Holy Spirit

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Tell Me the Old, Old Story —

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.

In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there the days were completed for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

But  the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

for today in the city of David there  has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased:

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this things that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they came in a hurry and found their way  to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And all who hear it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:1–21

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The following discourse on baptism is from the Rev. John Black [1768-1849], of whom we spoke earlier in the weekRev. Black was a contemporary and close associate of the Rev. Alexander MacLeod, and would as well have known and been conversant with many other notable Presbyterians such as Samuel Miller, Jacob J. Janeway, and Ashbel Green. Rev. Black served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (New Light). As that body, through a series of mergers, eventually became part of the PCA, I suppose we could with a bit of stretching say that Rev. Black was the first Stated Clerk of the PCA. Or maybe not.

The opening portion only of this discourse is presented below. To read the full treatise, click the embedded link in the title:

THE SUBSTANCE OF SOME DISCOURSES ON BAPTISM;
delivered in the
First Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Pittsburgh.
By JOHN BLACK, D. D.
(1846.)

DISCOURSE.

Black_John_1768-1849Then Peter said unto them. Repent, and be baptized every one of yon in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 38, 39.

The feast of Pentecost was one of the three solemn feasts, in which all the males in Israel were commanded to appear before the Lord, in the course of the year, in the place which he should choose. Deut. xvi. 16. It is also called the feast of weeks, because forty-nine days, or a week of weeks, must be complete after the passover, and on the fiftieth day it was celebrated; hence called Pentecost, or the fiftieth day. It was also called the feast of harvest, because, at that time, the wheat harvest was ripe, and the first fruits were to be offered to the Lord. The object appears to have been, to render thanks to God for his mercies, and to commemorate the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. Did it not also prefigure the descent of the Holy Ghost in such plentiful effusion upon the disciples of Christ on the day of Pentecost, and how plentifully the first fruits of the Gentiles should give themselves unto the Lord? It is worthy of observation, that it was on the day of Pentecost—the fiftieth day from the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—that God gave the law from Sinai, and on that very day—the day of Pentecost, he caused the gospel law to be promulgated.

The Savior, before he ascended, commanded his apostles to remain at Jerusalem, until they should obtain the promise of the Father, and be baptized with the Holy Ghost; for which, he assured them, they would not have to wait many days. This promise was fulfilled ten days after his departure. Then was displayed a remarkable manifestation of the divine power. A sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, is suddenly heard, which filled the whole house where the disciples were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, one of which sat down upon the head of each of them—an emblem of the diversified languages which they were now to speak. At the building of Babel, the language of the people was confounded and divided, and thereby the builders were scattered; but here the gift of various languages was given, that the scattered nations might be gathered to Jesus Christ, the shepherd and bishop of souls. The solemn occasion had gathered to Jerusalem strangers in multitudes, who, it appears, spoke fifteen different languages, all of which the disciples now perfectly understood, and distinctly and fluently spoke, as if they had been their mother tongue, although they had never learned them. This filled all with amazement; but some mocked, and ridiculed the whole transaction, ascribing it to inebriation. The apostles resented this invidious reproach, and Peter, who was the chief speaker, shewed plainly, that this was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, ii. 28—31, and preached unto them Jesus whom they had crucified, in such a powerful, moving, and effectual manner, the Holy Spirit setting it home upon their hearts, that they said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? To which Peter answered, “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” In considering these words, we propose the following method:

1. Offer some remarks on the nature of baptism. 2. Inquire who are its proper subjects? 3. The Scripture mode of baptism.

I. THE NATURE OF BAPTISM.

1. Baptism is a washing with water as a sacramental act. It had been long in use by the Jews in receiving their proselytes, but not by divine institution. Baptism supposes impurity in the subject. Indeed, all washing necessarily supposes this. That which is clean may be wet, but can- not properly be washed. But baptism is called washing. Eph. v. 26, “ That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The symbol is water only. It represents the blood of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit, Rev. i. 5: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” The application of that blood is by the Spirit of Christ, Titus iii. 5: “ According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The blood of Christ cleanses meritoriously, 1 John i. 7: “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The Spirit of Christ cleanseth us from all sin, by the effi- cacious application of the blood of Christ to the conscience. By the blood of Christ the guilt of sin is, at once, taken away in justification. The Spirit of Christ removes the blot and stain of sin gradually in sanctification. As water, free to all by the gift of heaven, when applied, washes and makes clean that which before was physically foul and unclean; so the blood of Christ, freely offered to all who hear the gospel, when applied by the Spirit, purifies from the guilt and pollution of sin, those who are morally defiled, and spiritually unclean. The instrumental administrators of baptism must be ministers of the gospel lawfully ordained, and no others. None have a right to act as commissioners, but such as have received a commission. The steward of a family is appointed by the head of the family. Jesus Christ, who alone is Lord in his own house, made all its laws, appointed all its offices and officers, and commissioned those whom he authorized to preach and baptize Before he ascended into heaven, he enlarged the commission of his apostles, which before his death had been restricted to the Jews: but now he authorizes them to go into all nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, and convert them to the faith of Christ, and promises to be with them always, even to the end of the world. The apostles were not to live to the end of the world. It could not, therefore, mean the apostles personally. Yet he says you. It must there- fore mean the officers, and that too, without the possibility of suffering the office to die, or the officers to become extinct to the end of time. The limit is the end of the world- the intermediate time, always. There never shall be an interregnum, or the office without an occupant, while the world stands. The apostles, as such, had no successors. The office, like that of the prophets, was altogether ex- traordinary. The claims of the Pope, and the no less groundless claims of diocesan bishops, to be the successors of the apostles, spring from ignorance of the gospel, and the government of the Church of God, as established by the Redeemer. The apostles possessed the ministerial, as well as the apostolical character; the ordinary office of the ministry, along with the apostolate. This is evident from the declaration of Peter in his 1st Epistle, v. 1: “The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder”—presbyter, or minister of the gospel. Now, to such characters, Christ gave the commission to preach and baptize. How daring, then, must it be for any who have not this commission, to undertake to preach and baptize. In 1 Cor. iv. 1, the ministers of Christ are called “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Are stewards self-appointed?

Or may they who are not appointed, act the part of stewards, as well as those who are? Since the extraordi- nary granting of commissions, in the days of the apostles, has ceased, the Scripture speaks of no way by which a commission is given, but by “the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1 Tim. iv. 14. As a blessing was prayed for by our Lord, to attend the administration of the sacramental supper, so, by parity of reason, a blessing is to be prayed for, to attend the administration of the sacrament of baptism. This prayer sets apart the “sensible sign” in the sacrament, from a common to a sacred use. The water in baptism should, in this way, be blessed, as the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, by praying for a blessing thereon.

2. Baptism is to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to whom the baptized person is dedicated as covenant property. But as to immediate authority, like all other Church ordinances, it is administered in the name of Jesus Christ. Many mistakes have been made about baptizing in the name of Christ, and baptizing in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as if they were different modes of baptizing. The truth is, both apply to every baptism. The mistake is in applying the same meaning to the word name, in both cases. Sometimes the word name means authority; thus a civil Court is opened in the name, that is, by the authority of the Commonwealth; and an ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, name sometimes means property, or pos- session; thus a deed is made out in the name, or for the use, and as the property of some one. In the first sense, no ordinance is administered in the name of the Trinity. No ecclesiastical Court is opened in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. True it is, that all power, and authority originally belong to God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; but there is, by the God-head, a delegated authority and headship committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, that the preaching of the gospel, the administration of sacraments, and all church ordinances, shall be done in his name, and by virtue of his authority. Thus all who are baptized, are baptized in the name of Jesus. They are also baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, solemnly dedicated, and devoted, to be the covenant property of a three one God, to be for him soul and body, wholly and forever. Their engagement is to be the Lord’s and to take him as their portion forever.

3. Teaching must precede and accompany baptism. If the persons to be baptized were heathens, they must first be proselyted, and instructed in the faith. Mat. xxviii. 19: and all adults should be so indoctrinated, and instructed in the knowledge of Christ, and of the system of grace, that they shall be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them. It is the doctrine of Anti-Christ, that ignorance is the mother of devotion, while the Bible plainly declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hos. iv. 6. An ignorant man is represented as more stupid than the ox, or the ass. Is. i. 3: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Unless the person be previously instructed, he cannot have a firm persuasion that it is an ordinance of God. He cannot have a serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the end for which Christ instituted it. Every sacrament must be received by faith. But faith supposes knowledge. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom. x. 14.

4. As baptism is an enrolment of a new member of the church—an initiating into the visible society of the worshippers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it ought to be done publicly, in the face of the congregation. It is a declaration of visible membership, a distinguishing badge of discipleship, a sign whereby the followers of Christ are distinguished from pagans, or heathens, as the Israelites of old were distinguished from the uncircumcised nations around them. Private baptism is therefore contrary to the nature of the ordinance, a mean, and clandestine intruding of members into visible communion, as if by stealth. There is something in the very nature of the ordinance, that requires its public administration. The body of Christ is one, and the members of that body are also, “members, one of another.” Rom. xii. 5. And the apostle says, 1 Cor. xii. 13: “By one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Baptism, therefore, presents to the body, another member initiated into their fellowship, and having a claim upon their prayers, their brotherly affection, their sympathy, and all good offices. Besides, the solemn ordinance, the vows and engagements of the person baptized, while calling for the accompanying prayers of the congregation, will also remind them of their own vows and engagements, and thereby excite to the improving their own baptism, and thus promoting their sanctification. Baptism, while in a certain sense, it is an initiating ordinance, yet does not originate the fact of church membership. Baptism supposes church membership, and yet it confers a membership which the unbaptized member did not enjoy. The fact of membership abstractly, is obtained, by making a profession of the faith of the gospel, or by being the infant seed of church members. This entitles to being recognized as a member of the organized visible church, to which the person is initiated by baptism. If attention is paid to the distinction between the kind of membership which is required to entitle to baptism, and the membership which baptism confers, it will refute the charge which is sometimes brought, of arguing in a circle, making membership the cause of baptism, and baptism the cause of membership. The distinction is obvious.

