Samuel Miller

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A Martyr in His Missionary Zeal to Evangelize Blacks

Charles Colcock JonesWe hear much in this twenty-first century about the treatment of blacks before the Civil War.  And the fact that slavery was even allowed in any of the parts of this blessed nation is to be abhorred.  But in the midst of this condition, there were Southerners who sought to recognize the mission field to the blacks working on the plantations.

Beginning his special work as spiritual shepherd to the blacks of Liberty County, Georgia on December 2, 1832 was the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, a member of the Midway Congregational Church.  Born on his father’s plantation in 1804, Charles Jones received his theological training under both Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller at Princeton Seminary. Though he began as a pastor in Savannah, he soon returned to minister to the blacks as far as their souls were concerned. His congregation upon his start around the Midway Presbyterian Church some 4500 slaves. It was an organized ministry he had among them.

Three separate places of worship were built in convenient places solely for their use. Each Sabbath, Dr. Jones would travel by horseback to one of the three worship buildings.  First, a prayer meeting would ensue, led by chosen blacks themselves. Then the sermon with hymns would be led and preached by Dr. Jones.  In the afternoon, a Sunday School with catechetical instruction was instituted. Following that was a personal inquiry regarding their spiritual condition. Then blacks chosen for their gifts would make reports to the pastor regarding the weekly spiritual conduct of the workers. And finally, Dr. Jones would speak to the chosen leaders of their race regarding their encouragement and counsel. During the week, other meetings would be held at the plantations themselves, with whites and blacks together listening to the proclaimed Word of God.

jonesCatechismConcerned about this system, Dr. Jones wrote an exhortation which addressed this area.  The Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia adopted it for their rules of all their churches and families in 1833. It stated: “Religion will tell the master that his servants are his fellow creatures, and that he has a Master in heaven to whom he shall give an account for his treatment of them. The master will be led to inquiries of this sort: In what kind of houses do I permit them to live? What clothes do I give them to wear?  What food to eat? What privileges to enjoy? In what temper and manner and proportion to their crimes are they punished?”

With his health breaking from twenty-four, seven work on their behalf, Dr. Jones spent two years teaching Church History and Polity at Columbia Seminary. But after that time, he returned to his spiritual work among the blacks for ten more years. In 1863, he went to his heavenly home, where color lines do not count among the saints.

Words to live by:  Our Lord said once during His earthly ministry, “What will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (KJV – Mark 8:36)  The welfare of the soul comes first in the eyes of the consecrated Christian. Charles Jones recognized this.  And to that, even at the detriment of his own health, he worked himself to death on their behalf.  When the Christian church, even the Presbyterian church, is ready to do everything it can do to reach the souls of the people in the neighborhood of their congregations, then we will have that spiritual awakening which is so desperately needed in our blessed land. O Lord, give us consecrated workers for the soul of America.



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A Life of Selfless Service.

If you have any appreciation for Presbyterian works that came out of the nineteenth-century—works by men like Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, Charles Hodge, and so many more—then you owe a debt of gratitude to the Rev. William M. Engles. From 1838 until 1863—key years in Presbyterian publishing—Rev. Engles selflessly served as the head of the Presbyterian Board of Publication, and it was under his leadership that this institution produced some of the very best works issued in that era. No rash claim, it was said at his funeral that, “So far, indeed, as any one man can deserve such preeminence, he might justly be called the founder of the Presbyterian literature of this country.”

William Morrison Engles was born in Philadelphia on October 12th, 1797. His father was Captain Silas Engles, of the Revolutionary Army; his mother was Anna (Patterson) Engles, a lady from a distinguished family. Both parents were noted for their intelligence and for their accomplishments. William graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1815, studied theology with Dr. Samuel Brown Wylie, of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on October 18th, 1818. Then on July 6th, 1820, he was ordained and installed as pastor of the Seventh Presbyterian Church, also known as the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. Here his ministry was faithful and successful, but in 1834 he was obliged to resign, on account of a diseased throat.

From the pulpit he stepped into the editorial chair, succeeding Dr. James W. Alexander as editor of The Presbyterian, in which post he continued, until the day of his death, for thirty-three years. Under his supervision this newspaper attained an increased circulation and a high reputation as the leading organ of the Old School party. Then in May of 1838, Rev. Engles was appointed editor of the Board of Publication for the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., which post he held for twenty-five years, while yet retaining the editorship of The Presbyterian. In 1840, he was chosen to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly for the Old School wing of the PCUSA, and then filled the office of Stated Clerk for six years. His death, from an obscure disease of the heart, occurred on November 27, 1867, passing into glory at the age of 71.

