You are currently browsing articles tagged Jersey.

Quite a Name to Live Up To

On June 19th, 1901, Dr. Philip Edward Arcularius married Miss Marie Fermine Du Buisson. The Rev. Isaac Peck, uncle of the bride, officiated, assisted by the Rev. Frederick B. Carter, rector, with the wedding taking place at St. Luke’s Church, Montclair, New Jersey.

arculariusPNearly a year later the couple joyfully welcomed their first child into the family. Philip du Buisson Arcularius was born on May 11, 1902.  Philip’s father was a successful New York City physician with a long family heritage and good social standing and his mother came from a wealthy mercantile family, equal in social standing. Marie’s grandfather was named George Washington du Buisson, so named by his father who was both a friend of General George Washington and the Marquis of Lafayette.  No doubt Philip enjoyed a comfortable childhood, but he knew some of life’s trials as well, as his mother died when he was little more than sixteen. Then just two years later, he graduated from East Orange High School and entered Yale University in 1921, graduating in 1925 with a degree in business.

We don’t know the details of his Christian faith, but at least by the time of his graduation from Yale he had decided to pursue a calling to the ministry. He attended Auburn Seminary for his first year, 1929-30, but decided to transfer from there, due to the socialism espoused by Dr. John C. Bennett and the liberalism of the Auburn faculty. He chose Princeton Theological Seminary, arriving on campus in the fall of 1930, just a year after the reorganization of Princeton and the departure of Machen, Wilson, Allis, and Van Til, who had left over that summer to start Westminster Seminary. Geerhardus Vos was still among the Princeton faculty, but already the school and its curriculum were changing.

Philip graduated from Princeton in 1932 and then stayed for a graduate year. Ordained in October of 1933 by the PCUSA Presbytery of Morris and Orange, Rev. Arcularius soon became the Stated Supply pastor for two churches in Lackawanna Presbytery, in Old Forge and Duryea, Pennsylvania.

In a brief personal testimony delivered in 1974, Rev. Arcularius stated that,

The Lackawanna Presbytery, in northeastern Pennsylvania, then a conservative body, changed rapidly in the next two years. I felt led by the Lord to take my stand on the floor of Presbytery, on a number of controversial issues, on which my conscience would not let me remain silent. I soon found that, as the pastor of the two aid-receiving churches, I was not supposed to speak out so forthrightly, but only to take my money and keep quiet! When I withdrew from the Presbytery, in April, 1936, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader had a headline, clear across the top of page 2, “Arcularius Quits Presbytery in Free Speech Fight.” My stand, of course, was for the basic, historic doctrines of the Christian faith, as set forth in the Westminster Confession, since superceded in the old Church by “the Confession of 1967.”

Rev. Arcularius continued,

Under the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, I became one of 33 Presbyterian ministers who stood with him, to form the Presbyterian Church of America, in 1936. One year later, I participated in the founding of the Bible Presbyterian Church. In that testimony to the Christian faith, I have been most happy to remain. Twice I was elected Moderator of the Presbytery of New Jersey; and also served as the Vice-Moderator of the Bible Presbyterian Synod. I have been a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions since May 31, 1937, on its Executive Committee since 1956.

In 1953, Rev. Arcularius began a ministry known as Friends of Israel Testimony to Christ, based in Lakewood, New Jersey. He remained with this ministry until his death on February 8, 1985.

Words to Live By: A life of privilege often leads to moral compromise. Raised in wealth, it is difficult to do without it, and corners are cut to maintain the lifestyle. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. Many people of wealth and privilege have recognized the greater worth of the kingdom of God. In some cases they have literally given up everything to follow Jesus. In other cases, they have used their wealth effectively and sacrificially for the sake of the Gospel. God has blessed most of us in this nation with relatively great wealth. Everything that we have is from His hand. How are we using that which He has provided? How are we living up to our God-given name, as followers of Christ?

Image source: Photo of Philip duBuisson Arcularius found as part of an article by Rev. Arcularius, which appeared in The Independent Board Bulletin, 8.4 (April 1942): 3.

Tags: , , ,

The Important Ministry of Ruling Elders

miller01 copyWith a lineage from the Mayflower, Samuel Miller was born in 1769.  Reared in a family of nine, in the home of a minister, he was home schooled and eventually studied at the University of Pennsylvania.  After prayer and fasting, he decided to enter the Christian ministry.  With his minister father, his home schooling in theology was a natural arrangement, and he was soon ordained to be a Presbyterian minister.  Serving as the pastor of a New York city congregation, he became convinced of the need to ordain ruling elders just as the church had long ordained teaching elders.

