Northern Ireland

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The season of General Assemblies and Synods is upon us, June being the month when most of the American Presbyterian denominations convene in their national meetings—and so this seemed a good time to look over a little tract from the late 1840’s titled “Ten Reasons for Being a Presbyterian. We will look at one reason each day, as offered by our anonymous author, working from an original copy of the tract, which is pictured below on the right. On the cover of the tract is this quote from the great Swiss historian, J.H. Merle d’Aubigne:—

“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.

ten_reasons_for_being_a_PresbyterianTen Reasons for being a Presbyterian.

1. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that in Doctrine, in Discipline, in Government and Worship rests so entirely on the Word of God. The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Presbyterians. In all matters, whether of faith or practice, holy Scripture is supreme and sufficient. To this rule all creeds and confessions, canons and articles, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be brought for examination: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.“—(Isaiah viii. 20). It is not “Thus saith antiquity,” nor, “Thus saith tradition;” nor, “Thus saith the Church;” but to the Presbyterian the sole authority is, “THUS SAITH THE LORD.”


2.
I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of Persons therein—the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall—the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer—the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner—the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Grace through Faith alone—the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment—the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked—these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God;—the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace,—the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God.—(Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

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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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“Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy”

The day is lost to history, even church history. Not one book has it listed down. But we know the month and the year. It was April in 1661 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland.

On some day of that month of April then, in the year of 1661, faithful and godly Presbyterian ministers in what we know as Northern Ireland, or Ulster, were ejected from their pulpits, their manses,  and their salaries by the Church of England. They were the first Presbyterian  ministers to suffer this ejection in the three kingdoms of Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. Why were they thrown out first? Some have answered that the old form of church government, to say nothing of worship, were still the norm in Ulster. It was just a matter of time before the Anglican church would lay down the law, so to speak, and eject Presbyterian ministers from its pulpits. In both England and Scotland, that church form and worship had been abolished by the Parliament, with even the Common Book of Prayer replaced, at least for a time.

But on one day in April, 1661, close to seventy Presbyterian ministers were ordered to obey the crown of England, or leave their pulpits. There was no gratitude for what they had accomplished for the Savior in previous years. In many cases, they and their Scottish followers had come into the area, reworked the barren fields into plots of industry and farming, repaired the churches which had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect, and even revived the people of the land to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But with all this material and spiritual success, the thought of Presbyterian doctrine and government being preached and lived in Ulster didn’t set right with the Anglican folks. So these faithful ministers were banned from five separate Presbyteries and their local churches, and their parishes. Only seven Presbyterian ministers conformed to prelacy and kept their pulpits, their parishes and their incomes.

It was a sad day for the Presbyterian church in Ireland.

Words to Live By:
The names of those who were ejected from Ulster’s churches and presbyteries are still recorded in the record books of the Presbyterian Church. Their witness for the truths of God’s Word still stands. Beloved, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you obeyed the Gospel call and put all your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ? Then know too that if you truly are now a Christian, that God has called you to a life of holiness, set apart to His glory. There may well be a great cost some day for obeying this Gospel call, but that cost will pale in comparison to all that God has in store for His dear children.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”—Philippians 2:12-13

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A Sweet Majestic Man Showed me the Majesty of God

Our title was a description of the preaching of the Rev. Robert Blair at St. Andrews in Scotland by an English merchant who heard him on the Lord’s Day one time. It spoke volumes about our post’s figure on this day. But it doesn’t do him full justice, as he ministered also effectively in Northern Ireland.

Robert Blair was born in 1593 to John and Beatrix Blair, the youngest child of six children. His father, a man of prayer, would die of tuberculosis when he was but five. He was able in God’s providence to go to the University of Glasgow in 1608. Becoming a school teacher in the same city, he has the oversight of 150 pupils. In 1616, after becoming acquainted with the principles of the university, he began to teach on the college level in Philosophy and Greek. It was during this time that he was encouraged to preach the Word and prepare of his life calling. A change of administrators at the school to Episcopalian brought an end to his association with that university. After considering a number of possibilities, an invitation to Ulster was made and accepted.

