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“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn.

THE SUBJECT : Respect for Authority.

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : There are too many to list. We recommend you study the verses given in the Larger Catechism, Questions 123-133.

REFERENCES TO THE STANDARDS : Confession of Faith, XIX.6 & 7; Larger Catechism, Q. 123-133; Shorter Catechism, Q. 63-66.

Not long ago a person said to me, “As long as you think a law or a rule is wrong, it is alright to disobey it.” The person was serious. This is the reasoning used today by many people. This is the reasoning that is propagated by so much of the media today. This is the reasoning so many of our young people are taught today.

Whether you are thinking of the relationship of the citizen toward the state, or the worker toward his boss, or children toward their superiors, or the congregation toward the man called of God to preach His Word, you will discover that lack of respect for authority is the prevalent approach of today.

This dangerous philosophy has even reached into churches that call themselves evangelical. There seems to be a popular tendency to ignore many times the Word of God. Too many feel they have a perfect right to make their own rules. The Fifth Commandment speaks very clearly to any person following this false philosophy.

The Almighty, Sovereign God knew that respect for authority was very important. He knew that if a family, a nation, an economy, a church was to carry out its duties in this world there must be some clearly laid down rules. Therefore, He emphasized proper respect for authority in His Word time and time again.

Our Lord told us in His Word, “Obey them that have rule over you.” This thought is presented time and time again in the Bible. He knew that a lawless society would soon become a mob and a mob becomes a group of people out of hand, a law unto themselves.

What has caused the loss of respect for authority? What has caused this new philosophy to become such an important part of the thinking of many? Such questions could not be answered fully in the short space available, but a suggestion can be offered as to what is happening in many churches in this regard.

First, there is the move away from the authoritative preaching of the authoritative Word. The widely evangelical view of subjectivism is rapidly replacing Objective Revelation (God’s Word) in many churches. The emphasis today in so many churches is that of more involvement, more dialogue and less monologue. What is being bypassed is that faith does not just “happen” but it comes through the means of grace. Too many are forgetting Shorter Catechism Question 88 and its definition of the means of grace : “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Sacraments and prayer…” The need of the people to hear the authoritative Word any time it is proclaimed is great and dare not be bypassed. This is a basic reason for the lack of authority in other areas.

Second, there is the philosophy used by many professing believers that motivates them to move away from any position of unpopularity before others. It is difficult to be popular today and insist upon rightful authority as parents, or teachers, or elders, or whatever their authority might be, decide to close their eyes to certain portions of Scripture in order to keep their popularity. They forget that to break a principle of Scripture is to court disaster as a person and for whatever the cause in which the person is involved.

There is a principle of Scripture involved here that all professing believers need to be reminded of as they seek to walk before the Lord. The Bible states, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12). Certainly believers are not to court persecution but neither are they to expect otherwise if they are walking before the Lord as they should. And sometimes walking before the Lord involves having authority over others and making use of that authority in love.

Third, respect for authority will only come when respect is due. This means that those in authority, whether it be civil, home, school, or church, must command respect because of their walk with the Lord. The example set by those in authority must be Biblical in all ways.

How many times have those under authority seen inconsistencies? Broken promises, lack of separation from the world, unconcern for the church and Bible study, neglect of loving concern for fellow-believers, are just some of the things that could be mentioned as inconsistencies with God’s Word.

If respect for authority is going to return as an integral part of churches who are committed to the Reformed Faith, then those in authority must read again and obey those commands listed in the Larger Catechism, Questions 129 and 130. This is where the change must begin. Respect for authority will be much easier if those in authority live in a way that will command respect. Take heed, civil servants, parents, teachers, elders!

So ends Rev. Van Horn’s study. To approach the issue from a different angle, we might turn to the Diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Laneway and his entry for this day, January 22, 1801. The sovereignty of God and His rule over all creation is the ground and basis of all authority. For “He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” (Dan. 2:21, KJV).

