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Any number of our cultured readers might be upset if someone called them a “redneck.” And for good reason as this name speaks of someone in a disparaging way. But when you consider the origin of the word, our readers, especially those from a Scotch-Irish background, might to proud of to have someone speak of them in that way.

In 1643-1644, all over the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, Presbyterian people signed “the Solemn League and Covenant.” We won’t deal with it in its full form by a separate post until September 26 of 2014, but its first section set the tone for the whole. Paraphrased by PCA Ruling Elder Edwin Nisbet Moore, in his book “Our Covenant Heritage,” (and used by permission), this first part solemnly pledges, with uplifted hands before God, that the signers would endeavor “. . . the preservation of the Reformed religions in the Church of Scotland . . . [and] the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland . . . according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed Churches: And shall endeavor to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religions . . . .”

In so all over Scotland in 1643, Presbyterian people signed this covenant. The next year, Presbyterian ministers were sent to Ireland so that the Scottish transplants in Ulster could sign the Solemn League and Covenant also. Scottish people in some 26 towns signed it. On this day, April 4, 1644, one thousand soldiers and people signed it at Carrickfergus Castle, which still exists today approximately 11 miles north of Belfast, Ireland.

So, where does the figure of “redneck” comes from this historic occasion? The people who signed it knew that their act of signing identified them as taking a solid stand on the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. They knew also that their signatures could mean persecution and death for them in the future. A number of them signed their names in their own blood, much like the signers of the National Covenant in 1638. Countless wore red pieces of cloth around their necks, further identifying themselves unashamed of their commitment to the Reformed faith. Red pieces of cloth? They were known as “rednecks” at that time, a slang term for a Scottish Presbyterian.

The next time you are derisively called a “redneck”, don’t get mad, but simply reflect on the long spiritual line which stood the test of time in their adherence to the Word of God as summarized up in the Westminster Standards.

Words to Live By: There would come a day when religious promises signed in blood or displayed by red pieces of cloth meant persecution and death in the British Isles in the 17th century.  We may not be at the stage in our blessed country, but when businesses are shuttered for Biblical convictions by the courts of the land in the early 21st century, then the other may not be far behind. The cultural war for Christian principles and practices is slowly but surely lost in America. How we need to pray for a biblical revival among Christians and churches followed by a spiritual awakening in our land. In a single night, our Lord can turn the world upside down. Pray believing in His sovereign power, and look expectantly for how the Lord may work. Jesus Christ is King over all the nations of this world.

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Who Was That Man?

A graduate of the school, he later served for twenty-four years as a director of the Princeton Theological Seminary. But history remembers the man primarily for a series of letters that he wrote under a pseudonym. Indeed, a fair amount of his published work dealt with the Roman Catholic Church, in which he had been raised in Ireland.

Nicholas Murray was born on Christmas day in 1802, in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland. He emigrated to the United States in 1818, at the age of 16, serving as a apprentice printer at Harpers in New York City, to support himself. It was during this time that he came under conviction of his sins, responded to the Gospel, and left the Roman Catholic Church. In particular, it was a sermon delivered by the Rev. John Mitchell Mason that the Lord used to bring young Murray to saving faith. Subsequently he sat under the preaching of the Rev. Gardiner Spring for a year and a half. In time he was able to graduate from college and then at Princeton prepared for the ministry. As pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he became a prominent figure in the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., even serving as Moderator of the Sixty-first General Assembly, in 1849.

For several years Rev. Murray had considered a project of writing a series of letters, presenting his own experience in the Roman Catholic Church and how he was led to leave it. Friends encouraged him in this effort, and eventually the letters began to be published on the pages of The New York Observer, under the pseudonym of Kirwan. The actual Kirwan had been an Anglican Dean and like Rev. Murray, had himself once been a Roman Catholic. Murray probably took up the pseudonym out of respect for this Anglican preacher.