His arrival in Bangor, Ulster, or Northern Ireland, brought him to the same issue from which he left Scotland. The official church in Ulster was the Church of Ireland and Episcopalian in government and practice. Blair was a convinced Presbyterian. So the present Anglican bishops, with the encouragement of Archbishop Ussher, proposed and carried out his ordination by the laying on of hands of Presbyterian ministers in the land. That took place on July 10, 1623.

Blair’s first pastorate was large, with over 1200 members. He began to proclaim the Word of God four times a week with home visitation for the purpose of helping his educational backward people understand the Scriptures. It was said of him that he was the greatest instruments for preaching the gospel in the North of Ireland! Certainly, he was an outstanding Reformed minister just as that time who shaped the Scot-Irish in the land in Presbyterianism.

About eight years later, his ministry was brought to a sharp end with the bishops of the Irish Anglican church seeking to gain control. From that time in 1631 to 1638, he was to be suspended from the gospel ministry by the Anglican authorities, then reinstated, then suspended again by the bishops. Finally he, and three other Presbyterian ministers sought to flee to America with a hundred lay people. Tragically, that trip was not successful and they were forced to return to Ireland. Finally, he went back to Scotland, where he preached for 23 years as a pastor to the church of St. Andrews. It was there that the merchant of our title spoke of him. At last, he answered his Lord’s call, laying down his labors and entering upon his eternal rest in 1666. He died at Aberdour on 27 August 1666, and was buried in the parish churchyard.

Words to Live By:
The circumstances may be different, but today’s under shepherds of Christ’s flock have many trying times in their calling. This is why this author, who was a pastor for thirty-five years himself in Canada and the United States, frequently speaks of the importance of lay people to pray for their pastors. Scripture is clear. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 states, “But we request of you . . . that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give your instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB)

For Further Study:
The Life of MrRobert Blair, minister of St. Andrews, containing his autobiography, from 1593-1636 : with supplement of his life and continuation of the history of the times, to 1680

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Josiah Welsh had cried out at the moment he entered glory, “O victory, victory, forevermore,” on June 23, 1634. He was only thirty-six years of age.  But what he had accomplished for Christ in those short thirty-six years was remarkable.

Born in 1598 in Scotland, he was of good Presbyterian stock! How could this not be said when we acknowledge that his mother was one of John Knox’s—yes, that John Knox—daughters. Elizabeth was the third daughter of the great Reformer from his second wife. So that made our topic of today’s post the grandson of John Knox. In addition, his own father John Welsh was a Presbyterian minister as well.

Josiah studied first at Geneva, Switzerland, much as his grandfather had done.  Then he returned to Scotland to study at St. Andrews. He even taught some at the University of Glasgow. He evidently moved to Northern Ireland, or Ulster, due to his opposition to papacy. Yet God moved in two men as the helps of that move.

Humphrey Norton was an English Puritan layman who first employed Joshua Welsh as the chaplain for his household. This was followed by the Rev. Robert Blair, the first Presbyterian preacher in Ulster, who had come over himself from Scotland to Ireland.

It was said that Josiah Welsh had “outstanding spiritual qualities” which enabled him to settle down as the pastor of Templepartrick, Ireland in 1626. While many of his fellow Scottish Presbyterians under-shepherds who moved to Ireland accepted Church of England parishes under the bishops of that land, Josiah Welsh did not and labored without the benefit of membership in an organized presbytery.

It was said of Josiah Welsh that he possessed an ability to preach directly to the consciences of his people in the pew. He was a fervent preacher of the Word which was backed up by a godly lifestyle. One of three famous revivals in Ulster, called the Six Mile Water Revival, occurred under benefit of his preaching to the Irish populace.

Words to Live By: There is an old saying which states “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Certainly this was true in the life and ministry of John Welsh. Question? Is it true in your life, dear reader? Talk to your pastor to see what biblical counsel he might impart to you on how it might be your life testimony as well.

