Holy Spirit

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While still searching for some suitable material for our Saturday tutorials, we offer the following lecture, originally delivered on this day, October 24, in 1949, by the Rev. Dr. Allan A. MacRae, who was then serving as the president of Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. MacRae held that post until 1971 when he became president of Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA. The text is was offered as part of a short-lived series intended for laymen, with Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. presenting the second lecture. We have thus far never seen any other lectures from this series and conclude that something must have preempted the planned series. MacRae’s lecture is a bit long for one of our posts, but since its Saturday, hopefully you can pour a second cup of coffee and enjoy the lecture.

LECTURES ON THE

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH FOR LAYMEN

FIRST IN SERIES : THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

by

ALLAN A. MacRae, Ph.D.
President, Faith Theological Seminary
Wilmington, Delaware.

COPYRIGHT, 1950, by
THE EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN TRAINING ASSOCIATION

A lecture given before the Bible Presbyterian Elders’ Association on October 24, 1949.

 

As we look at the table of contents of the Confession of Faith; we note that it contains more than thirty chapters. It is interesting to see which chapter comes first.

Does the Confession start with a discussion of human needs? There is much in it about human need and its satisfaction, but that is not where the Confession begins.

Does the Confession begin with a statement about God and His attributes? Does it lay a foundation for belief in a certain type of God and then deduce everything else from that as a starting point? No; it does not start with God.

The Confession does not start with human need; it does not start with the presupposition of a certain theory or viewpoint about God; it starts with the Holy Scriptures. This was no accident, it was, instead, a clear expression of the viewpoint of the men who wrote the Confession of Faith of our church. They believed that there is one way) and only one way, in which we can learn what is vital about God and what is vital about the satisfaction of human need. They believed that God has given us a book which provides the knowledge that He desires us to have about sacred things, about Himself; and about the satisfaction of our needs, If we are going to find satisfactory answers to any of these questions, the place to start is with the Book which God has given us; this is the foundation viewpoint of the Westminster Confession,

There are men who think that a person can think and ponder and meditate, and can find within himself the answers to all the problems of the universe. That is not the view of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Still others make a beginning, not, like the Westminster Confession, with the Bible, but rather with a particular idea of God, and maintain that from a correct idea of God all else will necessarily follow This is very different from the approach of the Westminster Confession. There is, of course, a logical coherence in the universe.  After we learn correct views about God from the Bible we can see how these views fit together with other Biblical teachings and with the observed facts of life. But it is questionable how much coherence can safely be worked out by the human minds without first gaining the facts from divine revelation. Sin has darkened the human intellect and it is dangerous to build our views on human reason. We must not think we can safely start with a particular idea of God. We must start where the Westminster Confession starts; with the Bible and then get our ideas about God directly from that source.

The view of the Westminster Confession is:  we have just one source of truth in religious matters, and that is the Bible In other words, all knowledge of religious truth must come through revelation. This view has been characteristic of the Presbyterian Churches right from their foundations.

WHAT IS REVELATION?

What do we mean by revelation? Is it some sort of old fashioned out-of-date idea? Is revelation a medieval concept which science has now displaced?

Such questions illustrate the present wide-spread ignorance of what revelation really is, It is not some bizarre or fantastic notion but one of the commonest facts of daily lifeRevelation is merely communication from one personality to another. Divine revelation differs from ordinary revelation in that it comes from God rather than from another human being.

So far from being displaced by science; revelation is absolutely necessary to the progress of science. Science consists in gathering data, classifying them, building hypotheses, and then checking these hypotheses by further data. No man has ever been able to gather enough data in any field to build up a science all by himself. Each scientist must use many facts which others have observed. Knowledge of these facts reaches
him through revelation from other personalities.

Every worker in science is constantly studying the results of the work of others. Data inaccessible to him are made available through communications from others Thus revelation is one of the most vital factors in the increase of scientific knowledge. Without it no one man would have access to a large enough body of data to make a great advance in any science.

Personally I believe that our great progress in material things in modern days is largely the result of application of the scientific method. And I believe that progress in religious understanding must also be based on the scientific method. The method is exactly the same, whether you are dealing with religion or with science. There is only one vital difference, That difference relates to the accessibility of the data. In every science much of the data is inaccessible to an individual student, and must be learned through revelation. In religion all the vital data must be learned in this way. No man has direct access to the data from which he can learn about eternal things. What sort of a being is God, and what are His plans and purposes? Answers to such questions as these can be found in only one way. You must use exactly the same method as in any field of earthly knowledge that is not accessible to you. You must find someone who possesses this knowledge and get a communication from him—in other words, a revelation. Only in this way can you secure dependable knowledge about these matters. This was the belief of the framers of the Westminster Confession; and it was the belief of the founders of the Reformed churches throughout the world. To get knowledge of religion we must secure data from One who knows facts inaccessible to us. Then we study these facts and build up our conclusions on a basis of careful analysis of the data.

We cannot get the facts out of our imagination, nor can we simply infer them by a logical process from a few ideas and presuppositions. We must learn the facts from One who knows- This is why the Confession of Faith begins with the chapter on the Holy Scriptures.

Thus a correct attitude toward the Bible is the very foundation of our knowledge of religious matters. Please do not misunderstand me. I said that a correct attitude toward the Bible is the very foundation of all dependable knowledge in the sphere of religion. I did not say that a belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible is the beginning of the Christian life. Your Christian life is founded on your relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Your salvation depends on a personal relationship to Him. Faith in Christ, and nothing else, is the basis of personal salvation.

You can be saved and know very little of the Bible, but without knowledge of the Bible you will not be an effective Christian worker. You will not be a Christian who is growing in grace. You will not be one who is going forward in the Christian life as God wants you to go forward if you lack a clear understanding of the place that the Bible should have in the Christian life. It is the foundation of Christian knowledge and true knowledge is vital to progress in any one of these phases of Christian life.

Therefore it is from a viewpoint, not of the beginning of the Christian life, but of that Christian knowledge which is so vital to progress in the Christian life, that the Westminster Confession begins with this chapter on the Holy Scriptures, and puts right at the start the fact that it is necessary to have revelation (communication) from someone who knows the facts and data in this field. You have to get God’s revelation.

You don’t have to know a great many facts about God to start getting religious knowledge. You don’t have to know a great deal about what kind of a God He is; all you have to know is that He is, that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb, 11:6), and that He has given you a way to seek Him. He has given His revelation in which you may study what He has revealed about Himself. The way to learn about Him is to go to the revelation He has given. Naturally then, the Confession of Faith places the chapter on the Holy Scriptures at the very beginning,

GENERAL REVELATION

There has been much discussion by theologians of this question: Is there such a thing as general revelation? Some people say we cannot know anything about God except what we learn from the Bible. Others would say that we can know nothing about God except what He has directly revealed to some individual. They assert that we cannot learn about God from nature that we cannot start with the facts of nature and reach the knowledge that God exists. When men make statements like this they are sharply contradicting the Westminster Confession of Faith,

The Confession begins with the statement of a fact. It introduces this fact with the word “although”, thus indicating that its importance should not be exaggerated, but nevertheless recognizing it as a fact.

