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Birth of a Giant.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born on this day, November 5th, in 1851.

warfield_1864For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy. 

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. 

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY. It is tempting to think that the photo at the left, from that same year, might have been taken in conjunction with that event.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the value of the Shorter Catechism. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

[Note: It is tempting to think that Warfield may have come by this anecdote through his own extended family. There were a number of men in the Breckinridge family who were military officers. Of these, Ethelbert Ludlow Dudley Breckinridge, an 1898 graduate of Princeton University and a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1906, seems the most likely candidate to fit the details of the story. Moreover, the San Francisco earthquake would appear to be the most probable setting of the story.]

warfield1867b_75Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.

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Today’s post is drawn from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), p. 850:

The Long Pastorate of a Great Pastor and Biographer

SpragueWBWilliam Buell Sprague was born in Andover, Tolland county, Connecticut, on October 16, 1795. He graduated at Yale College in 1815, and in 1816 entered Princeton Theological Seminary, just four years after the start of that institution. After studying there over two years, Sprague was licensed to preach by the Association of Ministers in the county of Tolland, on August 29th, 1818. As pastor of the Congregational Church of West Springfield, Massachusetts, he labored with great assiduity and success from August 25th, 1819, until July 21st, 1829, when he accepted a call to the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, over which he was installed on August 26th, 1829.

In Albany, he had a pastorate of forty years’ duration, remarkable for the extraordinary steadfastness and warmth of attachment existing through all that protracted period between himself and his large and intelligent congregation, and even more remarkable for the vast and varied labors performed by him. He has been well and truly described as “an illustrious man, a cultivated, elegant, voluminous, usefull and popular preacher; an indefatigable and successful pastor; an unselfish and devoted friend; loving, genial, pure, noble; an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile; one of the most child-like, unsophisticated and charitable of men.”

While Dr. Sprague never relaxed his pulpit and pastoral duties, his added literary labors were prodigious and their fruits exceedingly great. He preached nearly two hundred sermons on special public occasions, the most of which were published. He also produced a large number of biographies and other volumes on practical religious subjects. But the great literary work of his life was his Annals of the American Pulpit, undertaken when he was fifty-seven years old, and finished in ten large octavo volumes.

On December 20th, 1869, Dr. Sprague was released at his own request, from his pastoral charge in Albany, and retired to Flushing, Long Island, where he passed his later years, which were a serene and beautiful evening to his industrious, useful and eminent life. Here he enjoyed the sunshine of the divine favor, and looked upon the approach of death with a strong and placid faith. He gently and peacefully passed away, May 7th, 1876, and his remains were taken to Albany for interment, the funeral services being held in the church of which he had been so long the beloved and honored pastor.

A number of Sprague’s works can be found in digital format, here.

If I may select one for you, The Claims of Past and Future Generations on Civil Leaders, looks interesting, judging by its title.

From Sprague’s Historical Introduction to The Annals of the Presbyterian Pulpit:
“…
The early history of the Presbyterian Church in this country is involved in no little obscurity,—owing principally to the fact that those who originally composed it, instead of forming a compact community, were widely scattered throughout the different Colonies. It is evident, however, that several churches were established some time before the close of the seventeenth century. In Maryland there were the Churches of Rehoboth, Snow Hill, Marlborough, Monokin, and Wicomin,—the first mentioned of which is commonly considered the oldest, and was probably formed several years before 1690. The Church on Elizabeth River, in Virginia, is supposed by some to date back to nearly the same period, but the exact time of its origin cannot be ascertained. The Churches in Freehold, and Woodbridge, New Jersey were constituted in 1692 [Note: there is good evidence that Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, NJ, was established in 1680.]; and the First Church in Philadelphia, as nearly as can be ascertained, in 1698. In Newcastle, Delaware, in Charleston, South Carolina, and in some other places, Presbyterian Churches were planted at a very early period. In the latter part of 1705, or early in 1706, a Presbytery was formed under the title of the Presbytery of Philadelphia,—all whose members were from Scotland or Ireland, except the Rev. Jedediah Andrews, who was born and educated in New England.”

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Man Knows Not His Time

In The Daily Princetonian (Volume 38, no. 345, 27 January 1916), we read of the Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D., a graduate of the Princeton University, Class of 1861, who for many years was a trustee of Princeton University, that he had died very suddenly on Sunday, January 24, 1915, while visiting at the home of his son H.F. Spaulding Frazer, who was City Counsel for Newark, New Jersey, and a nationally known attorney. Following the funeral, the body of Rev. Frazer was buried in the Short Hills Cemetery.