On January 10, 1809, he presided over the first ordination of ruling  elders in a congregation in New Jersey.  That same year, he preached a sermon on “The Divine Appointment, the Duties, and the Qualifications of Ruling Elders.”  This theme eventually became a book in 1831.  This fundamental conviction was communicated to countless students when Samuel Miller was appointed to be the second professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1813.  Hear him as he enunciates his position:

“And as the members of the church session, whether assembled in their judicial capacity or not, are the pastor’s counselors and colleagues in all matters relating to the spiritual rule of the church, so it is their official duty to encourage, sustain, and defend him in the faithful discharge of his duty.  It is deplorable when a minister is assailed for his fidelity by the profane and the worldly, if any portion of the eldership either takes part against him, or shrinks from his active and determined offense.  It is not meant, of course, that they are to consider themselves bound to sustain him in everything he may say or do, whether right or wrong, but that, when they believe him to be faithful, both to truth and duty, they should feel it is their duty to stand by him, to shield him from the arrows of the wicked, and to encourage him as far as he obeys Christ.”

[Above right: Title page of Miller’s work on the ruling elder, as it appeared in the 1832 reprint.]

Words to Live By: “It is the elder’s official duty to encourage, sustain, and defend (the teaching elder) in the faithful discharge of his duty.” – Samuel Miller

Tags: , , ,

The following is a transcript from a news clipping preserved among the Papers of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon, at the PCA Historical Center. [Scrapbook #5, p. 503]. The Rev. Emo F. J. Van Halsema writes in reply to a prior editorial [not available in Welbon’s collection], and the Editor then makes a final comment. Time has proven the Editor wrong, as you will see, and has only confirmed Rev. Van Halsema’s estimations. This is the last of the Machen tributes recently located among the Welbon Papers.

An Appreciation of Dr. Machen.

[from the People’s Forum of The Passaic New Jersey News, 8 January 1937]:—

Editor, Herald-News: — Kindly permit me making a few remarks anent your editorial on the late Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen in late Monday’s issue.

When you say that he was a very able, a wholly sincere man, a man of deepest convictions, whose conscience would not allow him to temporize with views he opposed, those who have known him will readily endorse these words. But what you add comes obviously from an unsympathetic pen. The general impression left with the reader is that though Dr. Machen was a capable leader, he was a sadly mistaken one, whose work will now, after his sudden and unexpected demise, come to naught.

This, Mr. Editor, is an attitude which fails to take into consideration the true significance of the movement in which Dr. Machen had so prominent a place up to the day of his death. The point which Dr. Machen for more than a decade tried to emphasize was that the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America should be loyal to its Westminster Confession as long as this Confession had not been officially repudiated. He was, for that reason, hostile to the Auburn Affirmation and consistently pointed out numerous deviations from the official Standards of the Church in publications which appeared under Presbyterian name. All that he persistently asked was that the Church uphold its Confessional Standards. That is the fight he fought. The trials instituted against him sidetracked the main issue. The ecclesiastical authorities frowned upon him for sowing the seeds of suspicion, for opposing the official church boards, for disturbing the peace of the church and finally unfrocked him. Ecclesiastical machinery won a questionable victory. The lonely man of Philadelphia met a glorious defeat.

It has been said by men prominent in the ecclesiastical trial that doctrinal issues had no bearing on the case, that Dr. Machen was free to think about theological matters as he pleased. The truth, however, is that doctrinal matters did enter in. In fact, loyalty to the Westminster Confession has been Dr. Machen’s plea from the beginning. A minister in the Presbyterian Church is not free to teach what he pleases. Dr. Machen held that he was bound by the Standards and that the Church was too. His many attempts at reform were of no avail. The doctrinal issue loomed up everywhere. It was the heart of the entire controversy, yet, it was consistently and conveniently sidetracked.

In June, 1936, the Presbyterian Church of America was organized to continue “true Presbyterianism.” This was a bold act. It was an act born of need. Dr. Machen did not seek his own martyrdom. The Assembly at Syracuse force it upon him. Said the Doctor, “We have made every effort, in accordance with our solemn ordination pledge, to bring about a return from modernism and indifferentism to the Bible and to the Church’s constitution. Those efforts having proved unavailing, we now are continuing true Presbyterianism in the Presbyterian Church of America. We are not ready to take the Bible off our pulpits and put the last minutes of the Assembly in its stead.” Organizing the new Church was an act of faith.

