Philadelphia Presbytery

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A Plea for Ministers and Money

Most of us can remember Paul’s vision which he experienced on his second missionary journey of a man who called out to the apostle, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (NIV – Acts 16:9)   Well, we don’t have any record of any visionary request for help, but early Presbyterians in this blessed land did correspond with Presbyterians in the mother country just two years after the organization of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1707.  There is a letter written on May 11, 1709 to Presbyterians in London, England from the Presbyterian ministers in the Philadelphia Presbytery appealing for more men and money to help the infant Presbyterian Church get off the ground.  Listen to the pathos in their words:

“Unto whom can we apply ourselves more fitly than unto our fathers, who have been extolled in the reformed churches for their large bounty and benevolence in their necessities!  We doubt not, but if the sum of about two hundred pounds per annum, were raised for the encouragement of ministers in these parts, it would enable ministers and people to erect eight congregations, and ourselves put in better circumstances than hitherto we have been.  We are at present seven ministers, most of whose outward affairs are so straightened as to crave relief, unto which, if two or three more were added, it would greatly strengthen our interest, which does miserably suffer, as things are at present are among us.

“Sir, if we shall be supplied with ministers from you, which we earnestly desire; with your benevolence to the value above, you may be assured of our fidelity and Christian care in distributing it to the best ends and purposes we can, so as we hope we shall be able to give a just and fair account for every part of it to yourself and others, by our letters to you.

“That our evangelical affairs may be the better managed, we have formed ourselves into a Presbytery, annually convened.  It is a sore distress and trouble unto us, that we are not able to comply with the desires of sundry places, crying unto us for ministers.  Therefore we earnestly beseech you to intercede with the ministers of London, to extend their charity to us, otherwise many people will remain in a perishing condition as to spiritual things.”

It is obvious that the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Philadelphia certainly saw that the fields of America were ripe unto harvest.  They also sadly realized that the laborers were few so as to reap that spiritual harvest.  And so they, in a spirit of prayer, asked for both ministers and money to take advantage of the opportunities for a wide and effective service in the American colonies.

It would be at a later date in the history of the American church, indeed several decades from this date,  that the question of where you were trained educationally became an issue in the visible church.  But at this early date in American Presbyterian history, they were at a critical crossroads, as the letter above proves.  They needed more pastors and more money to support those who were present in ministering to the masses.

Words to Live By: Such a prayer and plea as this is never outdated, even in current America.  We might add the adjective “faithful” before the men who are needed in our conservative Presbyterian and Reformed church bodies, but the need is the same.  Will you be a prayer warrior before our Sovereign God and heavenly Father for Him to thrust out faithful  laborers into the harvest fields?

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First overtures from a presbytery

At the second meeting of the first presbytery in the American colonies, meeting on March 11 –March 26, 1707, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the teaching and ruling elders proposed and voted in the affirmative on a series of overtures designed to propagate Christianity.  They were presented by Jedediah Andrews, one of the original seven presbyters, and John Boyd, the first ordained minister in the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

The first overture  instructed each minister in their respective congregations to read and comment upon a chapter of the Bible each Lord’s day, as discretion and circumstances of time and place would admit them.   It is obvious from this first overture that the presbytery believed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were inspired of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, would be the guide for its ministers and laypeople in their respective churches.

The second overture  is interesting because the ministers were recommended to begin and encourage private societies.  In other words, they were to organize and encourage Christians to gather together for various Christian endeavors.  An example of this was the organization of the Fund for Pious Uses, which was the subject of the devotional described  on January 11.  It is clear that they believed that Christianity should set the standard in every sphere of life.   Therefore the Christian faith inside and outside the church needed to be encouraged.

The third and last overture stated that every  minister in the Presbytery was to supply neighboring towns with ministers, especially in desolate places where ministers would be lacking.  They were to take the opportunities granted them to be home missionaries, in other words.

These first overtures of this small but soon to be active Presbytery stated clearly that the message of biblical Christianity was to propagated throughout the new world in obedience to the Word of God.  At subsequent meetings of the Philadelphia Presbytery, it was noted that these first three overtures were being accomplished.

Words to Live By:   Until Jesus comes the second time, all believers are to buy up every opportunity to share His love in word and deed.

