the privileges. In our catechism we have studied the privileges, now we o come to the responsibilities.

2. What is the revealed will of God?

The revealed will of God is found in the scripture of the Old and New Testaments.

3. Could not the Holy Spirit lead a believer to act apart from the Scriptures ?

Any leading by the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the Word of God. A Bible teacher put it this way: There are three main characteristics of the leading of the Holy Spirit:
(1) It is controlling, not compelling.
(2) It is continuous, it always “Puts to death”.
(3) It is mediate, always by and with the Word, “Into the truth”.

4. Should believers obey God rather men?

There is a responsibility on the part of believers to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake”, (I Pet. 2: 13) but if the duty required of us by man would cause us to disobey God (according to His revealed will) we must obey God. (Acts 5:29).

5. Does God require of the believer what is impossible for the individual believer?

No, God only requires of the believer what he will give the believer the strength, wisdom, courage and power to perform. (Ezekiel 36:27. I Cor. 10:13).

HOLINESS AND TRUTH

We learn in this question that our duty is obedience to the revealed will of God. This brings forth the teaching that we as believers need to be reminded of again and again: to simply know the truth is not enough, there must be a working out of the truth in our lives every day. This teaching is vital, for the real test of Christian discipleship is continuance in Christ and in His Word. (John 8:31, 32).

In this day and age, among conservative circles, there is much teaching about the Truth. Well should there be for the battleground today is over the Truth, whether it is verbally inspired or not, whether or not it is the authority for the believer. We recognize the importance of the Word and are always ready to do battle for it. But are we: ready, always ready, to live it day by day? Possibly our trouble is that of making the process too difficult. We feel it is too hard to do and so end up doing little or nothing. Would it not be good for us·to get back to the simple principles of obedience to the revealed will of God? Let us check a few of them again, all to the glory of God.

First, remember that we are God’s children. Since we have been born into His family we should no longer seek to do our will but His will. If we will but settle right now, once and for all, the important principle that we are to do all to the glory of God we will avoid many difficulties. Remember that doing His will in no sense depends on feeling, it is simply a self-discipline.

Second we should be steadfast Christians. We can do this by always abiding in the vine. The Spirit of Christ dwells in the true believer and is ready every moment to impart wisdom, courage, patience and give victory over sins from within and without. Keeping close to. Him will help us to be steadfast.

Third, honor God’s Word. It would be better to give up one meal a day than to miss one day without reading the Word. Remember ever to turn to the authoritative Word of the sovereign God, remember it is our objective authority and from it we learn how to live.

Fourth, pray without ceasing. Prayer can . lay hold of the throne and spiritual forces are set into motion far beyond the understanding of man. It is an offensive weapon.

Fifth, be faithful in the little things. Faithfulness is the great test of true discipleship. He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in much.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 39 (March, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 24. How does Christ execute the office of a prophet?

A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Scripture References: John 1:1-4; John 15:15; John 20:31; II Pet. 1:21; John 14:26.

Questions:

1. Is Christ called a “prophet” in Scripture and if so, why?

He is called a prophet in Acts 3 :22. He is called a prophet because He has made a full revelation of the whole counsel of God.

2. How does Christ reveal to us the will of God?

He reveals God’s will to us in two ways: outwardly, by His Word and o inwardly, by His Spirit.

3. What is the word of Christ?

The word of Christ is the whole Bible, the Scripture, containing the Old and New Testaments.

4. How can it be that the whole Scripture is the word of Christ since His words constitute only a small portion of it?

The whole Bible is called the word of Christ because those who wrote it wrote the word they had from the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10-11)

5. Is it possible to be saved simply by means of the Word of God without the Spirit?

No, it is not possible to be saved simply through the Word apart from the Spirit. The teaching concerning this is found in I Cor. 2: 14.

6. Is it possible to be saved by the Spirit apart from the Word?

There is a difference here from the previous question in that the Word can not save you apart from the Spirit and the Spirit will not save you apart from the Word. The Bible teaches that the whole will of God necessary to our salvation is revealed in His Word.