frazerDavidRRev. David Ruddach Frazer, D.D., was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 10, 1837, the son of William R. and Eliza J. (Armitage) Frazer. He attended the Central High School of Baltimore, Maryland and attended Delaware College before completing his college education at Princeton University in 1861. He then spent three years at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he was graduated in 1864. In the same year he returned to Princeton and received a Master of Arts Degree, and in 1865 was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry. Dr. Frazer was then made pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Clifton, Staten Island, and held that position for two years, leaving it to preach at Hudson, New York. In 1872 he received a call to Buffalo, and was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of that city until 1880. He received a degree as Doctor of Divinity from Princeton in that year, and in 1887 was made a trustee of the University.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Dr. Frazer preached in Brooklyn for the next three years and then accepted a permanent position as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey, being installed there on February 21, 1883. The First Presbyterian Church was the oldest church in Newark, originally Congregational by affiliation, and changing over to Presbyterian in 1720. Rev. Frazer followed the pastorate of the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, and was succeeded, after a vacancy of nearly three years, by the Rev. William J. Dawson. During Rev. Frazer’s tenure at First Presbyterian, the church gave substantially to the cause of  missions and church extension (i.e., church planting). He also served as the president of a home for the aged and infirm. Rev. Frazer served the Newark church until 1909, preaching up until June of that year. Retiring from the active ministry in 1909, Dr. Frazer was very much interested in the Theological Seminary in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and for a time acted as president of that institution.

Three published works by Rev. Frazer were located, the first of which can be found in digital format:
1889
Memorial Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D. : a sermon, delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., Dec. 1st., 1889. Newark : Amzi Pierson & Co., 1889.  47 p.; ill.; 22 cm.

1891
“The Building of the Old Church,” Centennial sermon delivered at the dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, New Jersey, on the text of Isaiah 49:16.

1892
George Washington: An Address Delivered, Feb’y 22d, 1892, Before The Washington Association of New Jersey, by Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D. Also Letters Relating to the Execution of Major Andre, Presented by Mrs. Herbert Gray Torrey, at the Same Meeting. s.l.: s.n., 1892. 16 p.; 24 cm.

Something to Ponder:

From Rev. Frazer’s training and first several pastorates, we might have assumed he was of New School sympathies. Perhaps it is inappropriate to raise that question, given that most of his ministerial career occurred after 1869, when reunion of Old School and New School occurred. But given the question, some light may be shed by the memorial sermon that Rev. Frazer delivered on behalf of his predecessor at First Presbyterian, Newark—the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Stearns. Here the speaker, Rev. Frazer, undoubtedly emulates the object of his address:

“Dr. Stearns began his pastorate here at at time when the rival rallying cries of Old and New School were too well known and were too frequently heard in the Church. As the new Pastor was, in some points in sympathy with Old School views while the Church was in New School connection, considerable interest was felt, in some quarters, as to his probable course under these conditions. But both Old School and New soon learned that Dr. Stearns was no ecclesiastical partisan; that he was a peacemaker rather than a polemic; that his work was constructive, not destructive, hence he was peculiarly fitted to be one of the most influential actors in securing the reunion of the two bodies. Long before this topic became a theme of public discussion, he sought to rid the New School of certain ‘entangling alliances’ which brought that body into disrepute with the Old. He was influential in the establishment, and for many years was a member of the Home Mission Committee, helping, by his wise counsels, to shape that policy which saved to Presbyterianism many churches which otherwise would have sought a different ecclesiastical connection. His sermon on ‘Justification by Faith,’ preached before the Synod of New York and New Jersey, at Poughkeepsie, on October 25th, 1852, did much to allay the suspicions of the Old School body as to the theological soundness of the New. He was an influential member of the New School Committee on reunion and when the inner history of that movement shall be given to the world the record will show that no one man did more of the real, telling work which secured the desired result than did Dr. Stearns.

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He Was OP, RP, EP and RPCES

grayRichardWThat tag line will bring back for some of our readers the famous Dameron and Jones song. Others, not so blessed, will draw a blank. The Rev. Richard W. Gray was the living expression of that song:  “We’ve been OP, BP, and RPCES. What we’ll be next is anybody’s guess.”

Richard Willer Gray was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 6, 1911. After the age of 12 he lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until moving to attend Wheaton College, from 1930-1934. Following graduation from Wheaton, he received the M.Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary, in 1937. In 1936, a year before graduation from Westminster, he married Emily MacDonald. To this marriage, three children were born. Their son Richard is himself a PCA pastor, serving in Florida.

Rev. Gray was ordained by the Presbytery of New Jersey on May 18, 1937 and installed as pastor of the Covenant OPC church of East Orange, New Jersey. He served this church from 1937 until 1945. Resigning that post, he then answered a call to serve Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in Bridgeton, New Jersey [now New Hope OPC], serving there from 1946-1949. His third pastorate was with the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, which at that time was an independent church. Rev. Gray served this church from 1949 to 1958, and during these same years he was also the editor of a magazine, The Witness, a publication widely utilized by OPC, BPC and Reformed Presbyterian congregations. In April of 1958, Dr. Gray transferred his credentials to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, leading his independent congregation into this denomination. By way of two later denominational mergers, the Willow Grove congregation is today a part of the PCA.

