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It Remains a Message for Our Time.

Gardiner Spring

This day, August 18th, marks the death, in 1873, of the Rev. Gardiner Spring. He was already 76 years old when he proposed his “Resolutions” at the General Assembly of the Old School Presbyterian Church in 1861. Those were the Resolutions that split the denomination North and South. But long before Spring achieved infamy with his “Resolutions,” he had been, since 1810, the pastor of the Brick Church in New York City. In fact, his entire ministerial career of 63 years was spent at this one church.

Born in 1785, he was educated at Yale and for a short time practiced law before entering Andover Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry. A powerful preacher, he became a prominent pastor in that City and in the Church at large. Spring made great use of the press as an auxiliary to his preaching of the gospel, and a number of his works remain in print to this day. In 1816, Rev. Spring brought the following message on New Year’s Day, a message having to do with the subject of the revivals of religion.

To read or download the entire message in PDF format, click here.


SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

2 Chronicles 29:16-17:—
And the Priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify.

The passage just recited may give a direction to our thoughts. When Hezekiah came to the throne Aof Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father Ahaz was not only an idolatrous king, but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry, had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel, and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin. With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased, and the idols of the Gentiles exalted; and though but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival of the Jewish religion. He destroyed the high places; cut down the groves; brake the graven images; commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired; and exhorted the Priests and Levites to purify the temple; to restore the morning and evening sacrifice; to reinstate the observation of the Passover; and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.

The humble child of God in this distant age of the world, will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates, with devout admiration. As he looks back toward this illustrious period in the Jewish history, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is within our reach at the commencement of the present year, as really as it was within his, twenty-five hundred years ago. But to bring this subject more fully before you, I propose to show,

What a revival of religion is;

The necessity of a revival among ourselves;

What ought to be done in attempting it;—and

The reasons why we may hope to succeed in the attempt.

I. What is a revival of religion?

We have never seen a general revival of the Christian interest in this city. In two or three of our congregations, there have been some seasons of unusual solemnity, which have from time to time resulted in very hopeful accessions to the number of God’s professing people. But we have not been visited with any general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we talk about revivals of religion without any definite meaning; and hence, many honest minds are prejudiced against them. Some identify them with the illusions of a disturbed fancy; while others give them a place among the most exceptionable extravagancies, and the wildest expressions of enthusiasm. But we mean none of these things when we speak of revivals of religion. It is no illusion—no reverie—we present to your view; but those plain exhibitions of the power and grace of God which commend themselves to the reason and conscience of every impartial mind.

The showers of divine grace often begin like other showers, with here and there a drop. The revival in the days of Hezekiah, arose from a very small beginning. In the early states of a work of grace, God is usually pleased to affect the hearts of some of His own people. Here and there, an individual Christian is aroused from his stupor. The objects of faith begin to predominate over the objects of sense and his languishing graces to be in more lively and constant exercise. In the progress of the work, the quickening power of grace pervades the church. Bowed down under a sense of their own stupidity and the impending danger of sinners, the great body of professing Christians are anxious and prayerful. In the mean time, the influences of the Holy Spirit are extended to the world; and the conversion of one or two, or a very small number, frequently proves the occasion of a very general concern among a whole people.

Every thing now begins to put on a new face. Ministers are animated; Christians are solemn; sinners are alarmed. The house of God is thronged with anxious worshipers; opportunities for prayer and religious conference are multiplied; breathless silence pervades every seat, and deep solemnity every bosom. Not an eye wanders; not a heart is indifferent;—while eternal objects are brought near, and eternal truth is seen in its wide connections, and felt in its quickening and condemning power. The Lord is there. His stately steppings are seen; His own almighty and invisible hand is felt; His Spirit is passing from heart to heart, in His awakening, convincing, regenerating, and sanctifying agency upon the souls of men.

Those who have been long careless and indifferent to the concerns of the soul, are awakened to a sense of their sinfulness, their danger, and their duty. Those who “have cast off fear and restrained prayer,” have become anxious and prayerful. Those who have been “stout-hearted and far from righteousness,” are subdued by the power of God, and brought nigh by the blood of Christ.