The first series consisted of twelve letters, published in serial fashion between February and May of 1847. These were quickly gathered up as a book and published, with more than ten thousand copies sold in the first edition. Another edition soon followed, then the work was translated into German, and eventually there were more than a hundred thousand copies in circulation. Few publications of that day exceeded these numbers. As Murray’s biographer stated, “It is certainly safe and just to say that no writings on the Roman Catholic question have excited so much attention since the Reformation, or have been so widely read by the masses of the people.”

A second series of letters began to appear in newspapers in October of 1847. This second series, less popular among Protestants, was actually more effective among Roman Catholics. Both series had been addressed to the Roman Catholic bishop of New York, the Rev. John Hughes, though Hughes ignored the appearance of the first series, and only upon publication of the second series did Bishop Hughes compose any response. Rev. Murray continued to write on this subject until about 1852. The Rev. Nicholas Murray died on February 4, 1861, and it was on March 31, 1861 that the Rev. James Baird brought a memorial address in his memory. A large biographical memoir was issued the following year by the Rev. Samuel Irenaeus Prime.

Words to Live By:
The Lord brought this young man across an ocean in order to save him. No obstacle is too great for our God. The Lord works sovereignly, where and when He will, extending His grace and mercy to the least of men and to the greatest of sinners. He raises up the most unassumingly and unlikely, to do great works for His glory. Only in eternity will it be revealed the extent to which the Lord has used each of His children in extending His kingdom.

For Further Study:
Murray, Rev. Nicholas, Letters to the Rt. Rev. John Hughes, Roman Catholic bishop of New York (1851).

Baird, Rev. James, A Discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Carleton, City of St. John, N.B., on Sabbath, 31st March, 1861: In Memory of the late Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D., author of the “Kirwan Letters” &c., who opened the above church nearly four years ago.

Prime, Samuel Irenaeus, Memoirs of the Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D. (“Kirwan”).

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Ready and willing to go for Christ . . . anywhere

beattyCharles03The young Irish salesman was sparring verbally with the small group of college students. Only he was doing it in Latin, remembered from his classical education classes of his youth in Northern Ireland.  Sensing his gifts, the head master of the Log College, the Rev. William Tennent, challenged the salesman to sell all of his wares and study for the ministry.  Charles Beatty did just that, entering the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Charles was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1712.  His parents were John Beatty, a British Army officer, and Christiana Clinton Beatty.  His early home education was in theology in a classical Christian education setting.  At age 14, his father died.  We are not told how he came to “own” Christ, but he traveled to the American colonies with his Uncle Charles Clinton in 1729, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Studying at the Log College, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick on October 13, 1742, and ordained the same year on December 14, 1742.

For a while, he assisted the Rev. Tennent at his congregation, and finally assumed the pulpit upon the latter’s death in 1743.  Three years later, he married Anne Reading, with whom he would  have ten children.  She must have been a remarkable woman, as her husband and their father would be gone many years on mission trips.  With very few Presbyterian ministers in the colonies, he was called first by the Synod of New York to travel to Virginia and North Carolina in 1754, preaching to the scattered Scot-Irish Presbyterian families.

But the westward expansion then going on in Pennsylvania also attracted his heart.  He would make two trips in 1758 and 1766 to that frontier of Cumberland County, which extended then all the way to Pittsburgh.  The first trip in 1758 was as chaplain to the army of General Forbes, with Col. Chapman’s Pennsylvania regiment.  He would preach the first Protestant sermon west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The second trip with the Rev. George Duffield of Carlisle’s First Presbyterian Church in 1766.  Their purpose was to report on the numbers of Presbyterian families then pushing west, for the purpose of establishing presbyteries to minister to those hardy pioneers.  Accompanying them was a Christian Indian by the name of Joseph Peppy, who was a valued interpreter when they established contact with the Indian tribes in the area.  They found numerous Presbyterian families, including around Fort Pitt itself.

Charles Beatty was involved in relief work as well.  Twice he took trips to England to raise funds for the Corporation for the Relief of Distressed Presbyterian Ministers.

Leaving “home missions,” Beatty sailed for the Barbados to minister the Word there, only to be called to his heavenly home on August 13, 1773.