Dr. Engles owed his reputation more to his pen than to his pulpit. He was too quiet and didactic to be a popular preacher. But to say nothing of his editorial success, to him the Board of Publication was more indebted than to any other individual, according to its own acknowledgment. He took an active part in its inception and progress. He not only rescued from oblivion various valuable works, in danger of becoming obsolete, but added to the Board’s issues a number of treatises from his own prolific pen. As these were published anonymously, they cannot here be specified. Mention, however, may be made of the little volume, entitled Sick Room Devotions which has proved of inestimable service, and The Soldier’s Pocket Book, of which three hundred thousand copies were circulated during the war.

Words to Live By:
“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” – 1 Peter 5:4.

Of Rev. Engles, it was noted that he “was exceedingly averse to anything that savored of mere eulogy or panegyric upon his own services”, so much so that even his own funeral service would not have been attempted but for the urgings of numerous friends.

Let your eye be fixed upon the heavenly goal; let your work here on earth, whatever that may be, be a work done as unto the Lord, and not with an eye to the applause of the world.

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Time to Dust Off a Great Sermon

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

Dr. Miller’s text at the installation was:

II Corinthians X.4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yesterday also marked the birth date, in 1915, of PCA teaching elder and foreign missionary Francis Rue Steele, who died in 2004. Here today, for our Sunday Sermon, is his article, The Privilege of Suffering.


THE PRIVILEGE of SUFFERING.

by Dr. Francis R. Steele

steel_Francis_RueWhy do Christians suffer? Is there a purpose in it and if so what is that purpose? Should all suffering be treated as a calamity and considered as punishment? How should the Christian behave in the face of suffering; gloomy or patient—or what? Note first of all that there are two kinds of suffering: deserved and undeserved. We are not here concerned with suffering which is the just desserts of our own foolish or sinful behavior. “For what glory is it if when ye be buffeted for your faults ye take it patiently” (I Peter 2:20). “But let none of you suffer as … an evildoer” (I Peter 4:15). But what about undeserved suffering, why is it permitted and how should we behave?

What does the Bible have to say on this point? It says, quite clearly and unmistakably that God permits suffering to come into the lives of His children as a special privilege and that it is an experience to be sought from Him for His glory. How different this attitude is from that of the world toward suffering and, for that matter, of most Christians as well.
The Lord Jesus laid the foundation of this truth in His teaching and it was later developed further by the Apostles. Let us see what they have to say and ask God to clarify our thinking on this much misunderstood point.

UNAVOIDABLE SITUATION:
The whole matter is summarized thus by the Lord: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The first statement is conditional “ye might have.” The second is unconditional “ye shall have.” If we fail to understand the principles under which God is operating in this present world we may well feel distraught and upset by our experiences. However if we understand we may enjoy the tranquility of soul which resting in the promises and providence of God affords. Our enjoyment of His peace is conditioned by our accepting His will. But in either case we shall experience tribulation; this is inescapable. This is the unavoidable situation confronting Christians because, in the very nature of things, there must be conflict between light and darkness, good and evil, the Christian and the world just as there is between God and Satan. There is no possibility of “peaceful co-existence” between righteousness and unrighteousness.

It is more difficult for those of us who live in North America to appreciate this fact than for those Christians who live among hostile Muslim people in North Africa. The atmosphere of religious respectability and material abundance here at home blinds us to the real world outside. We are easily deceived into equating our social and material comfort with the privileges and benefits we believe are rightfully ours by virtue of our being Christian. If so, however, we are ignorant of two facts. (1) For the first few centuries of its life the whole Christian church was despised and persecuted by the world and (2) the majority of our Christian Brothers and Sisters living outside our artificial environment are still living under extreme hardship and severe persecution even today.

But even more important than that, we have explicit teaching from the Lord concerning the elements of a life of true discipleship. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The disciple is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) Or put another way even more forcibly, “It is enough for the disciple to be as his Lord.” (Matthew 10:25) Enough! Who could wish for anything more? Isn’t that the goal and aspiration of my life? But, is it; really? Or have I a mistaken concept of my desire when I sing so heartily “I would be like Jesus.” Do I not really have in mind undescribable joys and pleasures flowing from a life of such sweetness and goodness as I have never known before? If so, then I had better turn my eyes away from these dazzling dreams and listen to His voice again, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you . . . if they have persecuted me they will persecute you also.” Can it be that I actually desire to be more than He was in this world; more popular, more comfortable? God forbid that He should ever have to say of me, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” (John 7:7). God forbid that the world should ever see so much of itself in me or that I should be so attractive and congenial to it that it would look with favor on me while at the same time despising the Lord I profess to follow.

A word of caution is necessary at this point. The world hates Jesus because His life of holiness convicts it of sin. That’s what He meant when He said, “They hated me without, a cause.” (John 15:25) There is no need for us to seek or produce occasion for suffering. No suffering brought on by stupid, sinful or selfish behavior glorifies God. “Let none of you suffer . . . as an evildoer.” (I Peter 4:15). We should rather “seek after godliness and true holiness” and then “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” (I Peter 4:12-13).