Your prophecy, Mr. Editor, that what you choose to call “the off-shoot sect” has reached its zenith and will now decline, is but a mortal man’s prediction. You spoke of Dr. Machen’s martyrdom. The Church willingly acted as executioner. We recall that the blood of martyrs has been before this, the seed of the church. Concluding your article you quote the words, “Man proposes, God disposes” in application to Dr. Machen and his movement. Does this not also hold true with uncomfortable consistency of the Church who tried to silence the voice of one of its “terrible meek”? I do not possess the gift of prediction, but the facts are that in the last five months the young sister church gained 69 ministers , making a total of 103, who are working in 23 States and five foreign Countries. The young church today is sad but does not despair. We read, “The cause which he espoused has suffered a terrific blow. But let no one assume that it is a blow of defeat. Those who are left must carry on the tremendous task, as he would have wished them to do. The road will be lonely and the burden of grief heavy, but the work will go on.”

When you state, Mr. Editor, that all Presbyterians wish to forget about the Machen episode, your wish is evidently the father of the thought. Thousands of Presbyterians and other Christians will never forget the sad proceedings of a Church against one of her truest servants who rose to the defense of a Constitution which was slowly being undermined. The Presbyterian Church of America will be a constant reminder to the mother Church of the sad breach among her children in 1936.

The following words written a few days before his death do more justice to Dr. Machen than your editorial. : “He has been bitterly reviled by enemies of the gospel and by many who pretend to love the gospel, but those who know him well and love the gospel dearly regard him as a profound scholar, a veritable Greatheart, a Christian gentleman, a devout child of God, a convincing teacher and preacher, a man with convictions strong as Gibraltar and courage indomitable as Luther’s at the Diet of Worms. It may be said without fear of contradiction that today there is no more scholarly and militant defender of the historic Christian faith against the onslaughts of liberalism than Dr. Machen.”

His voice is now silenced.
His work will go on.
The hammers break, the anvil stands.”

Rev. Emo F. J. Van Halsema
Pastor, Northside Christian Reformed Church
Passaic, January 6.

[With all respect, may we reply to the Rev. Mr. Van Halsema that our feeling was one of sympathy and our desire was to express it. We can express here no opinion as to the doctrinal questions which undoubtedly did enter, and which are not now ended because he has died. The contest between what is called Fundamentalism and what is called Modernism will continue unabated, and it is of course our opinion only that the particular movement, headed by Dr. Machen has reached its zenith and now will decline. We have many examples in history, but do not wish to insist upon it. In justice to the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (of which we are not a member) it should be pointed out that its proper jurisdiction held officially that there was no rampant Modernism in the Church as charged by Dr. Machen, and that his official condemnation rests almost entirely upon the fact that without authorization he organized an Independent Board of Missions, which appealed for Presbyterian funds, and refused to disband it or dissociate himself from it when commanded so to do by the General Assembly. — Editor Herald-News.]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Son of Presbyterians and Patriots —

Charles HodgeSurprisingly, there is some dispute as to exactly on what date in December Charles Hodge was born.  Several sources, one of them a Presbyterian one, states that he was born on December 28, 1797. On the other hand, Dr. David Calhoun, author of the celebrated book on Princeton Seminary, states that he was born on December 27, 1797. That is the date we will use for this historical devotional.

There is no doubt that his ancestors were, as our title puts it, “Presbyterians and Patriots.” His grandfather, Andrew Hodge, had, like so many others, emigrated from Ireland in the decade of 1730′s, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the Great Awakening occurred all over the colonies, the Presbyterian church which he attended, resisted that spiritual work, so the grandfather withdrew from First Presbyterian and helped to organize Second Presbyterian Church in the same city. The new congregation called the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, who was the chief proponent of the New Side Presbyterians.

Charles’s father, Hugh Hodge, a graduate of the College of New Jersey, became a successful surgeon in the city.  He married Mary Blanchard of Boston in 1790, who was of French Huguenot stock. Thus, Calvinism was alive and well in his parents.  Unhappily, life expectancy was not high in those early years of our country, and with the incursion of yellow fever in the city, it was even lower. Three of their children succumbed to the disease, along with their father, after Charles was born in 1797. That left the mother with two infants with very little income to rear them.

Mary Hodge, however, made their upbringing her whole life work.  Taking boarders in her home for financial income, she continued to rear her two sons, including Charles, in the things of the Lord.  Primary among them was the learning of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Standards. Their pastor, now Ashbel Green, complemented this home training by teaching out of that historic catechism to the children of the church.

In 1812, after other training, the whole family moved to Princeton, New Jersey.  It would be a town which Charles Hodge would forever be identified with in his life and ministry.