5. Baptism is not only a sign of church membership, as well as of Christ and his benefits; it is also a seal of the covenant of grace. A seal is used as a confirmation of bonds or deeds. Such was circumcision in the covenant made with Abraham, a “seal of the righteousness of faith.” Rom. iv. 11; and such is the seal of baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, to all belivers, who are the spiritual seed of Abraham. By this seal Christ and his benefits are confirmed to the believer. These benefits are all the blessings contained in the promises of the new covenant, all embraced in grace here, and glory hereafter; Ps. lxxxiv. 11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory.” A seal to a deed, covenant, or agreement, supposes the agreement made, the seal is a ratification of what the parties have agreed upon. A seal would be of no use without this agreement. None are agreed to God’s covenant but believers. I speak now of adults. Therefore, baptism seals nothing to any but believers. God promises every blessing to believers, and baptism is a seal of the covenant on God’s part, not to make the promise of the covenant more sure, for it is impossible for God to lie, his faithfulness is inviolable, and unchangeable; but to make the faith of the believer stronger. It is God’s ratifying to believers their right to covenant blessings with infallible certainty. And thus God, for the strengthening the faith, and removing the doubts of believers, condescends to bind himself in the most solemn manner, by bond and seal. Like as in Heb. vi. 18, where accommodating himself to the weakness of his people, he seals his promise with the solemnity of an oath. The blessings that are sealed to believers in baptism, are “remission of sins by the blood of Christ, regeneration by his spirit, adoption, and resurrection to everlasting life.” In baptism there is, as in every sacrament, an engagement to be the Lord’s—a renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, and an engagement to devote all that we are, soul and body, and all that we have, our gifts, graces, time, talents, com- forts and joys, to the glory of God. And this requires, to “deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” In baptism the believer “sets to his seal that God is true,” John iii. 33, by believing his promises, receiving his testimony, and taking his law in the hand of the Mediator, as the rule of his faith, and obedience in all things. Adults in baptism, take these vows directly, and in their own persons. Children impliedly, through the representation of their parents. Parents are the natural guardians of their children. They are the most suitable persons to be their moral guardians, and representatives. Children are bound by the act of their representatives in civil things, and why not in the vows of baptism, if these vows are right—what the law of God requires? None can be bound by what is morally wrong, for all obligation is founded in the moral law, and what it forbids, can have in it no obligation—nothing binding on the conscience. Parents, in the baptism of their children, do not promise what their children will do, but what they themselves will do, in the discharge of the duties incumbent upon them, as Christian parents to their Christian offspring. Through their representation, the child receives the sacrament of baptism, and in that sacrament is contained the engagement to be the Lord’s, which, as we have seen, binds to all the duties which God’s law makes incumbent as a rule of life, to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals.

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miller01 copyIt was on this day, August 26, in 1829 that the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller delivered a sermon at the installation of the Rev. William Buell Sprague. While a student at Princeton, Sprague sat under the teaching of Drs. Alexander and Miller, and came to renounce the unitarian views he held as a young man. Miller and Sprague subsequently became life-long friends, with Miller preaching this sermon at Sprague’s installation as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Albany, New York. Rev. Sprague later brought the eulogy, in 1850, at Miller’s funeral.

The first several points of Dr. Miller’s sermon are reproduced below, with a link to the full text of Dr. Miller’s sermon provided at the end of today’s post.

A SERMON.
Titus I. 9.   Holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught,
that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

The inspired Apostle is here giving directions concerning the proper character and qualifications of ministers of the Gospel. Some duties are common to all Christians; while others belong either exclusively, or in an eminent degree, to pastors and teachers.  The latter is the case with regard to the injunction implied in our text.  On all the disciples of Christ is laid the charge to “hold fast the faithful word;” but on the guides and rulers in the house of God is this obligation especially devolved; among other reasons, for this, that they “may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers.”

By “the faithful word,” here spoken of, we are evidently to understand the pure, unadulterated doctrines of Christ; the genuine Gospel, as revealed by a gracious God for the benefit of sinful men.  Not the doctrines of this or the other particular denomination of Christians, as such, but the doctrines of the Bible. This system of doctrine is represented as that which we “have been taught.”  The Gospel which we preach, my friends, is not our Gospel.  We neither invented it, nor can we improve it.  “I certify you,” says the same Apostle who penned the words of our text —“ I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The original word, here properly translated “hold fast,” is very strong and expressive in its import.  It signifies keeping a firm hold of any thing, in opposition to those who would wrest it from us.  Of course, it implies that Gospel truth is and will ever be opposed by enemies and “ gainsayers ;” and that maintaining and propagating truth must always be expected, in such a world as this, to require unceasing effort and conflict.

The general position of our text, then, is — That the Ministers of our holy Religion, if they desire to convince, to convert, or to edify their fellow-men, are solemnly bound to maintain for themselves, and diligently to impart to those around them, “ sound doctrine,” or, in other words, the genuine truths of the gospel.

To illustrate and confirm this position, let us, first, inquire, why we ought to maintain sound doctrine ; and, secondly, how it ought to be maintained ; or in what manner, and by what means ? I. The first inquiry which demands our attention, is,—why ought we to maintain sound doctrine? Why is it important that all believers, and Ministers of Religion in particular, should hold fast the faithful word ? And here, let me ask,

1.  Can any thing more be necessary to establish the duty before us, than the consideration thatthe faithful wordof which we speak is from God ; that it was given to us for our temporal and eternal benefit ; and, of course, given, not to be disregarded, but to be respected, studied, loved, and diligently applied to the great purposes for which it was revealed ? To suppose that we are at liberty lightly to esteem such a gift, coming from such a source ; or that we commit no sin in voluntarily permitting a deposit so precious to be corrupted, perverted, or wrested from us, is a supposition equally dishonourable to God, and repugnant to every dictate of reason.

2.  But further ; “ holding fast” the genuine system of revealed truth, is frequently and solemnly commanded by the great God of truth. Both the Old Testament and the New abound with injunctions to this amount. In the former, we are exhorted to “ cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding ; to seek it as silver, and search for it as for hid treasures.” We are exhorted to “buy the truth, and not to sell it.”  And they are highly commended who are represented as “ valiant for the truth.” In the latter, the language of the Holy Spirit is, “ Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast received.” And again, “ Contend earnestly for the faith”—that is, the revealed doctrine which is the object of faith—“ once delivered to the saints.”  And again, “ Be not carried about with every wind of doctrine, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” And again, “ Hold fast the profession of your faith firm without wavering.” And again, “ If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine”—that is, the true doctrine of Christ—“ receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed ; for he that biddeth him God speed, is a partaker of his evil deeds.” Nay, the inspired Apostle pronounces, “ If any man come unto you, and bring any other Gospel” — that is, any other system of doctrine concerning the salvation by Christ—“ than that which ye have received, let him be accursed.”
[* Prov. ii. 3, 4; Prov. xxiii. 23; Jer. ix. 3; II.  Tim. i. 13; Jude 8; Eph. iv. 14; Heb. x. 23; II.  John, 10, 11; Gal. i. 9.]

3.  The obligation to “ hold fast” the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, appears from considering the great importance which the Scriptures every where attach to evangelical truth.

I am aware that it is a popular sentiment with many who bear the Christian name, that doctrine is of little moment, and that practice alone is all in all.  But such persons surely forget that there can be no settled and habitual good practice, without good principles ; and that sound, correct doctrine, is but another name for sound principle.  Take away the  doctrines of the Gospel, and you take away its essential character.  You take away every thing that is adapted to en-lighten, to restrain, to purify, to console, and to ele-vate.  Take away the doctrines of our holy Religion, in other words, the great truths of which the “ glad tidings of great joy” are composed, and you take away the essence of the whole message ;—the seed of all spiritual life ; the aliment on which every believer lives ; the vital principles of all experimental piety, and of all holy practice.  What is Faith, but cordially embracing, with confidence and love, the great truths concerning duty and salvation which the Scriptures reveal ?  What is Repentance, but a holy sorrow for sin, founded on a spiritual perception of those doctrines concerning God, his character, his law, and the plan of mercy which his word proclaims ?  What is Hope, but looking forward with holy desire and expectation to that “ exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which “ the truth as it is in Jesus” freely offers to our acceptance ?  What, in short, is Religion, in the largest sense of the term, but the combination of “ knowledge of the truth,” “ love of the truth,” and “ walking in the truth ?” What is it but having just apprehensions of those great Objects which are revealed in Christian doctrine ; just affections and desires toward them ; and acting out these desires and affections in the temper and life ? No wonder, then, that when the impenitent are converted, they are said to “ come to the knowledge of the truth ;” that they are said to be “ born again by the word of truth ;” to be “ made free by the truth,” and to “ obey the truth ;”—by all which expressions we are plainly taught, that truth, or, which is the same thing, Christian doctrine, is the grand instrument, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, by which spiritual life is begun, carried on, and completed in every subject of redeeming grace.