UNEXPECTED SOURCE:
It’s no great surprise to us that grossly sinful or viciously anti-religious people treat us rudely or harmfully because of our witness for Christ. Though, be assured, few of us in America ever know anything like the persecution our Christian Brothers overseas suffer constantly. Nevertheless, whether we welcome such treatment or not, we can understand why it comes when it comes. Such people don’t know any better therefore we realize we ought to be patient with them no matter what the cost. Whether we do or not, of course, is quite another matter.

But what if unjust, undeserved treatment comes from within the family of believers? How easily and quickly we become hurt and resentful. Yet wasn’t this precisely our Lord’s experience. Isn’t this peculiarly characteristic of His deepest suffering. He was misunderstood by his closest disciples—even his own family. He was betrayed by one of the twelve. He was deserted by all men at Calvary. He was blasphemously denied by one of the specially privileged three. And “as he was in the world so are we.”

The Psalmist speaks of this when he cries out, “It was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it. Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from it, but it was ‘thou, a man, my own equal, my guide and acquaintance;” (Psalm 55:12-13) not a declared enemy but a supposed friend. It hurts deeply to remember that once “we took sweet counsel together, and went up into the house of God in company” (verse 14) then to discover that although “the words of his mouth were smoother than butter, yet war was in his heart.” (verse 21)

Such was the heartbroken reply of one missionary to another when the disloyalty of a colleague was revealed, “If an Arab had spat in my face on the street, that I could have understood and accepted it but . . .” Yes, that’s the difference “it was thou.” No matter how willing or able we may think we are to suffer reproach from unbelievers—though rarely tested at this point—it is an altogether different matter when it proceeds from a brother in Christ. Still, it is at exactly this point that we have the pre-eminent example of the Lord “because Christ also (thus) suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow in His steps.” (I Peter 2:21).
We fail the test at this point since we have failed to heed His advice and warning; “in me ye (may) have peace, in the world ye shall have tribulation.” The simple truth is that true, lasting peace can only be found in Christ; He is the only unfailing Friend. Nothing and no one in the world is completely reliable or trustworthy. It is unwise to lean too hard upon even the most saintly Christian. God grant that we seek our peace only in Him and be satisfied. He will never disappoint us.

UNNATURAL REACTION:
No matter what the source, however, most Christians react to suffering in more or less the same way; either bitter resentment or lugubrious silence. Moreover, some Christians seem to take morbid pleasure from their having to “bear a cross,” as they put it. They are at great pains to point out how noble they are to bear so patiently with such misfortune. What a disgraceful parody upon real Christian grace! Such behavior betrays the evil motive of selfish pride behind it. Bearing “a cross” (Mark 8:34) means giving complete obedience to the Lord. It has no reference whatsoever to sickness, accidents, calamity or any other hardship as such.
The gem of truth lies in the very heart of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Following a familiar pattern in Semitic didactic literature we find here two groups of four statements the fourth of each being the major thought of the group. Notice the development (Matthew 5:3-12). The first climax is, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” then follows the second group with its climax, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.” But the crowning climax brings the lesson home personally, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against
you falsely for my sake.” And finally, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad.” That is the unnatural reaction. “I can imagine suffering wrongfully,” you might say, “yet scarcely consider myself fortunate for it. But as for actively rejoicing in it . . .” Still that’s exactly what Jesus said; and what He meant. No matter what the source when we truly suffer for righteousness sake we should respond with positive joy. “Praise God, I am privileged to suffer shame, of any degree, for His sake!”

But let us turn from the proposition to the practice of this grace as recorded in Acts chapter 5.
Here we read of Peter and John who having been twice falsely arrested and imprisoned for preaching the Gospel were then unjustly and cruelly beaten. Notice their reaction upon their release, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (verse 41). Surely this lies far beyond the ability of most of us. But why does it? Is it not because we fail to recognize such undeserved suffering as a privilege rather than a calamity? Surely this was the source of their joy. They rejoiced that “they were counted worthy.” What an absolutely opposite light this throws on the whole question. Can it be that I have been so blind in my complacency that I interpreted as a special blessing from God the almost total absence of such suffering from my life? Why did it never occur to me to wonder if the reason God spared me from suffering was that He knew I was not worthy. I have been kept from these privileged experiences because God knows I would disgrace Him in them. Did this ever occur to you? Did you ever pray, “O God cleanse me from the fault, the sin, that prevents me from witnessing with rejoicing heart at the privilege of suffering anything for thy glory. Make me worthy to suffer shame for His Name.”

May God give us grace to understand that such suffering for Him is a real privilege to be sought after for His glory. May we realize that it is a gift of great price to be desired eagerly, not a disastrous calamity to be avoided if possible at all cost and if not then to be borne grudgingly. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Phil. 1:29) All of us will readily acknowledge that “to believe” is a gift, a free gift of grace (the basic meaning of the verb in this verse). But few are prepared to accept suffering also as a gracious gift of the same character. May God forgive us for our foolishness and teach us the true value of this high privilege.

