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

Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Scripture References: Exodus 20:14; I Thessalonians 4:4-5; I Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 4:29.

Questions:

1. What is meant by the word “chastity”?

The word “chastity” means a hatred of all uncleanness, no matter whether it be in the body or in the mind and affections (Job 31:1),

2. What is the two-fold duty involved in the keeping of this commandment?

The two-fold duty involves both ourselves and others, there is an equal responsibility here.

3. How can the seventh commandment be broken?

It can be broken by an act, but also by impure thoughts; and it should be recognized that it is from within the heart of a man that sin comes. Therefore the real source of violations of this commandment is the sinful heart.

4. How can we preserve both our own and our neighbor’s chastity?

We can best preserve it by keeping in the right relationship with our Lord. If we do that, then there will be certain characteristics about us such as: loving with a pure heart (I Pet. 1:22); speaking in a way that will only edify ourselves and our neighbor (Eph. 4:29); behaving in such a way that we are always a testimony for Jesus Christ, never giving any cause for criticism in this area (I Pet. 3:1, 2).

5. How can we best keep in that right relationship with the Lord in this regard?

We must be watchful over our hearts and spirits, over our eyes and ears. We must be diligent in our walk with the Lord remembering we can never take even “minute vacations” from our watchfulness. We must follow after temperance in all things. We must be careful of the company we keep, the marriages we contract. We must seek the mind of Christ with regard to things sinful and unclean. We must study the Word and pray daily.

6. Why must we be careful to keep this commanment?

We must be careful to keep it because it is a command or God, but one which in this age is bypassed time and time again by society.


THE LAW OF CHASTITY

Our Lord well knew the dangers to which we would be subjected when He had His servant pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” He knew that our only method of living was by His grace. He knew that His Word dare not be left out of our approach to life.

When we ask the question as to why there are so many divorces, wrecked homes, broken hearts, and all kinds of vice and immorality in the world of today, we must remember that the difficulty lies in ignorance of, or rebellion against, God’s will. People have lost knowledge that the married state in God’s sight is holy—holy in origin, in essence, and in purpose. It is holy in origin because God Himself instituted it. It is holy in essence because God intends that it shall be a life-long covenant between one man and one woman. It is holy in purpose because it is God’s institution for the propagation of the human race, the living together of two people, all to the glory of God.

Today we must be on guard, especially against the false ideas about marriage, about morality. The “New Morality” is one of the worst lies of Satan ever to be spread in this country. And to think it is being spread by the church itself! Actually it is nothing new. It is nothing but a rejection of the Ten Commandments and this is what the true church of God has been living with for years—the rejection of the Word of God. The difference today is that the proponents of immorality are becoming bolder, for they realize now there are few who will stand against them. How deplorable it is to think they are playing right into the hands of the Communists whose first rule has always been: “Corrupt the youngl”

As believers we need to be on our guard in two ways. FIrst, that none of these so-called new rules creep in unawares into our lives and we begin to excuse wrong behaviour with the old “everybody is doing it” sort of approach. Second, that we might raise up the standard of the Word against them. We must declare the Word of God against all unchastity. We must remind people again and again that our Lord puts His finger on the difficulty: “For out of the heart proceed evU thoughts…” We must preach Jesus Christ to a dying world! There is no other method of dealing with the problem. The “New Morality” is taking hold because people do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Such should be our constant messagel

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A New Help for Conservative Presbyterian Chaplains in our Armed Forces

Being a military chaplain in any of our Armed Forces was always viewed with favor by this contributor.  That was probably because my father served his God and country as an Army chaplain from World War Two through the Korean Conflict. There were divine appointments in the context of a military which are not found in any civilian context.  And when the chaplain is a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching minister to men and women in the military, there is an extraordinary opportunity to see God’s kingdom and church grow in the faith and knowledge of the Triune God.

