Samuel Craig

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A Plan of Action for Revival

If you look at some of the early Presbyterian Guardian issues on-line, you will notice on the masthead the name of the Constitutional Covenant Union.  What was this organization?

The Covenant Union was an independent agency organized after the 1935 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That national meeting brought some powerful indications that the conservative Presbyterians days were numbered in the visible church.  So there went out a call to the supporters of the true Presbyterians to come to Philadelphia for a meeting on June 27, 1935.  Over one hundred people answered the call.  The Constitutional Covenant Union was organized, with officers elected, an executive committee named, and a constitution adopted.  Chapters were to be organized, and a program of reform of the Presbyterian Church USA promoted.

That program was set introduced by an opening statement.  The purposes were two-fold.  It said, “we, the members of this Covenant Union are resolved, in accordance with God’s Word and in humble reliance upon His grace, to maintain the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, (1) making every effort  to bring about a reform of the existing church organization and to restore the church’s clear and glorious Christian testimony, which modernism and indifferentism have now so grievously silenced, but (2) if such efforts fail, and in  particular, if the tyrannical policy of the present majority triumphs, holding ourselves ready to perpetuate the true Presbyterian Church, USA, regardless of cost.”

The meeting in Philadelphia would last from June 11 to June 14.  It was upon its closing promptly attacked by not only the church machine of the denomination, but also from a surprising corner in the Rev. Samuel Craig, editor of Christianity Today.  Remember, the latter magazine had been set up by Samuel Craig to expose the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church USA.  But there were changes being made in his purposes around this time.  Instead of supporting the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, he had resigned from both it, and the Board of Trustees of Westminster Seminary.  Now Craig was advocating the support of sound missionaries of the official Board of Foreign Missions.  When that became known, the Rev. McAllister Griffiths resigned as managing editor of Christianity Today, and became the editor of the Presbyterian Guardian.

Rallies began to be held in all parts of the country sponsored by this Covenant Union, with chapters formed in those areas.  However, even with this remnant meeting, it was obvious that the second purpose of the Covenant Union would be realized.  When the 1936 General Assembly met, and the supporters of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions were disciplined with expulsion, there was a call for another meeting.  Taking place on June 11 – 14 in Philadelphia, the Covenant Union was dissolved and the Presbyterian Church of America came into being.   (See June 11)

Words to Live By: J. Gresham Machen said on this occasion that we cannot trust the world.  We cannot trust civilization.  We cannot trust the visible church.  When God speaks through His Word, we can trust only Him.  His words are still true today.  Make the blessed Book of books your guide this day.

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Plans for a New Seminary

The “school of the prophets” was lost to Old School Presbyterianism. The great theologians of old Princeton — Alexander, Miller, Hodge, etc. — might still be buried in the cemetery plot of Princeton, but so also was buried their historic stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints. Re-organization of the trustees was now done and signers of the infamous Auburn Affirmation placed on the board. It was only a matter of time the fruits of liberalism would be manifest in the teachings of the classrooms.

Recognizing that sad truth, the Rev. Walter Buchcanan, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City, invited on June 17, 1929 a group of teaching and ruling elders to the University Club to respond to these developments. The following statement was approved by the group of elders:  “Resolved: that this group will support the loyal members of the former Board of Directors of Princeton Theological Seminary in any step they may see fit to take (1) toward prevention by legal means the misuse of the Seminary’s funds, or (2) toward the formation of a new Seminary if they decide that it is necessary.”  A wide latitude was allowed in this resolve, as you can see.   Despite the new liberal members, see if we cannot keep Princeton  Seminary from digressing away any further from the faith, but failing that, the possibility of a new seminary is on the table as well.

There were meetings taking place in other cities as well.  Philadelphia was the site of a meeting of elders, including one in which finances were pledged for one year of the new seminary.  The historic meeting which launched the new seminary took place on July 18, 1929 with seventy-eight teaching and ruling elders present at the YMCA in Philadelphia.  The name of Westminster Theological Seminary was chosen at this meeting. An executive committee was chosen as composed of six (6) teaching elders and eight (8) ruling elders.

The teaching elders represented were: Maitland Alexander, Roy T. Brumbaugh, Walter Buchanan, Samuel Craig, Charles Schall, and Frank Stevenson. Ruling elders Roland Armes, Edgar Frutchey, Frederick Paist, James Runkin, T. E. Ross, James Schrader, John Steele, and Morgan Thomas were also present. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen,and O.T. Allis served as advisers.

The happy fruition of this meeting on that same year of 1929 was September 25, in which fifty students gathered at the Seminary campus at 1528 Pine Street in Philadelphia.  A seminary was born!

WTS_studentBody_1929-30_75dpiPictured above, the Student Body of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1930.

Words to Live By: One of the minor prophets of the Old Testament wrote that we were not to despise the day of small things.  Certainly, this founding of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa., was just a tiny speck in comparison with Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey in the world’s eyes.  But when your standard is the authoritative Word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus, then there is more that meets the eye in the start of this school which carried on the historic testimony of old Princeton.  Let us learn to look ever to the Bible, not the world’s estimation, in your prayers and financial support of churches and institutions of the biblical gospel.

The Library at Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1930.

Before moving to its present location in Glenside, PA, Westminster Theological Seminary was first situated in a residence owned by Professor Oswald T. Allis. As Dr. Allis and his family removed to the top floors of the building, the first floor was reconfigured for an assembly room and chapel where daily prayer services were held, a room which would accommodate about sixty-five people.
Also on the first floor were small offices for the Registrar and the Secretary of the Seminary, as well as the dining hall and kitchen. The dining hall operated under the management of the Student Dining Club. with about forty-five men taking their meals there regularly, at a cost of about $6.50 per week. One evening a week was set aside for times of fellowship and singing following the dinner hour.
Classrooms and the Seminary library were located on the second floor of the building. The library held about 5,000 volumes at its inception. Three classrooms were also on this second floor, with about eighteen students typically in the largest class.

Also on this day :
July 18, 1823
marks the birth of Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest son of Charles and Sarah Hodge.

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