The king of Zion takes away the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh. He causes “the captive exile to hasten, that he may be loosed, lest he die in the pit and his bread should fail.” He takes off the tattered garments of the prodigal; clothes him with the best robe, and gives him a cordial welcome to all the munificence of His grace. He brings those who have been long in bondage out of the prison house; knocks off the chains that bind them down to sin and death; bestows the immunities of sons and daughters, and receives them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

And is there any thing in all this so full of mystery, that it has no claim to our confidence? Behold that thoughtless man! Year after year has passed aaway, while he has been adding sin to sin, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. But the Spirit of all grace suddenly arrests him in his mad career. The conviction is fastened upon his conscience that he is a sinner. Fallen by his iniquity, he views himself obnoxious to the wrath of an offended God. He sees that he is under the dominion of a “carnal mind;” his sins pass in awful review before him, and he is filled with keen distress and anguish. He is sensible that every day is bringing him nearer to the world of perdition, and he begins to ask, if there can be any hope for a wretch like him? But, O! how his strength withers, how his hopes die! He is as helpless as he is wretched, and as culpable as he is helpless. The “arrows of the almighty stick fast within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirits.”

But behold him now! In the last extremity, as he is cut off from every hope, the arm of sovereign mercy is made bare for his relief. The heart of adamant melts; the will that has hitherto resisted the divine Spirit, and rebelled against the divine sovereignty, is subdued; the lofty looks are brought low; the selfish mind has become benevolent; the proud, humble, the stubborn rebel, the meek child of God. Jesus tells the despairing sinner where to find a beam of hope; the voice of the Son of God proclaims “forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace;” the Angel of peace invites and sweetly urges the soul, stained with pollution, to repair to the blood of sprinkling; stung with the guilt of sin, to look up to Jesus for healing and life.

Is this an idle tale? Nay, believer, you have felt it all. And if there is no mystery in this, why should it be thought incredible, that instances of the same nature should be multiplied, and greatly multiplied in any given period? If there are dispensations of grace above the ordinary operations of the Spirit, they may exist in very different degrees at different times. And if the immediate and special influences of the Holy Ghost are to be expected in the edification of a single saint, or the conversion of a single sinner, why may they not be expected in the edification and conversion of multitudes? It is not above the reach of God’s power; nor beyond the limits of His sovereignty. God can as easily send down a shower, as a single drop; He can as easily convert two as one; three thousand as one hundred.

Now this is a revival of religion. We do not pretend to have traced the features it uniformly bears, because it bears no uniform features. God is sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Still, wherever God is pleased to manifest His power and grace, in enlarging the views, in enlivening and invigorating the graces of His own people, and in turning the hears of considerable numbers of His enemies, at the same time, to seek and secure His pardoning mercy, there is a revival of religion.Read the rest of this entry »

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Gardiner SpringOur subject on Monday of this past week was the Rev. Gardiner Spring [1785-1873]. So for our Lord’s Day sermon today, we turn to a sermon delivered by Rev. Spring in 1816, when he was just 30 years old. Rev. Spring brought the following message on New Year’s Day, a message having to do with the subject of the revivals of religion.

To read or download the entire message in PDF format, click here.


SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

2 Chronicles 29:16-17:—
And the Priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify.

The passage just recited may give a direction to our thoughts. When Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father Ahaz was not only an idolatrous king, but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry, had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel, and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin. With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased, and the idols of the Gentiles exalted; and though but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival of the Jewish religion. He destroyed the high places; cut down the groves; brake the graven images; commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired; and exhorted the Priests and Levites to purify the temple; to restore the morning and evening sacrifice; to reinstate the observation of the Passover; and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.

The humble child of God in this distant age of the world, will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates, with devout admiration. As he looks back toward this illustrious period in the Jewish history, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is within our reach at the commencement of the present year, as really as it was within his, twenty-five hundred years ago. But to bring this subject more fully before you, I propose to show,

What a revival of religion is;

The necessity of a revival among ourselves;

What ought to be done in attempting it;—and

The reasons why we may hope to succeed in the attempt.