7. How does the Spirit of Christ make us wise unto salvation?

The Spirit of Christ makes us wise unto salvation by opening up our understandings, for the entrance of His word gives us light so that the soul is enabled to see the way of salvation and the way offered.

THE WORD AND OUR SALVATION

Every once in a while the Christian is called upon to present a defense of the position that the knowledge for man’s salvation comes only from the Word of God. This defense is necessary for many sects and heretical groups deny the teaching and insist upon their belief in the man-made doctrine that God has and does save and reveal His will apart from the Word of God.

The poet put the truth very well when he said:

“The starry firmament on high
And all the glories of the sky
Yet shine not to thy praise, a Lord,
So brightly as thy written word.

“Almighty Lord, the sun shall fail,
The moon forget her nightly tale,
And deepest silence hush on high,
The radiant chorus of the sky;

“But, fixed for everlasting years,
Unmoved amid the wreck of spheres,
Thy word shall shine in cloudless day,
When heaven and earth have passed away.”

There are many today who insist that salvation can be obtained apart from the Word of God. It is the modern, popular way to believe today to Lay aside the Scriptures and discover the way to God through self, with philosophical or mystical overtones. The Reformed faith stands in opposition to this. In one of the Reformed catechisms the question is asked: “Whence do you know your misery?” The answer is: “Out of the law of God.” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question No. 3). The mirror is ever present with us, the mirror of the Word of God, and because it is the revelation of God it shows us our sin.

The danger to the church today is from those who profess Christ but who do not take the Word of God seriously. There are too many Christians who do not read it, study it, or fill their very hearts and minds with it. Humanly speaking, if it were possible to receive all the answers to life by a human means that could be gathered together in a small book we would never be found without it. And yet that is exactly what we have in the Word of God. In it we have our salvation and all that is necessary for us to please God and therefore enjoy Him forever.

Published By:
THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 2 No. 24 (December, 1962)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

 

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The following account has been freely edited from Fowler’s History of the Synod of Central New York (1877) and from the funeral discourse delivered by J. Trumbull Backus.

At Home in the Joy of the Lord

Union College in Schenectady, New York, was chartered in 1795 and held its first commencement in 1797, with Dr. John Blair Smith serving as the school’s first president, 1795-99. The younger Jonathan Edwards followed as president of the school, but only lived a dozen months or so after taking the helm [1799-1801]. Dr. Jonathan Maxey followed him [1802-04], but retired in 1804, and then came Dr. Eliphalet Nott, who still holds the record as having served Union College longest in the post of President [1804-66]. Fifty years following his inauguration, he remarked, “Some forty students scattered over the then village of Schenectady, meeting for educational purposes in what was then a cabinet-maker’s shop, with a single Professor, was the whole of Union College,” and it may be added, only sixty-three had graduated from it at that time.

He addressed himself to the raising of needed funds and the erection of needed buildings, as well as the establishment and filling of new departments, and he wonderfully succeeded in this part of his work, while as President he attracted crowds of young men, four thousand of whom were graduated during his presidency.

nott_eliphaltet_graveThough incessantly occupied by his duties to the college, Dr. Nott was much engaged in outside preaching, and considerably in ecclesiastical affairs, and in 1811 was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly. He entered cordially into the temperance reform, and was the constant dependence and counsellor of Mr. Edward C. Delavan in his large and liberal enterprises for this cause. He published occasional addresses and sermons, and in 1810 his “Counsel to Young Men,” which passed through numerous editions, and in 1847, “Lectures on Temperance.” In 1860 he went for the last time to his lecture room, and presided at Commencement for the last time in 1862. Infirmities were gathering upon him for many years previously, and his decline ended in fatal paralysis, January 29, 1866. “His dying counsel to his nearest friend was, ‘Fear God and keep His commandments,’ and his last words were, ‘Jesus Christ, my covenant God.’ “