Here Rev. Janeway reflects on how the sovereignty of God should affect our lives as Christians :

“I seem to take pleasure in the sovereignty of God. Surely it is right, He should reign. My soul rejoices in his unlimited and uncontrollable dominion. The last week, it was my desire, and my endeavour, to commit my all into the hands of God; to give my time, talents, reputation, yea, and life also, to him, that he might dispose of them according to his sovereign pleasure. I see that this is necessary to enable me to discharge my duties impartially, boldly, and faithfully. Once I thought something of myself, as to the ministry, but now I see that I am nothing. Lord, who is sufficient for this great work? Men would have me preach smooth things. But, I trust, I dare not thus endanger their souls, and my own soul. Let me never seek popularity at the expense of duty. Let me never preach myself, but Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour. Teach me, oh God, how to proclaim thy truth. Make me to feel its solemn power. Oh! for compassion to the souls of men, and zeal for thy glory. How long, oh Lord, shall I pray for these.”

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Feed My Sheep!

Several years ago on this day, January 11th, our post concerned the pastoral charge brought by the Rev. John Mathews in 1818, at the ordination and installation of the Rev. Wells Andrews as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, Virginia. In particular, we focused on the concluding exhortation to the congregation to pray for their new pastor.

We return to that pastoral charge today, but now look at another section of this sermon, where Rev. Mathews examines, by way of contrast, the several types of pastors who are in reality wolves feeding on the sheep. In his charge to the pastor, Rev. Mathews begins with a quick summary of some of the chief requisites of one who would enter the ministry. He must of course be able to speak, and to speak well; he must exhibit sound judgment and common sense; must be one who has the benefit of learning and particularly must be acquainted with theology. All these are requisite, but Mathews concludes that above all, piety is the chief requisite, and it is here that he then brings out the contrasting patterns of false shepherds—those who in reality feed themselves, not the sheep—and so Mathews provides us with a useful set of categories or types of that error. This section of the sermon concludes with a brief portrait of the true under-shepherd of the Lord’s people :—

The chief qualification, however, for usefulness, in the pastoral office, is piety; genuine, fervent. The powers of darkness never wielded, against the cause of Christ, a more dangerous weapon than an irreligious clergyman; especially if the garb of morality conceals from public view the base infidelity of his heart. His learning and talents only render him the more dangerous. His ministrations can only increase the torpor of spiritual death among the flock committed to his charge.

In him the love of religion can have no place; he must, therefore, be influenced by some selfish and mercenary motive. Perhaps the revenue of the church, his yearly salary, is all the reward he desires. Or if ambition should be his ruling passion; if he thirst for literary fame, then he will permit his hearers to sink quietly down to perdition, provided they depart with the language of adulation to his vanity on their lips. Or perhaps he claims to be distinguished as a man of zeal; then no sacrifices, not even compassing sea and land, will be too great to gain proselytes. His learning and talents will be employed in biting and devouring those on whom his efforts prove ineffectual. But if he can succeed in teaching the shibboleth of his party, and drill his followers in all the routine of external forms, then his work is accomplished, and he expects his reward.

From such a scourge, may the Lord, in mercy, preserve His Church! and send her pastors after His own heart, who shall feed her children with knowledge and understanding, whose experimental acquaintance with religion will qualify them to guide others in their passage from death unto life; whose temptations, and sorrows, and trials will qualify them to sympathize with their people when tempted, afflicted and distressed; whose acquaintance with the Saviour, whose hope in His mercy, will dispose them, in the most inviting terms, to recommend him to others as a willing and all sufficient Saviour; whose closets will often witness with fervor and humble importunity of their private devotions for the success of their ministry; whose people, though they perish in unbelief, will yet be constrained to confess that they were solemnly and repeatedly warned! to flee from the wrath to come!

Words to Live By:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?—Ezekiel 34:1-2

Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.—Ezekiel 34:23-24

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.—John 10:11, 14-15, KJV.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.—John 21:17, KJV.

For Further Study:
The full pastoral charge can be accessed here:—
The duties of the pastoral office : a sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, at the ordination of Wells Andrews, January 11, 1818, before the Presbytery of Winchester.

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He Gained the Martyr’s Crown

The enemies of the Covenanters had very long memories. Long after sermons were preached or actions taken, the authorities in Scotland remembered words and actions against them. Such was the case with a young minister by the name of Hugh McKail.

