Robert Dick Wilson

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Even His Name Spoke of Recognition

Born on  this 18th day of September of 1879, Clarence Edward Noble Macartney had one of those names that made you stop and think.  He grew up in  a Covenanter household, with his father, the Rev. John L. Macartney, being a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northwood, Ohio.  As this town was the home of Geneva College, it was no surprise that his father taught at the new college as a professor of Natural Science.  When the college moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the family moved with it.

But the father was not a well man. Plagued with a respiratory problem, he and the family moved to California for the warmer weather. In fact, twice there was a move in that state, and finally on to Colorado in 1896. There were teaching professions along the way for the father.

All this moving brought a series of schools, which did not stop for the young man Clarence during his collegiate years. They included: the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and Yale Divinity School. There was even a stint overseas in several countries. Finally, Clarence McCartney settled down at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under B.B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, and Frederick Loetscher.

The Old School Presbyterian theology called him away from the Covenanter denomination of his father and into the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Ordained soon after seminary, he held pastorates in Patterson, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Macartney was no doubt a conservative in theology.  His Old School Presbyterian training at Princeton Seminary  had guaranteed that, along with his Covenanter background.  And he was to preach that famous sermon, “Shall Unbelief Win?” to counter the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon earlier, “Shall Fundamentalism Win?”

In its early years, he was a member of the board of Westminster Theological Seminary.  One of his favorite professors at Princeton was Robert Dick Wilson, who was at Westminster for one year before death took him. But McCartney was opposed to the starting of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission as well as the Constitutional Union’s calls for a new church, if they couldn’t reform the church from the inside. Eventually, he would resign from the board of Westminster Seminary and remain inside the Presbyterian U.S.A. church, even while Machen and others were censured out of the church.  He would go to be with the Lord in 1957.

Words to live by:  It comes down to a simple question.  What is the definition of an apostate church?  J. Gresham Machen and others certainly believed that when nothing is done in the way of church discipline when essential doctrines of the faith have been denied, as was the case with the Auburn Affirmation, then that speaks of a visible church being apostate. Not one single signer of this affirmation was ever brought up on a charge of heresy. Who were brought up for violation of their ordination vows were conservatives like Machen, Woodbridge, Woolley, McIntire, and yes even a David K Myers, among others.  Pray for the purity of the church and  your church in particular. Don’t ever be silent when the truths of God’s Word, the Bible, are being attacked.  And stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints.

 

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A Great Loss for Westminster Seminary

The new orthodox seminary, Westminster, had only been open for two weeks on October 11, 1930, when one of the premier faculty members of that theological institution, and before that, Princeton Theological Seminary,  Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, died suddenly. He had been blessed with excellent health for most of his teaching career. But after a brief week of illness, he went into the presence of the Lord.

This writer’s father, who studied under Dr. Wilson at Princeton from 1927 to 1929, told me that Robert Dick Wilson planned his life in three phases. Phase one was to learn all the extant languages of, or related to, the Scriptures. And he did have a working knowledge of somewhere between twenty-five and forty-five languages (accounts vary). The second phase was to study all the higher critical attacks upon the Bible. And the last phase was to publish in defending the Scriptures against all of those higher critical attacks upon the sacred Word. It was with regards to this last phase that he commented that he had come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament.

One humorous incident in his teaching career at Princeton was the time that a woman had enrolled in his class. One day, as was usually the case, he was disheveled in his attire when he came to class. Often the suspenders which held up his pants would be pinned by two safety pins. Teaching animatedly, the two pins became undone with the result that his pants slid to the floor. Embarrassed immensely, and sliding down to raise his pants again,  he could only cry out “Where is Mrs. Jennings? Where is she?,” fearing she was in class in the back row. When told that the lone woman in question had cut his class to study in the library, Dr. Wilson responded, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

Words to live by:  Why would an accomplished scholar like Dr. Robert Dick Wilson leave his life’s calling at Princeton Seminary in 1929 to go to a brand new theological institution where there was no guarantee of funds for either teaching or retirement? The answer is that Dr. Wilson knew that a person cannot have God’s richest blessings, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach that truth is gained by corruption of principles. And the reorganization of Princeton’s Board of Trustees, with the resulting addition of two members who had signed the Auburn Affirmation, was just that—a corruption of principles.  May we take a similar stand for righteousness, regardless of the outcome to our lives. May we always stand for the infallible truth of God’s Word.

For further study: The PCA Historical Center, which hosts This Day in Presbyterian History, houses among its many collections the Papers of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. As one means of promoting that collection, the Historical Center has posted a number of articles about Dr. Wilson on its web site, and these can be found here.