The immediate expectation of death is usually a severe test of man; and Dr. Nott had been conscious of that condition for years. Since 1860 he felt that he was within a momentary summons to go home to his Lord. During much of this protracted period of awaiting and expecting, he was enough of himself to discriminate clearly, and cautiously consider his prospects. Clouds and apprehensions would sometimes intervene; but always there was reverent, cordial submission to the Divine will, and for the most part a sweet, humble, child-like fearlessness of trust and hope. It was the manifestation of a true, soul-sustaining Christianity; and a demonstration of his sincerity, an interpretation of his life beyond all scope for cavil or doubt–a priceless testimony to the covenant faithfulness of God. . . He was ever to the end a little child before God, most pleased to sit at Jesus’ feet, and confiding firmly, gratefully, in the sovereignty and loving-kindness of his gracious Lord. He is now at home in the joy of his Lord.

Words to Live By:
We sometimes use that phrase, “at home in the joy of the Lord,” as a euphemism of death, though it does indeed express a reality for the departed Christian. But think about it—shouldn’t that be our goal even here and now, to be “at home in the joy of the Lord”? We can and should strive to be so daily conversant with our covenant God, in His Word and in prayer, that we can truly say that we are at home in the joy of the Lord, even now, and well before death’s inevitable call.

Historical Note: It was mildly interesting to note that there is some discrepancy regarding the death date for Dr. Nott. Some sources give January 25th as the date of his demise. Others state that he died on January 29th. Finally, a photograph of his gravestone was located and while grave markers have on occasion been chiseled with error, we will in this instance go with the date set down in stone.

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reedrcOn this day, January 24, in 1851, the Rev. James Landrum Reed and his wife Elizabeth became the proud parents of a baby boy whom they named Richard Clark Reed. Richard was later educated at King College and prepared for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Graduating from Union in 1876, he was ordained by Memphis Presbytery and went on to pastor churches in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee before being called to serve as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in 1898. A true pastor-scholar, he was well suited to this post, and the remainder of his years were spent teaching at Columbia, until his death in July of 1925.

In 1914, Dr. Reed had returned from attending the General Assembly of his denomination. What follows is a portion of his review of that Assembly, and it is interesting for dating a change in the conduct of the Southern Presbyterian Assembly, from that of a more deliberative body to something more akin to a business model. The Assembly had been in the habit of meeting for nine days, and now had, since 1912, been meeting for only six. Here Rev. Reed complains of the hurried nature of the Assembly and the resulting lack of patient, reasoned debate. Elsewhere we have noted that on one occasion, in 1880, the Rev. John L. Girardeau spoke at length for two hours on the floor of the Assembly. More remarkable still, the Assembly paid attention to his every word!

The General Assembly, reviewed by Rev. Professor R.C. Reed, Columbia, SC.

The fifty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, met in the Central Church, Kansas City, Mo., May 21, 1914, and was dissolved at 3:30 P.M., Thursday, May 28th. This is the third Assembly in succession which has limited the span of its life to six working days. These precedents will probably have the force of law for the future. Time was when the Assembly had to rush its business toward the close, in order to dissolution by the end of the ninth day from date of organization. The volume of business has increased rather than diminished. The recent Assemblies have shortened the time not by covering less ground, but by increasing the speed. The liberty of speech has been abridged. it has come to pass that by the time a speaker gets fairly launched, the cry of “question,” “question,” warns the speaker that further effort to get a hearing for his views will be useless. Age and distinguished services do not secure immunity from such discourtesy. The Assembly is ceasing to be a deliberative body, and coming to be an organization merely for business routine.