A child of the manse, from Bothwell, Scotland, his pastor father was one of those forced out of his pulpit and parish when he refused to conform to Prelacy.  Little is known of young Hugh’s early days, but he did go to Edinburgh for education. There he was soon marked out as a young man of exceptional ability. For that, upon graduation, he was chosen to be a chaplain and tutor of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir James Stewart. In that Covenanter home, he would sit at the feet of those in leadership positions in the church and learn of the dire situation facing both the church and the state.

In 1661, he applied to the Presbytery for licensure in the ministry. Preaching in a variety of situations, he was quickly recognized by his hearers for his great ability in the Word of God. However, his ministry soon came to an end as it became obvious that he wouldn’t compromise his convictions, just as his father before him.  Preaching his last sermon in a church in Edinburgh, he had a sentence in it which marked him for remembrance by the Prelate forces of his day. He said, “the Church is persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church.” The identification was obvious to all in the pews that day.

Forced to leave his beloved Scotland, the young twenty-six year old would spend the next three years in Holland. On his return to Scotland, the situation had not improved any and there was a spark of rebellion in the air. That spark was ignited, as my post on November 28 indicated, at the Battle of Rullion Green. Hugh McKail was among the nine hundred in the Covenanter ranks that day. But his own physical weakness removed him before that great battle arrived, and he traveled to Edinburgh instead. There he was arrested by the authorities, not so much for his Covenanter attachments as for his statement made in that Edinburgh church some years before.

Interrogated in prison, he was placed in the Boot, a fearful torture device which all but crushed his leg while he remained silent in voice. He was ordered to die by hanging on December 22, 1666. His exact words that day of death have been preserved through the ages. They were:

Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Could Hugh McKail have compromised his convictions and avoided suffering and death? Certainly, and many did. But this young man  was reared by a parent who by his example remained steadfast to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. With such an example like that, it is no wonder the young minister was given over to sacrifice, in loyalty to both the Living and Written Word, come what may to his physical body. Addressing all parents reading these posts on Presbyterian history: Your life preaches all the week. Are those in your family being helped or hindered to follow the Living and Written Word?

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knoxJohn

No Wonder He Was Weary.

Our post today, an account of the death of John Knox, is taken from the essential biography written by Thomas McCrie:—

Monday, the 24th of November [1572], was the last day that he spent on earth. That morning he could not be persuaded to lie in bed, but, though unable to stand alone, rose between nine and ten o’clock, and put on his stockings and doublet. Being conducted to a chair, he sat about half an hour, and then was put in bed again. In the progress of the day, it appeared evident that his end drew near. Besides his wife and Richard Bannatyne, Campbell of Kinyeancleugh, Johnston of Elphingston, and Dr. Preston, three of his most intimate acquaintances, sat by turns at his bed-side. Kinyeancleugh asked him, if he had any pain. “It is no painful pain, but such a pain as shall, I trust, put end to the battle. I must leave the care of my wife and children to you (continued he,) to whom you must be a husband in my room.” About three o’clock int he afternoon, one of his eyes failed, and his speech was considerably affected. he desired his wife to read the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. “Is not that a comfortable chapter?” said he, when it was finished. “O what sweet and salutary consolation the Lord hath afforded me from that chapter!” A little after, he said, “Now, for the last time, I commend my soul, spirit, and body (touching three of his fingers) into thy hand, O Lord.” About five o’clock, he said to his wife, “Go, read where I cast my first anchor;” upon which she read the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and afterwards a part of Calvin’s sermons on the Ephesians.

After this he appeared to fall into a slumber, interrupted by heavy moans, during which the attendants looked every moment for his dissolution. But at length he awaked as if from sleep, and being asked the cause of his sighing so deeply, replied, “I have formerly, during my frail life, sustained many contests, and many assaults of Satan; but at present that roaring lion hath assailed me most furiously, and put forth all his strength to devour, and make an end of me at once. Often before has he placed my sins before my eyes, often tempted me to despair, often endeavoured to ensnare me by the allurements of the world; but these weapons being broken by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he could not prevail. Now he was [sic] attacked me in another way; the cunning serpent has laboured to persuade me that I have merited heaven and eternal blessedness, by the faithful discharge of my ministry. But blessed be God who has enabled me to beat down and quench this fiery dart, by suggesting to me such passages of Scripture as these, What hast thou that thou hast not received? By the grace of God I am what I am : Not I, but the grace of God in me. Being thus vanquished, he left me. Wherefore I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ, who was pleased to give me the victory; and I am persuaded that the tempter shall not again attack me, but, within a short time, I shall, without any great bodily pain or anguish of mind, exchange this mortal and miserable life for a blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.”