Hence it is, that the scriptures every where represent bringing the truth, in some way, to men, as absolutely necessary to their conversion and salvation.  “ How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard ?” Hence they so plainly teach us, that there can be no real piety where the fundamental  doctrines of the Gospel are not embraced.  “ Whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”  On this principle, too, it is, that the inspired volume, with awful emphasis, declares certain “ heresies” to be “ damnable”—that is, inevitably destructive to the souls of men. And on the same principle it is, that all Scripture, and all experience teach us, that wherever the preaching and the prevalence of true doctrine has declined, there piety, immediately, and in a corresponding ratio, has declined ; good morals have declined ; and all the most precious interests of the church and of civil society, have never failed to be essentially depressed.

We cannot, indeed, undertake to pronounce how much knowledge of sound doctrine is necessary to salvation ; or how much error is sufficient to destroy the soul.  But we know, from the nature of the case, and especially from the word of God, that all error, like poison, is mischievous, and, of course, ought to be avoided. I know not, indeed, how large a quantity of a given deleterious drug might be necessary, in a particular case, to take away life : but of one thing there can be no doubt, that it is madness to sport with it, and that the less we take of it the better. As nothing but nutritious food will support the animal body ; so nothing but Zion’s provision, which is truth, can either commence, or sustain “ the life of God in the soul of man.”

. . . 

To read the full sermon, click the link below:—

Miller, Samuel, Holding Fast the Faithful Word: A Sermon, Delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in the city of Albany, August 26, 1829, at the installation of the Reverend William B. Sprague, D.D., as pastor of the said church. Albany; Packard and Van Benthuysen, 1829., 49 pp.

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It Remains a Message for Our Time.

Gardiner Spring

This day, August 18th, marks the death, in 1873, of the Rev. Gardiner Spring. He was already 76 years old when he proposed his “Resolutions” at the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterian Church in 1861. Those were the Resolutions that split the denomination North and South. But long before Spring achieved infamy with his “Resolutions,” he had been, since 1810, the pastor of the Brick Church in New York City. In fact, his entire ministerial career of 63 years was spent at this one church.

Born in 1785, he was educated at Yale and for a short time practiced law before entering Andover Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry. A powerful preacher, he became a prominent pastor in that City and in the Church at large. Spring made great use of the press as an auxiliary to his preaching of the gospel, and a number of his works remain in print to this day. In 1816, Rev. Spring brought the following message on New Year’s Day, a message having to do with the subject of the revivals of religion.

To read or download the entire message in PDF format, click here.


SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

2 Chronicles 29:16-17:—
And the Priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify.

The passage just recited may give a direction to our thoughts. When Hezekiah came to the throne Aof Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father Ahaz was not only an idolatrous king, but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry, had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel, and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin. With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased, and the idols of the Gentiles exalted; and though but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival of the Jewish religion. He destroyed the high places; cut down the groves; brake the graven images; commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired; and exhorted the Priests and Levites to purify the temple; to restore the morning and evening sacrifice; to reinstate the observation of the Passover; and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.

The humble child of God in this distant age of the world, will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates, with devout admiration. As he looks back toward this illustrious period in the Jewish history, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is within our reach at the commencement of the present year, as really as it was within his, twenty-five hundred years ago. But to bring this subject more fully before you, I propose to show,

What a revival of religion is;

The necessity of a revival among ourselves;

What ought to be done in attempting it;—and

The reasons why we may hope to succeed in the attempt.

I. What is a revival of religion?

We have never seen a general revival of the Christian interest in this city. In two or three of our congregations, there have been some seasons of unusual solemnity, which have from time to time resulted in very hopeful accessions to the number of God’s professing people. But we have not been visited with any general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we talk about revivals of religion without any definite meaning; and hence, many honest minds are prejudiced against them. Some identify them with the illusions of a disturbed fancy; while others give them a place among the most exceptionable extravagancies, and the wildest expressions of enthusiasm. But we mean none of these things when we speak of revivals of religion. It is no illusion—no reverie—we present to your view; but those plain exhibitions of the power and grace of God which commend themselves to the reason and conscience of every impartial mind.

The showers of divine grace often begin like other showers, with here and there a drop. The revival in the days of Hezekiah, arose from a very small beginning. In the early states of a work of grace, God is usually pleased to affect the hearts of some of His own people. Here and there, an individual Christian is aroused from his stupor. The objects of faith begin to predominate over the objects of sense and his languishing graces to be in more lively and constant exercise. In the progress of the work, the quickening power of grace pervades the church. Bowed down under a sense of their own stupidity and the impending danger of sinners, the great body of professing Christians are anxious and prayerful. In the mean time, the influences of the Holy Spirit are extended to the world; and the conversion of one or two, or a very small number, frequently proves the occasion of a very general concern among a whole people.

Every thing now begins to put on a new face. Ministers are animated; Christians are solemn; sinners are alarmed. The house of God is thronged with anxious worshipers; opportunities for prayer and religious conference are multiplied; breathless silence pervades every seat, and deep solemnity every bosom. Not an eye wanders; not a heart is indifferent;—while eternal objects are brought near, and eternal truth is seen in its wide connections, and felt in its quickening and condemning power. The Lord is there. His stately steppings are seen; His own almighty and invisible hand is felt; His Spirit is passing from heart to heart, in His awakening, convincing, regenerating, and sanctifying agency upon the souls of men.

Those who have been long careless and indifferent to the concerns of the soul, are awakened to a sense of their sinfulness, their danger, and their duty. Those who “have cast off fear and restrained prayer,” have become anxious and prayerful. Those who have been “stout-hearted and far from righteousness,” are subdued by the power of God, and brought nigh by the blood of Christ.

The king of Zion takes away the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh. He causes “the captive exile to hasten, that he may be loosed, lest he die in the pit and his bread should fail.” He takes off the tattered garments of the prodigal; clothes him with the best robe, and gives him a cordial welcome to all the munificence of His grace. He brings those who have been long in bondage out of the prison house; knocks off the chains that bind them down to sin and death; bestows the immunities of sons and daughters, and receives them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

And is there any thing in all this so full of mystery, that it has no claim to our confidence? Behold that thoughtless man! Year after year has passed aaway, while he has been adding sin to sin, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. But the Spirit of all grace suddenly arrests him in his mad career. The conviction is fastened upon his conscience that he is a sinner. Fallen by his iniquity, he views himself obnoxious to the wrath of an offended God. He sees that he is under the dominion of a “carnal mind;” his sins pass in awful review before him, and he is filled with keen distress and anguish. He is sensible that every day is bringing him nearer to the world of perdition, and he begins to ask, if there can be any hope for a wretch like him? But, O! how his strength withers, how his hopes die! He is as helpless as he is wretched, and as culpable as he is helpless. The “arrows of the almighty stick fast within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirits.”

But behold him now! In the last extremity, as he is cut off from every hope, the arm of sovereign mercy is made bare for his relief. The heart of adamant melts; the will that has hitherto resisted the divine Spirit, and rebelled against the divine sovereignty, is subdued; the lofty looks are brought low; the selfish mind has become benevolent; the proud, humble, the stubborn rebel, the meek child of God. Jesus tells the despairing sinner where to find a beam of hope; the voice of the Son of God proclaims “forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace;” the Angel of peace invites and sweetly urges the soul, stained with pollution, to repair to the blood of sprinkling; stung with the guilt of sin, to look up to Jesus for healing and life.

Is this an idle tale? Nay, believer, you have felt it all. And if there is no mystery in this, why should it be thought incredible, that instances of the same nature should be multiplied, and greatly multiplied in any given period? If there are dispensations of grace above the ordinary operations of the Spirit, they may exist in very different degrees at different times. And if the immediate and special influences of the Holy Ghost are to be expected in the edification of a single saint, or the conversion of a single sinner, why may they not be expected in the edification and conversion of multitudes? It is not above the reach of God’s power; nor beyond the limits of His sovereignty. God can as easily send down a shower, as a single drop; He can as easily convert two as one; three thousand as one hundred.

Now this is a revival of religion. We do not pretend to have traced the features it uniformly bears, because it bears no uniform features. God is sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Still, wherever God is pleased to manifest His power and grace, in enlarging the views, in enlivening and invigorating the graces of His own people, and in turning the hears of considerable numbers of His enemies, at the same time, to seek and secure His pardoning mercy, there is a revival of religion.Read the rest of this entry »

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greenJBJames Benjamin Green was born on May 10, 1871 to parents Curtis and Sarah Hammond Green, and died on September 8, 1967, at the age of 96. He had received his education at the Peabody Teachers College, Nashville, TN (1889-1891) and the University of Nashville (1891-1893, BA), with postgraduate  work there, (1895-96), followed by his preparation for the ministry at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1898-1901.