Obviously, our Assemblies are inoculated with the speed-madness of the age. It could hardly be otherwise. The members, who compose the Assembly, are accustomed by the use of the telephone, rapid transit, and other time-saving devices, to dispatch business at a rate that would have made a former generation dizzy. The speed at which we live is constantly increasing, with the result that we are growing more and more restless. The slightest delay is irksome. The train that pulls into the station ten minutes late creates almost a mob-spirit in those who have been constrained to lose so much of their precious time. When men, who live and move and have their being in an atmosphere charged with the frenzy of hurry, come together in a General Assembly, it is not surprising that they should begrudge every minute that does not show a decided progress in the calendar of business. They are not in the habit of having time to spare. Speech-making is not business, rather it is a clog on the machinery, and the less of it the sooner the members can record their votes and get at something else. The moderator is a good moderator in proportion as he rushes the grist through the mill.

Click here to read the remainder of this excerpt.

Words to Live By:
If only Dr. Reed could have seen the breakneck speed of our lives! Some people seem to thrive on it, but I think we all need times of peaceful quiet, though it can be very hard to come by. Why not begin to carve out a time each day when you will turn off the TV, the radio and all the many devices, and set your priorities for the day? And what better way to set the standard for the day than by getting alone with God in His Word and in prayer? Notice how often Jesus went out early in the morning, by Himself, to pray. Could we have any better example?  I admit it is a discipline, but rising a bit earlier to have that time alone with God is worth it. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

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The Tide of War Turned to Favor Independence of America

Americans were gathering to do battle that fall of 1780. The only problem was that those who were on the side of England and those who were in favor of independence were the forces who were gathering. It would be neighbor against neighbor, Patriots against Tories, Continental troops against British troops.

It would also be a “pay-back” battle. Colonials down in the southeastern parts of what later on would be called the United States had suffered at the hands of the British troops under Lord Cornwallis. In fact, if you were associated with the Scot-Irish Presbyterians in the south, you commonly had your pastor persecuted, their manses burned, their theological libraries destroyed, the congregation’s psalters thrown away, and wives and families left destitute. If you were on the other side of the skirmish with British troops, there would often be a “no quarter” order handed on, like at the Battle of Waxhaw.

So when the order came to gather, the patriots mounted their horses, said their farewells to their wives and children, and with their guns, rode to the designated spot. And who came but members from the Presbyterian congregations of the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. Seven hundred and fifty Presbyterian patriots gathered at the designated spot.

Once there, William Campbell picked out the best of the men in a force of one thousand men.  These were individuals who had gained their prowess from fighting the Indians in their hamlets and towns.  Some were part of the regular Continental line.  They went in search of British commander Patrick Ferguson, who had settled down on King’s Mountain near the border of North and South Carolina.

Finding him camped there with eleven hundred loyalist troops on October 7, 1780, they surrounded the area and began to advance up the hill to begin the attack. Several times, the British loyalists would charge with the bayonet and push the patriots down the incline. But in the end of this short battle, the British could not defend their area, given the deadly sharpshooting of the riflemen. Commander Ferguson was killed and his entire force either killed or captured.

At several points, atrocities took place, committed by small groups of the patriot soldiers. But when patriot officers, many of whom were Presbyterian elders, arrived on the scene, such practices were halted. It was a complete victory over the forces of Britain, and a turning point in the Revolution. Cornwallis began to retreat, with the patriots of Mecklenburg with their long rifles, hitting the flanks of the army.

The tide of the American revolution was changed to the favor of the American cause.

Words to live by:  It is amazing how the Lord works through His spirit in the actions of His church.  At times all can be dark and dreary. It may seem as if His church is hanging on by the fingers in the great battles of righteousness. Then His people can gather, sometimes in desperation, and seek to be faithful to the cause and kingdom of Christ. And God will bring out a great victory to the glory of His name and the good of His people. We must simply be faithful to our God at all times. Faithful to His Word and will, is the condition of God’s blessings.

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The Death of a Saint

finleySA year ago this day, we first wrote of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, who served as President of the College of New Jersey from 1761 until his death in 1766. The following account of Dr. Finley’s death taken, with slight editing, from William Buell Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit :—

Dr. Finley’s unremitted application to the duties of his office began, after a while, to perceptibly impair his health, and an obstruction of the liver was induced, which proved beyond the reach of medical skill. when he found himself seriously ill, he went to Philadelphia to avail himself of the prescriptions of the best physicians there; but he seems to have had little apprehension that his disease was to have a fatal issue;—for he remarked to his friends,—”If my work is done, I am ready—I do not desire to live a day longer than I can work for God. But I cannot think this is the case yet. God has much for me to do before I depart hence.”