Let us read the first words of the Confession; “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave men inexcusable.” This opening statement in the Westminster Confession of Faith asserts that God has revealed His goodness, His wisdom, and His power through the light of nature and the works of creation and providence.

Many editions of the Confession have a footnote here, giving references to such passages as Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:19-20. These verses make it clear that the Confession is standing squarely on the teaching of the Bible, when it says that God is revealed in nature The Confession declares that “the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave men inexcusable.” It thus asserts that a man can know from nature that there is a God—that there is a good God; that there is a wise God; that there is a powerful God.

Here we see the reason why the Confession does not begin with God, Its writers believed that the basic facts about God were visible to all men; and that knowledge of additional facts about Him required special revelation, Therefore the Confession made the Bible the subject of its first chapter, as the only source from which knowledge about God can be obtained; beyond what is readily gleaned from general  revelation,

THE  EXISTENCE OF GOD

There are many today who profess to doubt the existence of God, According to the Westminster Confession such doubts are without excuse. It is possible to see in nature sufficient evidence of the existence of God to compel the honest seeker to admit this vital fact. If he leaves it out of his thinking; he is building on a foundation which omits data that are readily accessible to him. Such an attitude is not worthy of any true scientist. The whole universe speaks of God: the whole creation declares the goodness; wisdom; and power of God. The Christian has important common ground with every human being in this world. We don’t have to start by saying, “You are over there and we are over here, and there is an impassable gulf between us.” That is not true as far as knowledge is concerned. As far as knowledge is concerned the Christian and the unbeliever have vital common ground.

You remember the story of the Arab and the scientist in the desert. The scientist was making fun of the Arab for his simple faith in God. The scientist said: “How do you know there is a God? You’ve never seen Him; you’ve never touched Him; you’ve never talked with Him.” Night came and the two men retired to their beds. The next morning when they looked out from the tent they noticed footprints which had not been there the night before. The scientist said; “Someone must have passed by in the night.” The Arab replied: “Did you see anybody?” “No.” “Did you hear anybody?” “No. I slept right through “ “Well, what makes you think that there was anybody here in the night?” The scientist answered: “Look at the footprints,” Just then the sun came up coloring all the sky with lavender and purple. The Arab pointed to it and said, “Behold, the footprints of God!” The footprints of God are plainly visible in nature, if we but look for them. The Psalmist was right when he said:  “The heavens declare the glory of God,”  (Ps. 19:1)

Suppose that two men came to a great railroad station, and saw trains coming in and going out, and all according to schedule. They observed the signs put up for a train, the people filling it, the train pulling out, and another soon coming in on the same track. Suppose one of them were to declare to the other that all this was pure accident! If he were serious people would soon begin to question his sanity, Anyone with any sense at all knows that someone must have established such an organization, and that someone must still be directing it

A man walking through a mountain area observes three or four stones piled neatly one upon the other, in the form of a little tower. Twenty or thirty feet away he sees another similar pile of stones. A short distance beyond this second pile he finds a third, and so on; indicating a wavy line that extends for miles and guides him to his destination. Anyone who ever walked in the mountains is familiar with this type of trail markers. If you should tell him that their presence was purely accidental, he would surely laugh at you. He has no doubt that a human being has put these stones in this arrangement as a means of conveying directions. They show the activity of human beings. A mind has been at work.

It is the viewpoint of the Westminster Confession that anyone with intelligence enough to make reasonable decisions on the practical matters involved in ordinary living is intelligent enough to see that this earth is not a mere heap of dirt, but a set-up—an organism. It could not have come into existence by accident. There is an intelligence back of it, controlling it. There is a God who created it and who continues to direct its destiny. In this knowledge of God we have common ground with every human being on this earth. According to the Westminster Confession the fact that there is a God who is good, wise, and powerful is clearly seen in nature and in providence. When someone tells you that he does not believe there is a God, you can know that he is only kidding himself. If he has intelligence at all he knows deep down in his heart that there must be a God.

This does not, of course, mean that a man is lying when he says he is an atheist. It is possible to kid oneself to the point where one actually believes with his mind what he knows in his heart to be false.

A young woman told me of an interesting observation along this line. For a time she worked as a secretary in one of the offices of the DuPont Company. As the work involved the use of many chemical terms, she told the man for whom she was working that she would like to learn a little about these things. He suggested a certain book, which she found to be fascinating reading. It told about the various chemical elements, described their wonderful mathematical arrangement, and told how each was discovered. Chapter after chapter ended with words of praise for the wonderful brain of the particular scientist who had discovered a certain element. Yet there was no mention of the far greater Mind which originated these elements. She could not but be amazed! How stupid to be so entranced with the brilliance of a mind that could discover one of the wonders of nature, and yet to say nothing of the far greater Mind which originated all of them!

Personally I am convinced that people are not really quite as stupid as they pretend to be. Down underneath they know that God is revealing Himself in nature, and they know that they are inexcusable; they turn their face another way and pretend that they don’t see it. Actually they are merely kidding themselves.

All of us kid ourselves at times in one way or another. We know what we ought to do but we just look the other way and try to forget it. We know at point after point what the Lord requires of us, or what a situation requires of us. We know what we ought to do but we look the other way and go straight on and hope that people will think that we are just stupid enough not to see what we should do. At length we cease to think about the matter at all.

SPECIAL REVELATION

The statement about general revelation with which the Confession begins is introduced by the word “although”. The fact that all men can see proof of God in nature is taken as a starting point, but it is stressed that this is not sufficient for salvation. Much more must be known. And it can be learned only through a special   revelation from God Himself. The Westminster Confession of Faith begins with the claim that we have such a revelation in the Bible. The Scripture is the foundation of our knowledge in the field of religion.

Enemies of Christianity often speak of us as Bible-worshippers. The term is utterly wrong: nobody actually worships the Bible. But it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the Bible in religion, for it is our one and only means of learning religious things beyond the bare fundamentals which are displayed in nature. It is our means of access to the vital facts. It is the foundation of our knowledge. Without it we are blind in this field, because we have no access to its data.

Recently I played a mean trick on my little boy. Though he is less than a year old he has learned how to turn on the radio and make it start playing. Time after time he would hit it just right, but one day I played a mean trick on him, I pulled out the cord. He did this and that, twisting first one dial and then another. That is exactly the religious situation in the world today. People are twisting this dial and that, but they have lost the connection. If you dont have the connection you will get nowhere: and the connection is the Word of God, We have to have God’s Word if we are to learn facts in the religious field. As the Confession says, general revelation is not “sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will,   which is necessary unto salvation”.

So the section goes on, and says that “therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary: those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased”.

In the section which we have just read we notice that two aspects of the giving of the Bible are described. First; it is stated that God revealed His truth in various ways in the past, and second, that He chose “to commit the same wholly unto writing.”