He died in the sixty-seventh year of his age, not so much oppressed with years, as worn out and exhausted by his extraordinary labours of body and anxieties of mind. Few men were ever exposed to more dangers, or underwent such hardships. From the time that he embraced the reformed religion, till he breathed his last, seldom did he enjoy a respite from these, and he emerged from one scene of difficulties, only to be involved in another, and a more distressing one. Obligated to flee from St. Andrews to escape the fury of Cardinal Beatoun, he found a retreat in East Lothian, from which he was hunted by Archbishop Hamilton. He lived for several years as an outlaw, in daily apprehension of falling a prey to those who eagerly sought his life. The few months during which he enjoyed protection in the castle of St. Andrews were succeeded by a long and rigorous captivity. After enjoying some repose in England, he was again driven into banishment, and for five years wandered as an exile on the continent. When he returned to his native country, it was to engage in a struggle of the most perilous and arduous kind. After the Reformation was established, and he was settled in the capital, he was involved in a continual contest with the Court. When he was relieved from this warfare, and thought only of ending his days in peace, he was again called into the field; and, although scarcely able to walk, was obliged to remove from his flock, and to avoid the fury of his enemies by submitting to a new banishment. He was repeatedly condemned for heresy and proclaimed an outlaw; thrice he was accused of high treason, and on two of these occasions he appeared and underwent a trial. A price was publicly set on his head; assassins were employed to kill him; and his life was attempted both with the pistol and the dagger. Yet he escaped all these perils, and finished his course in peace and in honour. No wonder that he was weary of the world, and anxious to depart; and with great propriety might it be said, at his decease, that “he rested from his labours.”

The Life of John Knox, by Thomas McCrie, p. 130.

Words To Live By:

it is the Lord God who raises up His faithful, humble servants and employs them in powerful ways to advance His kingdom. Pray that He would yet again shake the kingdoms of this earth with the fervent preaching of His glorious Gospel. Our God has done this time and again in the past, and He can and will so move yet again. Are you so praying and watching expectantly?

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

Q. 49 — Which is the second commandment?

A. — The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exod.20:4-6)

Q. 50. — What is required in the second commandment?

A. — The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word. 

Scripture References: Deut. 12:32; Deut.32:46; Matt. 28:20.

Questions:

1. Both the first and second commandments have to do with worship. In what way do they differ?

The first commandment has to do with the object of worship, the true and living God; the second commandment has to do with the means of worship, and the manner in which we worship Him.

2. What are these means of worship?

The means of worship are the ordinances which God has appointed in His word.

3. What are these ordinances?

The Larger Catechism lists these as “prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing to Him.” (Q. 108)

4. How are we as Christians to receive these ordinances?

We are to receive them by approving them and embracing them; observing them by doing what is required in them; keeping them pure and entire by keeping them from corruption.

5. What does it mean by not making any graven image?

It means that we are not to attempt to represent God through material objects nor to worship Him through the use of such imagery.

THE JEALOUS GOD

” … for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5). The word Jealous has changed in meaning somewhat since it was written. For the original word meant “zealous” and signified “righteous zeal.” It is the teaching that He alone has a claim upon the love of His people. 

There are really two senses in which this description of God can be taken. In a good sense He is zealous for His people. He will watch over them, He will protect them, He will defend them against all enemies. His people, who are His through faith in Jesus Christ, are very dear to His heart. As He looks down on His people, sees them in their attempts to walk with Him day by day, He has a tender feeling toward them. He does so want them to get into the stride of walking with Him, never running ahead nor behind, taking each step with a moment by moment knowledge that they are kept in His love. Whatever happens to His people happens to Him, He feels it, has a true feeling of empathy for His children.