About a month before he died, Samuel Finley’s physician expressed the opinion that his recovery was hopeless. Upon hearing this, Dr. Finley seemed entirely resigned to the Divine will, and from that time until his death, he was employed in the immediate preparation for his departure. On being told by one of his physicians that, according to present appearances, he could live but a few days more, he lifted up his eyes and exclaimed, “Then welcome, Lord Jesus.”

On the Sabbath preceding his death, he was informed by his brother-in-law, Dr. Clarkson, who was one of his physicians, that there was a decisive change in his condition, indicating that the end was near. “Then,” Finley said, “may the Lord bring me near Himself. I have been waiting with a Canaan hunger for the promised land. I have often wondered that God suffered me to live. I have more wondered that He called me to be a minister of His Word. He has often afforded me much strength, which, though I have often abused, He returned in mercy. O faithful are the promises of God! O that I could see Him as I have seen Him heretofore in his sanctuary! Although I have earnestly desired death, as the hireling pants for the evening shade, yet will I wait all the days of my appointed time. I have often struggled with principalities and powers, and have been brought almost to despair—Lord, let it suffice!”

“I can truly say I have loved the service of God. I know not in what language to speak of my own unworthiness. I have been undutiful; I have honestly endeavoured to act for God, but with much weakness and corruption.” He then lay down and continued to speak in broken sentences.

“A Christian’s death,” said he, “is the best part of his experience. The Lord has made provision for the whole way; provision for the soul and for the body. O that I could recollect Sabbath blessings. Blessed be God, eternal rest is at hand; Eternity is but long enough to enjoy my God. This has animated me in my secret studies; I was ashamed to take rest here. O that I could be filled with the fulness of God,—that fulness that fills heaven.”

Upon awaking the next morning, he exclaimed, “O what a disappointment I have met with—I expected this morning to have been in Heaven!”

In the afternoon of this day, the Rev. Elihu Spencer called to see him, and said,—”I have come, dear Sir, to see you confirm by facts the Gospel you have been preaching; pray, Sir, how do you feel?” To which he replied,—”Full of triumph. I triumph through Christ. Nothing clips my wings, but the thoughts of my dissolution being prolonged. O that it were tonight! My very soul thirsts for eternal rest.”

Mr. Spencer asked him what he saw in eternity to excite such vehement desires. “I see,” said he, “the eternal love and goodness of God; I see the fulness of the Mediator. I see the love of Jesus. O to be dissolved, and to be with Him. I long to be clothed with the complete righteousness of Christ.” He then desired Mr. Spencer to pray with him before they parted, and said,—”I have gained the victory over the devil. Pray to God to preserve me from evil—to keep me from dishonouring His great name in this critical hour, and to support me with His presence in my passage through the valley of the shadow of death.”

He spent the rest of the evening in taking leave of his friends, and in addressing affectionate counsels and exhortations to those of his children who were present. He would frequently cry out,—”Why move the tardy hours so slow?” The next day brought him the release for which he had panted so long. He was no longer able to speak; but a friend having desired him to indicate by a sign whether he still continued to triumph, he lifted his hand, and articulated,—”Yes.” At nine o’clock in the morning, he fell into a profound sleep, in which he continued, without changing his position, till about one, when his spirit gently passed away to its eternal home.

During his whole illness, he manifested the most entire submission to the Divine will, and a full assurance of entering into rest. His death occurred on the 17th of July, 1766, in the fifty-first year of his age. It was the intention of Dr. Finley’s friends to carry his remains to Princeton for burial, but the extreme heat of the weather forbade their doing it, and he was buried by the side of his friend, Gilbert Tennent, in the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

Words to Live By:
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones.” (Psalm 116:15, NASB)

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

Lord, teach to number our days, that we may live out our lives in the fear of the Lord. Deliver us from evil; keep us from sin; and may we live each day looking to You for our every need, knowing that You will provide, both in this life, and in the life to come. May the Lord Jesus Christ be our All in all.