Prior to 1976, the National Association of Evangelicals were endorsing chaplains on behalf of young Presbyterian Church in America.  As good as that was, there was a conviction on the part of some, which was communicated by the Pacific Presbytery of the P.C.A., to request a study to consider whether sister Presbyterian churches could join together to endorse their own chaplains to the Chief of Chaplains. Committees were formed in the respective Presbyterian churches, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  Ministers in all three churches who had been or were then military chaplains formed these committees.  A working group was organized and a name was suggested, which was, “Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel.”

On September 21, 1978, the initial meeting was held at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis to form such a commission.  The combined churches had over 100,000 members and could therefore endorse chaplains on its own.  Some of the added benefits of having our own endorsing agency included the ability to hold our own spiritual retreats, an increased awareness of our chaplains and their ministries at national denominational meetings, better representation before the Chief of Chaplains in Washington, D.C., and a national newspaper, called the Guardian.

Other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies joined in the commission, such as the Korean American Presbyterian Church, Korean Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and the United Reformed Churches in North America.  Col. (ret.) David Peterson, after a thirty year career in the United States Army as a chaplain, became the Executive Director in 1995.  He served up until just a few years ago, when Brig. General (ret.) Douglas Lee took over the helm of that position.

Chaplain David Peterson

Words to live by: There are opportunities and challenges for our military chaplains which pastors in their civilian churches do not have normally.  Young men and women in uniform are facing war tours away from families.  How great is it to have a Bible-believing chaplain to be there with the Word of God to meet them in public and private.  Temptations are always present in a military situation.  How good is it to have a gospel-preaching chaplain present who can provide an escape from that temptation with other Christian soldiers for a Bible-study, or meaningful worship time.  Family life without a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, is stressful.  A Reformed chaplain can be there to counsel in difficult times.  Pray for our military chaplains.  Write them letters or emails of encouragement.  Provide them and their soldiers with care boxes from home.  Support them in their important callings.

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A Life of Sacrifice for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Robert Waldo Chesnut was a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod (RPC,GS). This was the body which later merged with the larger side of the Bible Presbyterian Synod split in 1965 to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Dr. Chesnut served in the lean years of the denomination when, at its low point, there were just nine churches left on the roster. Eventually the Lord brought renewed vigor and growth, such that by the time of the merger in 1965, there were some 25 churches in the RPC,GS. No doubt the Lord used Chesnut’s sacrificial love for the Church as a great instrument in bringing about some of that later growth.

<

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Reprinted here is a brief biography which originally appeared in The Reformed
 Presbyterian Advocate, 87.4 (April, 1953): 40-42.

chesnutrwOn March 23, 1953 at 8:35 P.M. our Church was deprived of its Pastor Emeritus by the death of Rev. Robert W. Chesnut, Ph.D. He was 94 years, 6 months, 8 days old when he passed on to be with his Lord. Dr. Chesnut had been Pastor Emeritus since his retirement from the active ministry in 1942 after 55 years as a minister. In 1950 he attended his last meeting of General Synod, at the Houston Mission [in Tennessee]. In November of 1952 he reported to work on the new church [in Duanesburg, NY], bringing his hammer and lunch pail. He worked from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. He later said: “I guess I pounded two or three pounds of nails and it helped some.” He was constantly interested in the new church and did all he could to advance its construction.

Robert Chesnut was born on a farm near Morning Sun, Iowa, on September 15, 1858. His parents had emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a boilermaker.”

“He had very little formal education in elementary or high schools. He never attended school during his early years for more than three months at a time. Until his entrance into college he had attended school only a total of twenty months.

In 1869 his family emigrated, by covered wagon, to Kansas and settled in Clay Center. There Dr. Chesnut, his father, and his brothers engaged in farming.

chesnut45yrsHe did not want to enter college or the ministry and, he has reported, fought the call of God to the ministry for some time. Finally one day, plowing in the fields (and he had not enjoyed good health for many months) he stopped his horses, sat down on a plowbeam and settled the matter with God. He said: “Lord, if you will give me health and see me through my education I will serve you in the ministry.” He finished the day’s plowing without being fatigued and God has kept His part of the covenant by blessing His servant with good health and length of days. Anyone who knew Dr. Chesnut knows that he kept his part of the covenant too, serving his God and his beloved Reformed Presbyterian church for sixty or more years.