 

 

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Some of our past posts published here on This Day in Presbyterian History have given us portions on the life and ministry of Francis McKemie, in the context of the beginnings of the Presbyterian church in America.  What informed Presbyterians know is that this founder of American Presbyterianism was ordained in Ireland as a Presbyterian minister, which itself was formed in 1642.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Under King James I, large numbers—literally tens of thousands—of Scottish Presbyterians emigrated in 1610 to the region now known as Northern Ireland. What they found was a barren land, laid waste by the Irish wars in the late 1500’s. These Scottish immigrants must have taken a deep breadth as they viewed their new surroundings, and wondered what they had gotten themselves into when they decided to leave Scotland.  But James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery, the two founding fathers of the Ulster Scot movement, knew that these Scot immigrants were just what was necessary to populate and transform the land. With courage and determination, they plowed, planted, and eventually built the region into an agricultural and industrial nation. They also rebuilt some 15 churches which had been destroyed in previous decades. These were a people who lived out their biblical faith; they were a people whose convictions equipped them to meet great challenges.

The first Presbyterian minister to Ulster was the Rev. Edward Brice who came over in 1613.  Others would join him, even as the early church in Ireland would be more Prescopalian, to coin a word, than Presbyterian.  Presbyterian ministers labored within the confines of Episcopal churches at first.  Such a combination could not continue forever however, which was made clear on August 4, 1621, when the Five Articles of Perth were passed in the old country, and applied there and in Ulster.  It was simply an attempt to conform Scottish worship to the Anglican pattern of worship.  The attempt did not go well!

God’s Spirit was also at work during these times.  There were three religious revivals which renewed the graces of Christ in believers, thus bringing God’s elect into the kingdom. These three revivals were known as the Stewarton Revival, the Six Mile Water Revival, and the Kirk O’Shotts Revival. Each in turn served to prepare Church members for some hard trials in later decades.

The first time of trial took place in 1639.  The Black Oath was introduced in Ulster on May 21.  It specifically rejected the National Covenant of Scotland, which had been signed in 1638. Those who were asked to sign the Black Oath were to reject the National Covenant, and swear loyalty to King Charles I.  Some of the Ulster Scots signed the Black Oath, but most refused.

That trial continued on until October 23, 1641 when there was literally an “open season” for the persecution of Irish Protestants and Presbyterians carried out by Roman Catholics.  This author chose not to amplify the gross details of the massacre, but it is horrible to the extreme.  Estimates of those murdered were from 40,000 to 300,000.  Finally, someone thought it best to call for military help from Scotland.  Major General Robert Monro came with a Scottish army of 2500 soldiers to defend the harried residents of the Kirk.

But our post ends on a positive note, for from this Scottish army came the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church.  Each Scottish regiment had a Presbyterian chaplain.  Further, in each regiment, could be found what we would today call ruling elders. Then on Friday, June 10, 1642, in Carrisckfergus, Ireland, a meeting was held to constitute this Presbytery.  Present were Presbyterian chaplains Hugh Cunningham, Thomas Peeples, John Baird, John Scott, and John Aird.   Four other elders joined them to establish Sessions of Elders.

Rev. John Baird preached the first Presbytery sermon from Psalm 51:18, “By your favor do good to Zion, Build the walls of Jerusalem.”  Rev. Thomas Peeples was elected as Stated Clerk, a position he held for the next 30 years.   A flood of applications came from all of Ulster to join the Presbytery.  By 1660, there would be 80 congregations, 70 ministers, 5 Presbyteries, and 100,000 members.  And from them would come countless people immigrating to the land in which you and I live today.

Words to Live By: What stands out to this author is how the Lord prepared His people by not only heaven-sent revivals of the church,  but also through His preserving and sustaining care, in raising up His church despite terrible persecution of it.  How we can be thankful that this same God is still the God of providence, who guides and guards His people today.

 

 

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Ready and willing to go for Christ . . . anywhere

beattyCharles03The young Irish salesman was sparring verbally with the small group of college students. Only he was doing it in Latin, remembered from his classical education classes of his youth in Northern Ireland.  Sensing his gifts, the head master of the Log College, the Rev. William Tennent, challenged the salesman to sell all of his wares and study for the ministry.  Charles Beatty did just that, entering the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Charles was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1712.  His parents were John Beatty, a British Army officer, and Christiana Clinton Beatty.  His early home education was in theology in a classical Christian education setting.  At age 14, his father died.  We are not told how he came to “own” Christ, but he traveled to the American colonies with his Uncle Charles Clinton in 1729, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Studying at the Log College, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick on October 13, 1742, and ordained the same year on December 14, 1742.