He was both licensed and ordained in 1901 by Columbia Presbytery, and installed as pastor of the Frierson Memorial Presbyterian church in Columbia, Tennessee, serving there from 1901 through 1903. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Fayetteville, TN, 1903-1907. His third pulpit and longest pastorate was with the Presbyterian church in Greenwood, SC, where he labored from 1908 to 1921. From this pulpit he was then called to serve as professor of Systematic Theology at the Columbia Theological Seminary, 1921-1950. Announcing his intent to retire in 1946, he was that same year elected to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly (PCUS). Other honors awarded during his life included the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by the Presbyterian College of South Carolina (1914) and the Doctor of Letters degree, conferred by Southwest College (1940).

It was on this day, August 14, 1957, that The Southern Presbyterian Journal published an article by Dr. Green on the subject of baptism, which we take the liberty of reproducing here in full. Demand for the article was such that the Journal saw fit to issue it in tract form, publishing at least four editions in the years that followed. While this might be a longer post than you care to read right now, it would certainly be worth printing and filing away for future use.

WHY WE BAPTIZE BY SPRINKLING
by Rev. J. B. Green, D.D.
Columbia Theological Seminary Decatur, Ga.

We differ from our immersionist friends not only in our view of the mode, but also in our view of the meaning of baptism. They think  that baptism points to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We object to that in­terpretation:

  1. green_1957_sprinklingBecause it is generally agreed that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper refers to the death and resurrection of Christ. If baptism also signifies the death and resurrection of Christ, then we have two Sacraments which are signs and symbols of the same facts of the life of Christ. Why this double representation of these facts? In that case we have no sign and symbol of the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament it was not so. There the passover pointed to the work of Christ, but cir­cumcision pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit. For circumcision meant the putting away of carnality, the removal of the sinful flesh. This is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. Bap­tism means the same thing; it means the wash­ing away of sin. We object to the immersion- ist’s view of the meaning of baptism for another reason. The burial of Christ has no redemptive value. Christ would have saved the world if he had not been buried. Why should a rite be ordained to signify a fact which is not essen­tial to the accomplishment of salvation?

We think that baptism represents the work of the Holy Spirit. Why do we so think? For several reasons. There are three Bible symbols of the Holy Spirit. One is oil. In 1 Samuel 10:1-6 we have an account of the anointing of Saul by Samuel, setting him apart to the King­ship. The oil was poured on Saul’s head, and in connection with that anointing the Holy Spirit came upon him.

In I Samuel 16th chapter we have an account of the anointing of David by Samuel. The oil ’ was poured upon David’s head and the Spirit came upon him. These passages indicate that the anointing with oil is typical of the anoint­ing with the Holy Spirit.

Another symbol of the Spirit is water. In Ezekiel 36:25-27, the Lord Jehovah says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you . . . And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them.” The gift of the spirit is associated with the sprinkling with water. In Matthew 3:16, there is an ac­count of two baptisms. One with water, one with the Spirit. The water baptism was sym­bolic of the Spirit baptism. In John 7:37-38, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that be- lieveth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that be­lieve on him were to receive.”

The third symbol is fire. In Acts 2:3-4, we * have an account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the first group of believers. “There appeared unto them tongues parting asunder like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

These symbols point to the Spirit and his work, and not to Christ and his redemptive action.

Now by what mode were these symbols ap­plied? The oil was poured upon the head. The water, throughout the Jewish dispensation, was sprinkled or poured, and the fire descended upon the heads of the believers.

There is one other passage to which I must t direct your attention: 1 John 5:8, “There are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.” These three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood agree, says the Apostle. In what re­spect? In meaning for one thing, they all signify cleansing. Do they not agree also in mode? The blood was always sprinkled. The water of puri­fication among the Jews was always sprinkled. And the Spirit, as we shall see, always descended upon.

It thus appears from Scripture that water bap­tism symbolizes the work of the Spirit. If so, it should not be supposed that the mode of baptism is by immersion.

But some — many — say that the question of mode is settled by the word baptizo, the Greek word which gives the name to the rite. We do not think so. The Greek word for the Lord’s Supper, the second Sacrament, does not settle the question of the mode of its administration. The Greek word for the Supper is deipnon, which signifies a full meal; a table spread with sufficient food to satisfy a man’s hunger. The Greek Christians at Corinth, perhaps reasoning from the meaning of that word, misobserved the Lord’s Supper; and the Apostle had to cor­rect them. 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. If reasoning from the literal meaning of the classic word for the second Sacrament leads to error, may not reasoning from the literal meaning of the word for the first Sacrament also lead to error? It not only may, but does.

In the Lord’s Supper we have not a physical feast, as the word for it suggests, but physical signs of a spiritual feast. In baptism we have not a physical bath, but a physical sign of a spiritual cleansing. A small quantity of bread and wine is sufficient to signify a spiritual ban­quet. And a little water is sufficient as a sign of spiritual purifying.

But it is contended by many that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. Not in the Bible.

At the beginning of my ministry in Tennessee I attended a debate on the subject of the mode of baptism between a Baptist minister and a min­ister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The Baptist brought many books of authority by which he intended to prove that baptizo always means to dip, to plunge, etc. The Cumberland Presbyterian brought only his Bible. He said he proposed to show that baptizo in the Bible does not mean to immerse. What he proposed to do, he did.

Some years ago a Baptist publishing house in the north requested Dr. Edmund B. Fairfield to prepare a book in defense of the Baptist view of the mode of baptism. This man had been a Baptist minister for more than a quarter of a century, and no man was more certain of being right than he was. He said he had no doubt on the subject. For two years he investigated the evidence relating to the mode of baptism. To his surprise, the farther he went in his investigation, the more he saw that the evidence was against the Baptist position. In the presence of his accumulated evidence, honesty required him to surrender his former view. He wrote a book, but it was on the other side of the question.

I will now give you instances of the use of the word in the New Testament where baptizo does not, cannot, mean to immerse. Luke 11:37-38: There we are told that a Pharisee asked Jesus to dine with him; and Jesus went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he mar­veled that he had not first bathed himself before dinner. The word there rendered bathed, is the word baptizo. Was the Pharisee surprised that Jesus did not first immerse himself before sitting down to meat? Impossible!

Hebrews: The author in the 9th chapter is describing the ordinances of divine service in the old sanctuary. “The priest offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot as touching the con­science make the worshipper perfect, being only (with meats, drinks, and divers washings) carnal ordinances.” The word rendered washing is baptizmois. These washings were called bap­tisms. There were many washings, purifyings, among the Jews, but no immersions.

The third instance of the use of the word bap­tizo, where it cannot mean immerse, is in the accounts of the baptisms with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer, (would you say John the Immerser?) says: “I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I; . . .He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Was baptism with the Holy Spirit by im­mersion? Was anybody ever immersed in the Holy Spirit? The idea is foreign to Scripture, foreign to reason. The Spirit was always applied to the person, never the person to the Spirit. The same is true of water in the Bible. It is always applied to the person, and that by sprinkling. The immersionist applies the person to the water, we apply the water to the person, that is the Bible way, there is no exception.

The same is true of the use of blood in the Bible, as we have seen. There is a song we some­times sing:

“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”

I like the music, but not words of the first stanza. The words are thoroughly unscriptural. When was any sinner ever plunged beneath a flood of the blood!

Let Peter tell you how the blood was applied. His First Epistle addressed to the “elect . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedi­ence and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” And listen to the author of Hebrews: “Having a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water …” 10:21-22. The washing with pure water is a reference to water baptism. In the passage there are two cleansings, the cleansing of the body and the cleansing of the heart. It says that the heart was cleansed by sprinkling. Was the body cleansed by immersion?

Now all will agree that the greater, the better baptism, is the Spirit baptism. John says: “I baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John’s baptism was typical of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit was the real, the important baptism. For the mode of it, read Joel’s prophecy: “It shall come to pass that I will pour out my Spirit in all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions and also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” 2.28-29. Now read the account of the fulfillment of that prophesy in Acts 2:3-4: “There came from heaven tongues parting asun­der like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The tongues of fire and the Holy Spirit came from above, from heaven, upon the be­lievers.

In Acts, the 10th chapter, we are told that while Peter was yet speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. That is the invariable rule, the Spirit always falls upon, descends upon, or is poured upon the subjects. If water baptism is to present a picture of Spirit baptism, it should be in mode like Spirit bap­tism. Well, if the mode is not given in the word which designates the rite, how are we to learn what the mode is? In two ways: 1. By the mean­ing of the rite in Scripture. I have dealt with that already. 2. By the examples of its admin­istration. The passages in the New Testament that relate to the administration of baptism are divided into three classes: First, those which taken by themselves seem to favor immersion. Matthew 3:16. The authorized version says that Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water. The revised version says that he went up straightway from the water. The preposition used is not ex, meaning out of, but apo, which means from the water. He could have gone up from the water without going up out of the water. In Acts 8:38-39, we have an account of the baptism of the eunuch by Philip. The record says that both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he bap­tized him. And when they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. The immersionist says that this language indi­cates that the baptism was by immersion, but t the passage, correctly read, indicates no such thing. If going into the water and the com­ing up out of it were parts of the baptism, then both Philip and the eunuch were baptized; for they both went down into the water and came up out of the water. The passage says that the Baptism took place between the going into the water and the coming up out of the water. And all the lawyers of Philadelphia cannot tell how the baptism was performed. No valid argument can be based on prepositions. In the 8th chapter of the Acts, the preposition en is used several times, but only in the account of the baptism of the eunuch is it translated into. Elsewhere in that chapter it is translated at, by, etc. So I say that this class of Scripture only seems to favor immersion.