He entered the Agricultural College of Kansas, at Manhattan, with a trunk containing a few clothes, his Psalm book, his Bible, and his Catechism, and $45 cash to see him through. He paid his way through school by raising a crop of wheat each Summer and selling it in the Fall. He also earned a little extra by tutoring his fellow students in Greek.

His college training was continued and completed at the University of Kansas, at Lawrence.

For theological training he spent a summer studying under his pastor, Rev. James S. Scott and entered the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Philadelphia the following term as a second year student.

He completed the course and was licensed to preach on March 22, 1887 in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

He was ordained on May 10, 1888 and installed the same day as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at Marissa, Illinois. The church is no longer in existence. Dr. Chestnut had been called to a church in New York City, but declined the call because he thought that he, a farm boy from Iowa and Kansas, would not be suited to a city pastorate. After sixteen years in Marissa he went to the church in Cutler, Illinois. In 1910 he accepted a call to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Duanesburg. Here he served as pastor and worked the parsonage farm until 1917. He then moved to the Seventh Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and remained two and one-half years. He then returned to Duanesburg, to save the congregation from disbanding. It was, at that time, a small and discouraged flock in need of a shepherd. From 1919 until his retirement in 1942 Dr. Chesnut served here as Stated Supply, worked the parsonage farm (and another larger farm which he purchased from his meager earnings) and ran a printing plant.

Robert Waldo Chesnut was pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Duanesburg (NY) from 1910-1917, and for forty years he served as Editor and Publisher of theReformed Presbyterian Advocate (although it was not always known by that name). He also served as Moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery and he served the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, as Assistant Clerk, as Clerk, and as Moderator in both 1903 and 1943.

Dr. Chesnut was survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna Heim Chesnut, who is his third wife. In 1885 he was married to Jennie Hulick, who died in 1896. Their daughter and son died while in their youth. His second wife and an infant also died–the wife just five weeks after they moved to Duanesburg in 1910. Dr. Chesnut was survived by three children, thirteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

The Duanesburg congregation, and the whole of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, has suffered a loss by the passing of our friend. But we can have no regrets, for he lived a long and full life and we are assured that he has gone to glory to be forever with his Lord, where there is no more pain, no sorrow, no struggle with sin, no more death, where death is swallowed up in victory.

“Truly a Prince has fallen in Israel. How he did love to come to General Synod and we have missed him these last few years. He really loved to preach the Gospel. Many lives have been touched by his long years of service.” [Rev. Robert W. Stewart]

Words to Live By:
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”—
Philippians 3:8, KJV

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A Great Historian & Biographer

When searching out pre-twentieth century Presbyterian biographies, there are three big names—three primary sources which cannot be overlooked. The unsurpassed efforts of William Buell Sprague would have to be mentioned first. Indeed, Sprague did not limit himself to Presbyterians, but gathered biographical entries covering all the major Protestant denominations and even included Unitarians in his nine volume set, Annals of the American Pulpit. (As a young man, Sprague came under the influence of a Unitarian teacher, but turned to orthodox Trinitarianism while attending Princeton Seminary).

Another resource is that of Alfred Nevin‘s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., including the Northern and Southern Assemblies. This massive single volume was published in 1884 and tops out at 1229 pages. Where Sprague had solicited entries from pastors across the nation and acknowledges their contributions in each case, Nevin’s work gives the appearance of being his work alone, though it seems doubtful that a work of that extent could have been accomplished by just one man.

The third major resource brings us to another great biographer and the focus of our post today. William Melancthon Glasgow was born in Northwood, Logan county, Ohio, on July 1, 1856. If you will remember, this was the original location of Geneva College, and so not surprisingly this was where William received his college education, graduating there in 1880. After a few years of employment in Boston, he then prepared for the ministry at the Allegheny Theological Seminary (now known as the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary).