For a while, he assisted the Rev. Tennent at his congregation, and finally assumed the pulpit upon the latter’s death in 1743.  Three years later, he married Anne Reading, with whom he would  have ten children.  She must have been a remarkable woman, as her husband and their father would be gone many years on mission trips.  With very few Presbyterian ministers in the colonies, he was called first by the Synod of New York to travel to Virginia and North Carolina in 1754, preaching to the scattered Scot-Irish Presbyterian families.

But the westward expansion then going on in Pennsylvania also attracted his heart.  He would make two trips in 1758 and 1766 to that frontier of Cumberland County, which extended then all the way to Pittsburgh.  The first trip in 1758 was as chaplain to the army of General Forbes, with Col. Chapman’s Pennsylvania regiment.  He would preach the first Protestant sermon west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The second trip with the Rev. George Duffield of Carlisle’s First Presbyterian Church in 1766.  Their purpose was to report on the numbers of Presbyterian families then pushing west, for the purpose of establishing presbyteries to minister to those hardy pioneers.  Accompanying them was a Christian Indian by the name of Joseph Peppy, who was a valued interpreter when they established contact with the Indian tribes in the area.  They found numerous Presbyterian families, including around Fort Pitt itself.

Charles Beatty was involved in relief work as well.  Twice he took trips to England to raise funds for the Corporation for the Relief of Distressed Presbyterian Ministers.

Leaving “home missions,” Beatty sailed for the Barbados to minister the Word there, only to be called to his heavenly home on August 13, 1773.

Words to Live By:
Charles Beatty was a man who for the sake of the gospel was content to be used for Christ’s kingdom.  Reader: is God’s Spirit calling you to a similar ministry of service for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  In Matthew 9:37, 38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers in his harvest.” (ESV)

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The following obituary was published in The Presbyterian Quarterly, April 1899 (Volume 13, Number 2), pages 354-355:

John Bailey Adger, D.D., died in Pendleton, South Carolina, on the 3d of January in the 89th year of his age.

adger02Dr. Adger was born of Scotch-Irish parentage in Charleston, S.C., December 13, 1810. He graduated when 18 years of age at Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1833, of which, at the time of his death, he had been for some time the senior surviving alumnus. Shortly after his ordination by the Charleston Union Presbytery in 1834, he went as a missionary to the Armenians, under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and served in this work for twelve years at Constantinople and Smyrna, until the failure of his eyes and other circumstances compelled hisi withdrawal from the foreign field. During his missionary service he translated into Armenian the New Testament, Pilgrim’s Progress, the Shorter Catechism, and other books, which translations are still in use among that people.

After his return home he engaged in work among the negro slaves in his own native city. A church, connected with the Independent Presbyterian Synod, whose house of worship stands hard by his late residence in Pendleton, is appropriately named for him, “The Adger Memorial Church.”

Upon the withdrawal, in 1856, of Dr. Palmer from the Chair of Ecclesiastical History and Church Polity in the Columbia Theological Seminary, Dr. Adger was elected his successor, and filled that position with great zeal and ability for seventeen years. After his retirement in 1874, although he had then reached the age of 64, he entered with energy and vigor upon the pastoral work in his own Presbytery of South Carolina, which he continued until, having attained the age of 83, he was reluctantly constrained, by physical infirmities, to give up the public preaching of the Gospel.

At this advanced age, and amid these hindering infirmities, with courage and energy, he undertook what was perhaps the greatest task of his life, the writing of a large book, which he called “My Life and Times.” His life had been a long one, the times through which he had passed, eventful in Church and State; and he undertook to write a history and discussion of the various questions he had to meet and help to solve. With the assistance of a devoted daughter, and such other help as he could procure, he gathered up the facts, studied out the questions, and dictated chapter after chapter of his book. His mind, still clear and vigorous, and his body wonderfully strong and active, he labored systematically and diligently for several years at this work. And almost as soon as the last chapter was finished, the last page written, and the valiant servant of God had laid down his fruitful pen, the Master called him to the everlasting rest.

