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Our God Is Faithful, from Generation to Generation.

On this blog, now nearing the end of its second year, we have on numerous occasions made use of the news clippings preserved in seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Henry had a keen eye for the value of history, and those scrapbooks contain valuable coverage of the modernist controversy of the 1930’s. Additionally, Rev. Welbon also wrote histories of two churches that he served.

welbonHenryGHenry Garner Welbon was born in Seoul, Korea on September 28, 1904. His father, Arthur Garner Welbon [1866-1928], was a missionary sent to Korea under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Upon arriving in Korea in 1900, a year later he married Sarah Harvey Nourse, a missionary nurse who had arrived on the mission field a few years earlier.

The Welbons served at several mission stations, raising a young family there on the field, until Mrs. Welbon’s declining health forced the family to return to the United States in 1919.

Up until that time, Henry had attended the Pyongyang Foreign School in Korea. He then completed his secondary education in California, before the family relocated to Maryville, Tennessee. Henry graduated from Maryville College in 1927, though he had suffered the death of his mother in 1925, and his father returned to the mission field shortly thereafter.

Pursuing a call to the ministry, Henry entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 and was there during those turbulent years that witnessed the reorganization of Princeton and which in turn led to the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. Henry was one of those that left Princeton to complete his education at Westminster, graduating there in 1931. He was licensed just before graduation and ordained in September of 1931 by the Philadelphia Presbytery (PCUSA), being installed in what some term a “yoked” pastorate, serving both the Head of Christiana PCUSA church in Newark, Delaware and the Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Now settled as a pastor, he married his dear wife Dorothy the following June of 1932.

Following his convictions, Rev. Welbon led his congregations to take a stand for the gospel, though it meant the loss of their respective buildings. This was in 1936, and Rev. Welbon became one of the founding ministers of the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. Then in 1938, he was among those who left the PCofA to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Welbon serving the BP congregation in Newark, DE until 1942.

Our own records do not tell how he spent the years between 1942 and 1946, but in post-war years, his facility with the Korean language became important to the U.S. government. The government eventually wanted to relocate him to Korea, but wise friends there urged him not to take that appointment. Wise advice indeed, in the late 1940’s. Later in life, Rev. Welbon returned to missions, serving first as a teacher in Japan, 1966-69, and then as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Boatswain Bay, Grand Caymans, 1969-71. Thereafter, he was honorably retired as a member of the Delmarva Presbytery of the RPCES.

In the closing years of his life, and after the death of his beloved wife Dorothy, Rev. Welbon got on a train in the Spring of 1999 and left his home in Tucson, Arizona to travel across the country to research his family history. This had been a life-long project, and he hoped to finally locate some of the last necessary bits of information. St. Louis was one stop in his journey, and I was honored to meet him at that time. He continued on to Washington, D.C. to complete his research and then returned home to finish writing his family history. Completing that work, he took it to the publisher and died the very next day, on December 11, 1999.

Words to Live By:
Arthur and Sarah Welbon had six children, two of whom died in Korea while still quite young. They lived their lives in service to our Lord, as did their son Henry. Time does not permit us to search out the lives of their other children, but of the surviving children, one of Henry’s sisters, Mary, was the ancester—the great-grandmother—of Gabriel Fluhrer, a graduate of Greenville Seminary who served for a time at Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, and who now serves as an associate pastor at the ARPC’s First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. And as Rev. Fluhrer himself once said, as he reflected on his family’s heritage,

“Praise God for His covenant faithfulness to generation after generation.” 

Rev. Welbon authored four books, of which the first two are currently preserved at the PCA Historical Center:

A History of Head of Christiana Church. (1933).
A History of Pencader Presbyterian Church,. (1936).
A History of Christian Education in Delaware. (Univ. of Delaware, M.A. thesis, 1937).
A History and Genealogy of a Welbon Family which Came from Lincolnshire, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1854. (1999).

[with gentle humor, it’s hard not to notice, that when Rev. Welbon found a title he liked, he stuck with it!]

The grave site of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon can be viewed here.