I. What is a revival of religion?

We have never seen a general revival of the Christian interest in this city. In two or three of our congregations, there have been some seasons of unusual solemnity, which have from time to time resulted in very hopeful accessions to the number of God’s professing people. But we have not been visited with any general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we talk about revivals of religion without any definite meaning; and hence, many honest minds are prejudiced against them. Some identify them with the illusions of a disturbed fancy; while others give them a place among the most exceptionable extravagancies, and the wildest expressions of enthusiasm. But we mean none of these things when we speak of revivals of religion. It is no illusion—no reverie—we present to your view; but those plain exhibitions of the power and grace of God which commend themselves to the reason and conscience of every impartial mind.

The showers of divine grace often begin like other showers, with here and there a drop. The revival in the days of Hezekiah, arose from a very small beginning. In the early states of a work of grace, God is usually pleased to affect the hearts of some of His own people. Here and there, an individual Christian is aroused from his stupor. The objects of faith begin to predominate over the objects of sense and his languishing graces to be in more lively and constant exercise. In the progress of the work, the quickening power of grace pervades the church. Bowed down under a sense of their own stupidity and the impending danger of sinners, the great body of professing Christians are anxious and prayerful. In the mean time, the influences of the Holy Spirit are extended to the world; and the conversion of one or two, or a very small number, frequently proves the occasion of a very general concern among a whole people.

Every thing now begins to put on a new face. Ministers are animated; Christians are solemn; sinners are alarmed. The house of God is thronged with anxious worshipers; opportunities for prayer and religious conference are multiplied; breathless silence pervades every seat, and deep solemnity every bosom. Not an eye wanders; not a heart is indifferent;—while eternal objects are brought near, and eternal truth is seen in its wide connections, and felt in its quickening and condemning power. The Lord is there. His stately steppings are seen; His own almighty and invisible hand is felt; His Spirit is passing from heart to heart, in His awakening, convincing, regenerating, and sanctifying agency upon the souls of men.

Those who have been long careless and indifferent to the concerns of the soul, are awakened to a sense of their sinfulness, their danger, and their duty. Those who “have cast off fear and restrained prayer,” have become anxious and prayerful. Those who have been “stout-hearted and far from righteousness,” are subdued by the power of God, and brought nigh by the blood of Christ.

The king of Zion takes away the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh. He causes “the captive exile to hasten, that he may be loosed, lest he die in the pit and his bread should fail.” He takes off the tattered garments of the prodigal; clothes him with the best robe, and gives him a cordial welcome to all the munificence of His grace. He brings those who have been long in bondage out of the prison house; knocks off the chains that bind them down to sin and death; bestows the immunities of sons and daughters, and receives them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

And is there any thing in all this so full of mystery, that it has no claim to our confidence? Behold that thoughtless man! Year after year has passed aaway, while he has been adding sin to sin, and heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. But the Spirit of all grace suddenly arrests him in his mad career. The conviction is fastened upon his conscience that he is a sinner. Fallen by his iniquity, he views himself obnoxious to the wrath of an offended God. He sees that he is under the dominion of a “carnal mind;” his sins pass in awful review before him, and he is filled with keen distress and anguish. He is sensible that every day is bringing him nearer to the world of perdition, and he begins to ask, if there can be any hope for a wretch like him? But, O! how his strength withers, how his hopes die! He is as helpless as he is wretched, and as culpable as he is helpless. The “arrows of the almighty stick fast within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirits.”

But behold him now! In the last extremity, as he is cut off from every hope, the arm of sovereign mercy is made bare for his relief. The heart of adamant melts; the will that has hitherto resisted the divine Spirit, and rebelled against the divine sovereignty, is subdued; the lofty looks are brought low; the selfish mind has become benevolent; the proud, humble, the stubborn rebel, the meek child of God. Jesus tells the despairing sinner where to find a beam of hope; the voice of the Son of God proclaims “forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace;” the Angel of peace invites and sweetly urges the soul, stained with pollution, to repair to the blood of sprinkling; stung with the guilt of sin, to look up to Jesus for healing and life.