It is rather important to distinguish these two aspects. We call them revelation and inspiration. Revelation is communication from one personality to another. Inspiration is not, like revelation, a common occurrence in daily life. Just as divine revelation, in the sense of direct special revelation from God to an individual has now ceased, so has inspiration ceased in the sense in which it is applied to Scripture.

Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit whereby He guided the writers of the books which were to be a part of His holy Scripture, so that their words should convey the thoughts He wished conveyed and should be free from errors of fact, of doctrine or of judgment.

Thus parts of the Bible came as a direct revelation from God to the writer. All of it, however, is inspired, and kept from error. All of it; as a result of inspiration, becomes a revelation from God to us.

Let us never get these two aspects confused, because they are entirely different. Revelation is God giving truth, but inspiration is God guarding the writers from error in what they wrote.

Some people say that they believe in inspiration but not in verbal inspiration, you might just as well say that you believe in food but not in meat, vegetables, fruit or grain–it would make just as much sense. Inspiration does not mean getting an idea. Inspiration, in the theological sense, means writing thoughts down in words which are free from error. If you don’t have verbal inspiration you don’t have inspiration at all—it is the only inspiration there is. Revelation deals with ideas, but inspiration deals with words. When one says that he believes in inspiration but not in verbal inspiration, he is like the man who said to me—“I believe in the resurrection of Christ. That is just the great principle of the permanence of personality.” He should rather have said that he didn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ at all! When

Christians have expressed belief in the resurrection of Christ they have meant an actual resurrection. We should use words in their historic sense, and not try to twist them into something else, Historically the theological term inspiration has referred to words. If we believe in inspiration we believe in verbal inspiration. If we do not believe in inspiration we ought to say so.

Of course sometimes people mistakenly think that verbal inspiration means that God has dictated the Bible to the various writers. Such an idea is not involved in the phrase at all. Men wrote what God had revealed to them, or what they had observed. Inspiration means that they were kept from error in their choice of words to express the ideas they wished to convey.

“TO COMMIT THE SAME WHOLLY UNTO WRITING.”

The Confession says that God led the writers “to commit the same wholly unto writing”. The word “wholly” requires examination. It does not mean that everything God ever revealed to the prophets was necessarily written in the Scripture, God led them to write such things as He desired to have preserved for the guidance of His people in future ages. It does mean that everything which God wished preserved as His revelation for His people was included in the Scripture. All the facts which God has revealed about that area of knowledge which is otherwise inaccessible to us are included in the Bible

The Roman Catholic church claims to possess tradition passed on by word of mouth, just as vital as the revelation contained in the Bible itself. This claim the Westminster Confession denies, by using this word, “wholly”. It leaves no room for tradition, According to the Westminster Confession, nothing that has come down by word of mouth has any standing in the Christian Church.

SECTIONS TWO AND THREE — WHAT BOOKS ARE INSPIRED?

Thus the first section of this first chapter of the Confession of Faith explains the vital principles and declares the importance of divine revelation and inspiration.

The second section of the chapter names the books which are included in the Bible, We need not read the names now, but it is very important that we know what they are. Everyone of the sixty-six books of our Protestant Bible is declared to be equally inspired

It has been the view of the Christian church since its foundation that God’s revelation is definitely limited in extent, These particular books reveal God’s will for us. These are the books from which we get our knowledge of religious truth and we do not get it in any infallible way from any other books. No other books are inspired of God, in the historic theological sense of the word. From these sixty-six books, and only from these sixty-six books; can we secure the data on which religious ideas can safely be based.

We should note that the Confession lists all sixty-six books as equally inspired and authoritative. It does not select certain books as more important than others. If one is to speak conclusively regarding any aspect of God’s rule of faith and life., the Confession requires him to be familiar with every one of the books of the Bible,- for it declares that all of them are “given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life,”

THE APOCRYPHA

The third section of the chapter deals with those books which only the Roman Catholic church takes as authoritative. It is a brief statement but an important one. It says: “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

It is noteworthy that the Confession does not say that the books commonly called the Apocrypha are bad books, I think this is important to keep in mind, because it is so easy when you are opposing error to say: “That is what they believe, therefore the opposite must be true”—it is very easy to say that. Some people even think they can find truth that way. I have heard it said that if you want to know about God, there are two ways to find out about Him. One is to name all the good qualities you can think of, and multiply each one thousands of times and this will give an idea of the good qualities of God The other is to name all the bad qualities you can think of, and then think of these as entirely absent from God. Well, you can’t decide what God is like by working anything out of your head like that.   If you want to find out what God is like, study the Bible. You can’t work out a theory or a presupposition or an idea that will tell you what God is like—the Word of God gives the data, and it is our only source for knowledge in this field

It is easy to think that we can learn what is right by simply taking the opposite of that which is wrong, but it does not work out that way. There is not a cult or a movement, that does not contain some truth Its principal teachings may be wicked and wrong, but if everything it teaches were false it would immediately fall of its own weight. Very often the reason cults and false movements thrive is because they have gained hold on some great Scriptural truth which Christians are neglecting. Often it is so mixed with error as to be useless, but some truth is there. In our opposition to falsehood we must not go to an extreme, and oppose elements of the truth.

This chapter nowhere says that the Apocrypha are bad books; it says that they are not inspired books: They are not to be used in any way different from other human books. There is much that is good in them, but they are not authoritative. In opposing Roman Catholic error the Confession does not go to the other extreme: it seeks instead to find exactly what the truth is.

SECTIONS FOUR AND FIVE

The fourth section of the Confession says; “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God.”

You would almost think this had been written quite recently, wouldn’t you? How timely it is! You would think the framers of the Confession had picked up our newspapers and seen big advertisements stating that the Bible is the Creation of the Church—alleging that for three hundred years there was no Bible, but that the church had brought the Bible into existence How flatly the Confession denies such unhistorical claims! The Bible’s authority does not come from any church, nor does it rest on the word of any man It derives its authority wholly from God.

This is a very important section.  It is dealing with one of the most central problems of our religion.

The fifth section continues the theme of the fourth. It is a wonderfully balanced section Three-fourths of it is devoted to assuring us that reasonable arguments are valid as evidence of the fact that the Bible is God’s Word. The last fourth of the section assures us that complete certainty does not come from reason alone; but “from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”.

The fourth section declared that our acceptance of the Bible as God’s Word does not depend upon the authority of any man or church. This fifth section declares that the testimony of the church may induce us to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. The church does have its place. The Bible as we have it did not just drop from heaven—there has been a church on the earth all through the ages. That church has passed on the Bible from generation to generation. God has used the efforts of Christian people as a means of calling attention to the truth of His Word. The testimony of the church through the ages has a real importance in the evidence of the Bible but the authority of the Bible does not rest upon any man but upon its Author, who is God Himself,

This section declares the validity and importance of various arguments and evidences of the truth of the Bible. It says that by these facts “it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.” Despite these statements of the Confession there are people who try to tell us that we have no common ground for discussion with the unbeliever. They say in effect: “Don’t try to bring various arguments before the unbeliever to show him that the Bible is true. You have no common ground with him. All you can do is to tell him that he is over there and we are over here and he must give up all the bases of his viewpoint and adopt those of ours.” Such an attitude is utterly contrary to that of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Confession clearly teaches that there are many facts by which the Bible “doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God.”