 

 

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The Strange Testimony of an Irish Presbyterian
by Rev. David T Myers

When my fellow editor, Wayne Sparkman, asked me to present this biographical post of a character from the eighteenth century, and sent me some material from which to write it, one sentence jumped out of the sentences about this Presbyterian minister.  That sentence was that “he was suspended for contumacy.”

Now, lets face it, the word “contumacy” is not a word which we use every day, or even every month.  According to Webster, it comes from the Latin which means “rebellious.”  Thus, it is “stubborn resistance to authority, specifically  willful contempt of court.”  And the “court” here means the church court, like the Presbytery.  In that sense, it is found in the PCA Book of Church Order, in the  Rules of Discipline, chapter 32:6 and 33:2, 3 to speak of those who refuse to either appear or answer the charges of a church court.  And that is what  happened to our character today, the Rev. James Martin.

The facts are that James Martin was born in Ireland in 1725, educated in Scotland, studied theology in the Antiburger Divinity Hall, class of 1749, and ordained in Bangor,  Ireland, in 1753, and received by the Presbytery of Pennsylvania, at Pequea, Pennsylvania, on August 1, 1775.

Certainly  he was not known then as a contumacious minister.  The certificate which accompanied his transfer to America stated that “he was for many years a member of the Associate Presbytery of Moira and Lisburn, in Ireland, and behaved soberly and inoffensively, suitable to his character as a minister and Christian.”  The written draft went on to state that “he departs with an unblemished reputation” with nothing to hinder his admission as a member of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania..

And so he ministered the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ in the counties of Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, and Northumberland in Pennsylvania.  He also ranged far south in the “states” of Virginia and North Carolina.

From what little we can ascertain, he declined the spiritual authority of the Presbytery in 1777.   They disciplined him with suspension of his ministry credentials.   Yet it is odd that  we read of his continuing ministry with spiritual profit to  members in Presbyterian churches until his death on this day, June 20, 1795.  What gives?

Words to Live By:
We can only surmise that his continuing ministry after his suspension by the Presbytery meant that there was a spiritual repentance and restoration as a Presbyterian undershepherd.   That is possibly, given biblical repentance, but as our Book of Church Order states, “he (must)  exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heal the wound made by his scandal.” (Rules of Discipline, 34:8.)  While the court which brought about the censure has the ultimate responsibility to do that,  all of us Christians need to be ready as Paul puts it in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (KJV)  The case of “overtaken” speaks of being overtaken suddenly by a sin.  In addition, the word “restore” is a medical one.  It spoke of a bone out of joint, which was to put back tenderly and resolutely by those  who are spiritual.   Are you available and able to become that kind of spiritual helper to restore a sinner who is repentant to the visible church of Jesus Christ?

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Bethel’s Second Pastor, 1782 – 1789

Bethel Presbyterian Church, in Clover, South Carolina, ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA, having been founded in 1764. Francis D. Cummins was Bethel’s second pastor serving from 1782 – April 17, 1789 He was born in 1752 near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Charles Cummins and Rebecca McNickle Cummins who were from Northern Ireland. When Francis Cummins was in his 19th year, his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The neighboring college, then Queens Museum, afforded him the opportunity for his higher education. It was there that he graduated about the year 1776.

Francis Cummins was an active and zealous Patriot in the Revolutionary War. He was present at the reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775. After leaving college he was engaged chiefly in the business of teaching. He was for several years a preceptor at Clio Academy, a respectable German Seminary in Rowan County (now Iredell County), North Carolina. While Mr. Cummins was engaged in teaching, he studied theology under the direction of Dr. James Hall. Francis Cummins was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Orange on December 15, 1780. During the year 1781 he preached at various places and in the spring of 1782 accepted a call from Bethel Church where he was ordained at the close of that year.