UNFAILING POWER:
Granted, then, that suffering for Christ’s sake is a priceless privilege, as I know myself I realize that I am not able of myself either honestly to seek or victoriously to bear suffering of this kind. Are there any resources of spiritual power available for me? I can give intellectual assent to the proposition that that which God wills for my life He is able to perform in my life but how? The answer to this question involves a remarkable spiritual principle. I cannot know the power before or without the suffering. God is not prodigal in His giving. The God of all comfort (strength) has promised to undertake for me under certain conditions. “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (II Cor. 1:5). Would you know to the full the abundant consolation of Jesus Christ? Would you know the preciousness of His presence, the strong comfort of His love? There is only one way. “As the sufferings . . . so the consolation.” The deeper the need the greater the love. The more severe the testing the more powerful the Presence. For it is in “the valley of the shadow of Death” that in the fullest sense “Thou art with me.” We see, therefore, not only that suffering “for righteousness sake” is a high privilege, but also that it is the only way to know the fullness of the comfort of God’s great love.

“But let none of you suffer . . . as an evildoer . . . but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:15 & 13).

Francis Rue Steel [1915-2004].

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It’s August and it seems that everyone is away on vacation. So now for something completely different:

Samuel Miller as you’ve never seen him.

Dr. Samuel MillerIn the biography of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, we find this snippet from a letter he wrote, dated August 7th, 1801. Miller’s son, who served as his biographer, writes that this letter “will give an idea of some of the expedients of the city clergy of that day, for bodily and mental recuperation:

“On Wednesday week last, I went down with a large party of gentlemen, (twenty-six in number,) to amuse myself with fishing on the sea-bass banks. These banks are in the ocean, about twelve or fifteen miles to the southward of Sandy Hook, and nearly opposite Long Branch. The company was pleasant, the fishing delightful, the bathing highly refreshing, and the mirth and jollity of the party, notwithstanding the presence of several clergymen, so great, as almost to border on being excessive. We returned the next evening; and I think I felt ten per cent, at least, better for the jaunt. Contrary to all my expectations, I escaped sea-sickness; though my wish was, for the sake of its salubrity, to experience that painful disorder.”

Words to Live By:
For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NASB)

It would be a mistake to understand Paul as saying that bodily exercise is of no use. Rather, he is making a comparative statement, that bodily exercise is of little profit when compared with the eternal gain of godliness. Even the most physically fit person will eventually die, whereas godliness holds promise for the present life and for the life to come. A corollary verse would be Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” If the benefit of living a healthy life and getting some regular exercise is so obvious, can’t we see the vastly greater benefit of first trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and then living out that faith in accordance with God’s Word, the Bible?

Source: The Life of Samuel Miller, (1869), vol. 1, p. 142.

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A Long and Faithful Ministry

rodgersJohnJohn Rodgers was born in Boston on the 5th of August, 1727. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rodgers, who had emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland just six years prior. When John was little more than a year old, he and his parents relocated to Philadelphia.

While still a child, he gave evidence of a deep love of knowledge and even a care and thoughtfulness about his eternal soul. It was under the preaching of Whitefield that he was first solidly impressed with the truths and duties of the Christian faith. On one occasion, when Whitefield was preaching in the evening, near the Court House on Market Street, young John was standing near him, holding a lantern to assist Whitefield. But Rodgers became so impressed with the truth to which he was listening that, for a moment, he forgot himself and dropped the lantern, breaking it in pieces. Years later, when Rodgers was settled in his first pastorate, Dr. Whitefield came to visit his house, and Rev. Rodgers related the incident to him, asking if he remembered it. “Oh yes,” replied Whitefield, “I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost any thing in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Rev. Rodgers replied with a smile,—”I am that little boy.” Whitefield burst into tears, and remarked that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry, whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

When William Buell Sprague asked the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller for his recollections of Rev. Rodgers, this was Miller’s reply:

Rev. dear Brother: When you request me to prepare for your forthcoming biographical work some brief memorials of the late venerable Dr. Rodgers of New York, I feel as if I were called not to the performance of a task, but to the enjoyment of a privilege. If there be a man living who is entitled to speak of that eminent servant of Christ, I am that man. Having been long and intimately acquainted with him; having served with him twenty years as a son in the Gospel ministry; and having enjoyed peculiar opportunities of contemplating every phase of his character, personal and official; so my ardent attachment and deep veneration of his memory make it delightful to record what I knew with so much distinctness, and remember with so much interest.

“My acquaintance with Dr. Rodgers began in 1792, when he was more than sixty years of age, and when I was a youthful and inexperienced candidate for the ministry. He recognized in me the son of an old clerical friend, and from that hour till the day of his death treated me with a fidelity and kindness truly paternal. And when, next year, I became his colleague, he uniformly continued to exercise toward me that parental indulgence and guardianship which became his inherited friendship, as well as his Christian and ecclesiastical character.

rodgersJohn_memoirs“Without attempting in this connection to enter into the details of his history, which I have already done at large in my “Memoir” of this beloved man, I shall content myself with recounting in a brief manner those features of his character which I regard as worthy of special commemoration, and which rendered him so conspicuous among the pastors of his day.