We do not need to take a presupposition or adopt a particular basis of thought before we can examine the evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. This section of the Westminster Confession lists various types of evidence and then says that the facts which it has stated “are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God”.

Yet arguments alone do not win men to Christ. People come face to face with the clear evidence and then turn and go the other way. This is because the truth contained in the Bible is so contrary to all the impulses of the sinful fallen human heart. It requires the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to induce sinful man to accept the conclusions to which the evidence clearly leads. In spite of the validity of these arguments, as declared by the Confession, the Confession goes on to say that full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scripture “is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”.

Since the time is going rapidly we shall not be able to examine all the remaining sections of the chapter in detail. We must, however, briefly note their principal features.

SECTIONS SIX TO EIGHT

The sixth section has three main thoughts. First, it stresses the completeness and sufficiency of the Bible for revelation of those religious truths which God desires us to know. Second, it states that “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word”. Third, it points out that it is not to be expected that precise instructions for all acts of religion will be contained in the Bible. God expects His people to use the brains He has given them in working out satisfactory means of accomplishing desired ends, always keeping, of course, within the area of action circumscribed by “the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed”.

The seventh section opposes the idea that simple people must abstain from seeking to interpret the Word of God themselves, or that they must uncritically accept any view that learned men or church leaders claim to derive from it. Words of Scripture are clear enough that a simple Christian can judge as to the correctness of interpretations which may be presented. The necessary truths of salvation are so clearly stated “that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”

I like the eighth section very much. It declares that the Bible in the original languages is the final authority in all controversies of religion. But it balances this by a declaration that people who do not know the original languages are also commanded to read and search the Scriptures, and that therefore the Scriptures “are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come”.

It is to be feared that this declaration of the Westminster Confession is not sufficiently followed today. We have a wonderful translation of the Bible into the English language as it was spoken more than three hundred years ago. No one speaks it that way today. The King James version is not in “the vulgar language” of our nation; it is in a dialect which is rapidly becoming unintelligible to our people. Word after word phrase after phrase expression after expression in it is meaningless to the unlearned people of our day. The Confession declares that it is the duty of the learned to study the Bible in the original, which is the only final court of appeal in all controversies. The unlearned are to search through it in a good translation in their common speech. It would be absurd to call the King James version a translation into the common speech of America today

It is the glory of the King James version that it is the climax of a century of constant effort by many men to discover the best way to translate the Bible into the language of their day. Unless we make similar efforts to attain a thoroughly satisfactory translation into the language of our day, we are failing in one of the great obligations stressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

THE GREAT INTERPRETER OF THE BIBLE

The ninth section names the great interpreter of the Scripture. This is not a pope, nor a professor. It is not Luther or Calvin or Wesley. It is not even the Westminster Confession of Faith. Nor is it our idea of what is coherent, or what may seem to us logically to belong to a proper system. It is the Scripture itself.

The Westminster Confession is one of the great Calvinistic creeds. Naturally it follows the view of Calvin himself, who put the Bible high above all creeds. Truth is coherent with itself, and all truths together form a system of truth. But Calvin insisted that each element must be gained directly from the Scripture. The human mind is too prone to error to permit it to build its system apart from dependence on the Bible at every point.

According to the Westminster Confession the sole infallible rule of interpretation of a passage of Scripture is other passages of Scripture. Plainly it upholds the scientific method of approach to the data of the Word. We must gather all the data on a given subject. If we leave out any passage that, deals with the particular subject, we are in danger of making a false interpretation. We must interpret difficult passages in the light of plain ones. We must go from the simple to the complex. We must use exactly the same method of gaining truth in religion as we would in any other field of science. The Scripture itself is the only infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture

It is worthy of note, also that all Scripture is included in this authority Our knowledge must not come from human speculation or logic, but from God’s Word We must be constantly alert to gain new insights into every part of the Bible, All of it is important No one book or section is singled out Sometimes I hear a book of the Bible cast aside with the statement: “Oh that is a symbolic book. We must base our doctrine upon the didactic portions of the New Testament. Such an attitude is in direct opposition to the views of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which insists that all Scripture is authoritative.

Every book of the Bible contains plain passages and every book contains passages that are less plain. We must gather the simple passages from all parts of the Bible, study them, and build our views upon what they seem to teach. Then we must check these interpretations by other passages; constantly increasing our knowledge of Scripture, and standing ready at all times to alter our formulations as better understanding gives us more light on the full meaning of Scripture “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.”

The tenth section sums up the authority of Scripture in the strongest possible terms. It puts it above all gatherings of Christians, all human creeds all opinions of ancient writers. It declares that the Supreme Judge in all matters of religion “can be none other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture”.

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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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Home School Education in the Nineteenth Century

They are still being used today! McGuffey Readers, that is. But what an important force they have had from the early days of our land up to the present. In a day when modern textbooks are known to tear down what is right about America and Christian values, the McGuffey Readers would instead reflect the values of hard work, industry, honesty, loyalty, Sabbatarianism, and temperance, or in other words, exactly what is needed today in our modern society.

Their name comes from William Holmes McGuffey, who was born on September 23, 1800. From an early age, he demonstrated a prodigious command of both languages and literature.  Educated by his mother in their home and schooled in Latin, as was the practice then, by a Presbyterian minister, William committed large passages of the Bible to memory. Eventually he studied at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) which was an early Presbyterian college. He graduated with honors from the college in 1826.

William McGuffey was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and although we cannot find his name associated with any local church, he preached regularly, delivering some 3000 messages by his own account.  His ministry was in education, serving as president and professor at five different colleges and universities.

He would be remembered primarily for his Eclectic Readers, though afterwards those readers were more commonly called by his name, and they had a profound influence on American public education for over two centuries. He died in 1873, but like the prophets of old, being dead, he yet speaks through these remarkable readers for young ages.

Words to live by:  The proverbs of old told us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV – Proverbs 22:6). That is as true today as it was when it was first written down in holy Scripture. The Hebrew word for “train up” speaks of “across the roof of.” It referred to the practice of birthing when the midwife would spread the olive juice across the roof of the mouth of the just born infant, teaching that infant how to draw milk from the mother’s breast. It therefore came to mean “create a desire for.” Christian dads and moms, you are to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit to create a desire for spiritual things in the hearts and minds of your children.  By being faithful to do this, you can then claim the general promise of this favorite text.

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

Q 35. — What is sanctification?

A. — Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Scripture References: II Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:23, 24; Rom. 6:4, 6, 14; Rom. 8:4.

Questions:

1. How does sanctification differ from justification?

Justification is complete at once; sanctification is a process carried on by degrees to perfection in glory. Justification alters a man’s position or standing before God; sanctification is a real change as it changes a man’s heart and life. Justification is an act of God without us; sanctification is the work of God, renewing us within as we use the means of grace.

2. What does the word “sanctify” mean in Scripture?

The word is used in two ways in Scripture. (1) To set apart from a common to a sacred use (John 10:36). (2) To render morally pure or holy (I Cor. 6:11).