Rev. Cummins was one of the original members of South Carolina Presbytery when it was set off from Orange Presbytery in 1785. In the spring of 1788 while residing at Bethel and serving both as pastor and teacher of the youth, he was elected by the people of the York District as a member of the South Carolina Convention called to decide upon the Constitution of the United States. Although all his colleagues were for rejecting it, Rev. Cummins voted in its favor. Sometime between 1782 and 1789 Bethel Academy was organized by Rev. Cummins. The first school was built about one and a half miles north of the church. Education and religion were closely associated in the early days of the church. It was a common practice that the minister of the church also taught in the school. In 1788 the old Presbytery of South Carolina held its seventh session at Bethel. This was perhaps the first Presbytery meeting ever held at Bethel Church. Rev. Cummins was the Moderator.

Rev. Cummins was married to Sarah Davis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Cummins died December 10, 1790. Rev. Cummins married the second time in October 1791 to Sarah Thompson.

After leaving Bethel Rev. Cummins was the pastor at several churches in the western part of South Carolina. In 1793 he was appointed by the Presbytery to collect facts in regard to the early history of all the churches at that time. These records were received and approved by the Presbytery.

In 1803 Rev. Cummins moved to the state of Georgia. He was the first minister to preach at Salem Presbyterian Church (formerly named Liberty Presbyterian Church), Philomath, Georgia in their new location.

Rev. Cummins was the first rector or principal of the Meson Academy, Lexington, Georgia. In 1920 Meson Academy became Oglethorpe County High School.

Rev. Cummins had a great vigor of constitution. He was an admirable scholar and a well-read theologian. He was uncommonly gifted in prayer, was vivid and clear in his conceptions, having great power of condensation in the use of language. In stature he was above the common size with broad shoulders, expanded frame, large limbs, a high forehead and a deep-toned, guttural voice.

In January 1832 he was attacked with influenza which terminated his life. He died on February 22, 1832, and is buried in the Greensboro City Cemetery, Greensboro, Georgia.

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taylorgaikenGeorge Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor.  When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940.  He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941.  He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry.  He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.

Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942 and to this marriage, four children were born.

After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the B.D. degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948.  He was also ordained in 1948.  He served as pastor of Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia for two years and then became pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina.  In 1950 he then entered Duke University for graduate study.  Later he was awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.

Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959.  He became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles, and wrote A Sober Faith in 1953.  His book St. Luke’s Life of Jesus was published in 1954.

In 1959 Dr. Taylor became editor of The Presbyterian Journal, an independent weekly with an international circulation and with offices in Asheville, North Carolina.  He served in this capacity for twenty-four years, and during that time was active in the conservative movement in the PCUS which eventuated in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), formed in 1973.  He was a leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of its General Assembly in 1978.

In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and was inaugurated in December of that year.  However, three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly.  Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, and funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina.  Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.

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Saturated with Scripture

Just last year, on October 20, 2014, a Civil War monument to Confederate General Stephen Dodson Ramseur was rededicated near Belle Grove National Historic Park in Virginia on the Cedar Creek Battlefield. It was the anniversary of his death on that battlefield in 1864. He was a solid believer in Christ as Lord and Savior. He was also a solid Christian Presbyterian.

Ramseur was born on May 31, 1837 in Lincolnton, North Carolina, the second son of nine children born to Jacob and Mary Ramseur. Jacob was a merchant. His wife was a staunch Presbyterian and taught the children, including Stephen, that same conviction in his young years.

Stephen, or as he later on was called Dodson, or Dod, went to schools in this area and eventually on to Davidson College, a Presbyterian School. It was there that he fell under the influence of the Professor of Mathematics, Danial Hervey Hill. The latter encouraged Dod to attend the United States Military College at West Point, so after a period of only two years at Davidson, he did. He was to remain there for five years, eventually graduating fourteenth out of a class of forty-one students.

