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Appointed in Defense of the Gospel

Go to any battlefield commemorating the fighting of the War Between the States, or Civil War, and you will find monuments highlighting what took place on  that spot 150 years ago. In like fashion, any denomination which has any history at all, will have various spiritual monuments which remember the constant and never-ending battle for the gospel which took place by its ministers and members on behalf of the everlasting truth.

MarsdenRIt was on May 23, 1956 that one of the founders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Robert S. Marsden, spoke at the twentieth anniversary of that church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Taking as his text Philippians 1:7, he addressed the assembled members of the Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia what is involved in being appointed for the defense of the gospel.

His first point spoke of the past monuments in defense of the gospel as they are found in church history.  Beginning at Pentecost, the minister traced the period of time from the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. which saved the day for the gospel against the early attacks upon it.  Then the Reformation period of the sixteenth century was raised up by God to preserve the church from Roman Catholic traditions which usurped the gospel.  A jump further to the beginnings of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1706, where seven ministers saw the need to organize a new church in the colonies.  Then June 11, 1936, a small band of one  hundred and fifty teaching and ruling elders constituted the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, closed out the milestones of the gospel to be memorialized by Biblical Christianity.

After enunciating the summary of the gospel to be that Christ died for our sins, Rev. Marsden outlined the three battles which present themselves before the modern Reformed church.  There are, succinctly, the battle against religionists, the battle against externalism, and the battle against formalism.  How easy it is to be drawn away from the gospel into one of these false viewpoint and actions.

Our assured success, this Orthodox Presbyterian leader stated, falls into keeping our minds in the perpetual character of the war.  As long as we are in the church militant, there will be plenty of fighting on-going.  He reminded the listeners on that June evening in 1956 that battles must constantly be fought at the very point of contact.  All of these conflicts will often result in suffering for Christ, but success is assured if the message and ministry is kept relevant.

The entire message is found in the Presbyterian Guardian on-line archives, Vol 25, number 6 for June 15, 1956.  Readers are urged to read it in its entirety.

Words to Live By: If we as believers do not recognize our appointment by the Holy Spirit to defend the gospel, there is simple no one else who will do it.  Pray for a divine opportunity this week to say a word in defense of that blessed good news.

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It’s not always easy writing a biographical sketch for men who served in the old Bible Presbyterian Church or the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. These were the two groups which merged in 1965 to create the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and neither group maintained anything like the ministerial directories that are available for both the OPC and the PCA. So details are often lacking in an account such as we have here today, taken from the memorial for Rev. Harry H. Meiners, Jr. This memorial was “spread upon the minutes” (i.e., it was included as part of the minutes) of the 1971 RPCES Synod.
I note right at the start of the following memorial, that nothing is said here of his parents, nor where he went to college, nor do we have his full birth date. Finding these added details will require going through volumes of old Presbytery records and other materials, but it is a project which I plan to start in earnest this summer, to construct a concise ministerial directory for the BPC (pre-1956) and the RPC,GS. Once we have that in hand, we will effectively have a directory for the RPCES. Some of this information is already available for those men who eventually became part of the PCA, but there are many others still to research. If you have biographical information for any of those men who might have died prior to the reception of the RPCES into the PCA in 1982, please contact me (see the About page).

meiners01“Reverend Harry H. Meiners, Jr. was born in 1919. After college he took his seminary training at Westminster Theological Seminary, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

“Upon completion of his seminary training in 1950, he began to serve as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Duanesburg, New York, a member church of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod. He served in this post until 1959, resigning due to the contraction of polio, which made it difficult for him to continue in active ministry.

“He moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in July of 1959 for health reasons. Though his body was frail, it did not limit him in his desire to be of utmost service in the Lord’s work. He was largely responsible for the University Presbyterian Church of Las Cruces joining with the our denomination. That church has not only a fine membership from that community, but a strong student ministry to New Mexico State University located there. Since the church property adjoins that of the University, it has a most strategic location. Mr. Meiners has on several occasions served as interim pastor and moderator of the Church. He was held in highest esteem by the Church and not only ministered there but also at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church in Alamogordo.

“Mr. Meiners was one of the leaders largely responsible for the growth of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America and then in the union with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. [Note: the EPC referred to here was originally named the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, taking the EPC designation from 1961 until its merger with the RPCNA, GS in 1965; it is not to be confused with that EPC which began its existence in 1981 and which continues today.] He served as the Stated Clerk of the RPC,ES from the time of the Union in 1965, having served in the same capacity in the Reformed Presbyterian Church since 1960. He was most proficient, conscientious and accurate. He manifested a great compassion for God’s people and a deep loyalty to Christ.