Is this an idle tale? Nay, believer, you have felt it all. And if there is no mystery in this, why should it be thought incredible, that instances of the same nature should be multiplied, and greatly multiplied in any given period? If there are dispensations of grace above the ordinary operations of the Spirit, they may exist in very different degrees at different times. And if the immediate and special influences of the Holy Ghost are to be expected in the edification of a single saint, or the conversion of a single sinner, why may they not be expected in the edification and conversion of multitudes? It is not above the reach of God’s power; nor beyond the limits of His sovereignty. God can as easily send down a shower, as a single drop; He can as easily convert two as one; three thousand as one hundred.

Now this is a revival of religion. We do not pretend to have traced the features it uniformly bears, because it bears no uniform features. God is sovereign. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Still, wherever God is pleased to manifest His power and grace, in enlarging the views, in enlivening and invigorating the graces of His own people, and in turning the hears of considerable numbers of His enemies, at the same time, to seek and secure His pardoning mercy, there is a revival of religion. Read the rest of this entry »

For a much more comprehensive treatment of the subject of revival, listen to the sermons by the Rev. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, available here.

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Have You Cashed In Your  Baptism?

dunkerleyAt the PCA Historical Center listed on the web, there is a sermon preached by the Rev. Donald Dunkerley at Mcllwain Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida, on November 26, 1972.   For those who know the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, this would have been a full year almost to the day when the latter church began her witness as a separate denomination outside of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  The theme of this message by the veteran pastor was that of the sacrament of baptism, in the light of the Word of God.  This writer would like to quote its concluding paragraphs which have an excellent gospel challenge to them.  Pastor Dunkerley writes:

“One must not trust in baptism.  One must not trust in anything that he has done or in any works of man, but only in Jesus who died for us.  Baptism is a sign that God offers us a Savior and promised to cleanse us if we believe in Him, if we stop trusting in anything in ourselves — even in our baptism — and put all our trust in Jesus alone.  Then we will be cleansed from sin.  But until we come to that point of renouncing all self-trust and put our trust in Jesus alone, then our baptism is sign of our condemnation.

“A pastor I know was once calling on a man who was not a converted person.  He frequently attended the church where this man pastored, he had lived in that town all his life and indeed, years before as an infant, he had been baptized in that very church.  He was showing the pastor around his house, and the pastor noticed a frame certificate on the wall and he turned to the man and he said ‘What is this?’  ‘Oh,’ the man said, ‘that’s my baptismal certificate.  I was baptized in our church, you know!’  The pastor said, ‘Ah, your baptismal certificate. Very good!   Tell me, when are you going to cash it in?’”

To read the rest of Rev. Dunkerley’s sermon, click here. [PDF file]

Words to live by:  The pastor of this sermon asks a serious question to those who have been baptized in their infancy by godly parents.  When are you, the adult now, going to claim the promise signified by your outward baptism?  You are baptized for sure.  You may even have the baptismal certificate signed by the preacher and any witnesses who were there to see it. But unless you have put your personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that baptism is a sign of your condemnation, not a sign of the covenant.  Reader, how is it with you?  Have you received the gift of eternal life?

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Time to Dust Off a Great Sermon

Dr. Samuel MillerThis fits nicely with our intent to bring a sermon on each Lord’s Day. On this day, October 13th, in 1826, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller brought the following message at the installation of the Rev. John Breckinridge as collegiate pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. Reproduced here below will be the opening portion of the sermon, and if you would like to read the entire sermon, a link to an online edition will be provided at the end of this post.

Dr. Miller’s text at the installation was:

II Corinthians X.4.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.