Words to Live By:
Charles Beatty was a man who for the sake of the gospel was content to be used for Christ’s kingdom.  Reader: is God’s Spirit calling you to a similar ministry of service for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  In Matthew 9:37, 38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers in his harvest.” (ESV)

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The following obituary was published in The Presbyterian Quarterly, April 1899 (Volume 13, Number 2), pages 354-355:

John Bailey Adger, D.D., died in Pendleton, South Carolina, on the 3d of January in the 89th year of his age.

adger02Dr. Adger was born of Scotch-Irish parentage in Charleston, S.C., December 13, 1810. He graduated when 18 years of age at Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1833, of which, at the time of his death, he had been for some time the senior surviving alumnus. Shortly after his ordination by the Charleston Union Presbytery in 1834, he went as a missionary to the Armenians, under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and served in this work for twelve years at Constantinople and Smyrna, until the failure of his eyes and other circumstances compelled hisi withdrawal from the foreign field. During his missionary service he translated into Armenian the New Testament, Pilgrim’s Progress, the Shorter Catechism, and other books, which translations are still in use among that people.

After his return home he engaged in work among the negro slaves in his own native city. A church, connected with the Independent Presbyterian Synod, whose house of worship stands hard by his late residence in Pendleton, is appropriately named for him, “The Adger Memorial Church.”

Upon the withdrawal, in 1856, of Dr. Palmer from the Chair of Ecclesiastical History and Church Polity in the Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Adger was elected his successor, and filled that position with great zeal and ability for seventeen years. After his retirement in 1874, although he had then reached the age of 64, he entered with energy and vigor upon the pastoral work in his own Presbytery of South Carolina, which he continued until, having attained the age of 83, he was reluctantly constrained, by physical infirmities, to give up the public preaching of the Gospel.

At this advanced age, and amid these hindering infirmities, with courage and energy, he undertook what was perhaps the greatest task of his life, the writing of a large book, which he called “My Life and Times.” His life had been a long one, the times through which he had passed, eventful in Church and State; and he undertook to write a history and discussion of the various questions he had to meet and help to solve. With the assistance of a devoted daughter, and such other help as he could procure, he gathered up the facts, studied out the questions, and dictated chapter after chapter of his book. His mind, still clear and vigorous, and his body wonderfully strong and active, he labored systematically and diligently for several years at this work. And almost as soon as the last chapter was finished, the last page written, and the valiant servant of God had laid down his fruitful pen, the Master called him to the everlasting rest.

Dr. Adger’s magnum opus, My Life and Times, is a classic and was reprinted just a few years ago by the English publisher, Tentmaker.

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What Type of Preaching is Necessary Today for a Spiritual Awakening?

Our question in the title is a key one.  We have read in history of various revivals of religion which took place in our country from her earliest days, including the first great awakening under George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards, and Samuel Blair.  Samuel Blair?  Yes, Samuel Blair.

Blair was born in Ireland in 1712, and brought to America in his youth.  He was a Log College graduate, and licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1733.  He was ordained and installed as a pastor in  New Jersey in 1734.  Five years later, he answered a call to serve the Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church, just south of Cochranville, Pennsylvania.  The church had been founded in 1730, and had been ten years without a shepherd.  Rev. Blair was led to receive the call and thus came to this church.

He  had been there for four months, commenting that religion lay as it were a-dying.  He preached but four months when a powerful revival of religion occurred in the church and surrounding community, beginning on August 6, 1744.  Writing later on what type of preaching the Holy Spirit was pleased to bless, Rev. Blair said,