Words to live by:  This writer cannot stress enough the valued practice of both home and church cooperating together in the memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It will produce a solid foundation for Christian faith and life in the heart of the young man or woman who learns it, and then applies it to all of life. This writer had that privilege, and has enabled me to stand the challenges of time with it. If your church does not have such a practice, ask the Elders in your church to institute it. It will make a tremendous difference in the life of your congregation, and in the lives of your church families.

Tags: , , ,

A  Church Planter One Year, A Country Politician the Next Year —

Born  on February 12, 1721, in Millington, Connecticut, Elihu Spencer studied at Yale College, graduating in 1746. Ordained two years later into the Presbyterian Church in America,  he was called to minister with David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards to the Iroquois Six Nation tribes of native Americans. After doing that for a number of year, he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey in 1750. He believed that wherever  he was needed, there he would go. And so when the French and Indian War broke out, he was appointed a chaplain to the troops in that conflict.  After that war, he would pastor five Presbyterian Churches in New Jersey for the next 15 years.

In 1764, he and the Rev. Alexander McWhorter was sent to North Carolina by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia to rally the scattered Presbyterians in that colony to begin congregations. They were successful in planting many Presbyterian churches in the colony.

On December 26, 1775, the provincial congress of North Carolina petitioned the Presbytery of New Brunswick in New Jersey to send the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer back down to North Carolina for the purpose of “uniting the people in the cause of independence.”  Evidently, some of the Presbyterians were loyalist or Tories, resisting the patriot cause. Who better to convince you that your path should be with the American independence movement than the one used by the Lord to organize your scattered groups of Scot-Irish believers!

Nine years later, on also December 27, 1784, Elihu Spencer would go to meet his Maker and Redeemer, with a life and ministry full of deeds for God and country.

Words to live by:  Today, Christian Presbyterians might be hesitant to stand so boldly in the political world, using their religious ministry as a basis for their actions. But the day of our American revolution was a challenging one. Certainly, there is nothing changed in the Proverb which states that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  We who are ministers of the gospel must seek to hold God’s Word before the people so that they can vote and act responsibly as Christian citizens.

Tags: , , ,

A Presbyterian Physician Who Signed —

He has a number of “firsts” associated with signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. He was the only physician who signed that historic document. He was the only Presbyterian signer who was born in America. He was the first professor of Chemistry in America at the Philadelphia College. Who else can claim to have cured an epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia? He was considered the father of American Psychiatry.  He was a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society. Who was he? If you answered Benjamin Rush, pat yourself on the back.

Born December 24, 1745 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this fourth of seven children into an Episcopal home, he often went with his mother after the death of his father to Rev. Gilbert Tennent’s congregation in that eastern Pennsylvania city. Benjamin’s mother, under the latter’s influence, reared her son in Calvinistic principles. He memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism in his youth.

Early education was provided by Rev. Samuel Finney, later a president of  the College of New Jersey. Indeed, after training at West Nottingham Academy, Benjamin studies and graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760.

On January 2, 1776, Rush married Julia Stockton, the youngest daughter of Richard Stockton, a fellow signer of the Declaration. They were married by the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey and a fellow signer of the Declaration as well. On July 4, 1776, Benjamin Rush placed his signature on the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, he followed up that action by serving as a physician with the Continental Army, and in combat at  Trenton and Princeton.

Later in the 1780′s, the good doctor and patriot persuaded his fellow Presbyterians to establish Dickinson College, in Carlisle Pennsylvania.

We must acknowledge in this essay that while he received much training in both youth and adulthood, his convictions about Presbyterians were more passive than an active following. That would explain how he later on in life transferred his membership to the Episcopalian faith and even some branches of the Universalist church before finally coming back to the Presbyterian faith. Still in all of these moves, there was a love for the Bible, which he read daily, an esteem for Christ, to say nothing of Christian conduct. He would often mention the name of Jesus Christ in his writings, lectures, and letters.

He passed away in 1813 and was buried in Christ Church cemetery.

Words to live by:  There seems to be no doubt that Benjamin Rush was a consecrated Christian, albeit there were times when he disagreed with denominational figures. Still the training he received as a youth had a way of coming back into his life and making an impression there for true doctrine. This should encourage all Christian parents to both teach and live Christ, and Hims crucified, before their families. God is faithful, and will bring fruit, although it may be long in coming to our children.  See Proverbs 22:6.

Tags: , , ,

Despite Your Weaknesses—Often Because of Your Weaknesses—God Can Use You.  