As long as man retained his primitive innocence, he loved truth, and was ever ready to give it a cordial welcome. But the moment he fell from God and from holiness, truth became painful, and, of course, odious to him. He felt that he could no longer listen to it as a friend, speaking peace; but must henceforth regard it as an enemy, which could deliver no other than a hostile message. Accordingly, when we read that the holy and happy tenants of Eden had become rebels by eating the interdicted fruit, the next thing we read of is, that, on hearing the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, and I hid myself.

From that fatal hour, all efforts to impress moral and religious truth on the minds of men, have been, properly speaking, a WARFARE; that is, in whatever direction they have been applied, they have never failed to meet with resistance. As all men, by nature hate the truth as it is in Jesus; and as all men, quite as universally, are opposed to the spirit and the demands of the gospel obedience; it follows that all attempts to procure the reception of the one, or to enforce the practice of the other, must be made in the face of hostility : a hostility not, indeed, always equally bitter in its hatred, or gross in its violence; but still real hostility, which nothing can appease but a surrender of Jehovah’s claims to the inclination of the rebellious creature. Hence, whenever the banner of truth and righteousness is raised in any place, opposition never fails immediately to arise : and however unreasonable its character, or revolting its aspect, in the view of the truly spiritual mind, it usually bears away the multitude, and would always do so, did not Divine power interpose to prevent it. The human heart, left to itself, is ever ready to bid welcome any plausible flatterer, who will “prophecy deceits,” and say, in the language of the first deceiver, “Ye shall not surely die.

Of the truth of these remarks, we have a striking example in the history of the church of Corinth. The apostle Paul had laboured in the ministry of the Gospel in that city for a considerable time; and his labours had been crowed with success. Numbers were added to the professing people of God. Soon after he left them, however, a false teacher came among them, who appears, from various hints dropped by the apostle, to have been a man of honourable birth; of fine talents; of polished education; and of great skills in all the arts and refinements of Grecian eloquence. He was evidently, also, as such impostors commonly are, a man of lax principles; ever ready to accommodate his doctrines to the pride, the prejudices, and the corrupt passions of those whom he addressed. This artful deceiver, on the one hand, set himself with peculiar bitterness against the apostle; found fault with his birth and education; alleged that his bodily presence was mean, and his speech contemptible; and insinuated that he was really no apostle. On the other hand, he boasted much of his own origin, learning, eloquence, and other accomplishments, and endeavoured to persuade the people of Corinth that he was, in every respect, Paul’s superior.

Unhappily, the situation of the Corinthian church at this time was peculiarly favourable to the views of such an impostor. In consequence of the surrounding wealth and luxury, and the remarkable exemption from persecution which it had for some time enjoyed; a large number of its members were deeply tinctured with a worldly spirit. In fact, the church there seems to have been full of professors who were far from having either the knowledge, the steadiness, or the spirituality which became them. No wonder, therefore, that this false teacher found admirers and followers. He raised a considerable party, which gave much trouble to the friends of truth, and which, for a time, threatened the peace, if not the existence of the church in that city.

The inspired apostle, in the passage of which our text make a part, seems to be directly addressing this false teacher and his adherents, and repelling some of the insinuations which he had made against himself. In reply to the charges,–that he was destitute of the credentials of an apostle,–and that he had none of those decisive and energetic means of resisting opposers, and supporting his authority, which they supposed a teacher sent from God ought to exhibit; the apostle declares,–Though we walk in the flesh, that is, though we inhabit mortal bodies, and are compassed about with fleshly infirmities;–yet we do not war after the flesh–or according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God to the pulling down of strong holds.

In the passage of holy scripture before us, there are two points which demand our particular notice, viz.