Glasgow’s first published work, Catalogue of the Alumni of Geneva College, appeared in the same year that he began his Seminary studies (1882). Another work, History of Geneva College followed quickly (1883), and his third book, The Provincial Churches, was published around the time he graduated in 1884. Clearly he was already evidencing his life’s interest in history and biography. I know of no other seminary student who has ever equalled his record of three volumes published while still in seminary.

Glasgow was licensed to preach by the (Reformed Presbyterian) Presbytery of Pittsburgh on April 9, 1884 and later ordained by the Philadelphia Presbytery (also RP) on November 26, 1885. He was installed as the pastor of the RP church in Baltimore, Maryland, and served that church until the early summer of 1889. His second pastorate was in Kansas City, Missouri, 1889-1893 and from that post he next answered a call to serve the RP church in Beaver Falls, Pennysylvania. In 1899, he transferred his credentials into the United Presbyterian Church of North America, in order to take a call to serve the UPCNA church in Wellsville, Ohio, from 1899 until his death in 1909, at the age of 51.

Rev. Glasgow authored two major works which are of inestimable value. The first of these, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, was published in 1888. That volume was republished in 2007 by Reformation Heritage Books. Glasgow’s other major biographical work was his Cyclopedic Manual of the United Presbyterian Church in North America, published in 1903. This work has never been republished, but is available in digital format. Where the former work offered more extensive biographies and histories of R.P. congregations, the latter U.P. work adopts a shorter notation style, similar in format to what is found today in the PCA Yearbook and the OPC Ministerial Register.

Words to Live By:
I’m convinced that the work of Christian biography and history falls very much within the Scriptural mandate to remember the Lord’s works [1 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 26:7; 28:5; 77:11; 78:7; 105:5; etc.] The history of the church is a history of what the Lord has done and is doing on this earth. Thus we can understand it as redemptive history, though clearly it is not authoritative or divinely inspired history, not in the way that Scripture is. We cannot look to church history or Christian biography to determine God’s will, for instance. But we can find profit from these accounts, and certainly these stories can prompt us to praise God.

Psalm 111:2-4 (KJV)
2. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
3. His work is honourable and glorious; and his righteousness endureth forever.
4. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

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As we are in the season when so many of our various Presbyterian denominations meet in annual Assembly, this short note defining “fraternal relations” and “corresponding relations” between denominations may be a helpful reminder. This comes from the Minutes of the Twenty-eighth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (2000), page 63:

28-14   [from the] Committee of Commissioners on Interchurch Relations

III.       Recommendations:

3.         That the General Assembly establish two levels of relations with other denominations:       Adopted

  1. Fraternal Relations – The General Assembly may maintain a fraternal relationship with other Presbyterian/Reformed denominations that are voting members of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council and with other such Churches with whom the General Assembly wishes to establish fraternal relations unilaterally.  This would involve the exchange of fraternal delegates, exchange of General Assembly or General Synod minutes, communications on matters of mutual concern, and other matters that may arise from time to time.

  2. Corresponding Relations – The General Assembly may maintain corresponding relation with other evangelical Churches in North America and in other continents for exchanging greetings and letters of encouragement.  This may include the exchange of official observers at the broadest assemblies, and communications on issues of common concern.

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Union of  Presbyterians

Ordinarily when you read of an event which brought together two separate bodies of Presbyterians, you would rejoice over the union.  But when you read of a conservative body of Presbyterians uniting with a liberal body of Presbyterians, one tends to be sad.  And yet the latter is what happened on this day, May 28, 1958 when the United Presbyterians Church of North America united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The new denomination arising from this union was named the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA).

We have in these historical devotionals spent enough time on the decline of testimony of the historic Christian faith which the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. has had since the early part of the last century. What you may not know is the history and  testimony of the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

It was almost to the day of this union in 1958 that two Scotch-Irish Presbyterians joined together in 1858 to make up the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Those two bodies which made up that union were the Seceders or Associate Presbyterians and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They had in the old country of Scotland left the Church of Scotland, and then immigrated over to what later became America. The latter Associate Reformed Presbyterians had come from a union of the Associate Presbytery and Reformed Presbytery in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 (see historical devotional for that date). The primary strength of membership lay in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

What is even more important than these facts is to sum up their faith and life.  With their Scotch-Irish roots, they held to the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms as their subordinate standards, exclusive psalmody, Sabbatarianism, being a part of the abolitionist movement, and strong Protestantism. While the psalmody was abandoned in 1925, this church still held to a conservative Calvinism.