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From the Minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia (PCA), September 14-15, 1984:

A MEMORIAL STATEMENT

schaeffer02The Rev. Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, having successfully communicated the Gospel of Christ to the Christian world and to the world in general, and having stressed by his books and verbal proclamation the practical outworking of the Gospel in the daily life of man, is hereby memorialized by the Philadelphia Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America as a true and faithful servant of the Lord.

His recent departure from this life into the throne presence of our God reminds this Presbytery that at the outset of his ministry, after his seminary years, he originally came under care of the Philadelphia Presbytery of the Bible Presbyterian Church which by historic continuity contributed its record and its ordained men to the present Philadelphia Presbytery, PCA. He was licensed, ordained, and began his pastoral ministry in that Philadelphia Presbytery. he was a member of the St. Louis Presbytery, PCA, when he went to be with the Lord.

Dr. Schaeffer’s stand for the truth encourages us all, these years after his original commitment, to teach and preach the contents of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, to stand firmly for all our God has revealed to us, and to spread it through our society and our world effectively as He enables.

Mrs. Edith Schaeffer later wrote in reply, thanking the Presbytery for their formal statement on his life and work, and noting that she was keeping their letter with the many other letters, telegrams and documents received from all over the world, upon Dr. Schaeffer’s death.

Note: While the PCA Historical Center does have preserved among its collections the Minute Book of the Philadelphia Presbytery (BPC), those minutes only begin in 1939, and so we are lacking a copy of the minutes for the meeting at which Dr. Schaeffer was ordained..

Words to Live By:
This author [TE David Myers] can still remember, when as a young boy of eight or nine years of age, Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith came to the Army installation at Dachau, Germany, where my father was the installation chaplain, for a series of evangelistic services.  (And yes, it was that Dachau which was infamous for a World War II concentration camp.)  In the shadows of that place of horrors in the little  chapel which had been built by SS soldiers after the close of the war, the good news of salvation was proclaimed by the fullness of the Spirit to a spiritually hungry body of American occupation troops, with souls and hearts being won to Christ and strengthened in the things of the Lord.  Written memorials are better than nothing, but living memorials which are found in the souls of men and women are the best memorials of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  They will continue on the spiritual legacy which he so faithfully began in days gone by.  Praise the Lord for the ministry of Francis (and Edith) Schaeffer.

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One of the Old Historic Philadelphia Churches

archStPCThe Arch Street Church is the successor of the Fifth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. This latter church was in turn a daughter-church of the Second Presbyterian Church, worshiping initially in a chapel on Locust Street on property occupied by the Musical Fund Hall. The first pastor of the Arch Street church was the Rev. George Cox, who was installed as pastor in April of 1813.  Next came the Rev. James K. Birch who was installed July 19, 1813 and released November 5th, 1816.

Rev. Thomas H. Skinner was called from the pastorate of the Second Church and installed December 1st, 1816. He remained Pastor, with the exception of a brief interregnum, until called to the chair of Sacred Rhetoric in Andover Seminary in 1832.

The present church, pictured at right, was built and the first service held in it on June 7th, 1823. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D., of Princeton. In the choice of Dr. Skinner’s successor, Rev. George Duffield, D.D., was installed as pastor on April 5th, 1835, but this brought about a division within the congregation and a large number withdrew and formed Whitefield Chapel.

Dr. Duffield was succeeded within a short time by Rev. Thomas Waterbury, who was installed in December, 1837, and released in March, 1843; Rev. M. P. Thompson was pastor from 1844 to February 15th, 1848. The Fifth Church was dissolved, and on February 6th, 1850, a committee of the Philadelphia Presbytery, of which Rev. Drs. Boardman and Lord were members, met in the Seventh Church on Broad Street to deal with that closure. The historical account is unclear at this point,  but apparently a merger of the Fifth and  Arch Street congregations  was effected, thus creating a new iteration of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and so the church building was purchased by this newly formed organization. It called as its first pastor the Rev. Charles Wadsworth, D.D. He was installed March 20th, 1850, and continued as pastor until April 3d, 1862. The chapel in the rear of the church was added in 1852. The Sabbath-school was organized in 1850. Rev. N.W. Conklin, D.D., was pastor from 1863 to 1868. Rev. John L. Witherow, installed December 27th, 1868, continued until September 22d, 1873. Rev. John S. Sands was installed September 19th, 1880, and his relation dissolved May 6th, 1890. The pastor at the end of the nineteenth-century was the Rev. George P. Wilson, D.D., who was installed on April 26th, 1891.