“The main scope of my preaching was, laying open the deplorable state of man by nature since the fall, our ruined, exposed case by the breach of the first covenant, and the awful condition of such as were not in Christ, giving the marks and characters of such as were in that condition, through a Mediator, with the nature and necessity of faith in Christ the Mediator.  I labored much on the last mentioned head, that people might  have right apprehensions of the gospel method of faith of life and salvation.  I treated much on the way of a sinner’s closing with Christ by faith, and obtaining a right peace to an awakened, wounded conscience; showing that persons were not to take peace to themselves on account of their repentings, sorrows, prayers, and reformations, not to make those things the grounds of their adventuring themselves upon Christ and His righteousness, and of their expectations of life by Him, . . . but by an understanding view and believing persuasion of the way of life, as revealed in the gospel, through the surety-ship, obedience, and sufferings of Jesus Christ, with a view of the suitableness and sufficiency of that mediatory righteousness of Christ for the justification of law-condemned sinners; and thereupon freely accepting Him for their Savior.  I endeavored to show the fruits and evidences of a true faith.”

To be sure, other voices had been added to such preaching of the gospel. Four years before this year, in May and November of 1740, George Whitefield preached the gospel before 12,000 persons on the grounds of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church.  Great spiritual results occurred on these occasions as well.

Today, the church continues and is the second oldest Presbyterian church in the Presbyterian Church in America.  Only the name has changed, to Manor Presbyterian Church.

Words to live by:  Pray diligently for our teaching elders and congregations, that we would first humble ourselves, confessing our sins, and seeking the Lord, that the Lord would draw us near, and that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as we sit under the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.

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A Long and Faithful Ministry

rodgersJohnJohn Rodgers was born in Boston on the 5th of August, 1727. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rodgers, who had emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland just six years prior. When John was little more than a year old, he and his parents relocated to Philadelphia.

While still a child, he gave evidence of a deep love of knowledge and even a care and thoughtfulness about his eternal soul. It was under the preaching of Whitefield that he was first solidly impressed with the truths and duties of the Christian faith. On one occasion, when Whitefield was preaching in the evening, near the Court House on Market Street, young John was standing near him, holding a lantern to assist Whitefield. But Rodgers became so impressed with the truth to which he was listening that, for a moment, he forgot himself and dropped the lantern, breaking it in pieces. Years later, when Rodgers was settled in his first pastorate, Dr. Whitefield came to visit his house, and Rev. Rodgers related the incident to him, asking if he remembered it. “Oh yes,” replied Whitefield, “I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost any thing in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Rev. Rodgers replied with a smile,—”I am that little boy.” Whitefield burst into tears, and remarked that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry, whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

When William Buell Sprague asked the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller for his recollections of Rev. Rodgers, this was Miller’s reply:

Rev. dear Brother: When you request me to prepare for your forthcoming biographical work some brief memorials of the late venerable Dr. Rodgers of New York, I feel as if I were called not to the performance of a task, but to the enjoyment of a privilege. If there be a man living who is entitled to speak of that eminent servant of Christ, I am that man. Having been long and intimately acquainted with him; having served with him twenty years as a son in the Gospel ministry; and having enjoyed peculiar opportunities of contemplating every phase of his character, personal and official; so my ardent attachment and deep veneration of his memory make it delightful to record what I knew with so much distinctness, and remember with so much interest.

“My acquaintance with Dr. Rodgers began in 1792, when he was more than sixty years of age, and when I was a youthful and inexperienced candidate for the ministry. He recognized in me the son of an old clerical friend, and from that hour till the day of his death treated me with a fidelity and kindness truly paternal. And when, next year, I became his colleague, he uniformly continued to exercise toward me that parental indulgence and guardianship which became his inherited friendship, as well as his Christian and ecclesiastical character.

rodgersJohn_memoirs“Without attempting in this connection to enter into the details of his history, which I have already done at large in my “Memoir” of this beloved man, I shall content myself with recounting in a brief manner those features of his character which I regard as worthy of special commemoration, and which rendered him so conspicuous among the pastors of his day.