All this is then perplexing as to why they voted to merge into the liberal Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. almost one hundred years later in 1958.  In less than ten years, the wider body would replace the historic Westminster Standards with the Confession of 1967, relegating the former to a book of confessions.

Words to Live By: All of us need to carefully examine what we will gain and what will be lost in uniting together with others. Our associations matter. Not just who our friends are, but what we read, watch, and listen to, not to mention all the many social, religious and political groupings that we may be involved with, all these things bring influences that affect us far more than we may realize. Which is why prayerful, consistent time in the Word of God is so important, as a anchor against anything that might seek to sway and divert us away from honoring our Lord and Creator in all that we say and do.

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First General Assembly Writes George Washington

witherspoonJ_03Back on May 21, we wrote about the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which met in Philadelphia in 1789.  It is interesting that part of their corporate decisions as a church was to send a letter on May 26, 1789 to President George Washington.  Its author of Dr. John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

After referring to President’s Washington military career and his unselfish surrender to the popular will of the people, it reads, “But we desire a presage even more flattering from the piety of your character. Public virtue is the most certain means of public felicity, and religion is the surest basis of virtue.  We therefore esteem it a peculiar happiness to behold in our chief magistrate a steady, uniform, avowed friend of the Christian religion; who has commenced his administration in rational and exalted sentiments of piety, and who in his private conduct adorns the doctrines of the gospel of Christ, and, on the most public and solemn occasions, devoutly acknowledges the government of Divine providence.

WashingtonGeorgeIt goes on to say “the example of distinguished characters will ever possess a powerful and extensive influence on the public mind; and when we see in such a conspicuous station the amiable example of piety to God, of benevolence to men, and of a pure and virtuous patriotism, we naturally hope that it will diffuse its influence, and that, eventually, the most happy consequences will result from it.  To the force of imitation we will  endeavor to add the wholesome instructions of religion.  We shall consider ourselves as doing an acceptable service to God, in our profession, when we contribute to render men sober, honest, and industrious citizens and the obedient subjects of a lawful government.  In these pious labors we hope to imitate the most worthy of our brethren from other Christian denominations, and to be imitated by them; assured that if we can, by mutual and generous emulation, promote truth and virtue, we shall render a great and important service to the republic, shall receive encouragement from every wise and good citizen, and above all, meet the approbation of our Divine Master.

In conclusion, the Assembly said, “we pray Almighty God to have you always in His holy keeping. May He prolong your valuable life, an ornament and a blessing to your country, and at last bestow on you the glorious reward of a faithful servant.”

The teaching and ruling elders of this first general assembly saw in the first president of this country a Christian president. And so they wrote him on this day at the same time the first Federal Congress was meeting.

Also on this date:
26 May 1858 — The United Presbyterian Church of North America(UPCNA) was formed by union of the northern aspect of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with the Associate Presbyterian Church. Their union was formalized in an assembly held in the Old City Hall in Pittsburgh, 26 May 1858. A century later, the denomination concluded its existence in 1958 when it merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to form the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., on 28 May 1958.

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You Can’t Say That!

Talk about Goliath against David.  This was the case on this day April 28, 1937 when the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America went to court against the Presbyterian Church of America.  They had been successful in winning the church properties of those ministers who had been suspended from their ranks.  They had been successful in evicting them from the manse or parsonage.  They had been successful in removing their life insurance policies.  Now they wanted their name.

Their argument was simple.  Plans had been under way for some time for a proposed union of the United Presbyterian Church of North America with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  And one of the names floated for that proposed union was the Presbyterian Church of America.