I. The WEAPONS which the apostle employed, and to which alone he gave his sanction; and,

II. The GREAT EFFICACY of those weapons : they were MIGHTY THROUGH GOD.

I. Let us first contemplate the WEAPONS which the apostle speaks of himself as employing. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

The word carnal means fleshly. It is opposed in scripture to spiritual or holy; and is generally employed by the inspired writers to designate the principles of our depraved nature. Thus, when it is siad, that the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7); and that to be carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6);–the language is evidently meant to express the dominion of that corrupt disposition which mean bring with them into the world, and on which the sanctifying grace of God has not yet taken effect. Of course, by the phrase, carnal weapons, is meant, such weapons as our corrupt nature forms and furnishes. In other words, it is intended to designate all those means of recommending and propagating religion which the great Author of that religion has not prescribed, but which the wisdom of this world has invented. Such weapons have been employed in all ages. They are the favourite weapons of carnal men : or rather, they are the only weapons which such men are either qualified or disposed to employ. But they are not confined to carnal men. Even some of those who sincerely love the Saviour, may be, and have been, betrayed into the use of means for promoting his honour, which may well deserve to be styled carnal, and which, in themselves, are not less carnal, or the less criminal, because they are employed by good men. In short, every method, of propagating truth, or of recommending duty, either real or supposed,–which unhallowed principles suggest, or unhallowed motives prompt, or which, in one word, is not in conformity with the Word and Spirit of God, may be pronounced a carnal weapon, the use of which our text indirectly, but most solemnly, forbids.

But it may not be unprofitable to specify, a little more in detail, some of those means which are frequently resorted to, for the professed purpose of propagating religion, and which evidently belong to the class proscribed by the apostle in the passage before us.

And at the head of the list, may be placed PERSECUTION, whether in its more gross and violent, or in its more mitigated forms. By the former, you will readily understand to be meant all those cases in which the “secular arm” has interferred to enforce the claims of a particular religious denomination, or of a particular set of opinions, by fire and sword,–by fines and forfeitures,–by racks and chains, and banishment, and all the various penalties which oppressive governments, civil and ecclesiastical, have so often, and so grievously inflicted. By the latter are intended all that molestation, abuse, or temporal inconvenience, of whatever kind, which have been heaped upon men on account of their religious opinions. The narrative of these inflictions, and of the diabolical fury with which they have, in countless instances, been executed, forms one of the most melancholy chapters in the history of that which calls itself the Church of God. A narrative the more unspeakably revolting, from the fact, that the most shocking atrocities which it displays, were perpetrated in the name, and by the alleged authority, of a God of mercy, and from a professed regard to his glory! Before this enlightened audience I need not say, that persecution for conscience sake, in all its forms, is one of the greatest absurdities and abominations that ever disgraced the Christian world :–that it is contrary to reason, to justice, and to humanity, and certainly not less contrary to the word of God, and to all the radical principles of our holy religion.

To the same interdicted class of weapons, we may refer all CIVIL ESTABLISHMENTS OF RELIGION. Whatever may be their form, or the degree of their rigour : whether they are intended to operate by force, by fear, or by allurement : whether we consider them as a tax on error, or as a bounty on faith; as a legal provision for instructing the people in what the civil magistrate (who may be an infidel or a heretic) chooses to say is truth; or as a convenient engine in the hands of government, for reaching and controlling the popular mind : in all cases, they are unhallowed in their principles, and pernicious in their tendency : calculated to generate and encourage hypocrisy; to corrupt the Christian ministry; to make the care of souls an affair of secular merchandise; and to prostrate the church of God, with all its officers and ordinances, at the feet of worldly politicians.

Again; all HUMAN INVENTIONS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD are liable to the same general charge. The object of these, in every age, has been to consult carnal prejudices, and to accommodate carnal feelings : of course, they are carnal weapons. When, therefore, professing Christians began, soon after the apostolic age, to introduce into the church rites which the Saviour never instituted, for the purpose of assuaging the enmity, or conciliating the affections of Jews and Pagans : when they borrowed, from either or from both, without scruple, and without the smallest warrant, as they fancied an inducement—the smoking incense; the worshipping toward the East; the bowings; the adoration of images; the purgatorial fire; the merit of bodily maceration; the celibacy of the clergy; the splendid garments; the holy days; the exorcisms; the processions, and all the endless array of superstition; insomuch that, as early as the close of the fourth century, the venerable Augustine complained that, “For one institution of God’s they had ten of man’s, and that the presumptuous devices of men were more rigorously pressed than the Divine prescriptions;”–who can doubt that they were chargeable with employing carnal weapons? And when Christian churches or individuals, at the present day, aim to allure the gay and the worldly, by pomp and splendour of ceremonial, by that studied address to the senses in the public service of the sanctuary, which the primitive and purest periods of Christianity never knew; who can doubt that they also lay themselves open to the same charge? They undertake to be wiser than God; they employ means, which, however well intended, can result in nothing but mischief. The church has no power to “decree rites and ceremonies.” If she had, there would be no other bounds to the multiplication of them, than the every varying, and ever teeming figments of human vanity or caprice. To claim such a right, is rebellion against her Master. To exercise it, is systematically to introduce superstition and complicated corruption into his sacred family.