It has always been an issue with some of the covenant people of God that they often cannot relate a particular time when they came to a saving relationship with Christ.  Such was the case with a young man by the name of Eleazer Whittlesey, who moved from Bethlem, Connecticut, to Pennsylvania in the mid 1700’s.

We don’t know much about his background, either his parents or what spiritual influences he had from any church.  He showed up to meet Aaron Burr in Newark, New Jersey by a recommendation from a man named Ballamy.  The infant and later Princeton Seminary was located there, with Pastor Burr as its second president.  The latter clergyman noted that he was “not converted in the way” that many of the Presbyterian clergy of his day thought was necessary.  In fact, President Burr spoke of  having “some doubt” of  his spiritual experience.  He went on to state that “he has met with others of God’s dear people, who cannot tell of such a particular submission as we have insisted on, though the substance of the thing may be found in all.”  However, Rev. Burr placed Eleazar under his pastoral care and believed that he was making good progress in learning.  He ended his thoughts by stating that “I trust the Lord has work for him to do.”

Seven years later, Eleazer would graduate from Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey, to which the new college has moved.  He was licensed by the New Castle Presbytery soon afterwards.  We could find no record of his ordination however.  In 1750, he began to supply vacancies, of which there were many at this time in American Presbytery history.  Yet while  doing that “with zeal and integrity,” Eleazer complained of “melancholy”  which kept  him from being able to study or make preparation for sermons in the pulpit.  His days, he acknowledged, were often spent in “painful idleness.”

In 1751, Whittlesey settled in what is now York County, Pennsylvania, where  he began to preach in a log church in Muddy Run.  Faithful in labor in all the neighboring settlements, it was said that he formed the Slate Ridge and Chanceford Presbyterian churches, composed of Scots-Irish  people.

In 1752, he left a pastor’s house one cold day to travel to the Muddy Run church.  On the way, he became ill with pleurisy, and died about a week later on December 21, 1752.  His last words were “O  Lord, leave me not.”

Words to Live By: We remember the apostle Paul who had “a thorn in the flesh,” and prayed earnestly that it might depart from him. ( 2 Corinthians 12:7, 8)  God answered his request with the word “My grace is sufficient for you, for power in perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor 12;9) God can use us for His kingdom despite our bodily and mental weaknesses.   Remember that, Christian.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The  Apostle of Kentucky

There were several pseudonyms given David Rice. The apostle of Kentucky was one. Or the pioneer minister of the Presbyterian Church of Kentucky was another.  Perhaps the best title was that of “Father” Rice. The Rev. David Rice was all these titles to the state of Kentucky, and especially to the Scots-Irish saints of Kentucky.

Born December 20 in 1733 in Hanover County, Virginia, he was one of twelve children of a farmer in that county. Reared Episcopalian originally, he early associated with the Presbyterian cause.  Educated at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, New Jersey, he afterwards was trained in theology under one of the assistants of Samuel Davies, a man by the name of John Todd. Ordained by Hanover Presbytery in December of 1763, he became the pastor of Hanover Presbyterian Church. When the period of the Revolution came in the colonies, he took a decided stand in favor of the Revolution, serving as a chaplain to the Hanover militia. He was married by this time, having  married Mary Blair, the daughter of Samuel Blair, of Faggs Manor. Together, they would rear twelve children.

The Hanover Virginia congregation, where Samuel Davies had been the pastor before his move to the College of New Jersey, was weakened in number due to many of the Scot-Irish Presbyterians moving west for better opportunities. In fact, it was a number of those immigrants who invited David Rice to move to Kentucky in 1783. He was the first Presbyterian pastor to move into the state.

His ministry here included both church and state. As far as the church part, he would eventually pastor four Presbyterian congregations in the state. During this important pastoral work, he founded the first presbytery, the first synod, and the first seminary, called Transylvania Seminary, which is now a university. It was also here that he became convicted over the slavery issue, and sought to have it abolished by both the church and the state.  His organ for doing so was the Kentucky Abolition Society, for which David Rice was a life-time member.  He felt that Christians should lead the way for a gradual abolition of the slave trade as a result of their religion and conscience. Though he worked hard to this end, he was never able to accomplish it.

As far as the state was concerned, he was a member of the Constitutional convention of Kentucky to write the state constitution. He took up his call for abolition of slavery there as well, but was rebuffed again by the other citizens in the convention. Despite this failure, he stayed true to his convictions on the evils of slavery and was forever urging its demise.

They described him as tall and slender, quiet in his movements, with a remarkable degree of alertness even in his seventies. “Father Rice” is buried in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church of Danville, Kentucky.