“One of the great charms of Dr. Rodgers’ character was the fervour and uniformity of his piety. It not only appears conspicuous in the pulpit,–dictating his choice of subjects, his mode of treating them, and his affectionate earnestness of manner; but it attended him wherever he went, and manifested itself in whatever he did. In the house of mourning it shone with distinguished lustre. Nor was this all. He probably never was known to enter a human dwelling for the purpose of paying an ordinary visit, without saying something before he left it to recommend the Saviour and his service. Seldom did he sit down at the convivial table, without dropping at least a few sentences adapted to promote the spiritual benefit of those around him…

“Another quality in Dr. Rodgers which, next to his piety, contributed to his high reputation, was prudence, or practical wisdom. Few men were more wary than he in foreseeing circumstances likely to produce embarrassment or difficulty, and in avoiding them…

“He was remarkable also for the uniform, persevering and indefatigable character of his ministerial labours. In preaching, in catechising, in attending on the sick and dying, in all the arduous labours of discipline and government, and in visiting from house to house, he went on with unceasing constancy, year after year, from the beginning to the end of his ministry…

“The character of Dr. Rodgers’ preaching was another of the leading elements of his popularity and usefulness. The two qualities most remarkable in his preaching were piety and animation. His sermons were always rich in evangelical truth; and they were generally delivered with solemnity and earnestness which indicated a deep impression on his own heart of the importance of what he uttered…

“Dr. Rodgers was eminently a disinterested man. Few men have ever been more free from private and selfish aims in acting their part in the affairs of the Church, than he…

Dr. Rodgers was further distinguished by a punctual attendance on the judicatories of the Church. He made it a point never to be absent from the meetings of his brethren, unless sickness or some other equally imperious dispensation of Providence rendered his attendance impossible. And when present in the several ecclesiastical courts, he gave his serious and undivided attention to the business which came before them, and was always ready to take his full share, and more than his share, of the labour connected with that business…”

Dr. Samuel Miller continued a bit further with his recollections, but we will leave him there. If you would like to read Miller’s Memoir of Dr. Rodgers, it can be conveniently found on the Web, here. Dr. Rodgers lived a long life, and was blessed to minister to the Lord’s people for some sixty three years. He died on May 7th, 1811.

Words to Live By:
Why should a pastor trouble himself to participate in the courts of the Church? It turns out that question is at least 175 years old, if not more. In 1836, one pastor put the question, seeing that it cost him about $50.00 to attend the meetings of Synod, and took three weeks away from his congregation. Keep in mind that $50 would have been at least two week’s wages for a pastor in 1836, perhaps more.] In reply, the editor of the Presbyterian newspaper offered six reasons as to why teaching and ruling elders should faithfully attend the courts of the Church:

1. Should every member of Synod conclude from similar premises that it was not his duty to attend, there would be no meeting at the time and place appointed, and of course no business done.

2. One member frequently changes the entire complexion of a meeting; and no one has a right to suppose that his presence is a matter of indifference.

3. If the member can afford the expense it will be money well laid out, and if not, his people should aid him. The time occupied in going and returning, may often be profitably employed. The journey may be of advantage to his health. In conference with his brethren he may receive a new impulse in his Christian course, and be better prepared to labor with effect among his people on his return; so that neither he nor they will be losers by his absence.

4. When he was set apart to the work of the Ministry, he was expected to make many sacrifices for the good of the cause. And if his brethren to whom he has solemnly promised subjection in the Lord, did not regard attendance upon the Judicatories of the Church as important, they would not have exacted an apology or excuse for non-attendance.

5. Instances are exceedingly rare that a Minister has ever cause to regret the sacrifices which he has made in attending the Judicatories of the Church. On the contrary he most usually feels himself amply repaid for all the sacrifices which it has cost him.

6. The present crisis of the Church seems to demand more than ever a full attendance both of Ministers and Elders, cost what it may. [That statement, made in 1836, had the Old School/New School debate in view. But apart from that context, sadly, the statement seems to stand as a constant truth.]

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, vol. 10, no. 39 (24 September 1836); 154, column 4.]

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A Polymath of the First Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very sincerely and respectfully yours,

SAMUEL MILLER.

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

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

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Farewell! Farewell!