Dr. Samuel Miller on Church Buildings:
At the service of dedication for the building in 1823, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller brought A sermon delivered June seventh, 1823, at the opening of the New Presbyterian Church in Arch Street in the city of Philadelphia, for the public worship of God. The text of Dr. Miller’s sermon was 2 Chronicles 6:41.

Denying, in this sermon, that to any place or edifice can now be attributed intrinsic holiness, and disapproving, therefore, of the idea that a church can be “consecrated;” Miller commends, however, “the practice of opening houses of public worship with appropriate religious exercises”—that is, their “dedication;” and on the ground of the “association of ideas,” he maintains that after a house has been so opened, “it is not desirable or proper, in ordinary cases, to employ it for any other purpose,” than the worship of God. As to church-building in general, he remarks,

“To expend millions upon a single place of worship now, while thousands of poor around us are suffering for bread, and while a great majority of our race are still covered with Pagan darkness, and perishing for lack of knowledge,—appears so unreasonable and criminal, that I hope we are in no danger of going to that extreme. But another, and, perhaps, a much more common extreme, especially in our church, taken at large, is, contenting ourselves with mean and uncomfortable houses in which to worship God. No worshipper ought ever to be willing to live in a better house than that which he, with others, has devoted to his Maker and Redeemer. And while, on the other hand, that splendour and magnificence of architecture, which is adapted to arrest and occupy the mind, and to draw it away from spiritual objects, ought carefully to be avoided; and avoided, not merely on the score of expense, but of Christian edification; so, on the other hand, that simple tasteful elegance, on which the eye is apt to rest with composed satisfaction; that studious provision for perfect convenience and comfort, which is calculated to place every worshipper in circumstances favourable to tranquil, undivided and devout attention, ought to be always and carefully consulted by every congregation, that is able to accomplish what is desirable in these respects.”

In a note on the passage quoted above, Dr. Miller stated that,

“It is a law of our mental, as well as of our physical nature, that two classes of emotions cannot be in a high, certainly not in a governing, degree of exercise at the same time. Whenever, therefore, we assemble for the worship of God in situations in which we are constantly surrounded and addressed by the most exquisite productions of art, which arrest and engross the mind, we are plainly, not in circumstances favourable to true spiritual worship. Would any rational man expect to find himself really devout in St. Peter’s at Rome, even if the most scriptural service were performed within its walls, until he should have become so familiar with the unrivalled specimens of taste and grandeur around him, as to forget or cease to feel them? Or, would any one be likely to “make melody in his heart to the Lord,” while the most skillful and touching refinements of music saluted and ravished his ears? Thrilled and transported he might be; but it would rather be the transport of natural taste, than the heavenliness of spiritual devotion. There never was a sounder maxim than that delivered in the plain and homely, but forcible language of the celebrated Mr. Poole, the learned compiler of the Synopsis Criticorum,–“the more inveiglements there are to sense, the more disadvantage to the spirit.” No one, of course, will consider this maxim as intended to teach, that, in order to promote the spirit of true devotion, it is necessary or desirable to be surrounded with that which is mean, irregular, or disgusting to the mind of taste. On the contrary, the fact is, that such mean and disgusting objects tend to arrest and draw away the mind in an opposite and painful manner; and are thus, perhaps, with respect to many persons, quite as unfriendly to the exercises of calm piety, as the utmost fascinations of art can be.” [pp. 21-23]

Image Source: photograph of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, facing page 39 in The Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia: A Camera and Pen Sketch of Each Presbyterian Church and Institution in the City. Compiled and edited by Rev. Wm. P. White and William H. Scott. Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott, 1895.