Ramsuer lived his Christian convictions at West Point, reading his Bible daily, attending worship services, and living a moral life. At the same time, his political views were becoming more and more Southern in their convictions. At one time, he observed that Southern students were superior to northern students in every way! (No amen permitted by our Southern subscribers!) He graduated in 1860, commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery, only to resign from it and join the newly-formed Confederate States of America when his state of North Carolina seceded from the United States. Before long, he was promoted to Colonel of the Third North Carolina Infantry Regiment. Eventually he was commissioned a Major General, the youngest general officer in the Confederacy. He fought in many battles from the Seven Days Battles in 1861 to the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864. On October 28, 1863, he married his first cousin, Ellen Richmond, or “Nellie,” who like himself was of Presbyterian conviction, which union produced a daughter, though he never saw her. A year later, on this day, October 20, 1864, he would die of battle wounds at Cedar Creek.

His biblical faith remained a steadfast conviction throughout his life. No letters left his pen without those Scriptural convictions and prayers imbedded in them. Some of them follow:

“Sometimes I am so oppressed with my sinfulness, that I cannot be but sad.”

“Let us rejoice rather and be exceedingly glad that our Redeemer lives and reigns continually, making intercession for us at the throne in heaven.”

“May we be soon live together a Christian life, loving and obedient children of our merciful God.”

“May He who turns pride to shame, vain glory to emptiness, who is powerful to raise up and to destroy, may that God be our strength and shield, our mighty Protector and our deliverer.”

Words to Live By:
Dodson Ramseur’s life was saturated with Scripture. How as a Christian he could have held those political convictions and all that went with it, we may never comprehend, but that he both lived and died a Christian Presbyterian, with a firm hope in Christ, is nonetheless certain. Dear reader, does the Word of God so saturate your life that your neighbors, when they hear you converse and when they witness your behavior, there is no doubt as to Whom you belong?

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We continue this week with the remainder of Chapter VII of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, by the Rev. Robert P. Kerr (1883). Please keep in mind that the author here is speaking of the organization of his own Church at that time. There are many differences today for most of the Presbyterian Churches in this country. For one, only the PC(USA) has the Synod level court; the PCA, OPC, EPC and other conservative Presbyterian denominations do not employ the Synod structure.

II. THE PRESBYTERY.

This is the most important assembly of the Church, because it has the most work to do. It has charge of all the congregations in a certain district, and is composed of all the ministers and one elder from every church in that district. [Ed.: This limit of one ruling elder per church was for the PCUS; it may or may not be the case with our modern Presbyterian denominations]. Quotation is made from the same excellent authority as before for a description of the functions of this body, and also the Synod and the General Assembly :

“The Presbytery has power to receive and issue appeals, complaints and references brought before it in an orderly manner; to examine and license candidates for the holy ministry; to receive, dismiss, ordain, install, remove and judge ministers; to review the record of the church Sessions, redress whatever they may have done contrary to order and take effectual care that they observe the constitution of the Church; to establish the pastoral relation, and to dissolve it at the request of one or both of the parties or where the interests of religion imperatively demand it; to set apart evangelists to their proper work; to require ministers to devote themselves diligently to their sacred calling and to censure the delinquent; to see that the lawful injunctions of the higher courts are obeyed; to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the church; to visit churches for the purpose of inquiring into and redressing the evils that may have arisen in them; to unite or divide churches at the request of the members thereof; to form and receive new churches; to take special oversight of vacant churches; to concert measures for the enlargement of the Church within its bounds; in general, to order whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under its care; to appoint commissioners to the General Assembly; and, finally, to propose to the Synod or to the Assembly such measures as may be of common advantage to the Church at large.” [compare the PCA’s Book of Church Order, chapter 13, paragraph 9, which is closely similar]

III. THE SYNOD.

This assembly has under its care all the Presbyteries in a large district, corresponding, usually, in America, with the area of a State—for example, the Synod of New York or the Synod of North Carolina. The Synod is usually composed of all the ministers and one elder from every congregation in its bounds; but, in some branches of the Church, Synods are allowed to choose between this plan and that of having its members appointed by the Presbyteries under its care.