Second, there is a second class of passages relat­ing to the administration of baptism from which the idea of immersion is excluded. Under this head belong the accounts of baptism with the Holy Spirit. With this class of passages we have dealt already.

Third, there is a third class of passages which, in themselves, are not decisive, but which are altogether favorable to baptism by sprinkling. First, the baptism of the 3,000 at Jerusalem. Was it by immersion? Where? In what water? Jerusalem’s water supply was mostly in cisterns under the ground, no river flowed by Jerusalem, only a little brook which was a wet weather branch, at other seasons its bed was dry. There was no large pool or lake at Jerusalem. If there had been, it would have been under the control of the Pharisees, who, of course, would have for­bidden it to those despised followers of the crucified pretender to Messiahship. It there had been a body of water sufficient for baptism by immersion and the Apostles had used it for that purpose, the whole body of the water would have been polluted, rendered unfit for use by any Jew fearing defilement. The facts of the situation in Jerusalem are dead against the notion that the 3,000 converts were baptized by immersion.

Take now the baptism of the case of the eunuch, which was down toward Gaza, which was desert. Some tourists were shown the place where it was said the eunuch was baptized. And what did they see? A little stream no bigger than your little finger flowing out of a rock. A Bap­tist in the party exclaimed, “Oh it didn’t take place here, it didn’t take place here, not enough water,” Exactly, not enough water for immer­sion, but a plenty for sprinkling.

Next, the case of Cornelius and his household. While Peter was yet speaking the Holy Spirit fell on all that heard the Word. Did Peter say, “Is there a baptistry here, or a pool convenient where these may be baptized?” No, he said, “Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized?” He then commanded them to be baptized then and there. Was it by immersion?

The case of the jailer at Philippi. His baptism took place without delay at midnight at the jail. Was it by immersion? The case of Paul is pe­culiarly clear and convincing. Ananias was sent to administer to Paul, then called Saul. Laying his hands on him, Ananias said, “Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight. And he arose and was baptized. Baptized then and there, standing up. Was it by immersion?

Two points more and I am done.

  1. According to our view of baptism there is unity and harmony in Scripture. There is one method of purification in Both Testaments and that is by sprinkling — sprinkling of water, sprinkling of blood.
  2. Baptism by sprinkling is universally ap­plicable. Universally applicable as to place. Wherever there is water enough to sustain life, there people can be baptized by sprinkling. In World War I there was a large military camp in Greenville, South Carolina. The Baptists complained that no provision was made for ad­ministering baptism by their mode. They seemed to think that the government should run a river into the camp, or create a lake for their con­venience. A distinguished Baptist minister, Dr. Norwood, pastor of City Temple, London, Eng­land, was a Chaplain at the battle front in France. He said the application of the rite of baptism by immersion was out of the question there. He said he did not repudiate that mode of baptism, he simply had no use for it in that situation. He could never again insist that the quantity of water was important in Baptism.

Baptism by sprinkling is universally applicable as to time. It can be safely administered in the frozen North in winter, as in the balmy South.

It is universally applicable as to people. It can be applied to infants as well as to adults; to the sick as well as to the healthy; to the dying as well as to the living.

Remember, according to the Bible, people were baptized with water, not in water; they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, not in the Holy Spirit. The water was applied to the per­son, not the person to the water. The Spirit was applied to the person, not the person to the Spirit. And believers were baptized immediately on the spot.

Reasoning from the use of baptizo in Scripture, from the meaning of the rite of baptism, and from the instances of its administration, we con­clude that baptism was, and should be now, by sprinkling or pouring.

“I will sprinkle clear water upon you,” sayeth the Lord, “and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” “Wherefore, let us all draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our bodies washed with clean water.”

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Unlike immediately prior years, the General Assembly of 1837 was controlled by the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Taking advantage of their numbers, they took the action of removing from the denomination the Synods of Utica, Geneva, and Genesee, in New York, and the Western Reserve Synod in Ohio. The primary complaint of the Old School Presbyterians was the teaching of a modified Calvinism, labeled “Taylorism.” And with the excision of these four Synods, they hoped to remove the Taylor doctrine from the Church. Old School Presbyterians had also come to oppose the 1801 Plan of Union, a cooperative arrangement with Congregationalists. Here too, the removal of New School votes from the Assembly made it that much easier to repeal the Plan of Union.

Sixteen charges of theological error were leveled at the New School men by the Assembly of 1837. And no sooner were those charges laid on the table, than the New School responded in prompt reply with the document initially known as Errors and True Doctrines. Later that same summer, in subsequent conference, the New School men issued a revised version of this text under the name of the Auburn Declaration. With this document, the New School men sought to affirm their orthodoxy. Or as one historian summarized it,

The Declaration thus adopted became, not indeed a creed, but an authoritative explanation of the interpretation given to the Westminster Symbols by the leading minds in the New School Church, as organized in 1838. It was in 1868 indorsed by the General Assembly (O. S.) as containing ‘all the fundamentals of the Calvinistic Creed,’ and this indorsement was one among the most effectual steps in bringing about the reunion of the two Churches in 1870. The document is rather a disavowal of imputed error than an exposition of revealed truth, and must be understood from the anthropological and soteriological controversies of that period of division now happily gone by.”

ERRORS AND TRUE DOCTRINE.
[
submitted as a protest to the General Assembly, June 8, 1837]

First Error.“That God would have prevented the existence of sin in our world, but was not able, without destroying the moral agency of man; or, that for aught that appears in the Bible to the contrary, sin is incidental to any wise moral system.”

True Doctrine.God permitted the introduction of sin, not because he was unable to prevent it, consistently with the moral freedom of his creatures, but for wise and benevolent reasons which he has not revealed.

Second Error.“That election to eternal life is founded on a foresight of faith and obedience.”

True Doctrine.Election to eternal life is not founded on a foresight of faith and obedience, but is a sovereign act of God’s mercy, whereby, according to the counsel of his own will, He has chosen some to salvation; “yet so as thereby neither is violence offered to the will of the Creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;” nor does this gracious purpose ever take effect independently of faith and a holy life.

Third Error.“That we have no more to do with the first sin of Adam than with the sins of any other parent.”

True Doctrine.By a divine constitution, Adam was so the head and representative of the race, that, as a consequence of his transgression, all mankind become morally corrupt, and liable to death, temporal and eternal.

Fourth Error.“That infants come into the world as free from moral defilement as was Adam when he was created.”

True Doctrine.Adam was created in the image of God, endowed with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Infants come into the world, not only destitute of these, but with a nature inclined to evil and only evil.

Fifth Error.“That infants sustain the same relation to the moral government of God, in this world, as brute animals, and that their sufferings and death are to be accounted for on the some principles as those of brutes, and not by any means to be considered as penal.”

True Doctrine.Brute animals sustain no such relation to the moral government of God as does the human family. Infants are a part of the human family,and their sufferings and death are to be accounted for, on the ground of their being involved in the general moral ruin of the race induced by the apostacy.

Sixth Error.“That there is no other original sin than the fact, that all the posterity of Adam, though by nature innocent, will always begin to sin when they begin to exercise moral agency; that original sin does not include a sinful bias of the human mind, and a just exposure to penal suffering; and that there is no evidence in Scripture, that infants in order to salvation, do need redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost.”

True Doctrine.Original sin is a natural bias to evil, resulting from the first apostacy, leading invariably and certainly to actual transgression. And all infants, as well as adults, in order to be saved, need redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost.

Seventh Error.“That the doctrine of imputation, whether of the guilt of Adam’s sin, or of the righteousness of Christ, has no foundation in the Word of God, and is both unjust and absurd.”

True Doctrine.The sin of Adam is not imputed to his posterity in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities, acts, and demerit; but by reason of the sin of Adam, in his peculiar relation, the race are treated as if they had sinned. Nor is the righteousness of Christ imputed to his people in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities, acts, and merit; but by reason of his righteousness, in his peculiar relation, they are treated as if they were righteous.

Eighth Error.“That the sufferings and death of Christ were not truly vicarious and penal, but symbolical, governmental, and instructive only.”

True Doctrine.The sufferings and death of Christ were not symbolical, governmental, and instructive only, but were truly vicarious, i.e., a substitute for the punishment due to transgressors. And while Christ did not suffer the literal penalty of the law, involving remorse of conscience and the pains of hell, he did offer a sacrifice which infinite wisdom saw to be a full equivalent. And by virtue of this atonement, overtures of mercy are sincerely made to the race, and salvation secured to all who believe.

Ninth Error.“That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commandments of God.”

True Doctrine.While sinners have all the faculties necessary to a perfect moral agency and a just accountability, such is their love of sin and opposition to God and his law, that, independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, they never will comply with the commands of God.

Tenth Error.“That Christ does not intercede for the elect until after their regeneration.”

True Doctrine.The intercession of Christ for the elect is previous as well as subsequent to their regeneration, as appears from the following Scripture, viz. “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”

Eleventh Error.“That saving faith is not an effect of the operations of the Holy Spirit, but a mere rational belief of the truth or assent to the word of God.”

True Doctrine.Saving faith is an intelligent and cordial assent to the testimony of God concerning his Son, implying reliance on Christ alone for pardon and eternal life; and in all cases it is an effect of the special operations of the Holy Spirit.