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Plea for Ministers and Money

Most of us can remember Paul’s vision which he experienced on his second missionary journey of a man who called out to the apostle, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (NIV – Acts 16:9)   Well, we don’t have any record of any visionary request for help, but early Presbyterians in this blessed land did correspond with Presbyterians in the mother country just two years after the organization of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1707.  There is a letter written on May 11, 1709 to Presbyterians in London, England from the Presbyterian ministers in the Philadelphia Presbytery appealing for more men and money to help the infant Presbyterian Church get off the ground.  Listen to the pathos in their words:

“Unto whom can we apply ourselves more fitly than unto our fathers, who have been extolled in the reformed churches for their large bounty and benevolence in their necessities!  We doubt not, but if the sum of about two hundred pounds per annum, were raised for the encouragement of ministers in these parts, it would enable ministers and people to erect eight congregations, and ourselves put in better circumstances than hitherto we have been.  We are at present seven ministers, most of whose outward affairs are so straightened as to crave relief, unto which, if two or three more were added, it would greatly strengthen our interest, which does miserably suffer, as things are at present are among us.

“Sir, if we shall be supplied with ministers from you, which we earnestly desire; with your benevolence to the value above, you may be assured of our fidelity and Christian care in distributing it to the best ends and purposes we can, so as we hope we shall be able to give a just and fair account for every part of it to yourself and others, by our letters to you.

“That our evangelical affairs may be the better managed, we have formed ourselves into a Presbytery, annually convened.  It is a sore distress and trouble unto us, that we are not able to comply with the desires of sundry places, crying unto us for ministers.  Therefore we earnestly beseech you to intercede with the ministers of London, to extend their charity to us, otherwise many people will remain in a perishing condition as to spiritual things.”

It is obvious that the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Philadelphia certainly saw that the fields of America were ripe unto harvest.  They also sadly realized that the laborers were few so as to reap that spiritual harvest.  And so they, in a spirit of prayer, asked for both ministers and money to take advantage of the opportunities for a wide and effective service in the American colonies.

It would be at a later date in the history of the American church, indeed several decades from this date,  that the question of where you were trained educationally became an issue in the visible church.  But at this early date in American Presbyterian history, they were at a critical crossroads, as the letter above proves.  They needed more pastors and more money to support those who were present in ministering to the masses.

Words to Live By: Such a prayer and plea as this is never outdated, even in current America.  We might add the adjective “faithful” before the men who are needed in our conservative Presbyterian and Reformed church bodies, but the need is the same.  Will you be a prayer warrior before our Sovereign God and heavenly Father for Him to thrust out faithful  laborers into the harvest fields?

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 91 – 93

Through the Standards: The principal acts of saving faith

WCF 14:2
“By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.  But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

First overtures from a presbytery

At the second meeting of the first presbytery in the American colonies, meeting on March 11 – March 26, 1707, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the teaching and ruling elders proposed and voted in the affirmative on a series of overtures designed to propagate Christianity.  They were presented by Jedediah Andrews, one of the original seven presbyters, and John Boyd, the first ordained minister in the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

The first overture  instructed each minister in their respective congregations to read and comment upon a chapter of the Bible each Lord’s day, as discretion and circumstances of time and place would admit them.   It is obvious from this first overture that the presbytery believed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were inspired of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, would be the guide for its ministers and laypeople in their respective churches.

The second overture  is interesting because the ministers were recommended to begin and encourage private societies.  In other words, they were to organize and encourage Christians to gather together for various Christian endeavors.  An example of this was the organization of the Fund for Pious Uses, which was the subject of the devotional described  on January 11.  It is clear that they believed that Christianity should set the standard in every sphere of life.   Therefore the Christian faith inside and outside the church needed to be encouraged.

The third and last overture stated that every  minister in the Presbytery was to supply neighboring towns with ministers, especially in desolate places where ministers would be lacking.  They were to take the opportunities granted them to be home missionaries, in other words.

These first overtures of this small but soon to be active Presbytery stated clearly that the message of biblical Christianity was to propagated throughout the new world in obedience to the Word of God.  At subsequent meetings of the Philadelphia Presbytery, it was noted that these first three overtures were being accomplished.

Words to Live By:   Until Jesus comes the second time, all believers are to buy up every opportunity to share His love in word and deed.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Samuel 1 – 3

Through the Standards: Christ’s Exaltation in His Ascension

 WLC 53 — “How was Christ exalted in his ascension?
A. Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared  and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heaven, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections thither, and to prepare a place of us, where he himself is, and shall continue til his second coming at the end of the world.”

Image source: Opening page of Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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