Words to live by:  David Rice was one of those Christian men who took his stand for righteousness even as he faithfully ministered the Word of God to the masses in Virginia and Kentucky.  He was used of the Lord in both church and state.  What a challenge to be at the starting points of so many works of the Lord.  God has especially called some of His church to engage in similar ministries.  In whatever Presbyterian denomination you are in, pray for the missions agencies, as well as individual church planters, who start with a few and then by God’s Spirit, build up a congregation for His glory.

Photos of the grave site of the Rev. David Rice can be viewed here.

Tags: , , ,

imbrieCharlesKToday’s post is taken from a funeral sermon by the Rev. Charles Herr, in memory of the Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie [1814-1891]. In looking for a sermon that fell on this particular day, this what what was at hand.
I dare say probably none of us have ever heard of Rev. Imbrie. So this sermon affords an interesting exercise: Can we read this sermon without seeing it as hagiographic? Can we read it for the lessons that the pastor presents from the Scripture text, without being distracted by personal references to a man we never knew? And can we read it in personal application, looking to our selves and asking “Has Christ done a similar work in my life?”
Funerals, and funeral sermons, are at once a particularly difficult aspect of any pastor’s ministry and a uniquely powerful opportunity to speak to the most challenging issues of human existence. Nothing can be more important than our standing before a righteous and holy God—whether we are in right relation to Him. And it is death that brings each of us inevitably to face that trial.

At right: Photograph of the Rev. Charles K. Imbrie, from the frontispiece for In Memoriam: Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie, D.D. (1891).

Sermon, preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Jersey City, on Sunday evening, November 22, 1891, by the Pastor, the Rev. Charles Herr, in memory of the Rev. Charles Kisselman Imbrie, born on December 15, 1814, died on November 20, 1891.

Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.— Heb. xi. 5.

A long drive from Geneva of flat, tame miles ends before the towering majesty of Mont Blanc. It is somewhat of a dull road through the genealogical records of Genesis, but when you come to Enoch the road sweeps up into the hills. It is a weary stretch of nobodyism, but at last you meet a man, a monarch, Enoch, of whom it is on record that he walked with God, and for a reward God took him— took him into heaven without the dark process of death. Magnificent man ! Magnificent finish !

It is proper and necessary for us to talk together to-night a little, though very inadequately indeed, of Dr. Imbrie whom we have lost. In truth we cannot keep our minds away from him. We talk of him, because the glory and the sadness absorb all our thoughts. And we do not anticipate anything which will be said at the funeral ceremonies to-morrow, because our feelings are such as no one else, having other relations with Dr. Imbrie, can utter.

In thinking of some starting-place for our thoughts, it seemed to me that there was hardly a more adequately suggestive personage than this Enoch, seventh from Adam, who so early in biblical history reached a point of renown in godliness. As we look at the details of his sparse record, we shall find that they admirably prompt the recollection of the dominant characteristics of our Pastor Emeritus.

1.  Enoch pleased God by seeking His heavenly companionship, by finding his happiness in God’s communion. The Genesis record reports him as one who walked with God, which signifies a very intimate, reverent and confidential intercourse.

And when we remember the times in which Enoch lived, that seems a wonderful thing indeed. He lived in the world that Cain had made, the world that was the offspring of selfishness and murder. The religion which controlled men’s actions was one which disowned the claims of God in righteousness. It confessed no sin and guilt. It refused to worship. It laughed at the words of the Almighty. It was an age when the evil thoughts of men’s hearts were far developed toward that height of wickedness which brought on the o’ersweeping flood in the days of Noah, Enoch’s great-grandson. A constituent part of the civilization of that day was a city, the stronghold in ungodly times of luxury and materialism. There were manufactures, the art of man was cultivated to the production of every possible comfort, ingenuity was taxed in ever-new devices to create what might make the world, out of which God had been rejected, bearable to man. It is truly wonderful that at such an early time and in such hard and uncongenial circumstances, Enoch walked with God. Original, peculiar, brave to oppose the religious negations of his fel- low-men, and turning his back with firm self-denial upon their ungodly lusts and luxuries, he walked with God. He is the one point of light in a black expanse.

I am sure we will all agree that it was eminently true of Dr. Imbrie thathe walked with God. His conversation was habitually and deeply with our heavenly Father.