“One of the great charms of Dr. Rodgers’ character was the fervour and uniformity of his piety. It not only appears conspicuous in the pulpit,–dictating his choice of subjects, his mode of treating them, and his affectionate earnestness of manner; but it attended him wherever he went, and manifested itself in whatever he did. In the house of mourning it shone with distinguished lustre. Nor was this all. He probably never was known to enter a human dwelling for the purpose of paying an ordinary visit, without saying something before he left it to recommend the Saviour and his service. Seldom did he sit down at the convivial table, without dropping at least a few sentences adapted to promote the spiritual benefit of those around him…

“Another quality in Dr. Rodgers which, next to his piety, contributed to his high reputation, was prudence, or practical wisdom. Few men were more wary than he in foreseeing circumstances likely to produce embarrassment or difficulty, and in avoiding them…

“He was remarkable also for the uniform, persevering and indefatigable character of his ministerial labours. In preaching, in catechising, in attending on the sick and dying, in all the arduous labours of discipline and government, and in visiting from house to house, he went on with unceasing constancy, year after year, from the beginning to the end of his ministry…

“The character of Dr. Rodgers’ preaching was another of the leading elements of his popularity and usefulness. The two qualities most remarkable in his preaching were piety and animation. His sermons were always rich in evangelical truth; and they were generally delivered with solemnity and earnestness which indicated a deep impression on his own heart of the importance of what he uttered…

“Dr. Rodgers was eminently a disinterested man. Few men have ever been more free from private and selfish aims in acting their part in the affairs of the Church, than he…

Dr. Rodgers was further distinguished by a punctual attendance on the judicatories of the Church. He made it a point never to be absent from the meetings of his brethren, unless sickness or some other equally imperious dispensation of Providence rendered his attendance impossible. And when present in the several ecclesiastical courts, he gave his serious and undivided attention to the business which came before them, and was always ready to take his full share, and more than his share, of the labour connected with that business…”

Dr. Samuel Miller continued a bit further with his recollections, but we will leave him there. If you would like to read Miller’s Memoir of Dr. Rodgers, it can be conveniently found on the Web, here. Dr. Rodgers lived a long life, and was blessed to minister to the Lord’s people for some sixty three years. He died on May 7th, 1811.

Words to Live By:
Why should a pastor trouble himself to participate in the courts of the Church? It turns out that question is at least 175 years old, if not more. In 1836, one pastor put the question, seeing that it cost him about $50.00 to attend the meetings of Synod, and took three weeks away from his congregation. Keep in mind that $50 would have been at least two week’s wages for a pastor in 1836, perhaps more.] In reply, the editor of the Presbyterian newspaper offered six reasons as to why teaching and ruling elders should faithfully attend the courts of the Church:

1. Should every member of Synod conclude from similar premises that it was not his duty to attend, there would be no meeting at the time and place appointed, and of course no business done.

2. One member frequently changes the entire complexion of a meeting; and no one has a right to suppose that his presence is a matter of indifference.

3. If the member can afford the expense it will be money well laid out, and if not, his people should aid him. The time occupied in going and returning, may often be profitably employed. The journey may be of advantage to his health. In conference with his brethren he may receive a new impulse in his Christian course, and be better prepared to labor with effect among his people on his return; so that neither he nor they will be losers by his absence.

4. When he was set apart to the work of the Ministry, he was expected to make many sacrifices for the good of the cause. And if his brethren to whom he has solemnly promised subjection in the Lord, did not regard attendance upon the Judicatories of the Church as important, they would not have exacted an apology or excuse for non-attendance.

5. Instances are exceedingly rare that a Minister has ever cause to regret the sacrifices which he has made in attending the Judicatories of the Church. On the contrary he most usually feels himself amply repaid for all the sacrifices which it has cost him.

6. The present crisis of the Church seems to demand more than ever a full attendance both of Ministers and Elders, cost what it may. [That statement, made in 1836, had the Old School/New School debate in view. But apart from that context, sadly, the statement seems to stand as a constant truth.]

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, vol. 10, no. 39 (24 September 1836); 154, column 4.]

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John, Father of Samuel

You see it in the Bible—when you wanted to bless someone, you looked to bless their father (1 Samuel 17:56). Conversely, a curse on a son was understood as a curse on the father (Gen. 9:25; 1 Kings 11:9-12). All Christians want their children to grow strong in the Lord, to be greatly used in His kingdom. So when we see such a child now grown, it is understandable that we might look to the parents, to see their character and method with their children, that we might learn and profit from their wisdom. Dr. Samuel Miller, of Princeton, was a man greatly used of the Lord, and so it fitting that we should look at the life of his father, the Rev. John Miller. This day, July 22, 1791, marks the date of Rev. John Miller’s passing.