“At the 148th General Synod [1970], Mr. Meiners gave notice that he would be resigning at the time of the 149th General Synod due to a serious heart attack. Although it was not easy to give up this position which he loved, he was making every effort to turn over the responsibility and endeavoring to make it easier for his successor to take over the work. Just recently [early 1971] he suffered another serious heart attack and was again hospitalized, but seemed to be improving. Just the Sunday prior to his home-going, he attended both Morning and Evening Services of the Las Cruces Church. He spoke of his great yearning to continue to have an active part in our denomination through the ministry of prayer. On Sunday, May 9, early in the morning, he quietly slipped away to be with the Lord. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons. His oldest daughter graduated from Covenant College last year and the next two children are now students of the College. [one son went on to serve as a missionary with the PCA’s Mission to the World agency.]

“A great leader and faithful servant has been taken from us. We will all deeply miss our brother who was so gracious and kind and brought so much encouragement to our movement. God’s ways are past finding out. Again, we are reminded that men come and go, but God and His work go on forever. May his home-going challenge all who knew him to be more faithful in service to the Lord, looking forward to the day of the appearing of our Lord. Mr. Meiners was faithful until death and to him has been given the Crown of Life. He has heard the word of His Master, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” Matthew 25:21.”

Words to Live By:
Time and again we read that God uses the meek and lowly. Pay careful attention, for often the Lord uses times of adversity and hardship to bring about great works in His kingdom. Rev. Meiners was stricken with polio, and so surrendered his pulpit and moved to New Mexico . . . where he was vitally involved in the life of two more churches!

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On a few rare occasions this year we will revisit a post from last year, particularly when time is short and other demands take precedence. Last March 4th, we looked at the life and ministry of an OPC missionary to Japan, the Rev. R. Heber McIlwaine, and I think this post is well worth a second look.

American on the Outside, but Japanese on the Inside

Reginald Heber McIlwaine [1906-1998]Born Reginald Heber McIlwaine on July 7, 1906 of Southern Presbyterian missionary parents in Kobe, Japan. Heber, as he was known to family and friends, was a natural for missionary service. Coming to a knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior in his younger years, he learned about Japan and the language of Japan early.  In fact, so accustomed was he to this foreign land that one said of him that he may have been an American on the outside, but he was a Japanese on the inside. Graduating from Westminster Theological Seminary in the early years of that historic theological school, he first became an assistant to the Rev. Clarence Macartney at  First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.  But the missionary call was too strong in his  nature to remain there more than two years.

He was appointed by the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions to serve in Japan, and did so from 1934 – 1936.  Joining the new Presbyterian Church of America in 1936, and was sent next to Harbin, Manchoukuo. Choosing to remain with the PCofA in 1937, he became one of the first foreign missionaries appointed by their Committee on Foreign Missions.  In 1938, he was sent to Japan, but the rising war clouds forced him to return back to the States, where he served as a pastor and Army chaplain. From 1947 to 1950, he ministered to Japanese aborigines in a mountainous area of Taiwan. Finally, in 1951, he returned “home” to serve full-time as a missionary in Japan, and did so until his retirement in 1976.

After friends had thought he would remain a bachelor the rest of his life, R. Heber McIlwaine surprised everyone and married Eugenia Cochran on March 4, 1947. It was said of her that she was almost as “Japanese” as he was. At any rate, they would serve together for twenty-five years in Japan.

Most of their service was at their home in Fukushima, north of Tokyo, Japan. For those who judge success by numbers, their ministry was not successful. The average number of worshipers was under twenty. But many of those converts from paganism to Christianity moved elsewhere for employment or service, taking their Christian commitment with them. The Reformed Church of Japan was, in the words of John Galbraith, “greatly enriched by” their ministry.

Both were to be translated to heaven in the latter years of the twentieth century. Certainly it can be said that their works continue to follow them in the faith and life of Japanese Christianity.

Words to Live By:  Faithfulness to the gospel is the only rule of success in the kingdom of God. It is the world which measures success by numbers, by growth, and by economics.  When that formula is brought into the church, not only does God withhold His blessings, but many faithful men and women are marginalized from the service of the Lord Jesus.  Let kingdom work be measured by kingdom standards, that is, those of the Bible.