There is another sense in which this can be taken. In this sense God is jealous for His people. He is jealous in that He does not want them to worship graven images, or worship false gods, or scurry after those things that would draw them from Himself. It is as if He cannot bear to have a rival in any way. He does not want His children to follow after anything-good or bad-that would hinder their worship of Him. Our love, our highest adoration must be given to Him only.

Daily we need to examine ourselves to see whether or not w. are following hard after Him. There are so many ways that our love can be drawn away. It is good for us to remind ourselves time and time again that He is a jealous God and keep ourselves free from entanglements. We should never give Him cause to be jealous. We should be praying, moment by moment, that He will keep us so close to Him that we will sense the very second our love for Him is being cooled by things contrary to His will for us. If we will but do this He will be jealous of us instead of jealous for us. And then blessings will flow from Him to us, all to His glory.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vo!. 4 NO.47 (November 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

 

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Machen’s article only becomes more relevant with the passing years.

What Should Be Done by Christian People Who are in a Modernist Church?
by Dr. J. Gresham Machen

[The following article was originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian, vol. 1, no. 2 (21 October 1935): 22.]

machen03What is the duty of Christian congregations or Christian individuals who find themselves in a church that is dominated by unbelief? Shall they remain in such a church, or shall they withdraw from it and become members of a consistently Christian Church?

That is certainly the question of the hour for the orthodox part of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Various attempts are being made to answer the question. Various considerations are being urged on one side or the other.

If we separate from the existing church organization, it is being said, shall we be able to retain any of our congregational property, or will that all have to be abandoned to the uses of the existing organization?

On the other hand, if we remain in a church that is dominated by unbelief, does that not mean that we are simply heaping up greater resources for the Modernists in future years to use? Will not every gift that we make, every church building that we put up, be turned over ultimately to the uses of unbelief?

No doubt such considerations on one side or the other of this question are very interesting. I am bound to say in passing that the considerations in favor of separation seem to me to be much stronger than the considerations on the other side.

But I propose to the readers of this page that we should now approach the question in an entirely different way. I propose that we should see what the Bible has to say about the matter. Does the Bible permit Christian people to live year after year, decade after decade, in a church that is so largely dominated by unbelief as is the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.?

The answer to that question is surely not difficult. I am not thinking just now so much of individual texts directly bearing on the question, though those texts are not difficult to find and though they are not really balanced by any texts on the other side; but I am thinking of the Bible’s whole teaching about the Church and what the Church ought to mean in the individual’s Christian life. If we read what the Bible says about the Church and then examine the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., can we really put our hands upon our hearts and say in the presence of God that the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. even approximates being what the Bible says a church of Jesus Christ must be or provides that nurture which the Bible says every Christian ought to have?

Now I know very well that we ought to be careful when interrogating the Bible on this point. Sometimes, when the Bible speaks about the Church, it is speaking about the Church as it will finally be when it appears without blemish before Christ. We have no right to demand of the Church militant a perfection that will belong only to the Church triumphant to the Church in its final, glorious state. When the Bible speaks of the Church militant, the Church as it actually appears upon this earth, it detects always the presence of error and sin in that Church, and it does not permit a Christian to withdraw from that Church or any branch of that Church just because that Church or that branch of it is not perfect.

All this is true. But it really does not apply to the situation in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The point is that that Church is very largely dominated by unbelief. It does not merely harbor unbelief here and there. No, it has made unbelief, in the form of a deadly Modernist vagueness, the determinative force in its central official life.

Such a body is hardly what the Bible means by a church at all. The Bible commands Christian people to be members of a true church, even though it be an imperfect one. It represents the nurture provided by such a true church as a necessity, not a luxury, in the Christian life. There must therefore be a separation between the Christian and the Modernist elements in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. That is perfectly clear. The only question is how the separation shall be effected.

Unquestionably the best way would be the way of reform. If Modernism should be removed from the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., and that church should be brought back to conformity with its constitution and with the Word of God, all would be well.

The other way is the way of separation from the existing organization on the part of the loyal part of the church. Only, if the separation comes, it ought to come in such fashion as to make perfectly clear the fact that those who are separating from the present Modernist organization are not founding a “new church,” but are carrying on the true, spiritual succession of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.