MudgeLSThe principal witness for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., was the denomination’s Stated Clerk, Lewis Seymour Mudge. Key to the whole case was the question of similarity of names as the sole basis for the suit against the Presbyterian Church of America.  Attempts by the latter group to show the doctrinal reasons for the new church were then met with objection after objection by the attorney for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Witnesses for the P.C. of A. were a “who’s who” of its early leaders. Ministers Paul Woolley, Edwin Rian, and Charles Woodbridge all testified on April 28 and April 29. Professor John Murray tried to bear witness about the doctrinal differences between the two denominations, but was hindered by objections to his presence on the stand. He left, without testifying.

It took several months before the decision was handed down. But as the historical devotional for February 9, 1939 showed, the decision was made against the Presbyterian Church of America. Moderator R.B. Kuiper called for an earlier than usual General Assembly in that month of February, 1939, and the new name of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was chosen by the  church.

When the union between the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Presbyterian Church of North America took place in 1958, their new name was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). In God’s providence, this gave the opportunity for the southern Presbyterians who left the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1973 to choose the name, The Presbyterian Church in America, as their new name during their second General Assembly.

PCofA_4thGA_1938OPC_5th_1939Presbyterian Guardian managing editor Thomas R. Birch remarked at the close of his report in the May 29th, 1937 issue, “And once more . . . Gideon’s band of true Christians, the Presbyterian Church of America, has publicly taken its unflinching stand on the side of historic Presbyterianism and the principles of religious liberty for which the fathers fought and died.” His entire article concerning the injunction can be read online in the May 29, 1937 issue of the Presbyterian Guardian. Yet through further legal appeal, it was not until March 15, 1939 that the denomination officially changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Birch wrote again at that time regarding the name change, “What’s In A Name?”, on page 47 of the March 1939 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:  Jesus promised His followers that they would be brought up before the courts for the sake of their profession as Christianity.  This was one such example, and it will not be the last time in the history of the Christian church.  Yet God’s Word is sure.  Remain steadfast to the faith, and God’s reward will be ultimately yours in Christ.

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A Christian Philosopher

ClarkGHA Google search on the name of Gordon Haddon Clark will bring up reference after reference  for you to read.  One of them is from the PCA Historical Center, where his manuscript collection is preserved; a biographical sketch is posted there as well.

Gordon Clark had the advantage, after his birth in 1902, of being reared in a Christian home, and indeed being the son of the manse.  His father, the Rev. David Clark, was a graduate of Princeton Seminary in 1887, where he had studied under the great Reformed thinkers of that era.  Not surprisingly then, young Gordon was raised in a home where the Westminster Shorter Catechism was taught.  In addition, with his father’s library at hand, he had the opportunity to read Reformed masters like Calvin, Warfield, and Hodge.  It was a providential training which would bear tremendous fruit in his later pastoral and educational work.

Dr. Clark served as a Professor of Philosophy first at the University of Pennsylvania and then at Wheaton College from 1929–1944.  It was on August 9, 1944 that he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of Philadelphia of that denomination.  Unhappily, that ordination was opposed by some in that church until finally Dr. Clark left the OPC to join the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

It was during this same time that Dr. Clark became a faculty member of Butler University, serving as a Philosophy professor from 1945 to 1973.   Many of his best known books were written during this time at Butler University.  Retiring from Butler, Dr. Clark entered a new phase of his ministry in 1974, when he began teaching at Covenant College. He continued teaching there for about ten years, while also finding time to teach at both Sangre de Christo Seminary in Colorado, and Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia.

When the UPCNA joined the Presbyterian Church in the USA in 1958, Dr. Clark and the church he was the pastor of, in Indianapolis, Indiana, affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod.  The latter group joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.  Then in 1982, they joined the Presbyterian Church in America, but Dr. Clark joined with the unaffiliated Covenant Presbytery.  Dr. Clark thus had a remarkable relationship with many of the Reformed Presbyterian denominations in the United States.

He passed on to glory in 1985.