John Miller was born in Boston, on December 24, 1722. By ancestry, he was the great-great-grandson of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. His father, John Miller, Senior, had immigrated from Scotland in 1710 and found remarkable success as a manufacturer, refining sugar. The Millers had two children, John, the eldest, and Joseph, who never married and who, in early adulthood, was lost at sea during a voyage to Great Britain. John, the subject of our post today, never graduated from any college, but did manage to obtain an excellent classical education at a public school of high reputation in Boston. Here he became proficient in Latin and Greek, and it was during this time that he also came to faith in Christ and began to aim toward the pulpit ministry.

In May of 1748, John was licensed to preach by the Congregational association in Boston and soon began to travel throughout the Delaware and Maryland colonies. When a call came to serve the Presbyterian church in Dover, Delaware, John returned to Boston to secure ordination. Once installed in the Dover church, it was not long before an additional call came, to also serve the Presbyterian church in Smyrna (also known as Duck Creek), which was twelve miles north of Dover. Rev. Miller’s solution was to pastor both churches concurrently, establishing his home between the two churches, some four miles from Dover. And in this arrangement he spent the remaining years of his ministerial career, serving as pastor of these two churches for over forty years.

As seems so often to have been the pattern in those times, Rev. Miller had deferred marriage until he was established in a charge. But now, wasting no time, he courted and then married Margaret Millington, the daughter of a successful planter.  Dr. John Rodgers of New York was  on one occasion heard to pay the compliment that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Yet her physical beauty was exceeded by her moral beauty, and she proved to be a great blessing to her husband, to her children, and to all who knew her. Margaret was known for her good sense, for her prudence, for her skill and wisdom in keeping her home, and for her active engagement in charity towards others. Above all, Margaret’s life was characterized by an honest and sincere love of her Lord.

Not long after having been settled as a pastor, Rev. Miller purchased a farm of 104 acres, and here he resided for the remainder of his life. Never a man of great means, the farm allowed him to supply many of the basic needs of his family, and by careful husbandry, allowed Rev. Miller to eventually send four sons to college.

“On this estate his children were born, and from here they went forth to do good.” Of his children, two sons died in infancy, and one son died before his own passing—John, a medical doctor, who died in 1777,  at age 25. The remaining children were present at his beside when the Rev. John Miller died, at the age of 69, and in the 44th year of his ministry. These were: Elizabeth [1755-1817], wife of Col. Samuel McLane; Mary [1762-1801, wife of (1) Vincent Loockerman, Jr. (he died in 1790,) and (2) wife of Major John Patten; Edward [1760-1812]; Joseph [1765-1798], who married Elizabeth Loockerman; Samuel [1769-1850],  who was twenty years pastor of the Wall Street Church in New York, then Professor of Theology in Princeton Seminary; and lastly, James [1772-1795]. Thus Samuel, who never enjoyed robust health himself, was the last surviving child of the Rev. John Miller, and that by over thirty years and more.

Words to Live By:
What distinguished the rearing of the Miller children? There are undoubtedly many things that we could look at and discuss. But one moment in their parents’ lives seems particularly significant. Ten years before Samuel Miller was born, his parents lost their first child, Joseph. A few days following, Joseph’s death, his father made this entry in his journal:

“October 5th, 1759. Last night my son Joseph, a promising child, aged nineteen months and eight days, departed this life, after a short but violent illness in the lungs. My heart was far too much bound up in the child. His little, pretty ways insensibly stole my affections from objects infinitely superior to all earthly comforts; the parting stroke has given me a much more affecting view of this than I had before. Oh that I may see the rod and him that has appointed it—see that God has a controversy to plead with me and my house.”

Our children belong to the Lord, and they are His alone. Perhaps what the Rev. John Miller learned is summed up in the words of Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

God gives us a great blessing in our children, but they belong to Him. And as difficult as it may be, our hearts must never be set upon His gifts, but always only upon the Giver.

 

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breckinridgeJohnLord, Give Us Giants!

He was one of those men whom you wish had written more. His son, R. J. Breckinridge, was a prolific writer, but John only left us a handful of published works. John Breckinridge was born in Cabell’s Dale, near Lexington, Kentucky, July 4, 1797. John’s father, the Honorable John Breckinridge, had served as Attorney General during the Jefferson administration, but died when John was only nine years old.