Pictured below, the building occupied by the Calvary OPC church of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where Rev. Gray served from 1946-1949.

grayRW_CalvaryOPCAs editor of The Witness, Rev. Gray had a pulpit which effectively reached a number of Presbyterian denominations, and the magazine in turn allowed Dr. Gray to eventually become the leading voice in the eventual merger of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965] and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. The denomination resulting from that merger, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982], eventually was received into the Presbyterian Church in America, in 1982.

[This coming Sunday, June 16, we will feature Dr. Gray’s sermon delivered before the Synod on the occasion of the RP/EP merger in 1965. His sermon was titled, “Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”]

Rev. Gray never saw the merger of the RPCES with the PCA. Following the merger of the RPC,GS and the EPC, he had continued as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove until 1975. At that time he answered a call to serve as the founding pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Coventry, Connecticut. It was while serving as pastor of this church that the Lord called him to his final reward. He died on February 28, 1979.

Apart from his pastoral duties at the above four churches, Dr. Gray participated in a wide variety of denominational and intellectual activities. At various times he:

Edited a Christian magazine (The Witness)
Taught courses at a seminary
Was active in the establishment of four branch churches
Started the Christian Counseling Center of Willow Grove
Was active in the establishment of Christian schools
Wheaton College awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1959
Served on the Board of Directors of National Presbyterian Missions; Quarryville Home; and Covenant College
Served as a chief architect of the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Moderator of the 148th Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1970)
Frequent moderator of denominational committees, regional presbyteries, and synodical reports
Founded the Christian Counseling Service in Coventry, Connecticut
Presided over the Evangelical Ministerial Association of greater Hartford

The people who fell under Dick Gray’s ministry were as diverse and varied as his multi-faceted personality, yet all found common ground in his infectious enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God.

From a young counselee: “I thank God for the vast help that Dr. Gray has been in my life. I came to him in desperate anxiety. He allowed me to expose all that was ugly and frightful. He was both utterly trustworthy and wisely insightful. God used him to lead me into the health and maturity and objectivity about myself which now is a part of my abundant and joy-filled life.”

From a ministerial colleague: “Although in God’s providence Dick and I were working on the most recent church problem from different sides of it, I want you to know that that in no way diminished my admiration and esteem for him as one of the God-given leaders to the RP Church. I  particularly appreciated his openness to new ideas and his willingness to encourage the young ministers. At the same time, no one could question his concern for the welfare of the churches and his tireless energy on their behalf.”

From a former elder and long-term friend: “[Dick] had a capacity for concentration and single-mindedness that was maddening, and a capacity for empathy that was healing. He could have written books of great significance, if he had the patience. He was one of only several individuals it was my privilege to know who had the mind of an intellectual explorer, a discoverer of principles, relationships between what are too often labeled ‘spiritual’ and ‘intellectual.’ He thought and wanted others to think, and this caused him undeserved difficulties because thinking is painful. He shunned superficial statements that would have won him acceptance among those believers who limit orthodoxy to set phrases. He bore the risk of being considered not Biblical enough, in order to be truly Biblical.”

Words to Live By:
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him, for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work; this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)

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Isaac Van Arsdale Brown was born in Pluckamin, Somerset county, New York, on November 14, 1784. Little seems to be known of his parents or his early years. He graduated at Nassau Hall, as Princeton University was known in those days, and then studied theology privately under the tutelage of Dr. John Woodhull, of Freehold, New Jersey. He was licensed and then later ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1807, being installed as the pastor of the church at Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Three years later, in 1810, Rev. Brown established the Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial Boarding School, located near Princeton, and up until 1833 Rev. Brown remained the head of this school. The school has continued to this day and is one of the oldest private boarding schools in the nation. Then in 1833, both his wife and his son died, and it seems likely that their deaths led to his decision to leave Lawrenceville. In 1834, he sold the school and relocated to Mount Holly, New Jersey to plant a church there, while also preaching at Plattsburg, NJ and working to establish another church there. The last two decades of his life were spent preaching in the areas around Trenton and New Brunswick.

Dr. Brown was one of the founders of the American Colonization Society and also an original member of the American Bible Society. He died on April 19, 1861. (for historical reference, Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and the Civil War thus began, a week prior, on April 12, 1861)

Dr. Isaac V. Brown is noted as the author of several works, but most importantly, that of A Historical Vindication of the Abrogation of the Plan of Union by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (1855). This is a careful treatment in defense of the Old School position on the 1837-1869 Old School/New School split in the PCUSA. It can be read online, here.

To read about the efforts of the Lawrenceville School in relocating Rev. Brown’s grave to a more appropriate location, click here.

Words to Live By:
In all likelihood, Rev. Brown started the school in Lawrenceville simply as a way to make ends meet. Pastors were not well paid in those days, and it was quite common for a pastor to turn to teaching in order to augment his salary. Nonetheless, the works that you do may live well beyond your own life-time. God will use what He will use. It is our part to be faithful in doing what He calls us to, and to do all things as unto the Lord.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ASV)

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