“The Synod has power to receive and issue all appeals, complaints, and references regularly brought up from the Presbyteries; to review the records of the Presbyteries and redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to take effectual care that they observe the constitution of the Church, and that they obey the lawful injunctions of the higher courts; to erect new Presbyteries and unite or divide those which were before erected; to appoint ministers to such work, proper to their office, as may fall under its own particular jurisdiction; in general, to take such order with respect to the Presbyteries, Sessions and churches under its care as may be in conformity with the Word of God and the established rules, and may tend to promote the edification of the Church; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church within its bounds; and, finally, to propose to the General Assembly such measures as may be of common advantage to the whole Church. It shall be the duty of the Synod to keep full and fair records of its proceedings, to submit them annually to the inspection of the General Assembly and to report to it the number of its Presbyteries and of the members thereof, and, in general, all important changes which may have occurred within its bounds during the year.”

IV. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

This is the highest authoritative assembly of the Church. It meets annually, and has charge of all the Synods in its division of the great Presbyterian sisterhood. It is composed of an equal number of ministers and elders, appointed by the Presbyteries. If a Presbytery has more than twenty-four ministers on its roll, it may send two ministers and two elders, and in some branches of the Church may go on increasing the number of its delegates by two for every twenty-four ministers in its membership. There are many General Assemblies, representing many bodies of Presbyterians, and all independent of one another.

“The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts* [*In some branches of the Presbyterian Church cases of minor importance are not allowed to come before the General Assembly, but the Synod’s settlement of them is final.]; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the constitution, in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Synods; to take care that the inferior courts observe the constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Synods; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint ministers to such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations according to the rules provided therefor; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of the majority of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Synods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constituents of those courts and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole Church; to correspond with other Churches; and, in general, to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth and holiness through all the churches under its care.” [compare the PCA’s BCO chapter 14, paragraph 6, which is similar.]

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Teaching a Nation’s Leaders

Considered by many to have been the foremost educator in the South, Moses Waddell was of Irish parentage and was born in Rowan (now Iredell) county, North Carolina, on July 29th, 1770. He received his academic education at a school which was opened in the neighborhood under the name of Clio’s Nursery. For four years, beginning at the age of fourteen, he was engaged as a teacher (1784-1788) at various places in North Carolina and Georgia.

Leaving his employment as a teacher, he enrolled as a student at the Hampden-Sydney College, graduating there in 1791. The next year he was licensed to preach by the Hanover Presbytery, of Virginia, on May 12, 1792.

About 1793, Waddell opened his first school in Columbia county, Georgia, then another in 1801,  in Vienna, Abbeville District, South Carolina. He remained in that work until 1804, when he removed to Willington, six miles south of Vienna, and it was at Willington where he founded the famous Willington Academy. It was common for Presbyterian pastors to maintain an academy, in part for the extra income, and in part because they could thus guide the moral, religious and intellectual education of the children of their parish.

All of these schools were designed as preparatory schools, utilizing a classical education model. As the fame of the Willington Academy grew, it came to be called the “Eton in the woods”. To give one example of the school’s rigor, students were required to memorize, translate and recite some 250 lines of Greek or Latin every night. A Willington graduate, South Carolina governor George McDuffie, held the record, having once recited over 2200 lines of the poet Horace.

In 1818, Waddell was elected President of what was then Franklin College, later to become the University of Georgia. However, he did not actually step into the duties of this office until May, 1819. While serving as an educator, he also labored as a pastor, founding the Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia in 1820. During his tenure at the University, the school prospered greatly, and he continued here as President until 1829. Resigning his post, he returned to Willington. For forty-five years he had labored as a teacher. His labors as a pastor continued another six or seven years more, and the Rev. Dr. Moses Waddell’s life drew to a close on July 21, 1840.

Dr. James McLeod provides the following account of Dr. Waddell as a teacher:

“The boys called him ‘Old Moses,’ and while he believed in corporal punishment, he never spanked in a passion, and it finally evolved that he did this only upon a verdict of a peer jury of students. He never spanked for a deficient lesson but chiefly for defects in morals or actions that had to be punished.

“He was a cheerful man even playful in his disposition. He maintained a personal interest in each boy. He had a wry sense of humor. When boys on second floor dumped water on him as he went in a door, he said nothing, but later raised an umbrella as he went in the door to the delight of the boys.