Thomas Craighead was born in Scotland about 1660, and later educated as a physician. He took the daughter of a Scotch laird as his wife, and after practicing medicine for a time, became quite depressed. When his wife inquired as to the cause, he informed her that his conscience troubled him deeply for not preaching the Gospel. She at once assured him that she would not stand in the way of what he considered his duty. Whereupon he abandoned the practice of medicine for the study of divinity, and upon ordination, served as pastor for several years in Ireland, primarily at Donegal. Due, however, to persecution of Presbyterians by both the government and the Established Church, large numbers of people decided to emigrate to America from Ireland in those years.

Among them was Thomas Craighead and his wife, as they came to New England in 1715, accompanied by Rev. William Homes, who was married to Mr. Craighead’s sister Catherine. Rev. Craighead settled first at Freetown which is about forty miles south of Boston but his efforts there were unsuccessful. This despite encouragement from Cotton Mather and the latter’s exhortation of Craighead’s congregation. Mather described Craighead as “a man of singular piety, meekness, humility, and industry in the work of God.” Finally leaving Freetown, Rev. Craighead next appears in Jersey in 1723 and on January 28, 1724 he became a member of New Castle Presbytery, which at that time included large sections of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In 1733, Rev. Craighead relocated first to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and in September of that year he received and accepted a call to serve the Presbyterian church in Pequea, Pennsylvania. As a member now of Donegal Presbytery, history records that the people there always had a particular veneration for him, and called him “Father Craighead.” He played a key role in planting and building up a number of churches in that region.

Then on November 17, 1737, he accepted a call from the people of Hopewell, Pennsylvania, a congregation which met at “the Big Spring” (now Newville). But Craighead’s pastorate there was brief. He was now an elderly man, though still focused and intent upon the ministry of the Gospel. Preaching with great fire, those in his congregation were often brought to tears, and often, when dismissed, were unwilling to leave. Finally, on April 26, 1739, after preaching until quite exhaused, and unable to pronounce the benediction from the pulpit, Rev. Craighead waived his hand and exclaimed, “Farewell! farewell!” and sank down and died. His mortal remains, it is said, were laid to rest under the cornerstone of the church building in Newville.

Words to Live By:
It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (Heb. 9:27)

We will, all of us, die one day, though not everyone will have time to say, “Farewell.” Keep your accounts short. Most importantly, keep your accounts short with the Lord. Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation. Don’t wait to lay hold of Christ and His righteousness. Recognizing your own desparate sin and utter inability before a holy God, look to Jesus Christ as your only Hope, for He is God’s only appointed and sufficient sacrifice. Only those who, by grace through faith, have Christ’s righteousness accounted as their own, will stand on the day of judgment.

Sources:
“The Craighead Family”, by Rev. James Geddes Craighead, D.D. (1876).
Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia (1884), p. 163.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

A Strange Name Merits our Attention

He was a tent-maker church planter in the latter part of the sixteen hundreds in what is now Virginia.  Born in Ireland, this unmarried  Presbyterian pastor came over to our shores to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the lost souls of the colonies. He found countless Scotch – Irish immigrants who valued his ministry as they were sheep without a shepherd. The earliest record we have of him is June 22, 1692 in the county records of what later became Norfolk, Virginia.  Who was he?

If you answered Josias Mackie, you would be right on target.  What is interesting about him is that he was not a member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which began in 1706.  His name is not listed on any Presbytery back in Ireland.  But we have a reference to his request that he be allowed to preach at three houses in the Norfolk, Virginia area, namely,  the houses of Thomas Ivey, Richard Phillpot, John Roberts, and adding a fourth in 1696, the house of  John Dickson.  Eventually these four house churches were brought together into a small congregation.  He was to proclaim God’s Word to these hardy Scotch-Irish Presbyterians for two plus decades.

We know from his will, which was left to his three sisters in Ireland, that he owned both land and horses.  We know that he was a planter and a merchant.  Somewhere around 1716, there is a mention by the Philadelphia Presbytery of “melancholy circumstances” in his life, to which they gave their sympathy.  The overall conclusion of later Presbyterians was that he was “a good man, a true Presbyterian, bold, active, and laborious.”