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Every once in a while we will dispense with people and events tied to the calendar. I think this particular piece warrants your attention.

The following article is from among the Papers of the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway (graciously donated at this recent PCA GA), and it was the lead article in a  1935 publication of the National Union of Christian Schools,an effort largely connected in those years with the Christian Reformed Church. And since today is a work day, for your convenience a shorter, edited version (with emphasis added) is posted “above the fold.” Please come back later when you have time to read the full article (posted below the fold).

Time has proven Kuiper’s words to have indeed been so very accurate and true, and still so very applicable.

kuiperRBTHE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL A NECESSARY WITNESS IN THE MODERN WORLD.

by R. B. Kuiper

It is sometimes possible to characterize an age in one word. The antediluvians, for example, lived in practical atheism. They went about their pursuits as if there were no God. Soon after the flood men turned to polytheism, and for many centuries the human race remained steeped in this sin. I believe that antitheism describes today’s world as accurately as any one word can. At the very least it may be asserted of our age that it indisputably manifests a strong strain of antitheism. Modern man is not merely forgetting God, or even wilfully ignoring Him, but he emphatically denies God. He hates God and is eager to express his hatred. He flies in God’s face.

More fully expressed, it is characteristic of the modern world to cast overboard God and His Word and, consequently, His answer to the question what is true as well as His norm of goodness. The world will have nothing of God, the Absolute, nor of His objective standard of truth and morality.

The inevitable outcome is here. Modern man has lost his moorings. He finds himself at sea, surrounded by the thick mist of doubt and uncertainty and enveloped in the black darkness of hopeless pessimism. “Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus,” said the Athenian comic poet Aristophanes. “Whirl is King, having driven out the Absolute” describes the wicked and adulterous generation in which divine providence has cast our lot.

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Small wonder that the modern man finds no satisfying answer to the question what truth is. Divine revelation has been thrown into the discard and science has come to take its place, but the knowledge proffered by science differs so radically from that received by revelation that it hardly deserves to be called knowledge at all. I well recall when I began the study of physics at the Morgan Park Academy. In the very first lesson we were taught certain axioms. One of them was the indestructibility of matter. Now Webster defines an axiom as “a self-evident truth.” But modern science is by no means sure of the self-evident character of this proposition. The following quotation from Walter Lippmann is as true as witty. I find it most delightful. Says this modern sage: “One can by twisting language sufficiently ‘reconcile’ Genesis with ‘evolution.’ But what no one can do is to guarantee that science will not destroy the doctrine of evolution the day after it has been triumphantly proved that Genesis is compatible with the theory of evolution.—The reconciliation which theologians are attempting is an impossible one, because one of the factors which has to be reconciled—namely, the scientific theory, changes so rapidly that the layman is never sure at any one moment what the theory is which he has to reconcile with religious dogma.”


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If he who denies the absolute God and His Word has no reply to the question what truth is, neither can he say what is good.

The modern man does not know what is right and what wrong, and, as has been aptly remarked, he is giving himself the benefit of the doubt. Modern youth revolts against the restraint of God’s law and passionately lends its ear to the siren song of Freud. The divine institution of marriage is unblushingly violated even in the first family of our land. Supposedly Christian Italy seems eager to follow the example of pagan Japan in carrying out a selfish program of imperialism through ruthless and bloody conquest. Not only numberless individuals, but whole civilized nations, have lost the sense of financial obligation and are laughing just debts out of court. Capital continues to exploit labor, while fanatic reformers and windy demagogues are applauded by hosts for their communistic dreams. “All thine is mine” might well be called the slogan of our generation.