“His strength seems to have been to analyze the boys accurately, then demanded accordingly. He was not a man who used sentiment to escape facing the laziness of adolescence. He demanded. They groaned, they gave, they griped, they worshiped him later. There was a chestnut tree outside the Doctor’s study window that the boys remembered watching as they waited to see the Doctor if they had done anything wrong. Others would climb it to see if anyone was punished by him.

“Dr. Smith, the president of Princeton College, was quoted as saying that he received no students from any school in the United States who stood better examinations than those of Dr. Waddel.”

As a pastor, Alfred Nevin notes that “he was pious, zealous, and well versed in theology generally. His style of preaching was plain, simple, earnest. He addressed himself much more to the understanding than to the imagination or passions. As a teacher he stands almost unrivaled.”

Words to Live By:
In The Great Doctor Waddell, by Dr. James McLeod, the author provides a compilation of the students educated under Waddell. The list includes two Vice-Presidents, three Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of War, one Assistant Secretary of War, one US Attorney-general, Ministers to France, Spain and Russia, one US Supreme Court Justice, eleven governors, seven US Senators, thirty two members of the US House of Representatives, twenty two judges, eight college presidents, seventeen editors of newspapers or authors, five members of the Confederate Congress, two bishops, three Brigadier-generals, and one authentic Christian martyr.

In light of which, this might be a good time to review again the words of Dr. R. B. Kuiper, posted here this past July 15th:

“God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.”

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Please note that there was a typo in yesterday’s post, and that the correct death year for Dr. Carl McIntire was 2002, not 2005. That error was corrected yesterday evening. Our apologies for not catching it prior to posting.

“Brother Bryan”

 

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]Many years ago when a slim lad came to preach in Birmingham, he was “Mr. Bryan”; as the years passed an honorary title was prefixed and they called him “Doctor”; but this was many years ago, for long since the “Mister” and the “Doctor” have gone into discard and for the multitudes in and around Birmingham he is “Brother Bryan.” It was his own way of speaking to others. Christ had made all men, white and black, native born and immigrant, poor and rich, his brothers. He called them all “Brother,” and men realizing how truly he meant it fastened the name “Brother” to him. He is “Brother Bryan of Birmingham,” the brother beloved of all.

Do you know Brother Bryan? No?. Then you do not live in Birmingham, Alabama, for everyone in that great industrial city knows Brother Bryan. His stooped shoulders, Christlike face, and gentle voice are the best known in all the city. He is pastor of about the smallest church in Birmingham, but his parish is by far the largest. Among all the ministers he has had the longest pastorate, retiring from his pulpit finally after fifty-two years of service in one church. If you look in the denominational year book, you will find him listed as pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church, but all these years his church has been more or less a tethering post, allowing him to roam over the whole city in the service of Christ.

About statistics or bookkeeping he knows nothing, but since in Birmingham he makes good print, a newspaper some years ago put a reporter out to estimate in figures the reach of his ministry. After many hours spent over church, county, and city records, the reporter wrote for the Birmingham Post on November 5, 1926, the following estimate of Brother Bryan’s thirty-seven years and five months pastorate :

“He has married 4,589 couples

officiated at 7,926 funerals

preached 49,120 times

led 7,627 to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. James Alexander Bryan, Presbyterian minister, was born March 20, 1863, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, S. C; a son of John Robert and Mary M. (Savage) Bryan. He received his early schooling in Williamsburg County, S. C, was taught by his mother, and sent to Old Lovejoy Academy, Raleigh, N. C, for preparation to enter the University of North Carolina. He was graduated from the latter institution, 1885; received two scholarships to Princeton, and was graduated from the course in theology there, B. D., 1889.