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Dr. Allan A. MacRae

macrae05It is an enduring memory these many decades later for the author of this post. Looking from my living room window during my teenage years, I could see on many a Sabbath day afternoon, Mrs. Grace MacRae reading from a book, under a tree on the Faith Seminary campus in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, to her husband Allan MacRae, and their only child and son, John. It was a  habit which I started in my family when I was married and later had a daughter to whom we could read Christian books.

Today, February 11, is the birthday of Allan A. MacRae. Born in 1902 in Calumet, Michigan to John and Eunice MacRae, Alan showed an inclination from his earliest age for scholarly pursuits. Who among our readers studied Latin in grammar school, often reading that ancient language in a six-language Bible edition? Their home was often the hub for literary clubs, political groups, and church fellowship times. Allan would receive Christ as Savior and Lord at an early age. In those same young years, he read the Bible through, often reading twenty to thirty chapters a day.

Due to the poor health of his physician father, Allan moved with his parents when he was ten years of age, to Rome, Italy. Continuing his education each morning, he found the time in the afternoons to visit all of the sites in that ancient city. Those of us readers who were in his theological classes can remember illustrations from that time in his life. Returning to the United States, he moved to Los Angeles where he finished high school. Entering Occidental College at the age of sixteen, he excelled in college life, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree and one year later, a Master of Arts Degree.

Studying under R.A. Torrey for a year at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, the latter encouraged him to attend Princeton Theological Seminary. Under the teaching of theological greats like Geerhardus Vos, Robert Dick Wilson, Caspar Wistar Hodge, John Gresham Machen, and Oswald Allis, he graduated from this school of prophets.  Returning to his home, he was licensed and ordained by a presbytery who asked  him simplistic questions in his exam, like “who wrote the four gospels?” Thankfully, ordination candidates today among the conservative Presbyterian denominations face a more appropriate line of questions.

With an award in hand from Princeton Seminary to study Semitics at the University of Berlin in 1927, Allan proceeded to study Babylonian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Arabic, and Syriac.  A four-month trip to Palestine afforded him the invaluable experience of an archaeological dig at the biblical city of Ham, under the tutelage of William F. Albright. But his studies oversees were interrupted by a call from Robert Dick Wilson to return to the States to take on the teaching of the Old Testament at a newly formed seminary called Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was one of the founding faculty of that new institution. Eventually, he would received his Ph.D from the  University of Pennsylvania in 1936.

The rest of Dr. MacRae’s long ministry in the Lord’s kingdom began during the era of themodernist controversy in the 1930’s, during which time he threw his lot in with the newly formed Presbyterian Church of America, and later became a founding member of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Leaving Westminster Seminary in 1937, he became the first president of Faith Theological Seminary in 1938, and later was founding president of Biblical Theological Seminary, in 1971.  His students over these many years included men like Francis Schaeffer, Joseph Bayly, Vernon Grounds, Kenneth Kantzer, G. Douglas Young, Samuel Schultz, Jack Murray, John Battle, Charles Butler, and not a few readers of these web posts.  The latter can no doubt add their own remembrances of this man of God in the comment lines.

The late professor of Systematic Theology Robert Dunzweiler, from which most of this post was gleaned from an address which he gave, highlighted Dr. MacRae’s faithfulness as rooted and grounded in the inerrant authority of the Scriptures, coupled with his stress upon vital Christian living. He departed this life in 1995 and now worships before the throne of grace. His only son, John, as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, is now a missionary in Australia after years of pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By: To be known and recognized as being faithful to the Scriptures, while also being diligent in practical Christian living, is a worthwhile goal in our Christian lives.  The Christian life is ever built upon Christian doctrine. O Lord Jesus, give Your Church Christian men and women and children who follow in the steps of those who have gone before  us.

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wilsonrw04A Noble Example

Robert Dick Wilson was the fifth professor, and last apparently, who first served at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and then went on to a career at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The fourth such professor was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Dr. Wilson had received his A.B. and his M.A. from Princeton University and his Th.B. from Western Theological Seminary. Then he had studied for two years at the University of Berlin prior to receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University, whereupon he took up his teaching position at Western Theological Seminary, first as an instructor, 1883-1885, and then as a professor, 1885-1900.

While teaching at Western, Dr. Wilson gathered a group of students about him and breathed into them, even the least promising, the spirit of research and adventure in the study of the Word of God. Undoubtedly he carried this same enthusiasm and pedagogy with him when he left for Princeton in 1900. It was said of Dr. Wilson, that “he seemed to fit into Princeton as an old glove fits the hand.”

Born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1856, Robert Dick Wilson was the son of a wealthy merchant. Like his brother, he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged their children in their studies. Well before graduating from college, Robert was adept in reading nine languages and already had his Latin, Greek and Hebrew well in hand. Over the course of his life, he would come to master several dozen languages, focusing primarily on ancient near-eastern tongues. Wilson’s linguistic talents were judged comparable to those of an earlier Princeton professor, J. Addison Alexander, and in his own day, Wilson was judged by many as the world’s greatest Old Testament scholar.

He devoted all of this vast learning to the defence of Holy Scripture. He believed with all his mind and heart that the Bible is true, and he supported his belief with a wealth of scientific material which even his opponents could not neglect. Only a short time before his death he
was engaged in an answer to a notable mono­graph, published at Oxford, which had recently devoted itself to a consideration of his views.

He was greatly beloved as a teacher and as a friend. With the simplicity of a true scholar, he was always ready to cast reserve aside and receive
his students into his heart. He called them his “boys”, and they responded with affection as well as with respect.

But great as were Dr. Wilson’s achievements throughout a long and fruitful life, his greatest achievement was his last. It was the achievement
by which, putting selfish considerations and unworthy compromise of principle aside, he left his home at Princeton and entered the Faculty
of a new institution devoted unreservedly to the Word of God. It is arguable that no one man sacrificed more in establishing the new school.

Many arguments might have been adduced to lead Dr. Wilson to remain at Princeton Seminary after the reorganization of that institution in 1929. He was at that time in his seventy-fourth year. An honorable and advantageous retirement awaited him whenever he desired. He had a good salary and a comfortable home. He had the friends that he had made at Princeton during a residence there of nearly thirty years. Might he not retain these advantages without being un­faithful to the cause to which he had devoted his life? Would not the new Board of Princeton Seminary keep in the background, for a time at least, the real character of the revolution that had been wrought? Would not the doctrinal change be gradual only, as at so many other institutions, formerly evangelical, which have conformed to the drift of the times? Could he not, meanwhile, serve God by teaching the truth in his own class-room, no matter what the rest of the institution did? Could he not round out his life in peace? Could he not leave to younger men the battle for the Faith?

Those considerations and many like them were no doubt presented to Dr. Wilson in very per­suasive form. But he would have none of them. His Christian conscience, trained by a lifetime of devotion to God’s Word, cut through such argu­ments with the keenness of a Damascus blade. He penetrated to the real essence of the question. He saw that for him to remain at Princeton would be to commend as trustworthy what he knew to be untrustworthy, that it would be to lead Christ’s little ones astray. He knew that a man cannot have God’s richest blessing, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach the truth is gained by compromise of prin­ciple. He saw clearly that it was not a time for him to think of his own ease or comfort, but to bear testimony to the Saviour who had bought him with His own precious blood.

He did bear that testimony. He left his home at Princeton, and all the emoluments and honors that awaited him there. He cast in his lot with a new institution that had not a dollar of endow­ment and was dependent for the support of its professors upon nothing but faith in God.

wilsonRD_grave_closeupDr. Wilson was supremely happy in that decision. He never regretted it for a moment. He entered joyfully into the life of the new seminary, and God richly blessed him there. Then, having rounded out more than the allotted period of three-score years and ten, a Christian soldier without tarnish of compromise upon his shield, he entered into the joy of his Lord. He died early in October of 1930, at the beginning of Westminster’s second academic year.

Words to Live By:
The gospel cannot well be preached unless there be a school of the prophets to train men to preach it in all its purity and all its power. And these schools must be found consistently faithful to the Lord if they are to properly fulfill their role. Pray for these schools. Pray for the men who are being raised up to proclaim the precious Gospel of saving grace in Christ Jesus alone. Pray that they would be courageous, sparing no effort in giving all their time and talents in serving the Lord. Pray for those who teach, for those who administer, and for those who serve. Pray that together all their efforts would serve to expand the kingdom of our Lord and Savior throughout all the earth.

[A large portion of the above is taken from “The Power of a Noble Example,” a tribute published by Westminster Theological Seminary upon the death of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. To view that document and other tributes to Dr. Wilson, click here.]

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A Great Loss for Westminster Seminary

wilsonrw02The new orthodox seminary, Westminster, had only been open for two weeks on October 11, 1930, when one of the premier faculty members of that theological institution, and before that, Princeton Theological Seminary,  Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, died suddenly.  He had been blessed with excellent health most of his teaching career.  But after a brief week of illness, he went into the presence of the Lord.

This writer’s father, who studied under Dr. Wilson at Princeton from 1927 to 1929, told me that Robert Dick Wilson planned his life in three phases. Phase one was to learn all the extant languages of, or related to, the Scriptures. And he did have a working knowledge somewhere between twenty-five and forty-five languages (accounts vary). The second phase was to study all the higher critical attacks upon the Bible. And the last phase was publish in defending the Scriptures against all of those higher critical attacks upon the sacred Word. It was with regards to this last phase that he commented that he had come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament.

One humorous incident in his teaching career at Princeton was the time that a woman had enrolled in his class. One day, as was usually the case, he was disheveled in his attire when he came to class. Often the suspenders which held up his pants would be pinned by two safety pins. Teaching animatedly, the two pins became undone with the result that his pants slid to the floor. Embarrassed immensely, and sliding down to raise his pants again,  he could only cry out “Where is Mrs. Jennings? Where is she?,” fearing she was in class in the back row. When told that the lone woman in question had cut his class to study in the library, Dr. Wilson responded, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

Words to live by:  Why would an accomplished scholar like Dr. Robert Dick Wilson leave his life calling at Princeton Seminary in 1929 to go to a brand new theological institution where there was no guarantee of funds for either teaching or retirement?  The answer is that Dr. Wilson knew that a person cannot have God’s richest blessings, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach that truth is gained by corruption of principles.  And the reorganization of Princeton’s Board of Trustees with two members who had signed the Auburn Affirmation was just that, a corruption of principles.  May we take a similar stand for righteousness, regardless of the outcome to our lives.

For further study: The PCA Historical Center, which hosts This Day in Presbyterian History, houses among its many collections the Papers of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. As one means of promoting that collection, the Historical Center has posted a number of articles about Dr. Wilson on its web site, and these can be found here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History

Even His Name Spoke of Recognition

Born on  this 18th day of September of 1879, Clarence Edward Noble Macartney had one of those names that made you stop and think.  He grew up in  a Covenanter household, with his father, the Rev. John L. Macartney, being a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northwood, Ohio.  As this town was the home of Geneva College, it was no surprise that his father taught at the new college as a professor of Natural Science.  When the college moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the family moved with it.

But the father was not a well man. Plagued with a respiratory problem, he and the family moved to California for the warmer weather. In fact, twice there was a move in that state, and finally on to Colorado in 1896. There were teaching professions along the way for the father.

All this moving brought a series of schools, which did not stop for the young man Clarence during his collegiate years. They included: the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and Yale Divinity School. There was even a stint overseas in several countries. Finally, Clarence McCartney settled down at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under B.B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, and Frederick Loetscher.

The Old School Presbyterian theology called him away from the Covenanter denomination of his father and into the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Ordained soon after seminary, he held pastorates in Patterson, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Macartney was no doubt a conservative in theology.  His Old School Presbyterian training at Princeton Seminary  had guaranteed that, along with his Covenanter background.  And he was to preach that famous sermon, “Shall Unbelief Win?” to counter the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon earlier, “Shall Fundamentalism Win?”

In its early years, he was a member of the board of Westminster Theological Seminary.  One of his favorite professors at Princeton was Robert Dick Wilson, who was at Westminster for one year before death took him. But McCartney was opposed to the starting of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission as well as the Constitutional Union’s calls for a new church, if they couldn’t reform the church from the inside. Eventually, he would resign from the board of Westminster Seminary and remain inside the Presbyterian U.S.A. church, even while Machen and others were censured out of the church.  He would go to be with the Lord in 1957.

Words to live by:  It comes down to a simply question.  What is the definition of an apostate church?  J. Gresham Machen and others certainly believed that when nothing is done in the way of church discipline when essential doctrines of the faith have been denied, as was the case with the Auburn Affirmation, then that speaks of a visible church being apostate. Not one single signer of this affirmation was ever brought up on a charge of heresy. Who were brought up for violation of their ordination vows were conservatives like Machen, Woodbridge, Woolley, McIntire, and yes even a David K Myers, among others.  Pray for the purity of the church and  your church in particular. Don’t ever be silent when the truths of God’s Word, the Bible, are being attacked.  And stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints.

For further study : The Clarence Edward N. Macartney Manuscript Collection is preserved as one of the resources at the Geneva College Library.

Through the Scriptures:  Ezekiel 25 – 27

Through the Standards:  The sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Larger Catechism.

WLC 195 — “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A.  In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for diverse holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations; that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us; and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption, weakness, and want of watchfulness, are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptation, but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them; and worthy to be left under the power of them: we pray, that God would so over-rule the world and  all in it, subdue the flesh, and restrain Satan, order all things, bestow and bless all means of grace, and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin; or, if tempted, the hour of temptation; or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it, and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof; that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected, Satan trodden under our feet, and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, forever.”

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