Raised by his widowed mother and an older brother, John attended the College of New Jersey, graduating in 1818, but decided against the legal profession in order to prepare for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, attending there from 1819-22. Upon graduation, he was appointed to serve as chaplain in the U.S. Congress, 1822-23, and following that term, was then ordained by the Presbytery of West Lexington on September 10, 1823 and installed as pastor of the Second (McChord) Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This church he served until called in 1826 by the Second Presbyterian Church, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Leaving the pulpit ministry, Rev. Breckinridge served from 1831 to 1836 as Corresponding Secretary for the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  From 1836 to 1838, he was Professor of Pastoral Theology and Missionary Instruction at the Princeton Theological Seminary. His wife, Margaret, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Miller, and she died in 1838. Perhaps her death prompted his resignation from the Princeton faculty, nor did John survive her by many years.  His last significant service was as Secretary and General Agent for the PCUSA Board of Foreign Missions, from 1838 to 1840. Leaving that post, he served only briefly as stated supply for a church in New Orleans, Louisiana before declining health forced his retirement, and he died on the same spot where he had been born, in Cabell’s Dale, Kentucky, on August 4, 1841, at the age of forty-four. One of the last things that he said before his death was—”I am a poor sinner who have worked hard, and had constantly before my mind one great object—the conversion of the world.”

During Rev. Breckinridge’s years with the Board of Education, he oversaw the publication of a series of Annuals, volumes comprised of collected essays. These volumes appear to be quite rare and the PCA Historical Center was blessed to locate a copy of the fourth volume, published in 1835. The full title of this work isThe Annual of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States: A New Year’s Offering for 1835.

Rev. Breckinridge writes a brief introduction for this volume, the larger portion of which follows [emphasis added]:—

ADDRESS TO THE CANDIDATES OF THE BOARD. (1834)

. . . In the present crisis of all things, human and divine, it is unspeakably important for American youth to know what heaven and earth expect from them. Candidates for such an office, in such an age, and such a country, can no longer be ordinary men. The position is one full of peril to themselves, and of calamity to the church and world,—if not occupied to the entire measure of its advantages and its distinction. The very highest attainments in piety, are now absolutely indispensable. He, who aims below this standing, cannot be a Christian in any age; but in this great conjecture, no man is fit to be minister who does not reach it.

It has often been said, this is an age of action. Those who are already in the field, and will not be efficient, must die off in their fearful lethargy. But to bring new sluggards into the ministry, and especially to put the treasure of the church in requisition, in order to do it, were indeed the gratuity of sin and folly,—”the superfluity of naughtiness.” “He that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.” The harvest of the earth is ripe; and its boundless fields wave before us, and call on us to thrust in the sickle and reap. We must have more enterprise, more self-devotion, more of the foreign missionary spirit, or our Boards of Education will sink into contempt. Unless our young men awake, and arise to the greatness of their destiny and office, the world will outrun the church in enterprise, intrepidity, and public spirit. The church is now passing into the relation of great institutions and little men. May the days of men, yea, of giants, in God’s service, revisit the earth in your consecrated persons! Let it not be our shame, and the world’s affliction, that we have contributed to bring you into the sacred office.

With mingled hope, and fears, and with many supplications, and tears, and labors for you, I am your friend and fellow-servant,

JOHN BRECKINRIDGE,

EDUCATION ROOMS,
Philadelphia, Nov. 20th, 1834.

PUBLISHED WORKS BY THE REV. JOHN BRECKINRIDGE (with links to digital editions):—

“Introductory address” to Volume 1 (1832) of the series, The Annual of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

An address, delivered July 15, 1835, before the Eucleian and Philomathean societies of the University of the city of New York (1836).

Controversy between the Rev. John Hughes, of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Rev. John Breckinridge, of the Presbyterian Church : relative to the existing differences in the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions (1833).

Also authored by John Hughes [1797-1864], and John Breckinridge:—

A discussion of the question, Is the Roman Catholic religion, in any or in all its principles or doctrines, inimical to civil or religious liberty? And of the question, Is the Presbyterian religion, in any or in all its principles or doctrines, inimical to civil or religious liberty? (1836).

RELATED:

A Memorial of Mrs. Margaret Breckinridge (1839) – by Archibald Alexander.

 

 

[emphasis added]

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It was on this day, July 2d, in 1824, that the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller delivered what was termed an Introductory Lecture, at the opening summer session of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The title and subject of his lecture was THE UTILITY AND IMPORTANCE OF CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS. Dr. Miller had by this time been serving as a Professor at Princeton for over a decade. He was settled both in his theology and in his views of what the students must learn as they prepared for ministry in the Presbyterian Church. So, as this was his Introductory Lecture, we should most likely understand this message as one which Dr. Miller considered particularly foundational both for the  Seminary curriculum and for the future ministry of the Princeton graduates.

After presenting Dr. Miller’s opening remarks, his seven main points in support of creeds and confessions will be provided, though in their barest form and without supporting arguments, since space is limited. Much of the rest of the work will then be skipped, and we will jump to Miller’s concluding comments. If you would like to read the entire work [it’s not long—only 84 pages], there will be a link at the end of this post.