3. Where’ does sanctification do its work in the believer?

Sanctification does its work in the heart of the believer, in the new man. God does a work of renovation in us after his image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.

4. When we speak of the “new man” what do we mean?

We mean the new nature personified as the believer’s regenerate self, a nature “created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (Eph. 4:24).

5. What are the two parts to sanctification?

The two parts are
(1) Mortification—in which we are enabled to die more and more unto sin (Rom. 6:11).
(2) Vivification [i.e., being made alive]—in which our natures are quickened by the power of grace so that we live unto righteousness (Rom. 6:13).

6. Of what use is sanctification in the believer?

Sanctification is the evidence of our justification and faith and it is necessary if we are to live to the glory of God. It is a necessary aspect of our preparation to meet God, for without holiness no man shall see God.

SANCTIFICATION – A GRACE AND A DUTY

A very important aspect of sanctification was stated by A. A. Hodge when he wrote, “The Holy Ghost gives the grace, and prompts and directs in its exercise, and the soul exercises it. Thus, while sanctification is a grace, it is also a duty; and the soul is both bound and encouraged
to use with diligence, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, all the means for its spiritual renovation, and to form those habits of resisting evil and of right action in which sanctification so largely consists.” (Confession of Faith, Pg. 196).

The Bible deals many times with the responsibility of the believer regarding his part in the process of sanctification taking place within himself. In Galatians 5:24 we find, ” … crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts”. Indeed a verb of action in the word “crucify” is used. In Colossians 3:5 we find, “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.” Again a verb of action is used, action on the part of the believer. Lightfoot has a note on this passage in which he says, “Carry cut this principle of death (mortify), and kill everything that is mundane and carnal in your being.”

This teaching regarding sanctification has been neglected many times by the church. The Belgic Confession in Article 24 makes it very plain when it states, “Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man; for we do not speak of a vain faith. The teaching according to Scripture is very plain: We are justified by faith even before we do good works; we then believe that this true faith will enable us to live a new life, a life of good works that proceed from the good root of faith.

The question has been asked many times, “How can this be done by the believer?” Four good suggestions, all of which must be applied by the Holy Spirit, are:
(1) Keep things out of mind that are contrary to Scripture.
(2) Watchfulness – in Eph. 6: 18 the word “watching” comes from two words: “to chase” and “sleep”.
(3) Avoid occasion for sin.
(4) Keep the body “under”, don’t pamper it, discipline it!
It is to be noted that all these are verbs of action on the part of the believer, action put into operation by the Holy Spirit as the believer is “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 7: 1).

These four will never be done unless the Christian is faithful in Bible study, Prayer and Regular Attendance in worship.

Published by: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 35 (November 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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

Q. 31. — What is effectual calling?

A. — Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ. and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the Gospel.

Scripture References: II Tim. 1:8,9; Eph. 1:18-20; Acts 2:37; Acts 26:18; Ezek. 11:19; John 6:44,45; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:15.

Questions:

1.
In what two ways could “calling” be understood?

Calling has been recognized in Reformed Theology as both “external” and “internal” call. The first is the call of the word whereby o all sinners are freely invited to Christ, that they may have life and salvation in Him. However, this call is insufficient in itself to enable them to come to Him. The second is the internal call of the Spirit that accompanies the proclamation of the word whereby the sinner is not only invited to Christ but is inwardly enabled to embrace Him as He is freely offered in the Gospel.

2. What is involved in the Spirit’s work in our hearts to convince us of our sin and misery?

The Spirit gives us a clear insight of the guilt of our sins and a recognition of the wrath of God and the miseries of hell. This wounds our conscience and causes us to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

3. How does the Spirit accomplish this task?

The Spirit accomplishes this task by the law—”By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20),

4.
How does the Spirit enlighten our minds?

The Spirit does this by pointing us to Christ for in Him, that is in the knowledge of His person, righteousness, power, etc., we are renewed in our wills and are enabled to turn to Christ as Saviour and Lord.

5. Are we able to renew our own wills?

No, our wills are renewed only when the Spirit puts new inclinations in them and causes us, (makes us willing), to embrace Jesus Christ by faith. (Eph. 1: 19,20)

CONVICTION OF SIN

Conviction of sin, though no evidence of conversion, is necessary to it. The Gospel is offered to those who are in their guilt. Without a recognition of the guilt the sinner will never be convinced that he will perish without the righteousness of Christ.

This conviction is a gift of the Holy Spirit. He was sent to convince the world of its sin. The means by which the Holy Spirit does this is the subject of our Catechism Question. He, the Holy Spirit, convinces and enlightens.

The Holy Spirit convinces of sin through the Law. The person seeking Christ is brought face to face with the standard of the law. He is not to judge himself by others nor is he to judge himself by a cultural standard he has set up that makes him look good in the eyes of himself. This is the reason it is so necessary for the preacher of the Gospel to hold high the Truth, the standard as is set in the Word of God. It is equally necessary for the Christian to obtain every kind of Scriptural knowledge of Scripture possible, especially committing it to memory, so as to be able to quote it correctly at the appropriate time. The Holy Spirit will use such to the glory of God.

Many times the Holy Spirit will use the life of a Christian as an instrument to convict a person still in his sins. Therefore as Christians we must recognize our responsibility here to be used by Him. A great minister of God’s word once gave three things a Christian must do
in order to be used as an instrument of the Holy Spirit:

(1) Avoid all sin, exercise all right affections toward God and our fellow-men, being devoted to His glory and service.
(2) Be willing to suffer for Christ.
(3) Love Christ more than any other object, more than our lives.

It was a favorite saying of Charles Hodge that it is the great duty of the Christian to labor to convince the world of the sin of unbelief in Christ. Hodge said that the Spirit produces this conviction through the truth a.nd He can use our labor to lead them to receive, acknowledge, love, worship, serve and trust Jesus Christ. Such is the teaching of Acts 1:8. May we be faithful to it.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 31 (July 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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

Q. 30. — How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. — The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Scripture References: Eph.2:8; John 15:5; I Cor. 6:17; I Cor. 1:9; I Pet. 5:10.

Questions:

1. How does the Spirit apply this redemption to us?

This redemption is laid upon the soul by the Spirit. It unites us to Jesus Christ, it “joins” us to Him, makes us “one” with Him. It is an act of God.

2. How is it possible that we can be united to Christ when he is in heaven and we are here on earth?

It is possible because the person of Christ is everywhere. Matt. 28:20.

3. In the union between Christ and the Christian is it a mutual union?

It is a mutual union but it begins first on the side of Christ. The Bible teaches that “I will put my Spirit within you.”

4. What happens when this application takes place in the soul?

When the application takes place in the soul the soul believes, it passes from the dead state to the state of being alive.

5. Is it possible for this union to be dissolved?

No, it is impossible for this union to be dissolved because it contains within it the perseverance of God.

6. Is this faith that takes place that of ourselves or of God?

It can be said that faith is our act but it is God’s gift and the work of His Spirit. A good verse in this regard is Col. 2:12 – “Ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God.”