Something will no doubt be said regarding both of these possibilities on this page in future issues of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:
It should always be a fearsome thing to propose division or separation, even for reasons such as stated above. And I am quite certain that separation was never a light matter in Dr. Machen’s consideration. In our daily prayers, we ought to regularly pray for the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church. As long as we are in this sinful flesh, there will always be divisions, for our understanding of God’s Word is imperfect. But the way to greater unity rests not in pushing aside the truth of God’s Word, but rather, in pressing forward to know more and more of God’s will, as revealed in the Scriptures.

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A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise

Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith. But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this.  So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be required to subscribe to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly in their entirety, or just for their essential truths? The fact that so many officers were still in the process of emigrating to the colonies made this a relevant question for the infant church to resolve.

Conscious of the potential for schism, on September 17, 1729, Jonathan Dickinson became the main proponent against the total subscriptionist party in the church. His argument was simple. He believed the Bible was the sufficient rule for faith and life.  Subscription must be adhered to it and to it alone, not to some man-made summary of it, as good as it might be.

The total subscriptionist side also believed the Bible was all-sufficient for doctrine and life, but were equally convinced that the Westminster standards of confession and catechisms offer an adequate summary of the Old and New Testaments. To receive it and adopt it in its entirely would stop any heresies which may invade the church from either within or without the church.

At the synod in 1729, Dickinson and his followers won the day with what has become known at the Adopting Act of 1729. [Link fixed, 9/17/15 @ 10:23 a.m.] The document stated that on the one hand, there was a clear requirement to receive and adopt the Westminster Standards.  However, if an elder, whether teaching or ruling elder, had an exception to those standards, he was to make known to the church or presbytery his exception. The latter body would then judge whether the exception dealt with essential and necessary articles of doctrine, worship, or government. If it did not, then he could be ordained without official censure or social ostracism.

The entire body of elders gathered at the Philadelphia Synod gave thanks to God in solemn praise and prayer that the resolution of this potential schism had been averted and unity was maintained in the infant Presbyterian church.

Words to live by:  It is always good that disunity should be avoided and unity be maintained. But at what cost, is the question? The compromise here looked good on the surface. But presbyteries and synods and assemblies are made up of fallible men who can, sadly, declare that the basic truths of the Christian religion are not necessary to be held, as is the case now with several liberal Presbyterian bodies.  Obviously, much prayer must be made for those who instruct and rule over us, that God’s Spirit will keep the visible church pure in both faith and life. The true key to doctrinal unity springs from a daily awareness of our own sinfulness, from hearts broken before the Lord in godly humility, Seeking the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone.

See also, The Meaning of Subscription, by Rev. Benjamin McKee Gemmill.

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LarnedSylvester02On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who could not afford to flee the city. It was in that context that “The whole of his discourse was solemn, and he himself was unusually affected by the considerations he presented to his hearers; and as he concluded, he wept.”

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’ — Philippians 1:21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).

“To a sentiment like this, my hearers, what can we conceive superior in dignity of thought, or loftiness of feeling? How majestic does he appear who can look with so triumphant an emotion upon the grave,—and that too, not in the sternness of philosophy, nor the torpor of fatalism, but simply in the meek and confiding hope of salvation in Jesus Christ! In the present case, also, there are some facts which render the spectacle still more illustrious. When St. Paul uttered the language of our text, he was a prisoner at Rome. The terrible Nero had hunted long and eagerly for the aged saint, till at last the apostle was seized and conducted to that imperial monster, who had so often feasted on the blood and tears of the Church. Here it was that the godly old man—chained to a soldier, to prevent his escape, uncertain what day might prove his last, and listening, at every sound, for the fearful tread of the executioner,—here it was, under circumstances which might have appalled the stoutest heart, that he exclaimed, more like a conquerer than a captive,

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’

Now what, my hearers, is life? It comprises, you well know, two leading ideas—activity and enjoyment. Every man has some great object upon which his activities are more awake than upon any other. Wealth to one, Beauty to a second, Fame to a third, and so on; and, I trust, experimental religion to a few, calls forth that paramount solicitude and exertion which show most decisively in what direction the main current of the feelings is set. By this rule, if you look at the apostle Paul, you may find out, at a glance, the real spring of his movements. His whole efforts were bent to the single aim of promoting Christianity, not only abroad, but in his own bosom—not alone in the display of its external embellishments, but in the urgency of its work upon the affections and thoughts.