For Further Study:
The R. Heber McIlwaine Manuscript Collection is preserved at the PCA Historical Center.
See also these related collections at the Historical Center:
James A. & Pauline S. McAlpine Manuscript Collection
William A. McIlwaine Manuscript Collection
John M.L. Young Manuscript Collection
Japan Missions Library

 

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Founding Was In His Blood.

broomall_wickWick Broomall, Jr. was born on this day, January 31, 1902 to parents Wick Broomall, Sr. and his wife, Annie Nixon Broomall. Their son was educated at Maryville College, graduating in 1925 and then preparing for the ministry by attending Princeton Theological Seminary, from 1925-1929. Loraine Boettner was attending Princeton at that same time. Wick earned the Th.B. degree in 1928 while concurrently earning an M.A. from Princeton University, and he then earned the Th.M. degree in 1929. That was the year that was marked by the reorganization of Princeton Seminary, a change in the governance of the school which allowed modernists to take control and a change which drove conservatives like Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen, O.T. Allis, and several other professors to resign in order to start Westminster Theological Seminary.

By August of 1929, Wick was ordained by Birmingham Presbytery and he briefly served as stated supply for the PCUS church in Montevallo, Alabama, 1929-30, before taking a post teaching at the Evangelical Theological College, 1930-32 (this school was renamed Dallas Theological Seminary in 1936). Returning to Birmingham, he pastored the Handley Memorial church, 1933-37 while also serving as the founding President Birmingham School of the Bible (now Southeastern Bible College).

Broomall_Wick_02Rev. Broomall also served churches in Georgia and South Carolina and taught at Columbia Bible College, 1938-51, before transferring his credentials into the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and taught at Erskine Theological Seminary, 1952-58, then was received back into the PCUS and pastored the Westminster Presbyterian church in Augusta, Georgia, 1958-69. While serving as one of the founding faculty at the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies, 1971-75, he was also pastor of the PCUS church in Sparta, Georgia, 1972-75, and as one of the founding fathers of the PCA, led the Sparta church in becoming one of the founding churches of the new denomination.

The author of a number of books and articles, Rev. Broomall was also a founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society, well-known among their number. On February 5, 1976, he was called home to his Lord, at the age of 74.

Words to Live By:
In 1938, an article by Rev. Broomall, on the subject of regeneration, appeared in The Evangelical Student. This would have been published just as he began his tenure at the Columbia Bible College, and may be among his first published works.

“Much is being said and written in our modern age about the fruits of Christianity. The so-called social gospel of bankrupt Modernism is nothing less than a vain attempt to get the fruits of Christianity without the one essential root that alone can produce the desired fruits. The root that we are referring to is what the Bible calls the new birth or regeneration. The sterility and barrenness of present-day Modernism is to be found in the fact that Modernists have largely denied that man as he is needs a radical change in his nature. They have said so many nice things about our sinful Adamic nature, and have dressed it up with so many refinements and cultural embellishments, that they have completely covered up the facct that man’s nature is essentially evil and is absolutely incapable of producing the desired fruits. One does not need to hear or read many sermons in order to be convinced that the doctrine of regeneration as taught in the Word of God is both denied and ignored today.”

[excerpted from “The Christian Doctrine of Regeneration,” The Evangelical Student, 13.1 (Jan. 1938) 15-19.]

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This day, January 30, marks the birth of Francis August Schaeffer, in 1912.

cfc1944Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer’s early ministry is not all that well known. He began his studies at Westminster Theological Seminary, then transferred to, and graduated from, Faith Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, he answered a call to serve a small Presbyterian congregation in Grove City, PA. Arriving in Grove City in June, by July he had in place and began to implement Dr. Abraham Lance Lathem’s Summer Bible School program. Lathem’s program was intense. It met for five weeks, three hours each morning, was centered on Scripture and Catechism memorization, and had no hand-crafts! In two years time, the congregation grew from 18 to 105 members, largely because of Schaeffer’s emphasis upon ministry to children.

The PCA Historical Center has preserved a portion of a letter from Dr. Schaeffer in which he commends the Summer Bible School program:

Dear Friend in Christ:

For a long time I have been keenly interested in the ALL-BIBLE “SUMMER BIBLE SCHOOL”. Before I had a regular charge that interest was academic–the plan sounded splendid both as a means of Christian instruction and as a Church builder. When we were called to the Covenant Bible Presbyterian Church of Grove City, a Church of 18 active members meeting in the American Legion Hall, we put the plan to the test and found it more powerful than we had even guessed. We arrived in Grove City in June and in July with little other means of contact than door bell pushing, we had our first Summer Bible School. That first year with only 4 children in our Sabbath School, we had 135 children enrolled. The following three years we had Schools all of which had over 170 in them. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the greatest factors which God used in the Building of the Grove City Church to a congregation of 105 members with its own beautiful little building was the All-Bible “Summer Bible School”.

Educationally the school meets many needs. A great many of us long for an educational system that will bring our children to the Lord instead of taking them away. Modern unbelief has gained much of its control through the early planting of many of its men in educational centers. However, the setting up of Christian Schools is difficult and not many of us can achieve it. Never-the-less, in the pedagogically correct and Spirit empowered Summer Bible School course, we have a solution which each of us can effect.