7. To what does the Scripture compare this union?

The Scripture compares this union to the union between husband and wife; head and members; root and branches; foundation and superstructure.

IT IS GOD THAT WORKETH IN YOU

Calvin’s definition of faith is found in his Institute (III, 2:7): “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The Presbyterian Standards are in complete agreement with the teaching contained in Calvin’s statement and our Catechism question and answer lays the foundation for this teaching in this question and other questions to follow.

Our title. “It is God That Worketh In You” is a very necessary teaching in this day and age. There is so much preaching and teaching today that contradict the Scriptural teaching of man’s utter and complete dependence on God for conversion. It is true that in the midst of the conversion experience it is sometimes difficult for man to understand the relationship. But the hymn writer put it well when he said:

“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, 0 Saviour true;
No, I was found of thee.”

Few people in our Presbyterian churches today would doubt that it was God that worked in them when He drew them by the irresistible regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit. But many of them do not live as Christians in such a way to prove to a dying world that the same Almighty, Sovereign God is on the Throne and they recognize His Lordship. The Scripture teaches: “For all people will walk everyone in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5). It is our responsibility to walk in true piety. Our faith is not to depend upon the pressures of our fellowmen or what they may think of us, but our faith must have the constancy of the Almighty God. Or, to put it another way, because our faith has the constancy of the Almighty God, we can know that nothing can turn us aside from the course that finds its way to heaven.

Calvin once prayed: ” … may we learn to raise up our eyes and minds and all our thoughts to thy great power, by which thou quickenest the dead, and raisest from nothing things which are not, so that, though we be daily exposed to ruin, our souls may ever aspire to eternal salvation.” Remember, “It is God That Worketh In You!”

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 30 (June, 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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

Q. 29. — How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. — We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Scripture References: John 1:12-13; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-6.

Questions:

1. What do we mean by the word “redemption” in this particular question?

The word redemption in this question could be labeled as the complete doctrine of salvation that is revealed in the Scripture. The “broad” use of the word is in use here. Warfield states, “He died as a ransom certainly; but the salvation purchased by this ransom-price works itself out steadily in its successive stages unto the very end.” (Biblical Foundations, Pg. 244).

2. How was this redemption purchased?

This redemption was purchased by the precious blood of Christ, I Pet. 1:19.

3. Is it not possible in some way for the believer to make of himself a partaker?

No, it is impossible for the believer to make of himself a partaker of redemption. The Bible teaches that we are totally unable to save ourselves, much less to deserve It.

4. By whom is our redemption applied?

Our redemption Is applied by the Holy Spirit. It is his effectual working on us that brings it to pass.

5. How does this question help to make complete the doctrine of the Trinity?

It helps to make the doctrine of the Trinity complete by showing the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption. We have seen how the Father ordains, the Son purchases and now the Spirit applies. Spurgeon had a favorite saying for the end of many of his sermons:

“We have heard the preacher,
Truth by him has been made known;
But we need a greater Teacher
From the everlasting Throne.
Application Is the work of God alone.”

THE PROCESS OF REDEMPTION

The above title may seem strange to many readers and yet it is theologically true. Warfield, in his book, “The Plan of Salvation”, states: . . . God’s plan is to save, whether the individual or the world, by process . . .  Redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified through faith, received into the very household of God as his sons, led by the Spirit into the flowering and fruiting activities of the new life, our salvation is still only in process and not yet complete.”

The process of redemption is taking place and yet there are so many Christians who insist that there is no room in others for mistakes and will criticize their brethren in the Lord greatly if sin is committed. This is a strange and dangerous happening in the church of today.

A. A. Hodge had a favorite saying, “The Lord leads us, you know, by devious ways through our pilgrimage, and he appoints for us all our changes.” Many times these “devious ways” are ways in which we fall prey to temptation. Now this in no way gives us any right to compromise with evil. The standard the Lord has placed before us is a standard of absolute perfection. The Christian can not live knowing there is a process going on, and then take advantage of it and use it as his ever-present excuse when he sins. This should be understood by all who name the name of Christ.

However, there is a danger that when the Christian recognizes the facts of the last paragraph he will, at the same time, come down with the disease of refusing to excuse, tolerate, or understand sin in other people. He forgets the Bible teaches that it is only when the last trump will sound that the incorruptible body shall enter into the glory for God’s children, and that then the process of redemption will be complete. A great Christian had the right perspective when he said, “Toward God, a heart of fire. Toward myself, a heart of steel. Toward others, a heart of love.” He recognized that he must put God first in all things. He recognized to do this he must rule out anything that would hinder him. He further recognized that others would be going through the same process as himself and his attitude toward them should be one of love.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 29 (March 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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d'AubigneJH300“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.

TEN REASONS FOR BEING A PRESBYTERIAN.

SECOND REASON.
2.
I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of Persons therein—the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall—the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer—the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner—the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Grace through Faith alone—the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment—the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked—these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God;—the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace,—the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God.—(Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

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hillWENot more organization and programs, but the dividends of Spirit-filling—

 

The Rev. William E. Hill was for many years a distinguished pastor in Hopewell, Virginia, leaving that post to become the founder of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a work which continues to this day. Moreover, he was prominent among the founding fathers of the PCA, working faithfully to steer a true course for the new denomination. The following message by Rev. Hill was originally published in The Presbyterian Journal on January 28, 1976. While admittedly a bit long for a Wednesday morning, nonetheless it has many good things to say, things which remain pertinent now as well. (If pressed for time, at least read the paragraphs that begin with bold print).

We Need Revival!

WILLIAM E. HILL JR.

Some churches have been able to gain their freedom from earlier con­nections without difficulty. Others have suffered. Ministers and mem­bers whose heritage stretches back for generations in one denomination which was their lifelong home now find themselves in a new one. For some, the transition has been relatively easy. For many it has been exceedingly difficult. Some churches and ministers have endured bitter persecution.e of the Presbyterian Church in America have come through a traumatic experience. New churches have been formed, enduring birth pains sorrowfully yet joyfully.

However, now that the agony is over, there is joyful elation, very much akin to the joy experienced by people in the early Church as re­corded in Acts 2-3. They “ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” So, also, some have been enabled by the Spirit to rejoice that they were ‘‘counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.”

We are free at last. This is good, but we are compelled to raise the question: So what? And the “so what?” reminds us that the early Church, after the traumatic experi­ence and joyful elation, still found dangers to be encountered (Acts 4- 5). For some, disillusionment was ahead. As in the case described in the epistle to the Hebrews, we face certain definite dangers of disillu­sionment.

We also face another danger—hav­ing escaped one ecclesiastical strait- jacket, we proceed to put ourselves into another, not quite so bad but nonetheless real. We face dangers of infighting among ourselves. We have our hyper-Calvinists, our mod­erate Calvinists, and our charismatics, our premillennialists and our amillennialists, each a little bit con­cerned about what the new denomi­nation will do to them.