He carried the proof of it upon his face and in his utterance. He did not try to prove it. He did not need to tell any one that he was a man of God. It proved itself. He had the Christ-spirit, the Christ- light, the Christ-speech. It was not peculiar that Moses’ face should shine with the reflection of Divine glory when he came down from the communion of the mount. Every man of God will carry the marks of the ethereal converse upon his face. No servant of the Most High ever had those marks more distinctly, more beautifully, imprinted upon his countenance than Dr. Imbrie. I suppose that he must always have been a very handsome man, of open face and clear fine features. But we know him best for something different from that and deeper than that. He had that which is not natural beauty, and which can make even plainness beautiful,— the outward signals of an inner life lived in the presence of God, lived under His smile, lived under the illumination of His grace.

And this was evident in all his action. The holiest and loveliest graces were the easy and natural features of his daily walk. There were no second-thoughts about him ; he did not need any. The first thought was always the Christ-thought, the heavenly thought. His talk never had need to be revised for any reason of spiritual inadequacy or moral lack. It was always in angelic vein. It was always the talk of a man who kept continuous company with our blessed Lord, and whose lips never for an instant dropped the continuity of their holy habit.

Perhaps no mark of his walk with God was more impressive to us than his prayers at our mid-week gathering. They were always so prompt, so helpful, so heavenly. They bore us all up so confidently, so joyfully to God. They so uttered our unutterable thoughts. They exhibited and interpreted to us the strange and fugitive sensations of our hearts with such ease of saintly power. His prayers were a sublime evidence of his reverent, yet childlike and confident familiarity with God. Their flow, their unlabored elevation, their sweet and even naturalness, their wondrous spirituality, and that amazing quality by which the delicatest thoughts were fixed and the most vanishing feelings caught and uttered in accumulating flow and splendor ; these things showed us, as few things could, that he lived in an attitude of prayer, that his life was spent in God’s presence.

2.  Enoch pleased God by the witness which he faithfully bore for Him, for the integrity of his truth against the falsehoods of unrighteous men. Though we have no record of this in Genesis, we can easily understand that his life would necessarily be of this sort. Living a rare saint of God in the midst of a wicked world, his very life would be a testimony. He must have been a martyr in every sense, a witness to the truth and a sufferer for it. We cannot believe that a character of his exceptional sort could have escaped the contumely and enmity of men, who did not even need words to condemn them while his life stood forth in silent but complete accusation. But the apostle Jude has preserved something for us out of the dying testimonies of tradition, which shows that Enoch’s life was not without its vigorous spoken protest against the wickedness of the world. “ Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold the Lord cometh among His holy myriads to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the impious concerning all their works of impiety which they impiously did, and concerning all the hard things which impious sinners spoke against Him.”

Dr. Imbrie was every way a witness for God, by life, by act, by word. He was profoundly learned in the Scriptures. I think he could be called a scientific theologian, a man who knew the testimonies of the word of God and was able to bring them together into a consistent and harmonious scheme. There are not many men in our country who can so amply justify that designation.

In all the large and burning questions that came before the Presbyterian Church he was a ready, faithful, courageous and splendidly intelligent witness for the truth of God, as he understood it. And he understood it in the old way, the way made glorious by the singing feet of the generations which echo to us from the past. The struggle connected with the proposed revision of the Confession of Faith saddened his heart deeply, and I somehow feel that he would not have found out how to adjust himself with repose of heart in the new conditions which now seem likely to come to pass. He was a redoubtable antagonist. Those who came forward from time to time with raw ideas and radical departures and sudden enthusiasms of revolution met in him an unconquerable foeman and found their propositions overwhelmed with the condemning testimony of scripture.

He was with us at communion seasons (and perhaps there we shall miss him most), and talked to us so winningly of the love of Christ, and ministered to our fainting souls the comfortable encouragements of Divine grace. He was with us at our prayer-meetings, and spoke upon all the varied subjects which come before us in the round of the year. His address was the glorious feature of the occasion, that for which our souls waited as (or their food. He was with us at protracted meetings, when the duties of the unworldly life in their multitudinous forms of expression,—the obligation and wisdom of early profession, the sinfulness of sin, the misery and despair of the ungodly life, the responsibility and privilege of responding to the redeeming love of God, the deceitful persuasions of Satan,—were declared by him with exceptional and pressing emphasis, with stirring freshness and power. His facility in all these things, his supreme adequacy for every occasion, was the mark of a great and faithful witness for God.

3. Enoch pleased God by his faith. This is asserted in the Epistle to the Hebrews as the explanation of his godly walk. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death ; and was not found because he had translated him : for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him ; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Dr. Imbrie believed that God is. He believed it with all his soul. He knew it. To him it was the truest of truths. It was more real to him than anything else in the wide universe.