With $1.85 in his pocket young Bryan arrived at Princeton in September, 1886, to begin his theological course. The three years at Princeton were a great experience for the young man from South Carolina. At that time Princeton was in her glory with such stalwart intellectuals as Dr. William H. Green, Dr. Casper Wistar Hodge, Dr. Francis L. Patton, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, Dr. John D. Davis, and others upon her faculty. The piety of the slim young Southerner brought to him the name “The Saint,” which after years has proven to have been well placed. The characteristics so marked in later years began to express themselves in these seminary days. Writing forty-five years afterwards, one of his seminary friends said, “I always felt that he was a modern St. Francis of Assisi. His Christlike spirit and his untiring devotion to his Master in the service of His children have been an inspiration to me always.” His recreation during these wonderful days was long walks with student friends along the beautiful roads leading into the country from Princeton, and on these long walks young Bryan revealed his deep spiritual nature to his intimate friends.

He became pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church at Birmingham in 1889, and held that charge for fifty-two years in all (1941). Twice he was sent to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) by the Presbytery of North Alabama, and also served as moderator of the Presbytery of North Alabama. He devoted his spare time to preaching outside of his church, and held meetings in Birmingham among the firemen, policemen, factory people, railroaders, and students. He conducted evangelistic work in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. He was as well a Prohibitionist.

Words to Live By:

Would you change your world? Here in Brother Bryan we find one great example of how to go about that work.

The Brother Bryan Mission continues this dear pastor’s work, as does the Third Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Alabama. Remarkably, this church, organized in 1884, has had only three pastors in its one hundred thirty-one years of existence:

James A. Bryan, 1889-1941

James S. Cantell, 1941-1978

Richard C. Trucks, 1978-current:

 

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The End of an Institution

spj02The first issue of The Southern Presbyterian Journal appeared in May of 1942.  Dr. L. Nelson Bell, Dr. Henry B. Dendy and a handful of like-minded men had founded the magazine to combat the liberalism that was beginning to influence the Southern Presbyterian Church [the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., or PCUS].  The Journal began in Weaverville, North Carolina, but later moved to Asheville, North Carolina.  The magazine continued under the name The Southern Presbyterian Journal until 1959, at which time the name was changed to The Presbyterian Journal. This name change coincided with a change of editors. Henry B. Dendy had originally signed on as editor at Bell’s urging. As he stated at his resignation, “the temporary position stretched out to over seventeen years.” Dendy continued to serve as managing editor and business manager as the post of Editor was handed over to the Rev. G. Aiken Taylor. That change was effective with the October 7, 1959 issue (Vol. 18, No. 23). Taylor was committed to continuing Nelson Bell’s agenda:  awakening Southern Presbyterians to the decline of their church.  However, Taylor had a different result in mind.  He despaired of reforming the PCUS and set about working toward a large, non-regional, conservative Presbyterian denomination.

taylorgaikenNo one was more instrumental in organizing the Presbyterian Church in America, and making it a national denomination, than Aiken Taylor.  Ironically, the formation of the PCA—the Journal’s main goal as far as Taylor was concerned—caused the beginning of a long decline in circulation.  As more and more Journal readers became PCA members, there was decreasing need for a periodical designed to warn of liberalism in the PCUS. Dr. Taylor left the Journal in 1983 [to serve as president of the Biblical Seminary of Hatfield, PA], and he died shortly after his departure.  Dr. William S. Barker became editor, but the Journal continued for only a few more years.  Its last issue was that of March 18, 1987.

Pictured above right—the original home of the Southern Presbyterian Journal.
At left, Dr. G. Aiken Taylor.

Words to Live By:
While Presbyterian newspapers and magazines have rarely been financially viable, there remains a place for denominational and trans-denominational news services. The PCA has byFaith; the OPC has  New Horizons; the RPCNA has the RP Witness; and the Associated Reformed Presbyterians have the  ARP Magazine. Whether in print or digital format, these services provide a much-needed connectionalism between a denomination’s churches and members. They can make us aware of ministries and opportunities for service, as well as informing our prayers. In short, they strengthen the necessary connections that undergird each denomination. And for this reason, these publications deserve your prayers and support. Subscribe if you can to the print format, and encourage your church to make issues available to its members. Bookmark the web link and visit weekly to stay abreast of the news within your denomination. Better, visit the other links provided above and get to know your brothers and sisters in other denominations. Pray for them too, for they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, engaged with you in this great spiritual battle to proclaim the Gospel and extend God’s kingdom across the whole earth.