What stands out about his life and ministry is the prayer when he went home to glory.  He said on that occasion, “Being heartily sorry for my sins past, and most humbly desiring forgiveness of the same, I commit my soul to Almighty God, trusting to receive full pardon, and free justification, through the merits of Jesus Christ.” In these words, we have a strong hint of his spiritual life and public preaching, all of which we can emulate to the glory of God and the good of His people.

Words to Live By: There are countless in the history of the church who are totally unknown to the members of that same church. By this, I mean, how many of you knew the name of Josais Mackie before this historical devotional?  And yet, laboring in difficult circumstances in the earliest days of this country, he was faithful to his calling. Let us pray for all those laborers in God’s kingdom of grace, who are unrecognized by God’s people, but still persevere  in the work of the gospel.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 1 – 3

Through the Standards: Moral law summarized in Ten Commandments

WLC 98 “Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A.  The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon Mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus.  The first four commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.”

WSC 41 “Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A.  The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

A Union of Scottish Presbyterians

A noted Reformed Presbyterian theologian was once asked in the early eighteen hundreds in this country to identify his branch of the Presbyterian Church.  He replied that he belonged to no branch of Presbyterians, only to the root of Presbyterianism.  This answer revealed the deep view of history which Covenanter Presbyterians have of their church.

Any article on Scottish Presbyterians must really have an understanding first of the religious  situation  in  Scotland,   to say nothing   of the   Church of Scotland coming out of Romanism in the Protestant Reformation under reformer John Knox.  We don’t have room enough to enter into that topic on this site, but a good perusal or even a scan of any of the books which deal with that history will bring you up to speed on this.   Suffice to say that the American colonies were the happy recipients of countless Scot-Irish immigrants from Scotland through Ireland to this land.  They brought with them their distinctives which were (1)  a perpetual obligation to the Scottish covenants which their spiritual forefathers had signed, many with their blood, (2)  the sole headship of Christ over all, and last, (3) the concept of Christian civil government, where the new nation would be recognized as a Christian nation under King Jesus.

In their Scottish history, there had been many breakaways from the Church of Scotland for alleged errors in doctrine and practice.  One was called the Associate Presbytery, while another breakaway was called the Reformed Presbytery.

The latter was organized in the American colonies on March 9, 1774 as the first Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of Pennsylvania.  In fact, there is a blue historical sign by the state of Pennsylvania which recognizes this religious event beside one of the roads in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It was composed of three ministers: John Cuthbertson, William Lind, and Alexander Dobbins.

The first, John Cuthbertson,  was a missionary who traveled all throughout Pennsylvania, visiting the scattered societies, as they were known, ministering to them by the Word and Sacrament.  Often, their place of worship was under the sky and known as a Tent, such as the Junkin Tent in New Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Rev.  William Lind ministered in Paxton, outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a church.  And  the third minister from Ireland, Rev, Alexander Dobbins, was ministering outside of Gettysburg, Pa.  Thousands eat today as the Dobbins House Restaurant near the 1863 Gettsyburg Battlefield, not realizing that Rev. Dobbins had a pivotal part in the establishment of Presbyterianism in Pennsylvania.

That union of three ministers in the Reformed Presbytery lasted about eight years as another union took place in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 between  the Associate Presbytery and the Reformed Presbytery.  Somehow the Scottish distinctions between the two presbyteries were not as relevant in this new land.  This produced the Associate Reformed Presbytery.

Words to Live By:  Their current membership in the various Scottish Presbyterian Covenanter churches might be small in comparison with other Presbyterian churches, but in their minds and hearts, they are the root of Presbyterianism, never just another branch.  It is good to have a clear sense of history of your church.  In fact, this yearly historical devotional has that as one of its purposes.  This contributor desires that you, the reader,  know from where you have come in the past, so you won’t make the mistakes of the past, but labor effectively in the presence and future for King Jesus.

Through the Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 10 – 12

Through the Standards: The moral law after the fall into sin

W.C.F. 19:2

“This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.”

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