Looking at the situation after our third General Assembly, we raise the question: Does the PCA need re­vival? Some may say, “That is a silly question—we are already in re­vival.” This I question. Some may suggest that we need doctrinal in­struction. Others may say we need to perfect our organization and out­reach.

It seems to me, however, that what is most desperately needed in the PCA is real revival. Of doctrinal identification we have enough. Of ecclesiastical machinery we have too much. Of debating fine points we are weary. Now the question is or should be: How in the world are we going to meet the needs of many of our small, struggling groups? This is a big question.

Indeed, how are we going to find ministers to pastor these people? An­other big question. The answer to all these questions, I believe, is re­vival. Without it we will degenerate into an ecclesiastical machine, grind­ing out materials, spewing forth pro­nouncements, fussing over theologi­cal distinctions, and languishing in barrenness and sterility.

The primary mark of real spiri­tual awakening for any people or any individual is repentance. On the Day of Pentecost there was real repentance with people crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” as their “hearts were pricked” by the Spirit-filled preaching of the apos­tles. In the revival at Ephesus (Acts 19-20), the people confessed their sins openly, publicly burning the in­struments of their sins. Paul re­counted in Acts 20 how he had preached with a twofold thrust, the first of which was “repentance to­ward God” (Acts 20).

Indeed, even back in the early days (Acts 3:19) Peter preached re­pentance, calling out to the multi­tudes who were listening, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Years later Peter was still calling upon church people to repent, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gos­pel of God?” (I Pet. 4:17).

I have seen very little sign of any repentance in all of the struggle to form the PCA and I see little sign of repentance even now after the third General Assembly. No, we have not had revival. The funda­mental sign of revival is lacking and we will not have revival until we see repentance, on the part of those who know the Lord and of those who are coming to Him by conver­sion.

We preach, but where is repen­tance? As a matter of fact, there is precious little preaching on the sub­ject of repentance. We have plenty of talk about doctrine and plenty of talk about discipline, but mighty little about repentance.

The second mark of revival is true stewardship. ‘‘Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32). Now just where do you find this in the PCA? We talk about the “financial crisis” and how to meet it through General Assem­bly action which likely will be pure­ly materialistic, not spiritual.

Shame, thrice shame upon us that we should be so low in spirituality and our leaders so utterly lacking in spiritual power that we have to resort to the help of the world to raise money for the Lord’s work and to instruct our people in Biblical stewardship.

Shame! Thrice shame upon us! Lord, help us! We do need revival! Whenever the Church has to call upon the world for help in its work, there is something wrong with the Church—spiritual power lacking, the Word of God ignored.

The third sign of true revival is the filling of the Spirit. Where do we find this in the PCA? On the Day of Pentecost the people were “filled with the Spirit.” Our Pres­byterian doctrine tells us (reflect­ing the Scripture) that we “re­ceive” the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit has applied to us the redemp­tion purchased by Christ; and further, that we grow in the Spirit. But here in the book of Acts is some­thing not directly referred to in our Presbyterian doctrine—the “filling of the Spirit.” In some cases, the book of Acts refers to men as “filled with the Spirit,” but in other places it refers to a specific action at a spe­cific time when men experienced the filling of the Spirit.

The indwelling of the Spirit is continuous in the Christian but there are special times, I take it from these passages of Scripture, in which the Spirit takes complete pos­session of us and fills us. This results in a stronger faith, in greater bold­ness to witness, in greater power and effectiveness in witness, in a different attitude toward material things, in a greater power for those who preach, and an increased joy and fellow­ship among Christian people (Acts 4:31).

Indeed, we are commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). All of this is a mark of true revival. Personally, I have heard just as little about the “filling of the Spirit” in the PCA as I did in the Presbyte­rian Church US. Do we really have in the PCA men who can be called “filled with the Spirit”? I hope we do, but I haven’t heard anybody speaking about it.

If we had a real filling of the Spirit, would there not be men among us evidently “full of the Spirit” and would there not be more talk about it? Is the reason, pos­sibly, that we need real revival to create within us a deeper spiritual discernment, spiritual expectation, zeal, eagerness, and effectiveness in witness?

In the fourth place we need re­vival because truly spiritual church­es should grow by making converts, not just by accepting transfers. We have seen churches springing up. We have seen churches growing. But we’ve seen mighty little of growth by conversions.

Just by looking at the figures for 1974 on additions by profession, one can tell that our churches are not growing by the method God or­dained by which churches should primarily grow: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Additions to our churches have not been, for the most part, by con­version. We need the kind of re­vival that will bring people in great numbers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we need churches that grow by converting. A few churches here and there are exceptions; they do grow primarily by converting, but possibly you could name them on the fingers of one hand.

A fifth characteristic of revival, particularly if it is revival among Reformed people, should be a re­spect for the Lord’s day, the Chris­tian Sabbath. Just where do we find this? I travel all over the South­land and beyond. I go into hun­dreds of churches but rarely do I run across anyone who has a high sense of regard for the sanctity of the Lord’s day, except at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday or possibly Sunday eve­ning—if their church happens to have an evening service.

Our people use the Lord’s day to travel, to run around and find en­tertainment, or to visit their kinfolk and friends. They take Sunday news­papers, patronize stores that stay open on Sunday, buy gasoline on Sunday, take vacations on the week­end, neglect the house of God on His day, and the prophet remains silent nor bothers even to set them a good example. Nothing short of real revival will correct this situa­tion.

In the Old Testament, God told the Jews that the Sabbath would be a sign to the nations around them that they were God’s people. This was a primary way by which they could testify to the heathen world around them. We Christians are ut­terly failing in testifying to the heathen all around us that we have a Lord who arose from the dead on the first day of the week, because for most of us it’s just more or less like any other day.

The world sees us and passes on without even pausing to stop, but they mutter, “These folks are in just as big a hurry to get to the lake or the seashore or the mountains as we are.” So far as I can tell, the PCA is no different from the others. We do need revival.

Another characteristic as well as result of revival is living by the Word of God which we profess to believe. We brag about taking our doctrine from the Bible, but in many ways we completely ignore the Bi­ble in our living.

For instance, I go into hundreds of homes, and seldom do I find a home that is disciplined according to the Word of God with the hus­band and father taking his rightful place as clearly delineated in the Scriptures, the wife taking her right­ful place in “submission,” and the children in “subjection.” I’m sorry to say that in too many homes of ministers, elders and deacons where I visit, the children are brats.

Then in the area of money and material things we do not discipline ourselves. We are grabbing just like the world. Our children are grow­ing up to think that the dollar is the most important thing because they see this in their parents. We’ve never learned to discipline ourselves. Quite naturally, we don’t discipline our children. The world looks on and says, “That fellow is living for the same thing I am—to get mon­ey,” and the world sneers.

In the area of sex purity we de­part continually from the Scriptures in exposing our young people to the filth so often displayed on the television. The way our young peo­ple dress and the slavish way our women follow the styles are geared to sex appeal and designed by pa­gan people.