And he grasped it as a truth that has meaning—a truth to live by. It was not an intellectual tenet; it was a life-faith. He accepted all that it entailed. It involved him in relations of love and duty which he entered into with sincere joy, into which he threw himself with abandonment of soul. This is the only belief in God’s existence which has value and virtue. With so many men that truth, though accepted, lies bedridden in the dormitory of the soul. It does not go like an arrow into their consciences ; it does not plough up their hearts like a coulter ; it does not shake them with its magnificent significance. With Dr. Imbrie it had all these pure and stirring effects. He saw what it meant that God is. He saw that it required the response of his adoration, his obedience, his love. And he gave them with gladness and without reserve.

He digged deep into this truth of truths. He felt it so fully and so intelligently that he became not merely a servant of God, but a son. The utmost that a large number of Christians realize in their religious experience is just that they are pardoned criminals. But Dr. Imbrie entered into the higher and sweeter relationship. He took God’s word for his adoption into the heavenly family, he under-stood the testimony of the Holy Spirit in his soul, and gave convincing evidence of his faith by acting out in all his life the spirit of a son. He was sweetly constrained to all happiness of temper and all gladness of service by the fact that he was an accepted and beloved child of the Heavenly Father. In his heart sprung up and lived the graces that belong to that relationship—confidence, serenity, love, courage, assurance.

And he believed that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. This is evident, because he devoted himself to the attainment of those rewards, and those only. He wanted nothing except what came from the hand of God. That which supported him in the patience and joyfulness of his daily walk, that which inspired his unrequired yet uninterrupted faithfulness in the service of this Church, that which fortified his exhaustless activity in every direction of usefulness, was not the hope of reward from men, not even their good opinion or their grateful word. Before the face of his unseen master he lived ; for Him he did all this; to Him alone he stood or fell.

The wholesome and serene sweetness of his mind amid many cares and trials shows to what comforts his heart was turned. No one would ever have judged from his words or manner that he had  quite the full measure of human griefs and burdens, if indeed he had not a little more than the common share. The pain and loneliness that came to him from his wife’s death only six months ago were absolutely undiscoverable to any except those to whom he was willing to utter them in words. I have never known any one who could more thoroughly make his own the declaration of the Apostle Paul: “ None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

And how has Dr. Imbrie been rewarded ?

I.  By blessedness here.
He pleased God—and behold the consequences in his revered and beautiful life—“ honor, love, obedience, troops of friends.” A face upon which were written the peace and grace of the Saviour. Lips which moved with delight to the motive of this ancient German hymn, which was his favorite :

Fairest Lord Jesus ! Ruler of all nature !
O Thou, of God and Man the Son !
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thee, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of Spring :
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels heaven can boast.

And above all, he had the sweet heart, glad in the inward testimony that he pleased God and having secret springs of heavenly joy and satisfaction.

Such are some of the rewards that God bestows in this world. Is anything else to be named beside them ? Is anything else desirable without them ? Can riches compare with the rewards of God’s favor ? Dr. Imbrie never wanted anything, for he was a child of the Father ; but he never was rich. He did not need to be. No man needs to be. Avaunt the despicable materialism which weighs men by their purses and strives for wealth as the chief good ! The greatest thing in the world is to be a Christlike man, a God-inhabited soul.

2.  Then God rewarded him with death. Strange reward, say you ? Oh, no !

Enoch was not—for God took him. His translation was supernatural. But many saints die not much dissimilarly. Dr. Imbrie’s death was such. It was just as little to him as translation was to Enoch. His death-bed was a sublime spectacle of faith. I suppose that most of us, if we should undertake to imagine an ideal picture of a believer’s closing hours, would illustrate them with expressions of confidence and hope, with triumphant utterances of fearlessness, with emotional testimonies and rapt prayers of faith. But though he had clearness and vigor of faculty, there was quiet in Dr. Imbrie’s room. No audible prayer; no last messages of warning or appeal ; no ejaculations of high confidence broke the tender hush. He had left nothing undone or unsaid in his holy life that needed fuller witness from his death-bed. His faith did not need to encourage itself with outward asseveration. Perfect self-control, self-restraint, rest, peace.

3.  Last of all, best of all, fulfillment of all, heaven ! As the gray line of light on the morning sky is the pledge of the shining sun and the risen day, as the blade above the soil is the earnest of the waving corn-field and the plentiful granary, so are these first rewards of service here the foretokens and prelibations of eternal joys. We know that our beloved Pastor and friend inherits the precious promises of God in the Scriptures.

They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. And the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: