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A Small Church, But Faithful

Our post today draws from the Rev. Dr. George Hutchinson’s valuable work, The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), pp. 65-70. The RPCES was formed by a merger of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (RPCGS) and what was the larger portion of a split of the Bible Presbyterian Church, originally named the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. That latter group held that name from 1956-1961, then renamed itself the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. The merger of the RPCGS and the EPC then created the RPCES. [Note: In 1983, a new denomination was formed as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and this group continues to this day, but should not be confused with the former group of the same name.]

 

In the preceding chapter we have seen the rise of Reformed Presbyterianism in Scotland in the seventeenth century together with its exportation to America in the eighteenth. By the first years of the nineteenth century the Reformed Presbyterian Church was firmly planted in American soil. The reconstitution of the Reformed Presbytery in 1798 under the leadership of James McKinney was followed by an outburst of optimistic energy in the Church. “Important additions were soon after made to the ministry, and the Church entered on a career of vigorous labour, crowned by a large measure of progress.‟ As a result of this energy, the official judicial testimony of the American Reformed Presbyterian Church was published in 1807 under the title Reformation Principles Exhibited. Two years later—on May 24, 1809—”All the ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, being convened, with ruling Elders delegated from different sessions, did unanimously agree to constitute a Synod.‟ The official name was to be the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America was well aware of her unique circumstances and opportunities. “God has, in his Providence, presented the human family in this country with a new experiment. The Church, unheeded by the civil powers, is suffered to rise or fall by her own exertions.‟ So wrote Alexander McLeod in Reformation Princi- ples Exhibited. However, what would be the outcome of these unique circumstances? How would the Church respond to these unique opportunities? The Reformed Presbyterian Church looked upon the dawn of the nineteenth century with extreme optimism. Indeed, D. M. Carson entitles this chapter in the history of the Church “The New Optimism.‟ This general attitude is well expressed in the words of James McKinney, uttered in 1797:

“The joint triumphs, of enlightened reason, and true religion, must soon become glorious.‟ Mankind would soon come to recognize the rights of God, and the millennium would be triumphantly ushered in. According to McLeod the Fall of the papal antichrist is fast approaching, and the time is near when the Lord will pour forth his Holy Spirit and the king- doms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). This optimistic spirit was accompanied by the substantial growth of the Church. In 1798 there were two ministers, a few scattered congregations, and some 1000 communicant members. By 1832 there were 36 ministers, 60 organized congregations, and some 5,000 members. The sources of this growth were Covenant children, Reformed Presbyterians from Ireland and Scotland, and converts from other denominations. These converts were looked upon as those who had become dissatisfied with the use of human compositions in singing God‟s praises, the relaxation of church discipline, the prevalence of Hopkinsian and other doctrinal errors, and “the carnal, worldly spirit of professors, in the churches which they left.‟ At the time of the appearance of the second edition of Reformation Principles Exhibited in 1824, it could be exclaimed: “Congregations are springing up in the desert, and the wilderness is becoming a fruitful field.‟ The organization of the Church kept pace with this growth. The number of presbyteries increased. A representative General Synod, to meet every two years, was established in 1823; and by 1832 the General Synod had constituted the Eastern and Western Subordinate Synods for yearly meetings. The Church was zealous for the education of her ministers, and in 1807 drew up a constitution for a theological seminary. This constitution is interesting, not only because it reveals the Church‟s conception of the nature of the ministry and of theological education, but also because it reveals her conception of what constitutes proper qualifications for the ministry. These are in order of importance: first, piety or practical godliness; second, good sense or talents commensurate with the calling; and third, a good theological education. As fund raisers for the seminary put it: “The Millennium is not to be introduced by ignorant enthusiasm. There must be an able ministry.‟ The Church was also conscious of her responsibility in the areas of discipline, evangelism, and doctrine. The Rev. David Graham was deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the Church for misconduct in 1812. In 1822 Covenanters in New York City founded the American Evangelical Tract Society to disseminate tracts in support of the principles of the Reformation. The ministers of the Synod were on the whole prolific authors. For a small number of men they produced a good deal of published material, much of which concerns doctrinal subjects. They were particularly concerned to defend traditional Calvinism against its modern substitutes. For instance, William Gibson wrote Calvinism vs. Hopkinsianism (1803), and Gilbert McMaster published A Defence of Some Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity (1815)—including in that work the doctrines of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Depravity of Man, and the limited extent of the Atonement. McMaster inquires: What then? Shall men, in things of religion, be in a state of perpetual hostility? Shall the empire of the Prince of Peace never be united? Must each contend for his dogma? The Church of God is indeed lamentably distracted, and in that distraction all parties have a guilty hand. But can the malady be cured by an unprincipled abandonment of fundamental doctrines, merely to obtain a momentary repose from the pains of contest? Such repose would be that of death, to the interests of vital godliness.

It was in this spirit that Alexander McLeod wrote The Life and Power of True Godliness (1816). The position of the ministers of the Church on the matter of political dissent did not preclude their speaking out on political and social issues. McLeod puts it tersely in the first of his series of sermons in defense of the American cause in the War of 1812: “Ministers have the right of discussing from the pulpit those political questions which affect Christian morals.‟ The Church took a particularly strong stand on the slavery question, expressed in McLeod‟s Negro Slavery Unjustifiable (1804); and as early as 1802 we read in the Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery: “It was enacted that no slave- holder should be allowed the communion of the Church.‟

As might be expected, one of the chief topics for discussion was the matter of the application of Christian principles to existing governments. It was chiefly differences in this area that led to the lamentable Disruption of 1833.

Disruption and Recovery
In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America experienced a division which up to the present has been permanent. The majority adhering to the General Synod became known as the New Light General Synod [or officially, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod], the minority as simply the Old Light Synod. The Disruption of 1833 has its origins in the early years of the nineteenth century. To understand this momentous dispute in the Church it is necessary to mention some of the developments which led up to it. [We plan to address those issues in some future post.]

Hutchinson, George P., The History Behind the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. pp. 65-70.

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Sermon At A Service of Installation

greenWH_1856_missionIt was on this day, December 30th, in 1856, that the Rev. Dr. William Henry Green brought a sermon on the occasion of the installation of Rev. Heman R. Timlow, as pastor of the Harris Street Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts. Rev. Timlow had been called to serve this church following the resignation of the Rev. W.W. Eels in March the year prior. All of which is admittedly a rather obscure set of facts and we might honestly wonder why it should merit our attention?

Among Presbyterians, the installation of a pastor remains to this day a service carried out in much the same way. So for one, if we were to look for a model for such an occasion, then here is one example. Moreover, we have here a sermon by an admittedly brilliant young man, at a point early in his remarkable career.

There is also the contrast of the youth of Dr. Green [1825-1900], just 31 years old when he served at the installation of this new pastor, compared with the advanced age of Rev. Dana, then near the end of his life yet still faithfully serving the Lord’s people at this installation. Dr. Green came from a long line of Presbyterians, among them, Jonathan Dickinson, first president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Green had graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1846, was ordained in 1848, and following a brief pastorate in Philadelphia, was installed in 1851 as professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He remained a professor there until his death in 1900.  Rev. Daniel Dana [1771-1859] as noted was near the end of his life, having long served the Presbyterian churches of Newburyport. It was Rev. Dana who had asked Dr. Green to bring the installation sermon on this occasion. Rev. Dana then brought the charge to the pastor. Others serving at this installation included the Rev. John Pike, of Rowley, who brought the charge to the people; and the Rev. A.G. Vermilye, of Newburyport, who extended the right hand of fellowship.

But the primary value of this sermon remains the message itself, as brought by Dr. Green that day. For his message, he chose the text of Luke 4: 18-19 :

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

By the standards of that era, Green’s message is rather brief, taking up just 12-1/2 pages in print. Many of his peers would typically produce similar sermons of twenty pages or more. But length is no judge of quality, and Green is succinct for a purpose, and from a pastoral standpoint, could be seen as a hallmark of his long career at Princeton Seminary, indicative of the heart of his ministry.

The above text, as Dr. Green states in the opening of his sermon, contains an exposition of Christ’s earthly mission. It is the commission which He received from the Father and it is the reason why He was anointed with the Spirit above measure. It comprises the errand upon which He came into the world. And so, to give a glimpse of his sermon, here below are a few choice portions:—

“The mission of the Savior was to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And yet when He ascended to the Father, He left behind Him a world still unreconciled to God, still in its pollution, misery and sin. It was filled still with poor to whom no glad tidings had been carried, with captives whose prison doors were barred as tightly, whose fetters were as galling and whose miserable dungeons were as dark and cheerless as ever; with the broken hearted to whom no voice of the comforter had spoken relief, and with the blind whose sight was as far as ever from being removed. But judge not from this that His errand was was abortive and His work a failure.”

“The work of the world’s recovery was not one begun in a moment and ended in a moment. As there was a protracted period of preparation reaching through many ages and employing various and potent instrumentalities before He came; so there is needed a protracted period for that scheme which He set in operation and which He still conducts and superintends, to work out its expected and certain consummation. The whole might have been accomplished in an instant had the almighty grace of God so chosen; and the moment of Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the grave might have been signalized by the complete ingathering and perfect sanctification of all God’s elect people, by the utter overthrow of Satan’s baleful empire, and by the entire and final banishment from earth of sin and its accursed effects. And so, had God chosen, the world might have been created in a moment, and all its forms of beauty and its innumerable orders of creatures sprung instantaneously into being, instead of being gradually evolved through six successive days. But thus God did not work in creation; nor did He in redemption.”

“To what has been said it may be still further added, that the verses before us are descriptive of the mission of the church of God, as composed of those who have embraced this precious system of saving truth, and stand as its embodiment, its representatives and its champions before the world. . . .Every one who has received the gospel of God’s grace into his soul, is not only one redeemed from the power of the enemy, but one commissioned to ransom others; not only one upon whom the balm of Gilead has begun its work of cure; but a physician, a healer of the hurts and maladies of others; not only a captive loosed from bonds, but set to the work of breaking the chains of those who wear them still. Every Christian is not a mere passive recipient of the truth and of its saving benefits, but in his measure and according to his station, opportunity and ability, he is set for its defence and propagation. He is a light kindled that it may shine—salt put into the mass for the preservation of the whole. The gospel is given to the church of God to spread it and apply it everywhere. . . It is a work of solemn obligation; and to every Christian unemployed in this his bounden duty, comes his Savior’s reproving voice—’why stand ye all the day idle? go, work in my vineyard.’ “

Words to Live By:
The call of the Gospel is a call to real action here and now. Christ saved us that we might bear fruit—that we might live out the life of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so be used of Him to draw others into His kingdom. For one, as Dr. Green is careful to point out elsewhere in his sermon,

“. . . there is no warrant for restricting the redeeming virtue of the gospel solely to what is spiritual and eternal, and excluding from the sphere of its potency that which is temporal; or rather since it is expressly declared, that godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come,—as the gospel is capable of undoing and was intended to undo all the mischiefs of the fall, and to banish suffering and sorrow from this present world as well as deliver from it in the next, the church is God’s grand engine of philanthropy. There is not a question bearing on man’s amelioration, individual, social or national, in which the church has not an interest, and in whose solution she should not take her share. There is not a cry of distress, that may be suffered to break upon her ear unregarded. She carries in her hand the potent remedy; and she may not, through her culpable inactivity or through her criminal lack of faith in its sovereign efficacy, keep back from suffering men, what Christ has charged her as His almoner with bestowing upon them. She must hold up the gospel which she has received, before the eyes of men, as God’s appointed cure for all the evils that are in the world. Nor may she content herself with the mere propounding of its abstract principles, nor with the diligent application of it to one class of man’s disorders; as though her caring for one part of her commanded work absolved her from the rest,—as though by caring for men’s eternal, she was absolved from all regard for their temporal interests,—as though after proffering eternal salvation to men, she was thenceforward discharged from further care for them, and might shut up her bowels of compassion from her suffering and needy brother. . . . She must not only hold up the gospel in one of its aspects, but hold it up in all,—not only state its principles but search out and exhibit its applications. ” 

 A print copy of the above sermon may be found preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Or more conveniently, it may be found on the Web by clicking here.

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The Last of An Amazing Family

Has there every been an equal to one family name serving the same educational institution in the history of American Christianity? We would be hard pressed to find a similar example to the Hodge family at Princeton Theological Seminary.

First, there was Charles Hodge, serving the Lord as a professor from 1820–1878. There is fifty-eight years of continuous service, preparing ministers for the gospel ministry. His “Systematic Theology” has stood the test of time as being the greatest exposition of Reformed theology in America.

Charles Hodge had eight children, including two sons who also taught at Princeton Seminary. Caspar Wistar Hodge taught from 1860 to 1891, while Archibald Alexander Hodge taught from 1877–1886. Both carried on the line of the family name, but more importantly, carried on the same committed to the infallible Word of God as summarized up in the Westminster Standards.

The grandson of Charles Hodge, and son of Caspar Wistar Hodge, was Caspar Wistar Hodge, Jr. He was born this day, September 22, 1870, in Princeton, New Jersey. Studies at Princeton College, the Seminary, and oversees school at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, this grandson of Charles Hodge taught on the collegiate level at Princeton and Lafayette. It was noted that he had a deep Christian spirit and a breadth of learning and scholarship in those assignments.

It was no wonder that he was asked then by the Board of Directors to take over the Chair of Systematic Theology to which his immediate family had made so much a blessing to students down the ages. His inauguration to that post took place on October 11, 1921. It seemed fitting that the grandson of Archibald Alexander, Maitland Alexander, who was the president of the Board of Directors of Princeton, be the one who gave the charge.

This second decade of the twentieth century was a challenging one, in that, at the end of the decade, Princeton Seminary would suffer the loss of both J. Gresham Machen and Robert Dick Wilson. The former would grieve over the fact that Caspar Hodge would stay on at the faculty of Princeton, after the board was reorganized to allow two signers of the infamous Auburn Affirmation to sit on it. Yet, while Caspar Hodge did stay on, his heart was at Westminster Seminary, in that time and time again, he would send financial contributions to the new seminary. Further, he spoke of the fact that he would openly defend the name of Dr. Machen in conversations, sometimes with heated exchanges. He would go to be the Lord in 1937, having spend thirty-six years at Princeton Seminary, and the last of the famous Hodge family to be associated with this school.

Words to live by:
Doctrinally, this last of the Hodge line at Princeton Seminary was in complete agreement with every other Hodge family of professors, that is, adherence to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as well as adopting the Reformed faith of the Westminster Standards. It is to be both a prayer request as well as a praise item that the message of the gospel goes on through generations. Let us commit ourselves to the family and its spiritual growth in the things of the Lord.

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If You Cannot Find a Suitable One, Write it Yourself

Catherine Vos was the wife of the famous Princeton Seminary professor of Biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos, and an author in her own right. Her daughter once said that the sentiment reflected in our title above summed up what her mother experienced as she sought to train up her children in the truths of the Bible.  She had gone though bookstore after bookstore looking for a book which would present the excitement and warmth of the stories found in the Bible. When she came up empty, she made it a life-long project to write one herself. And did she ever? The Child’s Story Bible originally was published in three volumes but has more recently been released as a one volume edition, as revised by her daughter.  No matter which one you purchase, this study has stood the test of time, in that it has been close to seventy years plus since it was first written.

Catherine Francis Smith married Geerhardus Vos in 1894 at Grand Rapids, Michigan, just two years after he had become the first professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.  They were married for 43 years and produced a family of three sons and one daughter.  One of the sons was J.G. Vos who studied at his father’s alma mater, Princeton Seminary, and became a Reformed Presbyterian minister.

The Child’s Story Bible is different from many children study Bibles in that it goes far beyond just treating a few of the major characters in the Bible. Catherine Vos’s book treats 110 stories from the Old Testament and 92 stories from the New Testament.  In every way, children are pointed to the gospel and the Redeemer of the gospel.

Catherine Vos would pass into glory on September 14, 1937, and was buried near the Vos summer home in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania.  Her husband Geerhardus would join her in that small cemetery near the summer home twelve years later.

Words to live by:  If the readers of this devotional guide are parents of young children, there is no better means to “train up your children in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) than by a daily reading of the Bible.  And for young children around the age of four and five years of age, and upward, the Child’s Story Bible an invaluable tool for that purpose.  The book employs the King James Version, and there are some pictures of Jesus which some readers might find objectionable.   But overall, this writer recommends it highly.

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A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

Born the eldest son of Archibald Alexander near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, James was in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of the Presbyterian  Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But when schooling began for the son, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  In 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the family of the Alexanders moved there, so Archibald  Alexander could become the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822 – 1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry had him in the college and seminary field of teaching at Princeton Seminary, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds.  The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and translations. The most famous translation was the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His translation from 1830 from Bernard of Clairvaux in the eleventh century, is the version most used by our churches today.

James in 1859 went with his wife back to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at his moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By:
As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

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WarfieldBB_1903Most of the April, 2005 issue ofTabletalk magazine focused on the life and ministry of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, the great Princeton Seminary professor. One of the most remarkable passages in that issue was the following account of the death of Warfield. R.C. Sproul tells the story:

“Twenty-five years ago I gave an address at a college in Western Pennsylvania. After the service was completed, an elderly gentleman and his wife approached me and introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Johannes Vos. I was surprised to learn that Dr. Vos was the son of the celebrated biblical theologian Geerhardus Vos who had written a classical work on redemptive history entitled Biblical Theology, which is still widely read in seminaries. During the course of my conversation with them, Dr. Vos related to me an experience he had as a young boy living in Princeton, New Jersey, where his father was teaching on the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary. This was in the decades of the 1920s, a time in which Princeton Theological Seminary was still in its heyday; it was the time we now refer to as “old Princeton.” Dr. Vos told me of an experience he had in the cold winter of 1921. He saw a man walking down the sidewalk, bundled in a heavy overcoat, wearing a fedora on his head, and around his neck was a heavy scarf. Suddenly, to this young boy’s horror and amazement, as the man walked past his home, he stopped, grasped his chest, slumped and fell to the sidewalk. Young Johannes Vos stared at this man for a moment, then ran to call to his mother. He watched as the ambulance came and carried the man away. The man who had fallen had suffered a major heart attack, which indeed proved to be fatal. His name was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.”

Above right, Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield at about age 54, circa 1903.

Thus ended the life of one of the greatest minds in Christian history, on February 16, 1921. In his celebrated work on the history of Princeton Seminary, Dr. David Calhoun recounts J. Gresham Machen’s reflection on Warfield’s death:

“In a letter to his mother, Gresham Machen spoke of ‘the great loss which we have just sustained in the death of Dr. Warfield. Princeton will seem to be a very insipid place without him. He was really a great man. There is no one living in the Church capable of occupying one quarter of his place.’ A few days later Machen wrote again:

Dr. Warfield’s funeral took place yesterday afternoon at the First Church of Princeton . . . It seemed to me that the old Princeton—a great institution it was—died when Dr. Warfield was carried out.

I am thankful for that one last conversation I had with Dr. Warfield some weeks ago. He was quite himself that afternoon. And somehow I cannot believe that the faith which he represented will ever really die. In the course of the conversation I expressed my hope that to end the present intolerable condition there might be a great split in the Church, in order to separate the Christians from the anti-Christian propagandists. ‘No,’ he said, ‘you can’t split rotten wood.’ His expectation seemed to be that the organized Church, dominated by naturalism, would become so cold and dead, that people would come to see that spiritual life could be found only outside of it, and that thus there might be a new beginning.

Nearly everything that I have done has been done with the inspiring hope that Dr. Warfield would think well of it . . . I feel very blank without him. . . .He was the greatest man I have known.”

Below: Cemetery marker for the grave site of Dr. B. B. Warfield in the Princeton cemetery. [photograph by Barry Waugh]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words to Live By:
Brethren, it is there only also [in Christ our Lord] that our comfort can be found, whether for life or for death. Perhaps even yet we hardly know, as we should know, our need of a saviour. Perhaps we may acknowledge ourselves to be sinners only in languid acquiescence in a current formula. Such a state of self-ignorance cannot, however, last for ever. And some day—probably it has already come to most of ussome day the scales will fall from our eyes, and we shall see ourselves as we really are. Ah, then, we shall have no difficulty in placing ourselves by the apostle’s side, and pronouncing ourselves, in the accents of the deepest conviction, the chief of sinners. And, then, our only comfort for life and death, too, will be in the discovery that Christ Jesus came into the world just to save sinners. We may have long admired Him as a teacher sent from God, and have long sought to serve Him as a King re-ordering the world ; but we shall find in that great day of self-discovery that we have never known Him at all till He has risen upon our soul’s vision as our Priest, making His own body a sacrifice for our sin. For such as we shall then know ourselves to be, it is only as a Saviour from sin that Christ will suffice…”

[excerpted from The Power of God Unto Salvation, by B.B. Warfield (1903), p. 51-52.]

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Our candidates for this date are few, and information is sparse. Today’s entry comes largely from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, with some additional details provided by the Biographical Catalogue of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

George Smith Boardman was born at Albany, New York on December 28, 1796. He graduated at Union College in 1816, and entered Princeton Seminary that same year, later graduating there in 1819. His time at Princeton Seminary would have been during those years when Dr. Archibald Alexander and Dr. Samuel Miller were the only professors serving at the young Seminary; Dr. Alexander being the first professor in 1812 and Dr. Miller joining him a year later in 1813. Charles Hodge did not join the faculty until 1822.

Third Presbyterian Church (Old Pine Street)After receiving license to preach the gospel, George Boardman spent about two years preaching from place to place in Ohio and Kentucky, which was then the “Far West.” He was ordained by the Presbytery of St. Lawrence on July 26, 1821 and was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church at Watertown, New York, where he served for sixteen years. In 1837 he accepted a call to the Bethel Presbyterian church of Rochester, New York, where he remained six years, excepting a period of six months in 1842, when he labored at Columbus, Ohio in connection with a revival, and then supplied for a while the Third (or Pine Street) Church in Philadelphia.

Pictured at right, Third Presbyterian church, Philadelphia, PA.

In 1843 he took charge of the Second Presbyterian Church at Rome, New York, which he left in 1847, to enter upon a short pastorate at Cherry Valley, New York. At the latter place he remained until 1850, when he accepted a call to the Church at Cazenovia, New York.  This pastorate extended to 1865, a period of nearly fifteen years. At the end of this time impaired health required his release. After his health was restored he eagerly engaged in preaching, either as an occasional or stated supply. For longer or shorter periods he filled the pulpits of the First Presbyterian Church of Rome, as well as the Presbyterian churches in Ogdensburg and Little Falls, all in New York. He died in Cazenovia, New York, on February 7, 1877.

In 1858, during the time that he was serving as the pastor of the Presbyterian church at Cazenovia, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on Rev. Boardman by Madison University in New York (now Colgate University).

Words to Live By:
Just the facts, ma’am. Looking over what is known of Rev. Boardman’s life, we don’t have available the usual details that would add life and vibrancy to the story. Just the bare details.  Most of us seemingly just plug away at our calling in life, with little hoopla or ceremony. Occasionally we might enjoy an honor or two in life. But for the most part, we simply do our part and trust the Lord that our lives will matter, for His glory and for the good of others. And God has given us this confidence, that our lives do matter: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

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If You are Number Two, Do You Try Harder?

Samuel Miller was definitely number two among that faculty of Princeton Seminary that year of September 29, 1813.  Started only one year before, Archibald Alexander was the first professor of the Presbyterian Seminary with only a handful of students.  As another war with Britain was raging (the War of 1812), it was a trying time for a smooth start. On top of that, the students of Princeton College were anything but spiritual. College pranks had brought the college close to shutting down. Samuel Miller, fresh from a pastoral experience in a city church, would arrive on the campus and quickly became a force for spiritual good at both the seminary and the college, even in his position as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government.

Helping this whole process were a number of personal resolutions which Miller wrote down for himself, as a way of guiding his relationship with other people at both the college and the seminary. Those resolutions are too long to print here, but two of them speak to Christian people being in a supporting role, whether in the church, your called profession, or in any organization.

Number 3 reads, “I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary, as never to give the least reasonable ground of offence.  It shall be my aim, by divine help, ever to treat him with the most scrupulous respect and delicacy, and never to wound his feelings, if I know how to avoid it.”

Number 4 reads, “. . . Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my college, I will, in no case, take offence at his treatment of me.  I have come hither resolving, that whatever may be the sacrifice of my personal feelings—whatever may be the consequence—I will not take offence, unless I am called upon to relinquish truth or duty.  I not only will never, the Lord helping me, indulge a jealous, envious, or suspicious temper toward him; but I will, in no case, allow myself to be wounded by any slight, or appearance of disrespect. I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or context.  What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master.”

These were only two of the seven resolutions.  But even considering these two alone, what would be the result in our churches if both officers and members would more fully reflect in their character and conduct these two resolutions.  Truth and duty indeed were the only two exceptions to the rule.  Otherwise, the guiding principle was to always esteem others more highly than yourself.

Words to live by:  Samuel Miller wrote above, “I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or conflict.”  What a magnanimous spirit!  What a change this would cause in many local churches, to say nothing of our evangelical and Reformed denominations, if all the officers and members possessed Samuel Miller’s spirit.  Examine yourself, dear reader, or examine your small group, or examine your local fellowship. How do you measure up?  What can be done if you find your character and conduct lacking?  Is it not time for a revival of religion in your circles?

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He was a wanted man

The Presbyterian pastor teacher was a wanted man, that is, wanted by theological seminaries to teach at their school.  Princeton Seminary wanted George T.  Purves to teach church history on their faculty.  Western Seminary wanted the scholar to teach theology.  McCormick Seminary in Chicago want the veteran pastor to teach theology on their faculty.  But the heart of this Princeton Seminary alumni was in New Testament, so when a vacancy opened up with the death of Caspar Wistar Hodge, he came to Princeton Seminary.

George Tybout Purves was born on September 27, 1852 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His undergraduate studies were at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1872.  Immediately, he went to Princeton Seminary for the years of 1873 to 1877.  Becoming ordained by the Chester Presbytery, he served three Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and back in Pennsylvania at the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.  With pastoral experience behind him then, he went back to Princeton where for the next eight years (1892 – 1900), he taught New Testament Literature and Exegesis.

Not known for his authorship of volumes (though he wrote about twenty books), his spiritual legacy was found in the men who sat under him in classes and graduated to change the world for Christ.  That legacy continued in the pastoral field as during his teaching duties at the seminary, he also supplied the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton.

Leaving the seminary halls for the pulpit once again, he accepted the call to become the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.  After serving one year, he answered his Savior’s summons and died in 1901.

Words to live by:  What spiritual gifts this man of God possessed!  When he was in the pastorate, the theological schools wanted him. When he was in the sacred halls of seminaries, the churches wanted him. The point is this! Everyone, every Christian, has been given at least one, and no doubt many more Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts.  In one sense, it doesn’t matter where you use them.  The important thing is that you use them somewhere. Do you know what your spiritual gift is?  Ask your spouse, or a close Christian friend, or your elder, or your pastor. Then finding it, use it for God’s glory and the good of His church.

For further study : Dr. Purves’s inaugural lecture at Princeton, “St. Paul and Inspiration,” can be read on the web here.
The George Tybout Purves Manuscript Collection is preserved at the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary, and described in a finding aid, here. [I note that this finding aid was written by PCA pastor Ray Cannata, back when he was a student at PTS.]

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If You Cannot Find a Suitable One, Write it Yourself

Catherine Vos was the wife of the famous Princeton Seminary professor of Biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos, and an author in her own right. Her daughter once said that the sentiment reflected in our title above summed up what her mother experienced as she sought to train up her children in the truths of the Bible.  She had gone though bookstore after bookstore looking for a book which would present the excitement and warmth of the stories found in the Bible. When she came up empty, she made it a life-long project to write one herself. And did she ever? The Child’s Bible Study originally was published in three volumes but has more recently been released as a one volume edition, as revised by her daughter.  No matter which one you purchase, this study has stood the test of time, in that it has been close to seventy years plus since it was first written.

Catherine Francis Smith married Geerhardus Vos in 1894 at Grand Rapids, Michigan, just two years after he had become the first professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.  They were married for 43 years and produced a family of three sons and one daughter.  One of the sons was J.G. Vos who studied at his father’s alma mater, Princeton Seminary, and became a Reformed Presbyterian minister.

The Child’s Study Bible is different from many children study Bibles in that it goes far beyond just treating a few of the major characters in the Bible. Catherine Vos’s book treats 110 stories from the Old Testament and 92 stories from the New Testament.  In every way, children are pointed to the gospel and the Redeemer of the gospel.

Catherine Vos would pass into glory on September 14, 1937, and was buried near the Vos summer home in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania.  Her husband Geerhardus would join her in that small cemetery near the summer home twelve years later.

Words to live by:  If the readers of this devotional guide are parents of young children, there is no better means to “train up your children in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) than by a daily reading of the Bible.  And for young children around the age of four and five years of age, and upward, the Child’s Bible Study an invaluable tool for that purpose.  The book employs the King James Version, and there are some pictures of Jesus which some readers might find objectionable.   But overall, this writer recommends it highly.

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