Among Presbyterians I hear a good deal of talk today, particularly from those of the Reformed faith, about Christian liberty. Oftentimes all kinds of questionable practices, just like those in the world, pass in the guise of Christian freedom. Our sessions and boards of deacons have too many divorced and remarried members, to say nothing of minis­ters in the same situation. How then do we expect the Church to ex­ercise discipline?

In the area of our motivation, the ego is too often quite as prominent in us as it is in people of the world, though our Lord said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself.” Self seems to reign in the actions and motives of most people. Indeed, we have a hard time getting along together; feuds, bitterness and ill will abound, and paralysis results because someone’s ego is not sur­rendered to the Lord.

Real revival results in unity of mind and heart. We have had a great deal of this unity in the PCA but is it growing thin now? Are ten­sions building up in behind-the- scenes maneuvering? Are pulling and pushing beginning to be evi­dent? It broke out into the open one night during the second Gen­eral Assembly; however, it is heart­ening to recall the fine spirit pres­ent at the third General Assembly.

May God grant to us a fresh fill­ing of the Spirit in real revival that it may be clearly seen that we are “of one mind and one heart” as were the disciples after the filling of the Spirit.

Do we need revival? As far as I can see, there is but one answer. Yes indeed we do! Above all else in the Presbyterian Church in America we need revival. Without it, I am per­sonally fearful for the future. With it, there are great things ahead for the PCA in the service of the king­dom of God, if the Lord tarries. More than we need organization and programs, we need revival.

If we have revival there will be no problem about finances, no “money manipulation,” no tugging and pull­ing and competition between vari­ous departments of the work. If we have revival our struggling church­es will have adequate funds to pro­vide buildings for the glory of God, not great cathedrals and beautifully ornate churches but simple meeting places which are useful in the ser­vice of God.

If we have revival our missionary force will be doubled, tripled, qua­drupled and the witness of our mis­sionaries will be increasingly effec­tive. If we have revival it will shake some of our churches to their foundations. It will revolutionize some of our members and send them out to witness.

Revival will galvanize some of our pastors into action. It will revolu­tionize things in many of our homes. It will cause our churches to bring new members on profession of faith, “the Lord adding daily.” It will cause our ministers to speak with “great power” (Acts 4:33).

Revival is more desperately need­ed than anything else in the PCA. I need revival! Don’t you? Let us pray the prayer of Habakkuk (3:2), “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Also the prayer of the psalmist (85:6), “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Then will be sounded forth effec­tively from our pulpits, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Then we will hear with great power, “The Spirit and the bride say come; let him that heareth say come, let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him come and partake of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

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Our plan this year is to visit each Lord’s Day the studies on the Westminster Shorter Catechism prepared by the Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn. Rev. Van Horn was one of the founding fathers of the PCA, pastored churches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Mississippi., and Tennessee. He served for a time as Vice President at Covenant Theological Seminary and served as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. Rev. Van Horn wrote these studies while serving as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson, MS.    

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

Vol. 1 No. 2, February, 1961

Question 2. —  What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?

Answer — The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glori­fy and enjoy Him.

Scripture References: 2 Tim. 3:18. Isa. 8:20. I John 1:3. Luke 16:29,31.

Study Questions :

1. What is the meaning of the word “rule” in this question?

When this word is used in a religious sense it means a direction or a command. It naturally implies the idea of straightness by which a man may attain the best possible end.

2. Why is it necessary to have such a rule?

It is necessary as man needs an objective standard by which he may pattern his life. The Word of God, as his rule, must be the supreme authority in the life of the man. It should be noted that if man has placed something else above the Word of God, whether it is con­science or tradition or the church, he will tend to use that authority to interpret the Word of God in many facets of his life.

3. What do we mean when we say the Scriptures are the Word of God? We mean that they aie the Word of God in written form. We place no limitations on that statement. We mean that the Bible is the Word of God and the words in the Bible are the very words of God. We mean that the Bible is trustworthy because God inspired it and inspiration includes the very words of Scripture.

4. Some say that the Bible “contains” the Word of God. Is this true?

If they mean by it that the word of God forms the contents of the Bible it is true. But if they mean that the word of God forms only a part of the contents of the Bible and the rest makes up the words of men, they are not speaking the truth. Or if they mean by it that the Bible only becomes the Word of God when the Holy Spirit makes some portions of it applicable to the hearer, they are not speaking the truth. This would make man the judge of the Word of God. When’our Shorter Catechism speaks of “the word of God” it means what the Westminster Standards have historically meant, that is, the Bible, is the Word of God as to both its contents and its form, so that there is nothing in it that God did not want to be in it, and reversely, it contains all that the Lord wanted to be contained therein.

5. Since this Word of God is to be our only rule, how can we know that it is the Word of God?

We know it by our simple acceptance of God’s statement that it is the word of God and that it is perfect. The Holy Spirit shows us Christ as our Saviour and brings the conviction to our hearts that it is the Word of God and we accept it by faith. Our Confession teaches us that our full assurance of the fact that the Bible is in­fallible and has the authority of God is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

It is strange that so often the Christian who realizes the theological fact of the authority of the Scripture is the very person that does not live under that authority as he should. There is a great need today for Christians who do not only believe in the authority of the Scriptures but who live as the Scriptures command them to live.

It has been said by many that one of the hardest places for a Bible- believing Christian to live in a way that is consistent with the Word of God is in a conservative Seminary. This sounds surprising and yet so many times it is true. A Professor in a theological seminary once said he thought the reason for this was that there was indeed a concentrated study of theology but not enough concentrated devotional study of the Jesus Christ of the Scriptures. Possibly what is true of many of our semi­naries is equally true of many of our churches. Lip service to our creeds is present but heart service to our Saviour is sometimes missing.

Our church today is in the midst of many problems. There are the inroads of a subjective theology where man becomes the judge of Scripture; the cry that is being raised against the conservative position; the emphasis on organizational unity. All of these should motivate us to examine once again our position regarding the authority of Scripture. And in the midst of our examination we should realize that Scripture holds for us a high standard of personal holiness. It is good to be able to say that we believe in our Westminster Standards. It is good to be able to say that we have a great heritage from our forefathers of the Reforma­tion. The danger with us today is the danger of insisting we believe, in­sisting we have a great heritage without insisting in our daily living that we practice what we say we believe.

The authority of the Scripture is just as effectual, just as binding, in our practice as it is in our principles. There is great danger that the whole tone of the Christian mind in regard to practical Christianity is being lowered. The danger of lowering it in daily, personal living. The danger of lowering it in the concessions we are making to those who deny the faith, who deny it in their actions and aims if not in their statement of belief. The danger of lowering it in the talking a lot about God without walking with Him day by day, moment by moment. Sepa­rated Christian living, according to the authority of Scripture, is not present as it should be.

Dr. J. L. Packer says it this way, “To accept the authority of Scrip­ture means in practice being willing, first to believe what it teaches, and then to apply its teaching to ourselves for our correction and guid­ance.” (Fundamentalism and the Word of God, Pg. 69).

We have a rule by which we may glorify and enjoy Him. Possibly we should remember that Scripture is profitable not only for “doctrine” but also for “instruction in righteousness.”

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