Twelfth Error.“That regeneration is the act of the sinner himself, and that it consists in change of his governing purpose, which he himself must produce, and which is the result, not of any direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but chiefly of a persuasive exhibition of the truth, analogous to the influence which one man exerts over the mind of another; or that regeneration is not an instantaneous act, but a progressive work.”

True Doctrine.Regeneration is a radical change of heart, produced by the special operations of the Holy Spirit, determining the sinner to that which is good, and is in all cases instantaneous.

Thirteenth Error.“That God has done all that he can do for the salvation of all men, and that man himself must do the rest.”

True Doctrine.While repentance for sin and faith in Christ are indispensable to salvation, all who are saved are indebted from first to last to the grace and Spirit of God. And the reason that God does not save all, is not that he wants the power to do it, but that in his wisdom he does not see fit to exert that power further than he actually does.

Fourteenth Error.“That God cannot exert such influence on the minds of men, as shall make it certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner, without impairing their moral agency.”

True Doctrine.While the liberty of the will is not impaired, nor the established connexion betwixt means and end broken by any action of God on the mind, he can influence it according to his pleasure, and does effectually determine it to good in all cases of true conversion.

Fifteenth Error.“That the righteousness of Christ is not the sole ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God; and that in no sense does the righteousness of Christ become ours.”

True Doctrine.All believers are justified, not on the ground of personal merit, but solely on the ground of the obedience and death, or, in other words, the righteousness of Christ. And while that righteousness does not become theirs, in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities and merit; yet, from respect to it, God can and does treat them as if they were righteous.

Sixteenth Error.“That the reason why some differ from others in regard to their reception of the Gospel is, that they make themselves to differ

True Doctrine.While all such as reject the Gospel of Christ do it, not by coercion but freely—and all who embrace it do it, not by coercion but freely—the reason why some differ from others is, that God has made them to differ.

Philadelphia, June 8th, 1837.

[signed by]:
George Duftield, E. W, Gilbert, Thomas Brown, Bliss lbirnan, N. S. S. Beman, E. Cheever, E. Seymour, George Painter, F. W. Graves, Obadiah Woodruff, N. G. Clark, Robert Stuart, Nahum Gould, Absalom Peters, Alexander Campbell.

The New School protest having been lodged, the official reply was brief and dismissive:

ANSWER

Mr. Plumer offered the following resolutions, which were adopted, viz.

1, Resolved, That the paper just offered, purporting to be a protest, though it contains several important mis-statements of facts, and much extraneous matter, be admitted to record without answer; the lateness of the period at which it is offered rendering it inconvenient to answer it, and the character of the paper rendering another disposition of it proper and necessary.’

2„ Resolved, That duly certified copies of this paper be sent to the respective Presbyteries to which the signers of the protest belong, calling their attention to the developments of theological views contained in it, and enjoining on them to inquire into the soundness of the faith of those who have ventured to make so strange avowals as some of these are.

Dr. Beman moved, that the attention of all the Presbyteries be directed to this protest.

The motion was lost.

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The Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965]

In the preceding chapter we have seen the rise of Reformed Presbyterianism in Scotland in the seventeenth century together with its exportation to America in the eighteenth. By the first years of the nineteenth century the Reformed Presbyterian Church was firmly planted in American soil. The reconstitution of the Reformed Presbytery in 1798 under the leadership of James McKinney was followed by an outburst of optimistic energy in the Church. „Important additions were soon after made to the ministry, and the Church entered on a career of vigorous labour, crowned by a large measure of progress.‟1 As a result of this energy, the official judicial testimony of the American Reformed Presbyterian Church was published in 1807 under the title Reformation Principles Exhibited. Two years later—on May 24, 1809—„All the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, being convened, with ruling Elders delegated from different sessions, did unanimously agree to constitute a Synod.‟ The official name was to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America was well aware of her unique circumstances and opportunities. “God has, in his Providence, presented the human family in this country with a new experiment. The Church, unheeded by the civil powers, is suffered to rise or fall by her own exer- tions.‟4 So wrote Alexander McLeod in Reformation Princi- ples Exhibited. However, what would be the outcome of these unique circumstances? How would the Church respond to these unique opportunities? The Reformed Presbyterian Church looked upon the dawn of the nineteenth century with extreme optimism. In- deed, D. M. Carson entitles this chapter in the history of the Church “The New Optimism.‟5 This general attitude is well expressed in the words of James McKinney, uttered in 1797:

“The joint triumphs, of enlightened reason, and true religion, must soon become glorious.‟ Mankind would soon come to recognize the rights of God, and the millennium would be triumphantly ushered in. According to McLeod the Fall of the papal antichrist is fast approaching, and the time is near when the Lord will pour forth his Holy Spirit and the king- doms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).7 This optimistic spirit was accompanied by the substantial growth of the Church. In 1798 there were two ministers, a few scattered congregations, and some 1000 communicant members. By 1832 there were 36 ministers, 60 organized congregations, and some 5,000 members. The sources of this growth were Covenant children, Reformed Presbyterians from Ireland and Scotland, and converts from other denomi- nations.8 These converts were looked upon as those who had become dissatisfied with the use of human compositions in singing God‟s praises, the relaxation of church discipline, the prevalence of Hopkinsian and other doctrinal errors, and „the carnal, worldly spirit of professors, in the churches which they left.‟9 At the time of the appearance of the second edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited in 1824, it could be exclaimed: „Congregations are springing up in the desert, and the wilderness is becoming a fruitful field.‟10 The organization of the Church kept pace with this growth. The number of presbyteries increased. A representa- tive General Synod, to meet every two years, was established in 1823; and by 1832 the General Synod had constituted the Eastern and Western Subordinate Synods for yearly meetings. The Church was zealous for the education of her minis- ters, and in 1807 drew up a constitution for a theological seminary. This constitution is interesting, not only because it reveals the Church‟s conception of the nature of the ministry and of theological education, but also because it reveals her conception of what constitutes proper qualifications for the ministry. These are in order of importance: first, piety or practical godliness; second, good sense or talents commensurate with the calling; and third, a good theological education. As fund raisers for the seminary put it: “The Millennium is not to be introduced by ignorant enthusiasm. There must be an able ministry.‟ The Church was also conscious of her responsibility in the areas of discipline, evangelism, and doctrine. The Rev. David Graham was deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the Church for misconduct in 1812. In 1822 Covenanters in New York City founded the American Evangelical Tract Society to disseminate tracts in support of the principles of the Reformation. The ministers of the Synod were on the whole prolific authors. For a small number of men they produced a good deal of published material, much of which concerns doctrinal subjects. They were particularly concerned to defend traditional Calvinism against its modern substitutes. For instance, William Gibson wrote Calvinism vs. Hopkinsianism (1803), and Gilbert McMaster published a Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity (1815)—including the Trinity, the Person of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Depravity of Man, and the limited extent of the Atonement. McMaster inquires: What then? Shall men, in things of religion, be in a state of per- petual hostility? Shall the empire of the Prince of Peace never be united? Must each contend for his dogma? The Church of God is indeed lamentably distracted, and in that distraction all parties have a guilty hand. But can the malady be cured by an unprincipled abandonment of fundamental doctrines, merely to obtain a momentary repose from the pains of contest? Such repose would be that of death, to the interests of vital godliness.

It was in this spirit that Alexander McLeod wrote The Life and Power of True Godliness (1816).16 The position of the ministers of the Church on the matter of political dissent did not preclude their speaking out on political and social issues. McLeod puts it tersely in the first of his series of sermons in defense of the American cause in the War of 1812: „Ministers have the right of discussing from the pulpit those political questions which affect Christian morals.‟ The Church took a particularly strong stand on the slavery question, expressed in McLeod‟s Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1804); and as early as 1802 we read in the Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery: „It was enacted that no slave- holder should be allowed the communion of the Church.‟

As might be expected, one of the chief topics for discussion was the matter of the application of Christian principles to existing governments. It was chiefly differences in this area that led to the lamentable Disruption of 1833.

Disruption and Recovery In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America experienced a division which up to the present has been permanent. The majority adhering to the General Synod became known as the New Light General Synod, the minor- ity as simply the Old Light Synod. The Disruption of 1833 has its origins in the early years of the nineteenth century. To understand this momentous dispute in the Church it is necessary to mention some of the developments which led up to it.

Hutchinson, George P., The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. pp. 65-70.

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The document known as the Auburn Affirmation was presented to the public in January of 1924, bearing the signatures of 150 Presbyterian pastors and elders. But just four months later, on May 5, 1924, that list of signatures had grown to 1274 names, a significant percentage of the pastors and ruling elders of the Church as that point in time. How many more might have signed had it been convenient, and how many more were complacent or apathetic about the matter? In sum, the Auburn Affirmation attempted to reduce orthodox Christian doctrine to mere opinion and theory. As much as all of this was a shame upon the denomination, perhaps the greater shame was the almost entire lack of response from theologically conservative Presbyterians. They were caught flat-footed and unawares. Of those that did take notice, most thought that the Auburn Affirmation was just a flash in the pan and would come to nothing. Remarkably, substantive discussion of and opposition to the Affirmation was not voiced until almost a decade later.

Sound doctrine had been under concerted attack since at least the 1890’s. The situation was accelerated somewhat by the 1903 revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and even more so by the 1906 inclusion of most of the anti-Calvinistic Cumberland Presbyterian denomination. Thus by 1910, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. felt constrained to pronounce certain doctrines “essential.”