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taylorgaikenToday’s post looks at the life of G. Aiken Taylor, one of the founding fathers of the Presbyterian Church in America and a leading voice among conservative Presbyterians during the 1960’s and 1970’s

Very Much the Churchman

George Aiken Taylor was born on January 22, 1920 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, the son of Presbyterian missionaries George W. Taylor and Julia Pratt Taylor.  The influence of that upbringing was clearly manifest in later years, for one of Dr. Taylor’s adversaries once said of him, “Dr. Taylor was born of missionary parents in Brazil, and I happen to know that he is ‘not conscious of color…’”

When he was fifteen years old he returned to this country to complete his education, graduating from the Presbyterian College of South Carolina with the A.B. degree in 1940.  He taught in the South Carolina public schools for a year, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1941.  He served with the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division and rose to the rank of Captain, commanding a heavy weapons company in the 142nd Infantry.  He participated in five major campaigns in World War II, was wounded once and decorated once.

Taylor married the former Blanche Williams of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1942. Together they raised four children.

After the war, Taylor entered Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree, Magna Cum Laude in 1948.  He was also ordained that same year and installed as pastor of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Smyrna, Georgia, where he served for two years before becoming pastor of the  Northside Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina.  In 1950 he entered Duke University for graduate study and was later awarded the Ph.D. degree by Duke for his dissertation, John Calvin, the Teacher, a study of religious education in Calvin’s Geneva.

Dr. Taylor served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana from 1954 to 1959, and during those years he became interested in the work of Alcoholics Anonymous through his own work with alcoholics, developing an appreciation for A.A.’s principles. His book, A Sober Faith, was one result of that work and was published in 1953.  A second book, St. Luke’s Life of Jesus, was published in 1954.

When Dr. L. Nelson Bell stepped down as editor of The Southern Presbyterian Journal in 1959, it was Aiken Taylor who took on those duties, serving as editor until 1983. It is interesting to note that one of Dr. Taylor’s conditions for taking the job entailed a name change for the magazine, which now became simply The Presbyterian Journal. This name change was a reflection of Taylor’s own ecumenical aspirations. Taylor was instrumental in the formation of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (NPRF), which in turn led to the formation of another conservative ecumenical organization, the North American Presbyterian & Reformed Council. During his tenure as editor, he was also active in the conservative movement within the Presbyterian Church, US (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church), an effort which eventually led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  Subsequently Taylor was a key leader in the PCA and was elected moderator of the General Assembly of that denomination in 1978.

In 1983, Dr. Taylor was named president of Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where he succeeded the founding president of the school, Dr. Allan A. MacRae. Taylor was inaugurated in December of that year, but just three months later—on March 6, 1984—he died suddenly.  Memorial services were held in Pennsylvania, with funeral services at Gaither Chapel in Montreat, North Carolina.  Dr. Taylor was buried in nearby Swannanoa, North Carolina.

Words to Live By:
I have been told that it was Francis Schaeffer who coined the phrase “split P’s” when speaking of all the many divisions among Presbyterians. But for all those divisions, the latter half of the twentieth century turned out to be largely a time of focus on union and cooperation. Among the conservative Presbyterian denominations, merger talks were actively underway between various groups from 1956 until about the close of the century. Sadly, since that time the silence has been deafening. Dr. Taylor had the right idea in forming the NPRF, where conservatives of all denominations could fellowship together and thus overcome distrust and distance. Leaving all talk of mergers entirely aside, for the cause of Christ we as conservative Presbyterians need to be creating opportunities to work and fellowship alongside one another. Some might say that the many para-church groups now provide this function, but is that really enough, and are they effective for this purpose?

For Further Study:
In his years as editor of The Presbyterian Journal, Dr. Taylor was no stranger to debate and even controversy. One of the more (in)famous incidents involved his editorial titled “Lo, the TR!” and the many responses that followed. Our readers may be familiar with the term “TR” but to get the full story in context, click here.

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