Further; even ECCLESIASTICAL CONFESSIONS AND FORMULARIES may be so perverted as to become carnal weapons.

We will leave the sermon at that point. If you would like to continue reading, click the sermon title below, and proceed to page 14 of the PDF file:

Christian Weapons Not Carnal But Spiritual: A Sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, in the City of Baltimore, October 13, 1826; at The Installation of The Reverend John Breckinridge, as Colleague with the Reverend John Glendy, D.D. in the Pastoral Charge of the Said Church.

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As is our habit this year on TDPH, on each Lord’s Day we look to post a sermon (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).  Also, since it is Sunday, hopefully our readers will have more time to read these longer entries, and we trust you will find them profitable.  The text of today’s post is permanently posted in PDF format at the PCA Historical Center’s web site, here.

THE CERTAINTY OF THE WORLD’S CONVERSION.
BY REV. J. L. WILSON,
Missionary at the Gaboon, W. Africa.

[excerpted from The Southern Presbyterian Review, vol. 2, no. 3 (December 1848): 427-441.]

Rev. John Leighton Wilson “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  This stern declaration wrung from the disciples of Christ the earnest inquiry, “Who then can be saved?” To this the Saviour replies, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In this reply, there is no abatement of the real difficulties of being saved.  The impressions of the disciples, on this particular point, were correct, and no effort is made to change or remove them.  The kingdom of heaven, if taken at all, must be taken by violence, and none but the violent shall ever enter.  It has a straight gate and a narrow way; and it is only those who enter the one and walk in the other that shall ever attain to everlasting life.  The immu­table terms of discipleship are, that we must take up our crosses and follow Christ, through evil as well as good report. Those who shine in the upper courts with most lustre, are those who have come out of great tribulation and made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb.

The impressions of the disciples, therefore, are rather confirmed than removed.  According to their previous views, and those of the young man with whom the Saviour had just been conversing, it was not possible to be saved. Both were indulging fundamental errors on the most important of all subjects, and it was essential to their salva­tion that those errors should be corrected.

But whilst the foundation upon which they were standing is thus torn away, they are not given over to despair.  A surer and better way is pointed out.  That which they could never attain by their own exertions or morality, can easily be effected by the grace of God.  In other words, what is impossible with men is possible with God.  What we can never effect by our own unaided efforts, may easily be achieved by throwing ourselves upon the almighty power of Jehovah.

This doctrine accords with the experience of Christians in all ages of the world.  There is no lesson more thoroughly taught in the school of Christ than this.  Chris­tians who have had even but little experience, are fully aware that they can make no advances in holiness, except so far as they are aided from on high.  A clear view of the number and power of their spiritual enemies, if not attended by equally clear views of the all sufficiency of divine grace, never fails to awaken apprehensions about their final salvation; whilst a lively appreciation of the promises and assurances of the Bible, and right apprehen­sions of the power of God, as seldom fail to inspire them with courage and resolution.