Dr. Adger’s magnum opus, My Life and Times, is a classic and was reprinted just a few years ago by the English publisher, Tentmaker.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Bringing Bibles and Rifles to Worship

It was in uncivilized territory where the Rev. Robert Cooper took his first pastorate in central Pennsylvania. Born in Northern Ireland in 1732, the young man stayed there for the first nine years of his life. When his father died, young Robert accompanied his widowed mother in 1741 to the American colonies across the Atlantic. Following so many of their Scot-Irish race, he studied at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, graduating there in 1763. As was common practice in that era, Robert prepared for the ministry by studying theology with a private tutor, and he was ordained to the gospel ministry on November 21, 1765. Within that same year, he was called to Middle Springs Presbyterian Church, just north of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He was to remain there for thirty-one years, finally leavening in 1797 due to declining health.

Worship in pre-Revolutionary times was a challenge, due to the presence of hostile native American in their region. The usual items brought to a worship service were a Bible (the Genevan edition, with Calvinistic footnotes), a hymn book (a Psalter for unaccompanied singing of psalms), and a  rifle, with ammunition readily available. Their defensive armament would then be stashed at the entrance of the church whenever they would attend church services.

Dr. Cooper remained at Middle Springs for three decades plus. He was a scholar of considerable merit. He had served later on for a brief time in the Revolutionary Army. His interests were of wider influence than the local scene, for he had helped to plan for the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1789, at which he was a voting delegate.

He wrote a tract entitled “The Signs of the Times” as well as written messages delivered to the American troops of the Revolutionary Army. He went to be with the Lord on April 5, 1805.

Words to live by:  If  you remember that the Scots-Irish Presbyterians initially settled in Cumberland County of Pennsylvania, and then after about thirty years began to migrate west and south, we will have a real appreciation for the Rev. Robert Cooper. He no doubt influenced the evangelistic and revival traditions of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in America.  With the danger of Indian attacks ever present as they walked to and from church, or upon their homes while they were away at church, it took real courage to be a Reformed Christian in those days. Increasingly we have our own challenges to faith and life today. Then as now, a firm resolve based upon God’s sure care for each of His children, is necessary in standing for faith and righteousness.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Thessalonians 1 – 3 ; Acts 18:12 – 19:10

Through the Standards: The Lord’s Supper: Commemorative, not Sacrificial

WCF 29:2
“In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for the remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the only propitiation for all the sins of His elect.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First Governor of Delaware

The first governor, or at that time called the president of Delaware, was a Presbyterian physician in Wilmington, Delaware.  Born on February 21, 1721 in Ulster, Northern Ireland, John McKinly came to Delaware in 1742.  While his education and particularly his medical background is hard to trace, nonetheless he soon became a popular physician in Wilmington. Marrying Jane Richardson, they both became prominent members of the Presbyterian Church.

He served any number of city, county and state offices, until he was elected by the General Assembly to become the first governor of the Delaware colony.  The fact that he was from Ulster, and thus a Scot-Irish Presbyterian, made him acceptable to the Presbyterians from New Castle County.  However, the fact that he was a moderate and not entirely in favor of independence from Great Britain, made him popular with the Anglicans from Kent and Sussex County in Delaware.  This background, while a good compromise in political circles, did not save him from being captured by the British after the Battle of Brandywine.  He would be a prisoner of war until 1778, when he was exchanged for the royalist son of Benjamin Franklin.

After that experience, even with promises of support, he never entered politics again.  He died August 31,1796, and was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery.

‹ Governor McKinly’s gravesite, in the Brandywine cemetery.

Words to live by:  The only reference we  have to him being a Presbyterian is the statement that he was “a prominent Presbyterian.”  That can mean almost anything and have very little to do with his spiritual testimony.  Usually, in those days, a person couldn’t be buried in the Presbyterian cemetery unless they were members in good standing in a Presbyterian church.  And people who joined the membership of a Presbyterian church in colonial times had to have a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ coupled with a credible profession of faith by their works.  So arguing from the latter to the former, we can hope at least that his was a genuine faith with a conviction of Presbyterian doctrine, government, and life.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Proof texts of religious worship in general:

Philippians 4:6
“Do not by anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God.” (ESV)

John 14:13, 14
“Whatever you ask in my name I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (ESV)

Romans 8:26
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (ESV)

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