The same is true in regard to the idea of enjoyment. There is scarcely a man in a thousand who does not show to the eye of his acquaintances, and indeed to his own eye, if he be candid and impartial, the actual feelings by which he loves chiefly to be engrossed. The secret will come out. The votary of pleasure, of fashion, of gold, and, may I add, of the Saviour, are sure to betray the supremacy of their attachment to their separate objects of pursuit.

By this rule, too, St. Paul appears in a character the most unequivocal. His enjoyments were in Christ. All his views of happiness appear to have centered on the one absorbing principle of union with Him, ‘in whom,’ to use his own words, ‘tho’ now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Well then did the great apostle of the Gentiles say, that ‘To him to live was Christ.’ But, my brethren, does not his language convey a sentiment of conviction and reproof to you? Could you adopt it, and assert that the Lord Jesus constitutes the primary object of your lives, either by making you supremely active in His service, or by making you supremely happy in His promises?

These are inquiries which lie, depend upon it, at the very basis of personal religion. Easy as it may be to carry about us the semblance of a hope for eternity, the Bible declares that God looketh at the life, not simply in its visible conformities and observances, but in the entireness of its dedication to Jesus Christ. But the venerable Paul goes on to say, that ‘to him to die was gain.‘ How is this? How should a poor frail mortal, who had known only one world, feel a confidence so strong in approaching the untried scenes of another? The reason, my hearers, plainly was, that he had an interest in the Saviour’s blood.

This inspired his triumph, and having this, Death, was to him, as it is to every believer, a subject of thanksgiving and praise. It released him from all his sorrows; and many a one have the children of God in walking through this vale of tears. The hand of God’s bereavement, or the reverses of His Providence, break in upon their happiness so often, that, ‘if , in this life only, they had hope in Christ, they were, of all men, most miserable.’

And besides, in entering the grave, the Christian leaves his sins behind him; and I know of no one consideration more glorious or more animating to a renovated heart. Certain it is, that by just how much we are assimilated to the Redeemer, by just so much will the bare danger of violating his commandments, or incurring his displeasure, be to us a source of the most lively uneasiness and anxiety.

And then, more than every thing else, the hour of death, however shrouded for the time in gloom, ushers the experimental believer into a better and a brighter world. To him it is that God has promised ‘an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.’ The very moment life is gone, the certainty of Heaven comes home to him; and thus it happens that every one, rich or poor, bond or free, who can truly say, with the apostle, that ‘to him to live is Christ’, may say also with the same assurance, that ‘to die is gain.’

And here, my brethren, let me again inquire, if the sentiment of our text do not tacitly imply a reproach—or an expostulation to yourselves? In what sense is it that death, to you, would be ‘gain’?—Death, which will stop you short in your pursuits, and lay you motionless and cold, beneath the lids of the coffin—death, which will put forever beyond your reach the offers of mercy—which will cut short the busy activities of the world, and dismiss you at once to the tribunal bar of the Omnipotent God. Justly indeed might St. Paul contemplate these things with joy; for he was prepared to put off his clayey tabernacle. But, to us, the question comes most impressively up, whether we have any evangelical and well-grounded reason to believe that Christ has been formed in us the hope of glory?

“Now, my hearers, in looking at the subject which has been briefly examined, I cannot repress a remark, adapted, I think, to the serious reality of our present circumstances. It is this: At all times a becoming preparation for eternity presents itself to us as a most desirable attainment—but now more than ever, for the simple reason that now the distance between time and eternity seems to be most solemnly short. You can all attest how suddenly a few weeks past have hurried some of our fellow-beings from health to the tomb. Do not, however, mistake my meaning,—do not think I say this with a design to alarm. By no means. Your own good sense will teach you, that at a moment like the present, composure and tranquility, even without religion, ought carefully to be sought. But what I say is, have an interest in Jesus Christ. Then death will have no terrors, and the grave no victory.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. Why will you put off the business of your immortal souls? Why will you rush forward with the infatuation of madness and the rashness of despair, when the arms of a compassionate Saviour are thrown open to welcome you with all your sins and all your fears? I entreat, and God grant you may remember the appeal—I entreat you to be up and doing—to work while it is called today, because the night cometh,—and how soon or suddenly we know not,—wherein no man can work.”