Nor is this principle of dependence upon God, more important or indispensable in our personal conflicts with sin, than it is in every enterprise in which we engage for the benefit of others.  “Without me,” says the Saviour, “ye can do nothing.”  But then again it is said with equal emphasis, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

Guided by this principle of dependence, there is no enterprise, however great or difficult, provided it is in accordance with the Divine will, upon which we may not enter with confident assurance of success.  It matters not what human probabilities may be arrayed against it,—it matters not what disproportion there may be between the means and the end to be effected,—it matters equally little whether we are able or not to trace all the intermediate steps by which it is to be brought about,—nor are we to be discouraged or intimidated because unforeseen difficulties rise and threaten to frustrate our work.  It is enough for us to know that we are engaged in a cause that has been authorised by God, and that we pursue it in a manner that he approves.  Having settled these fundamental principles, we may press forward in any good work, with confidence that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

These general remarks have been made for the pur­pose of introducing our general subject, the certainty of the world’s conversion.

There are multitudes in the Christian church, at the present moment, who are pressed with difficulties in relation to this matter, not unlike those which the disciples once felt in relation to the salvation of their own soul.  And who is there among us, Christian hearers, who does not in some measure, at least, participate in feeling these difficulties.

No doubts are entertained in relation to what the Bible teaches on this subject.  The mass of Christians believe, or profess to believe, that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.”  But the overwhelming magnitude of the work fills the mind with doubts and skepticism, and leads many to abandon the missionary cause, as a visionary and hopeless work. Read the rest of this entry »

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BellLNIn the early years of the second World War, the Japanese invasion of China forced missionaries from the Chinese field, including medical missionary L. Nelson Bell. Returning to the States, Bell found his Southern Presbyterian denomination in spiritual decline and slowly falling over into modernism and unbelief. As Dr. Bell settled in the Asheville, N.C. area, he joined with other like-minded men who had been discussing the denomination’s problems and who, since 1936, had been planning to establish a magazine as a voice for sound Biblical principles.

May 2, 1942 marks the first issue of The Southern Presbyterian Journal. Authors for that first issue included Dr. William Childs Robinson, Rev. E. Edwin Paulson, Rev. Robert F. Campbell, General Douglas MacArthur, Rev. Samuel McPheeters Glasgow, Rev. D.S. Gage and Rev. Daniel Iverson.

William Childs Robinson wrote the lead article, in which he set out four “banners” or defining principles of historic Presbyterianism, principles which had been formerly emulated among Southern Presbyterians. These four banners were loyalty to Christ as King, the Bible as the Word of God written, the Westminster Standards as an expression of sound doctrine, and lastly, the banner of the Great Commission. These were the values that the new magazine espoused as it sought to call the denomination back to faithfulness.

SPJ_May_1942For forty-five years, the Journal faithfully proclaimed these values. In 1959, L. Nelson Bell stepped down as editor and was succeeded by Dr. G. Aiken Taylor. At that same time, the word Southern was dropped from the magazine’s name, reflecting Dr. Taylor’s wider focus on the breadth of conservative American Presbyterianism. And within a few more years, The Presbyterian Journal was increasingly involved in the events leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America, in December of 1973. The Presbyterian Journal continued on for another fourteen years, finally closing with the March 18, 1987 issue.

Click here to download a PDF file of that first issue of The Southern Presbyterian Journal.

Words to Live By: In the opening editorial of that issue, L. Nelson Bell wrote:

The civilization of which we are a part is perched precariously on the edge of an abyss. This is obvious to all, whether in or outside of the Church. The tragedy is that, in part, the Christian Church is to blame.
It is to blame in so far as it has left its God-given task of preaching the Gospel of salvation from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is to blame in so far as it has turned from faith in, and the preaching of, the Bible as truly and wholly the Word of God, condoning preaching and teaching calculated to question or destroy this precious faith.
It is to blame where it has substituted for the Gospel of redemption a programme of social reform.
It is to blame to the extent to which it has stepped out of its spiritual role, to meddle as the Church, in political and economic matters and affairs of State.
It is to blame where, as has so often been the case, the Gospel message has been diluted and made pleasant to the taste of unregenerate man; denying the fact of, and the heinousness of sin, and the certain doom of the unrepentant sinner.
But despite these failures of the Church, a return to a faithful ministry of the Truth can yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, provide the spiritual and moral stamina which is essential for world stabilization. To this spiritual awakening and revival THE JOURNAL is dedicated.

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