As I have said, I have been impressed with the All-Bible Summer Bible School for a long time, but since I have been called to Chester as Associate Pastor and have gone over the remarkable record of the School in its world-wide scope, I am continually more certain that God has raised up nothing in our age that has surpassed this All-Bible Summer Bible School as a means of evangelization, as a bulwark against unbelief through the careful teaching of the Word of God, and as a builder of Church congregations that mean to stand “all out” for Fundamental, Supernatural Christianity.

The School was founded 30 years ago by Dr. Lathem, and uses No Handcraft; it is the Word of God and the Word of God only. There are records at hand of 100,000 conversions through it, and only God knows how many more have been reached for Christ that are not recorded. Before the Nationalistic blow against Fundamental Christianity in Japan there were 586 Schools in Korea alone. It is my firm conviction that the All-Bible Summer Bible School fills an increasingly important. . .”

[The letter ends there. Perhaps we will one day find the rest of that letter among some other collection.]

Words to Live By: Can there be any more important ministry than in raising up children in the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord? What a blessing to be able to say that you never knew a time when you did not trust Christ for your salvation. And please don’t think that you have to wait to be able to talk with your children about spiritual matters. Patience and plain, simple language will overcome the barriers and even fairly young children can grasp their sinful condition and their need of Christ as their savior. Communicate the Gospel clearly, plainly, lovingly—not just by your words but especially by your actions—and wait in trusting faith on God’s time to bring about conviction, repentance and faith.

Image Source: The photograph above is from 1944, when Dr. Schaeffer was pastor of the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, where ministry to children continued to play an integral part in his overall ministry to the Church. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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In His Time, the Lord Will Raise Up a Man.

There is so much that could be told here about our subject today. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was born in Pennsylvania, near what is now the city of Harrisburg, in 1746. His parents were godly Scots-Irish settlers who raised their children in the fear of the Lord. When Samuel was just nine, his parents moved the family to North Carolina where they settled a 300 tract of forested land and with great labor, turned it into a farm. The family also became members of the historic congregation that would later be known as the Thyatira Church, not far from Salisbury, NC.

Samuel excelled at learning and even taught his brothers and sisters before going off to the College of New Jersey, where he studied under Dr. John Witherspoon. Upon graduation, he studied theology with his uncle in New Jersey, and then began to seek ordination and a pastoral call to serve a church. In God’s providence, he returned to the Thyatira Church to serve there as pastor from 1777 until his death on January 21, 1811.

But what particularly caught my eye as I read through one account of his life was the following paragraph, which brought back a professor’s lesson in seminary. Teaching a course on “The Introduction to Theology” at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in the late 1970’s, Professor John Frame noted how often the Lord raises up one man to stand against the tide of unbelief and opposition. Besides some of the obvious Biblical examples of Moses and Daniel, he cited Athenasius and Martin Luther, among others. It is in that same vein that this following account seems so important. Here we have a picture of early America that we may not have seen before, but it is also a picture in many respects much like today:

During the Revolutionary war, and especially from the summer of 1780, when the South became the theatre of conflict, the country was in a state of utter confusion, and vice of almost every kind prevailed to an alarming extent. The civil character of the war, too, gave it a peculiar ferocity, and produced a licentiousness of morals, of which there is scarcely a parallel at the present day. The municipal laws of the country could not be enforced, civil government was prostrated for a time, and society was virtually resolved into its original elements. Mr. McCorkle came out in reference to this state of things in his utmost strength. He preached, prayed, reasoned, and remonstrated–nor were his labours in vain. From the close of the Revolutionary war, and especially from the breaking out of the Revolution in France,–North Carolina, in common with other parts of the country, was overrun with French infidelity. Here again, he stood forth the indomitable champion of Christianity : he not only preached but published in defence of Divine Revelation; and infidelity quailed before him. It has been confidently asserted that more was done, in that part of the country, by his efforts, to arrest this tide of evil, which threatened at one time to sweep every thing before it, than by any or all other opposing influences.

Words to Live By:
Surely our times today are no worse than what you read pictured in the quote above. Then should we think that the Lord’s arm is now too short to save? (Num. 11:23; Isa. 59:1). Surely not! God can still work a mighty work, as great or greater than He did in McCorkle’s day. The only question is, are we waiting on Him in expectant prayer?
Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

For Further Study:
A biography of Rev. McCorkle, titled The Prophet of Zion-Parnassus, was written by James F. Hurley and Julia Goode Eagan, and can now be read on the Web, here.

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.

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