———

By the exertions of this Sabbath he appeared to be much overcome, but complained of no indisposition until early the next morning, when he was seized with fever, which no medical skill or appliances could subdue; and on Thursday evening, the 31st of August, the very day on which he completed his twenty-fourth year, he resigned, in the full confidence of a blessed immortality, his soul to God.

To read more of the life of the Rev. Sylvester Larned, along with a small collection of his sermons, click here :
Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned; first pastor of the First Presbyterian church in New Orleans, by Ralph Randolph Gurley (1844).

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

Q. 32. — What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

A.
— They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.

Scripture References: Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; I Cor. 1:30.

Questions:

1. What should we note about these benefits?

We should note that these benefits are absolutely tied up with effectual calling. It should be further noted by us that “calling”, in the Bible sense of the word, cannot fail or remain ineffectual. Effectual calling has the power to produce the intended effect, that of enabling us to embrace Christ Jesus. It also has the same power to grant us certain benefits.

2. What are these benefits granted to us as those effectually called?

These benefits are justification, adoption and sanctification.

3. What connection is there between effectual calling and justification?

The sinner has communion in the righteousness of God.

4. What connection is there between adoption and effectual calling?

The sinner has a spiritual Father, God, through his relationship to Jesus Christ.

5. What connection is there between effectual calling and sanctification?

The sinner has a relationship to Christ regarding their ability to live as Christians should live. He is the Christian’s strength.

6. What should be the attitude of the Christian towards these benefits?

Regarding these benefits the Christian should:

A. Give all diligence to make his calling and election sure (2 Peter 1: 10).
B. Be thankful that he is justified, adopted and is in the process of sanctification and show his thankfulness by praising the Lord and by serving Him.
C. Be looking forward to the day when, by His grace, He will be glorified knowing that such is the hope of those who have been predestinated, called, and justified.

HONEY OUT OF THE ROCK

In Psalm 81 there appears the following verse: “He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.” Secular history teaches us that there were in the area of Palestine many wild bees who made their abode in the crevices of rocks. The rock here, spiritually speaking, represents Jesus Christ and the honey represents the fulness of grace in Him.

Indeed the believer has many benefits in Him, as our Catechism Question teaches us. The effectually called believer partakes of justification, adoption, sanctification and the other benefits. However, some of these benefits come only to His obedient children. Spurgeon states, “When his people walk in the light of his countenance, and maintain unsullied holiness, the joy and consolation which he yields them are beyond conception. To them the joys of heaven have begun even upon earth. They can Sing in the ways of the Lord. The Spring of the eternal summer has commenced with them; they are already blest, and they look for brighter things. This shows us by contrast how sad a thing it is for a child of God to sell himself into captivity to sin, and bring his soul into a state of famine by following after another god. 0 Lord, for ever bind us to thyself alone, and keep us faithful to the end.”

Christian, even as you have read the above, is such a description of your relationship with Him? Our Catechism teaches us that we certainly can enjoy the “showers of blessing” from above”, for these are the heritage of the Christian. But so many times we are not making use of them, we lose them because we do not walk with Him “in the light of His way.” The way of obedience to His Word is not our way and our testimony for Him and our joy in Him is not what it should be.

Someone once prayed: “Lord of every thought and action. Lord to send and Lord to stay. Lord in speaking, writing, giving Lord in all things to obey. Lord of all there is of me, now and evermore to be.” Indeed He will feed us with “honey out of the rock” if we will but commit ourselves to Him, all to His glory.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 32 (August 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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

Q. 31. — What is effectual calling?

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

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

Questions:

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

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

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

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

3. How does the Spirit accomplish this task?

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

4.
How does the Spirit enlighten our minds?

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

5. Are we able to renew our own wills?

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

CONVICTION OF SIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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