This Doctrinal Deliverance, as it was called, was produced by the Committee on Bills and Overtures in response to a situation arising out of the New York Presbytery in which three candidates for the ministry were ordained even though they refused to affirm the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ. [Here it is worth noting that J. Gresham Machen spent much of his career defending this particular doctrine.] While the 1910 PCUSA General Assembly dismissed the complaint brought against the three men, it did instruct its Committee on Bills and Overtures to draft a statement which all future candidates would have to affirm in order to be ordained. The Committee’s completed Doctrinal Deliverance set out five articles of faith (reproduced below) which were judged “essential and necessary.”

That was in 1910. Such was the state of the Church that the General Assemblies of both 1916 and 1923 were compelled to reaffirm the Doctrinal Deliverance of 1910. Thus it can be seen that the 1924 Auburn Affirmation was written almost entirely in opposition to this Doctrinal Deliverance. Sadly, by 1927 the General Assembly overturned the Deliverance with the conclusion that the Assembly cannot mandate certain doctrines as “essential and necessary.” In so doing, the 1927 Assembly effectively loosed the Church from its moorings.

The Doctrinal Deliverance of 1910 [reiterated in 1916 and 1923]:

1. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of the Holy Scriptures as to keep them from error. Our Confession says [Chapter I, Section 10]: “The Supreme Judge, by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.

2. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. The Shorter Catechism states, Question 22: “Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.”

3. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, that Christ offered up “himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and to reconcile us to God.” The Scripture saith Christ “once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit.” [Cf. the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 25]

4. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our Standards, concerning our Lord Jesus, that “on the third day he arose form the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession.” [Cf. the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII, Section 4]

5. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God as the supreme Standard of our faith, that the Lord Jesus showed his power and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature, but superior to it. “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” [Matthew 9:35]. These great wonders were signs of the divine power of our Lord, making changes in the order of nature. They were equally examples, to his Church, of charity and good-will toward all mankind.
These five articles of faith are essential and necessary. Others are equally so…

Resolved, That, reaffirming the advice of the Adopting Act of 1729, all the Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate for the ministry into the exercise of the sacred function, unless he declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of the Confession.
[Minutes of the General Assembly, 1910, pages 272 – 273.]

Words to Live By:
As the Rev. Bill Iverson is fond of saying, “God has no grand-children.” By that Rev. Iverson means that the work of evangelism must be done afresh in every generation. The Church can never rest from that good work. And we must constantly bear in mind that salvation belongs to the Lord. Our preaching and our witnessing must be done in complete reliance upon the Lord to bring about conviction of sin and conversion to saving faith. If the Church strays, it is because the people have strayed.  

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“We Don’t Have Forever,” by Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer: 

T
he following transcript was originally printed in the PCA Messenger in 1980:

(Francis A. Schaeffer, founder of the L’Abri Fellowship, author of 21 books, and principal in the “How Should We Then Live?” and “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” film-seminar series, was the featured speaker at the 1980 “Consultation on Presbyterian Alternatives” sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in America. His counsel, excerpted here from the full transcript of his Pittsburgh messages, was heard by participants from several Presbyterian communions.)

Two biblical principles must be practiced simultaneously, at each step of the way, if we are to be really Bible-believing Christians.  One is the principle of the practice of the purity of the visible church.  The other is the principle of an observable love among all true Christians.

Those of us who left the old Presbyterian Church USA (the “Northern” Church) 44 years ago made mistakes which marked the movement for years to come.  The second principle often was not practiced. In particular we often failed to manifest an observable love for the fellow believers who stayed in that denomination when others of us left.

Things were said which are very difficult to forget even more than 40 years later.  The periodicals of those who left tended to spend more time attacking the real Christians who stayed in the old denomination than in dealing with the liberals.  Those who came out at times refused to pray with those who had not come out.  Many who left totally broke off all forms of fellowship with true brothers in Christ who did not come out.

What was destroyed was Christ’s command to love each other.  And what was left was often a turning inward, a self-righteousness, a hardness, and, too often, a feeling that withdrawal had made those who came out so right that anything they did could be excused.

Further, having learned these bad habits, they later treated each other badly when the new groups had minor differences among themselves.

We cannot stress both of the principles simultaneously in the flesh.  Sometimes we stress purity without love.  Or we can stress love without purity.  In order to stress both simultaneously we must look moment to moment to the work of Christ and to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Without this, a stress on purity becomes hard, proud, and legalistic.  Without this, a stress on love becomes compromise. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our lives as we begin to exhibit (and the emphasis here is on exhibit, not just talk) simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.  Without our exhibition of both, our marvelous God and Lord is not set forth.  Rather, a caricature is set forth and He is dishonored.

We paid a terrible price for what happened in those early days.  As some of you now come out of your denominations, please do learn from our mistakes.  Each pastor, each congregation must be led by the Holy Spirit.  If some disappoint you, do not turn bitter.

One of the joys of my life occurred at the Lausanne Congress (the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland). Some men from the newly formed Presbyterian Church in America asked me to attend a meeting they and others had called there. When I arrived I found that it was made up of Southern men who had just left the Presbyterian Church US to form the PCA and some Christians who were still in the PCUS. Someone from each side spoke. Both said to me that the meeting was possible because of my voice and especially my little book, The Church Before the Watching World (published by InterVarsity Press). I must say I could have wept, and perhaps I did. It is possible for us to do better than we would naturally do. It is not possible if we ignore the fleshly dangers and fail to look to our living Lord for his strength and grace.

Those of us who left our old denomination in the Thirties had another great problem, as I see it. It was confusion over where to place the basic chasm which marks off who we are. Does that chasm mark us as those who are building Bible-believing churches and that on this side of the chasm we hold the distinctives of being Presbyterian and Reformed? Or is the primary chasm that we are Presbyterian and Reformed and that we are divided from all who are not? The answer makes a great deal of difference.

When we go to a town to start a church, are we going there with the primary motivation to build a church which is loyal to Presbyterians and the Reformed faith, or are we going there to build a church which will preach the Gospel which historic, Bible-believing Christianity holds, and then on this side of that chasm teach that which we believe is true to the Bible in regard to church government and doctrine? The difference makes a difference to our mentality, to our motivation, and to the breadth of our outreach. I must say, to me one view is catholic, biblical and gives good promise of success; the other is introverted and self-limiting, yes, and sectarian. I spoke of a good promise of success. I mean on two levels: First in church growth and a healthy outlook among those we reach; second, in providing leadership in the whole church of Christ.

We alone do not face this problem of putting the chasm at the wrong place, of course. A too zealous mentality on the Lutheran view of the sacraments is the same. A too sectarian mentality in regard to the mode of baptism is another. The zeal of the Plymouth Brethren for an unpaid ministry is often the same. No, it is not just our problem. But it is our problem. To put the chasm in the wrong place is to fail to fulfill our calling, and I am convinced that when we do so we displease our Lord.

Those who remain in the old-line churches have their own set of problems. In contrast to the problem of hardness to which those who withdraw are prone, those who remain are likely to develop a general latitudinarianism. One who accepts ecclesiastical latitudinarianism easily steps into a cooperative latitudinarianism which can become a doctrinal latitudinarianism and especially a letdown on a clear view of Scripture.

This is what happened in certain segments of what I would call the evangelical establishment. Out of the evangelical latitudinarianism of the Thirties and Forties grew the letdown in regard to the Scripture in certain areas of the evangelical structure in the Seventies. Large sections of evangelicalism today put all they can into acting as though it makes no real difference as to whether we hold the historic view of Scripture or the existential view. The existential methodology says that the Bible is authoritative when it teaches “religious” things but not when it touches that which is historic, scientific, or such things as the male/female relationship.

Not all who have stayed in the liberal denominations have done this, by any means, but it is hard to escape.  I don’t see how those who have chosen to stay in (no matter what occurs) can escape a latitudinarian mentality which will struggle to paper over the differences on Scripture in order to keep an external veneer of unity.  That veneer in fact obscures a real lack of unity on the crucial point of Scripture.  And when the doctrinal latitudinarianism sets in we can be sure from all of church history and from observation in our own period of church history that in just a generation or two the line between evangelical and liberal will be lost.

This is already observable in that the liberals largely have shifted to the existential methodology and have expressed great approval that the “moderate evangelicals” have done so.  The trend will surely continue.  Unless we see the new liberalism with its existential methodology as a whole, and reject it as a whole, we will, to the extent to which we tolerate it, be confused in our thinking.  Failure to reject it will also involve us in the general relativism of our day and compromising in our actions.

The second major problem of those who stay in the liberally controlled denominations is the natural tendency to constantly move back the line at which the final stand will be taken.  For example, can you imagine Clarence Macartney, Donald Grey Barnhouse or T. Roland Phillips being in a denomination in which the baffle line was the ordination of women?  Can you imagine these great evangelical preachers of the Twenties and Thirties (who stayed in the Presbyterian Church USA) now being in a denomination which refuses to ordain a young man whose only fault was that while he said he would not preach against the ordination of women yet he would not say he had changed his mind that it was unbiblical? Can you imagine that these leaders of the conservative cause in an earlier era would have considered it a victory to have stalled the ordination of practicing homosexuals and practicing lesbians?  What do you think Macartney, Barnhouse, and Phillips would have said about these recent developments?  Such a situation in their denomination would never have been in their minds as in the realm of conceivable.

The line does move back.  In what presbytery of the Northern Presbyterian Church can you bring an ordained man under biblical discipline for holding false views of doctrine and expect him to be disciplined?