But human beings must be held in restraint somehow. Even man himself realizes that. And so it comes about that modern man, having turned his back on the law of God, which is the law of liberty, yields to a multiplication of human laws, which is tyranny. The great war was fought avowedly to make the world safe for democracy. But the post-war period is one of dictatorships. Despots are crushing whole nations under their heels. Everywhere governments are trampling upon the sacred rights of individuals. The totalitarian state is in the ascendancy. Democracy is rapidly becoming a huge joke, personal liberty a relic.

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What is our duty as Christians in this present evil world? If that question were to be answered in one word, I should choose the word witness. Just before His ascension our Lord said to His disciples: “But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That is a succinct statement of the Christian’s task in the world.

Christianity is not merely a theology; it is also a cosmology. Christianity tells man the truth, not only concerning God, but also about the universe. It is more than the true doctrine of salvation; it is also the one correct interpretation of life and the world. It is a comprehensive system of all revealed truth—not only the truth of God’s special revelation, the Bible, but of His general revelation in nature and history as well. And this system derives its unity from God, who is Himself the Truth as well as the Revealer of truth. Christianity is theism.

God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.

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All we can do is witness. While doing so, we hope and pray that our witness may find response in the modern world. But whether this will actually occur we cannot say. Nor are we responsible for results. Dean Inge once said: “The strength of Christianity is in transforming the lives of individuals—of a small minority, certainly, as Christ clearly predicted, but a large number in the aggregate. To rescue a little flock, here and there, from materialism, selfishness, and hatred, is the task of the Church of Christ in all ages alike, and there is no likelihood that it will ever be otherwise.” This is not a good statement of the task of the Christian Church. Reference to the preaching of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is altogether too obscure. Nor is anything said about the Church’s being the salt of the earth. But who will deny that there is a great deal of sanity in the apparent pessimism of these words? Perhaps the witness of the Christian school too, like that of the Christian Church, is destined to fall in large part on deaf ears. But witness we must. And our witness should ever be clear and strong, and winsome withal.

And who will gainsay that the witness of the Christian school is precisely the witness which is needed by the modern world?
Modern man has forsaken God and His Word. He has turned antitheistic. He has cast overboard the absolute and put the relative in its place. For the objective he has substituted the subjective. In consequence he is hanging between heaven and earth. Nothing is certain save uncertainty. He asks questions innumerable but finds no answers. He is ever seeking but never finding. He hungers and has no food. He thirsts and finds no water. His soul is a great void. And the world is in turmoil. “Whirl is King.”

But the Christian school is characterized by theism, by recognition of God, by submission to the absolute and the objective. It not only asks questions but also solves the most fundamental problems of life. Accordingly it is marked by the calmness of certainty, the tranquillity of power, the serenity of the eternal.

The Christian school offers the troubled world certainty for bewildering doubt, rest for unspeakable weariness, peace for terrifying turmoil, order for maddening confusion, liberty for abject slavery, hope for black despair,—God for utter chaos. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Child of great promise, and a Child of The Promise.

He was the youngest child of Joseph Courten Hornblower, who served for fourteen years as the Chief Justice of New Jersey. Joseph in turn was the youngest child of Josiah Hornblower, a renowned patriot in the Revolutionary War, a member of the first Congress of the United States of America, and the man who brought the first steam engine to this country!

hornblower_Wm_HAll of which made William H. Hornblower, born on March 21, 1820, a child of promise and expectation.  He graduated at Princeton College in 1838 and began studying law, but within a year or two began to consider the ministry and so entered Princeton Theological Seminary. Graduating from there in 1843, he was soon called to serve as Assistant pastor at the First Presbyterian church of Paterson, New Jersey. When the senior pastor resigned just a few months later, the congregation called Rev. Hornblower to serve as their pastor, and there he served for twenty-seven years.