Words to live by:  A strong training at home, as Dr. Clark possessed, especially a training in the Westminster Shorter Catechism in younger years, is the missing note of many a covenant family.  But it is never too late to address that omission.  The pastors and Sessions of our Presbyterian congregations need to place that emphasis in the families of the congregation, even appointing a person, such as a retired teacher, to hear recitations of catechism answers each Lord’s Day.  Or heads of families, joined by their wives, need to train up their children in the Shorter Catechism.  It will be a gift which will never lose its influence for good in their hearts and lives.

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A Great Historian & Biographer

When searching out pre-twentieth century Presbyterian biographies, there are three big names—three primary sources which cannot be overlooked. The unsurpassed efforts of William Buell Sprague would have to be mentioned first. Indeed, Sprague did not limit himself to Presbyterians, but gathered biographical entries covering all the major Protestant denominations and even included Unitarians in his nine volume set, Annals of the American Pulpit. (As a young man, Sprague came under the influence of a Unitarian teacher, but turned to orthodox Trinitarianism while attending Princeton Seminary).

Another resource is that of Alfred Nevin‘s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., including the Northern and Southern Assemblies. This massive single volume was published in 1884 and tops out at 1229 pages. Where Sprague had solicited entries from pastors across the nation and acknowledges their contributions in each case, Nevin’s work gives the appearance of being his work alone, though it seems doubtful that a work of that extent could have been accomplished by just one man.

glasgowWmMThe third major resource brings us to another great biographer and the focus of our post today. William Melancthon Glasgow was born in Northwood, Logan county, Ohio, on July 1, 1856. If you will remember, this was the original location of Geneva College, and so not surprisingly this was where William received his college education, graduating there in 1880. After a few years of employment in Boston, he then prepared for the ministry at the Allegheny Theological Seminary (now known as the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary).

Glasgow’s first published work, Catalogue of the Alumni of Geneva College, appeared in the same year that he began his Seminary studies (1882). Another work, History of Geneva College followed quickly (1883), and his third book, The Provincial Churches, was published around the time he graduated in 1884. Clearly he was already evidencing his life’s interest in history and biography. I know of no other seminary student who has ever equalled his record of three volumes published while still in seminary.

Glasgow was licensed to preach by the (Reformed Presbyterian) Presbytery of Pittsburgh on April 9, 1884 and later ordained by the Philadelphia Presbytery (also RP) on November 26, 1885. He was installed as the pastor of the RP church in Baltimore, Maryland, and served that church until the early summer of 1889. His second pastorate was in Kansas City, Missouri, 1889-1893 and from that post he next answered a call to serve the RP church in Beaver Falls, Pennysylvania. In 1899, he transferred his credentials into the United Presbyterian Church of North America, in order to take a call to serve the UPCNA church in Wellsville, Ohio, from 1899 until his death in 1909, at the age of 51.

GlasgowRPHistoryRev. Glasgow authored two major works which are of inestimable value. The first of these, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, was published in 1888. That volume was republished in 2007 by Reformation Heritage Books. Glasgow’s other major biographical work was his Cyclopedic Manual of the United Presbyterian Church in North America, published in 1903. This work has never been republished, but is available in digital format. Where the former work offered more extensive biographies and histories of R.P. congregations, the latter U.P. work adopts a shorter notation style, similar in format to what is found today in the PCA Yearbook and the OPC Ministerial Register.

Words to Live By:
I’m convinced that the work of Christian biography and history falls very much within the Scriptural mandate to remember the Lord’s works [1 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 26:7; 28:5; 77:11; 78:7; 105:5; etc.] The history of the church is a history of what the Lord has done and is doing on this earth. Thus we can understand it as redemptive history, though clearly it is not authoritative or divinely inspired history, not in the way that Scripture is. We cannot look to church history or Christian biography to determine God’s will, for instance. But we can find profit from these accounts, and certainly these stories can prompt us to praise God.

Psalm 111:2-4 (KJV)
2. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.
3. His work is honourable and glorious; and his righteousness endureth forever.
4. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

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