Beware of false victories.  Even if a conservative man is elected moderator of the general assembly (as Macartney was in 1924), it would amount to absolutely nothing.  Despite the jubilation among conservatives at Macartney’s election, the bureaucracy simply rolled on, and not too many years later conservative leader J. Gresham Machen could be unfrocked.  Nelson Bell was elected moderator of the Southern Church later (in 1972), and nothing changed.  The power centers of the bureaucracy and the liberally-controlled seminaries were unmoved.

There are always those who say, “don’t break up our ranks … wait a while longer … wait for this … wait for that.” It is always wait.  Never act. But 40 years is a long time to wait when things are always and consistently getting worse.  And (with my present health problem) I tell you soberly, we do not have forever to take that courageous and costly stand for Christ that we sometimes talk about. We do not have forever for that. We hear many coaxing words, but watch for the power structure to strike out when it is threatened. If the liberals’ power is really in danger or if they fear the loss of property, watch out!

What of the future? We live in a day that is fast-moving.  The United States is moving at great speed toward totally humanistic orientation in society and state.  Do you think this will leave our own little projects, our own church, and our own lives untouched?  Don’t be silly. The warnings are on every side. When a San Francisco Orthodox Presbyterian congregation can be dragged into court for breaking the law of discrimination because it dismissed an avowed, practicing homosexual as an organist, can we be so blind as to not hear all the warning bells go off?  When by a ruling of a federal court the will of Congress can be overturned concerning the limitation on the willful killing of unborn children, should not the warning bells go off as to the kind of pressures ahead of us?

Who supports these things?  The liberal denominations do, publicly, formally, and financially.  And it puts into a vise those of us who stand for biblical morality, let alone doctrine.  Beyond the denominations, it is their councils of churches that support not only these things but also terrorist groups. They give moral support and money.  Should we support this by our denominational affiliation? We may seem isolated from the results for a time but that is only because we are too blind to see.

I don’t think we have a lot of time.  The hour is very late, but I don’t think it is too late in this country. This is not a day of retreat and despair.  In America it is still possible to turn things around.  But we don’t have forever.

Reprinted from the PCA Messenger
© 1980, Christian Education Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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iversondaniel01This past Thursday, we presented a short post on the history of the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church, Miami, Florida, founded by organizing pastor Daniel Iverson, Sr.  Today, for our Lord’s Day sermon, we present Rev. Iverson’s teaching on the Book of Revelation, chapter 3, verses 14-22—The Message to Laodicea. This message was part of a larger series on the Book of Revelation, delivered before the Shenandoah congregation in the late winter and Spring of 1951.

 

The Message to Laodicea [Rev. 3:14-22]

Today we come to the last of the seven messages which make up the second division of this book – “The things which are” – the description, we believe, of the course of the entire church age.

We have said before that something of the spirit of all will be in each, but it is particularly true that the characteristics of the last three will be found running concurrently to the end» So we shall find the cold formalism of Sardis hand in hand with the warm loving devotion of Philadelphia 5 but increasingly also the state shown by the description of Laodicea, which depicts the state to which the loss of the first love of Ephesus has brought the chur­ch of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Laodicea is called by our Lord, the “luke warm” church – it shows a state of falling away as warned of by the Apostles. They tell us that these conditions will be the mark of the last days. Especially does the Apostle Paul link it with the coming of Christ in 2 Thess. 2. “Falling away”; “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”; “having a form of godliness but denying the power”; a general carelessness and indifference. Hardly a page of the epistles goes by without the warning underscoring of the Holy Spirit.

With our passage today we see how our Lord sums the whole thing up. The name Laodicea means “Peoples Rights” or “Rule of the People”; it has become very familiar to us in these days. Peoples rights and rule, the most refined form is democracy, its ugliest mob rule, but both spring from one idea, each man thinking his way is the best way and insisting on his rights. That was the spirit in the time of the judges in Old Testament days when God said twice over, “Each man did that which was right in his own eyes” and then, between the two references records instances of the utter anarchy and confusion it brought about in the political, home and religious life of the nation. Think of a Family where every member insists on his own way; carry that out to world dimensions and what do we have – the world of today.

The basic principle of the church of Jesus Christ is that she submits herself to the rule of her glorious Head and follows the leading of the Holy Spirit. Alas, we all know how much of the spirit of “peoples rights” has invaded the church and quenched the working of the Spirit. Just ask ourselves and answer honestly,

“Is the church run to please God or the people in it?” We are not concerned now with the world, except to say the church should in­fluence it, instead of which we find the same spirit of the last days which marks the world, tragically dominating the church. It was so with the Jewish people in the days of Christ; the feasts of the Lord had become “feasts of the Jews” and the Temple of God had become “Your house left unto you desolate”. When “peoples rights” are opposed to “God’s rights”, God allows them their will for the time being, but it is a terrible state, for it cannot but end in disaster and Judgment. So “peoples rights and rule” in the church have made it “luke warm”. What is “luke warm”, which is a state neither cold nor hot, so that it will not (to use a popular form of advertising) ‘’Injure the most sensitive”, shall we say religi­ous feelings. You get that in a state where people are catered to.

Laodicea pictures the popular idea of Christianity of soft music and lights and sweet soothing words – so that no definite • reactions are roused either way. No one is stimulated to action, no one is offended. The Lord said He would have preferred them one way or the other. It is not a state of honest ignorance * but one of willing and willful ignorance. And why? Because they don’t want their beautiful ideas clouded by the stark realities and practical demands of God’s will. It is easier to practice good will in other peoples lives than God’s will in our own. People who hear and know the truth but shut themselves off from it. Not open, honest anta­gonism, but cloud banks, pretty pink and white ones of utter com­placency and indifference. It is of such the Lord says “I am about to spue thee out of My Mouth”.

He introduces Himself by a threefold statement r “These things saith”

(a)      “The Amen”, God’s last word, no matter what men say. The world has failed and so has the church, but He is the perfect ending, He v/ill in His own way complete God’s plan for the world.

(b)      “The Faithful and true Witness”. He bears record of what He sees and knows, of God to man or of man to God,

(c)      “The beginning of the creation of God”, He was the begin­ning of creation; by the time of this passage it has shown its ruin and He will be the beginning of a new creation, after He has brought to a conclusion the affairs of this one. Certainly there is no foundation in these messages, or anywhere else in Scripture, for the prevalent idea of a church making the world into a Utopia of light and glory and peace.

The last of the seven parables of Matt. 13 shows it as a drag net, full of fish its true, but as many if not more, of bad fish as good. Notice it is the net (the church) spoken of. We expect the sea (the world) to hold all kinds; the bad in the net are to be re­jected, cast away thrown back into their true element. So in Rev, 3sl6 the Lord says He will reject these “luke warm” ones who have so rejected Him that He is left outside the door of their hearts and gatherings. He does not mention His coming by a word to them – the way in which He will reject them is by the gathering out of His faithful and leaving the rest to their chosen state. Remember the parable of the ten virgins – as many were left as were taken. The ones who were taken were the ones who had the oil for their lamps, (symbol of the Holy Spirit) and also they went out to meet the Bridegroom. The others slumbered and slept until too late, lost in dreams.

With Verse 17, the Lord describes them at their own evaluation and then at His. He begins by “Thou sayest”. How bold and com­placent, yes, and boastful is man. The Pharisee who said “I, I, I”. “I thank thee God that I am not as other men. I pay tithes of all I possess, etc.” and God says “He prayed with himself”. Do you think God is interested in your carefully drawn picture of self?

There was the rich fool of Luke 12 who said “What shall I do, for I have no room to store my goods. I will pull down my barns and build greater. I will say to my soul”, etc. etc. But God said “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee”. Then what?

So this Laodicean spirit drugged with self opinion, while living on borrowed time says: “I am rich and increased with goods” but the saddest thing is that they say “I have need of nothing”. Perhaps those words stress their need as no others could, what can penetrate such utter self content and satisfaction.

Then the Lord gives the clinical report on true values “poor, wretched, naked and blind”. How self love hates such a statement 5 “thou knowest not”, indeed doesn’t want to know, such things. Then the counsel “Buy of He” – oh, we know salvation is free and cannot be bought, but in a sense the Laodicean spirit has to pay the price of laying aside all it felt so valuable. I suppose the thought here is more “exchange your gold for Mine, your rich clothing for My pure garment0, exchange the mirage for reality, the decaying for the un­fading. Then lastly, perhaps, their deepest need “Anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou mayest see”. If ever the poets’ words were true –

“Oh wad the gift, the gods would gie us,
to see ourselves as others see us”

– they are today in this Laodicean age. The church rich, preening herself on her place, power and possessions, ignorant of real values, not seeing herself as she is before God. We need the Hand of the One who anointed the eyes of the blind to touch all our eyes, so that we may see many things.

The last thing, the last word to the professing church is a plea, a lament, to the blind hearts who can’t, who won’t, see. Yes, truly there are none so blind as those who won’t see. What are our values – the kind of Verso 18 are given to us by the processes of Verse 19. Then He speaks a last gracious invitation – this Lord who in Chapter 2 was standing in His peoples midst, now is outside the door, asking them to allow Him to come in and bless them. All the rich simplicity of the full gospel is seen in these words. Even though they cannot see, maybe some will hear His Voice and open the door – then, marvel of grace, He will come in.

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