In those closing years of his life, an honor and a decided change of course came when he was appointed to serve as Professor of Pastoral Theology and Sacred Rhetoric at the Western Theological Seminary, at Allegheny City*, Pennsylvania. In this capacity he served from 1871 until his death on July 16, 1883. One notable student during those years at Western would have been Robert Dick Wilson, whose exceptional abilities in Semitic languages brought him back to teach at Western in 1883, just a few months after Dr. Hornblower died.

[*Allegheny City was a distinct municipality from 1788-1907, located across the river from the city center of Pittsburgh. In 1907 it was annexed and became part of Pittsburgh]

It was said of him in eulogy that “As a preacher, he was instructive and impressive. His life was one of growing usefulness, and he enjoyed the cordial esteem of his brethren, and of the people among whom he lived and labored.”

At the Patterson church, where he had served for so many years, the Session composed their own eulogy on behalf of the church, and stated in conclusion, that,

“In view of the life, labor and character of such a man, the language of the Apostle might not unfittingly have been appropriated as his dying assurance of victory over death: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing.”

Words to Live By:
Do you love His appearing? That is, do you look forward to, and long for Christ’s return? If so, that is a very real assurance of your salvation and your hope of glory. But if you find your love is weak, decide now to spend more time seeking the Lord, in His Word and in prayer. Humble yourself and turn to Him. God will surely bless and answer your prayer to draw near.

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28, KJV)

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A Man of His Word.

Isaac G. Burnet was born in Newark, New Jersey, on July 17, 1784.  He was the son of Dr. William. Burnet, of Newark, New Jersey, who was Surgeon-general in the Army of the Revolution. Isaac prepared for his life’s work with education at the College of New Jersey, and after studying law, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1804. After working in his brother Jacob’s law office for a time, Isaac was admitted to the Ohio bar. With gainful employment in hand, he turned his mind to other matters and was married to Kitty Gordon, daughter of Captain George Gordon, on October 8, 1807. The young couple soon relocated to Dayton, Ohio, where Isaac worked in earnest at developing his legal practice. Then in 1816, he moved his family back to Cincinnati, partnering there with Nicholas Longworth. His connections and abilities led in turn to his being elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1819. Burnet was re-elected to this office five times, holding the office until 1831, at which time he decided not to stand for re-election.

Prior to his retirement from that office, Burnet had become one of the owners of The Cincinnati Gazette, in 1817. His interest in that firm did not last long, but for many years he continued to write, both for the secular and the religious press. In 1833 he was appointed Clerk of the Supreme Court of Hamilton County, and he continued to hold that office until the Supreme Court upon the circuit was superseded by the District Court, under the constitution of 1851.

Apparently Isaac Burnet made his public profession of faith somewhat later in life, since he was baptized by the Rev. John Boyd, pastor of the Enon Baptist Church, in Cincinnati, sometime around 1826. Then in about 1831 or 1832, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati. In 1834, Judge Burnet was elected to serve as a ruling elder in this church, and he remained active in this office for almost twenty years.

Two years before his death, he moved to Walnut Hills, Ohio and joined the Lane Seminary Church, and was immediately elected to serve there as an elder. He died on March 11, 1856.

Judge Burnet was eminently exemplary as a Christian, and faithful as an officer of the Church. He was a man of great decision and earnestness. During the time that he was mayor of Cincinnati, he stood alone against a mob “in the flush of their riotous and revengeful triumph” and with a few short words, brought them to their senses. In a similar way, in all his dealings within the Church, no one who ever came into contact with him ever doubted where he stood on a matter. He died as he lived. For years, he had suffered from a mounting disease, but looking to the Lord, had no fear of death, for Christ had already given him the victory.

Words to Live By:
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but [a]your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”—(James 5:12, NASB)

“Stand to your word, and be true to it, so as to give no occasion for your being suspected of falsehood; and then you will be kept from the condemnation of backing what you say or promise by rash oaths, and from profaning the name of God to justify yourselves. It is being suspected of falsehood that leads men to swearing. Let it be known that you keep to truth, and are firm to your word, and by this means you will find there is no need to swear to what you say.”–Matthew Henry.

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