 

Neagle-Sartain portraitThe character and situation of one who is preparing for the sacred office are interesting beyond the power of language to express. Such a one, like the Master whom he professes to love and serve, is “set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). In all that he is, and in all that he does, the temporal and eternal welfare not only of himself, but of thousands, may be involved. On every side he is beset with perils. Whatever may be his talents and learning, if he has not genuine piety, he will probably be a curse instead of a blessing to the church. But this is not the only danger to which he is exposed. He may have unfeigned piety, as well as talents and learning; and yet, from habitual indiscretion; from a defect in that sobriety of mind, which is so precious to all men, but especially to every one who occupies a public station; from a fondness for novelty and innovation, or from that love of distinction which is so natural to men; after all, instead of edifying the “body of Christ,” he may become a disturber of its peace, and a corrupter of its purity; so that we might almost say, whatever may be the result with respect to himself, “it had been good for the church if he had never been born.”

Hence it is, that every part of the character of him who is coming forward to the holy ministry; his opinions; his temper; his attainments; his infirmities; and above all, his character as a practical Christian;—are of inestimable importance to the ecclesiastical community of which he is destined to be a minister. Nothing that pertains to him is uninteresting. If it were possible for him, strictly speaking, to “live to himself,” or to “die to himself,” the case would be different. But it is not possible. His defects as well as his excellencies, his gifts and graces, as well as the weak points of his character, must and will all have their appropriate effect on everything that he touches.

Can you wonder, then, that employed to conduct the education of candidates for this high and holy office, we see ourselves placed under a solemn, nay, an awful responsibility? Can you wonder that, having advanced a little before you in our experience in relation to this office, we cherish the deepest solicitude at every step you take? Can you wonder, that we daily exhort you to “take heed to yourselves and your doctrine,” and that we cease not to entreat you, and to pray for you that you give all diligence to approve yourselves to God and his church able and faithful servants? Independently of all official obligation, did we not feel and act thus, we should manifest an insensibility to the interests of the church, as well as to your true welfare, equally inexcusable and degrading.

It is in consequence of this deep solicitude for your improvement in every kind of ministerial furniture, that we not only endeavor to conduct the regular course of your instruction in such a manner as we think best adapted to promote the great end of all your studies; but that we also seize the opportunity which the general Lecture (introductory to each session) affords us, of calling your attention to a series of subjects which do not fall within the ordinary course of our instruction.

A subject of this nature will engage our attention on the present occasion: namely, the importance of creeds and confessions for maintaining the unity and purity of the visible church.

This is a subject which, though it properly belongs to the department of Church Government, has always been, for want of time, omitted in the Lectures usually delivered on that division of our studies. And I am induced now to call your attention to it, because, as I said, it properly belongs to the department committed to me; because it is in itself a subject highly interesting and important; because it has been for a number of years past, and still is, the object of much severe animadversion on the part of latitudinarians and heretics; and because, though abundantly justified by reason, scripture, and universal experience, the spontaneous feelings of many, especially under the free government which it is our happiness to enjoy, rise up in arms against what they deem, and are sometimes pleased to call, the excessive “rigor” and even “tyranny” of exacting subscription to articles of faith.

It is my design, first, to offer some remarks on the utility and importance of written creeds; and secondly, to obviate some of the more common and plausible objections which have been urged against them by their adversaries.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF CREEDS

I. By a creed, or confession of faith, I mean an exhibition, in human language, of those great doctrines which are believed by the framers of it to be taught in the holy scriptures; and which are drawn out in regular order, for the purpose of ascertaining how far those who wish to unite in church fellowship are really agreed in the fundamental principles of Christianity. Creeds and confessions do not claim to be in themselves laws of Christ’s house, or legislative enactments, by which any set of opinions are constituted truths, and which require, on that account, to be received as truths among the members of his family. They only profess to be summaries, extracted from the scriptures, of a few of those great gospel doctrines which are taught by Christ himself; and which those who make the summary in each particular case concur in deeming important, and agree to make the test of their religious union. They have no idea that, in forming this summary, they make anything truth that was not truth before; or that they thereby contract an obligation to believe what they were not bound by the authority of Christ to believe before. But they simply consider it as a list of the leading truths which the Bible teaches, which, of course, all men ought to believe, because the Bible does teach them; and which a certain portion of the visible church catholic agree in considering as a formula, by means of which they may know and understand one another.

Now, I affirm that the adoption of such a creed is not only lawful and expedient, but also indispensably necessary to the harmony and purity of the visible church. For the establishment of this position, let me request your attention to the following considerations.

1. Without a creed explicitly adopted, it is not easy to see how the ministers and members of any particular church, and more especially a large denomination of Christians, can maintain unity among themselves.

2. The necessity and importance of creeds and confessions appear from the consideration, that one great design of establishing a church in our world was that she might be, in all ages, a depository, a guardian, and a witness of the truth.

miller_1824_creeds3. The adoption and publication of a creed is a tribute to truth and candor, which every Christian church owes to the other churches, and to the world around her.

4. Another argument in favour of creeds, publicly adopted and maintained, is that they are friendly to the study of Christian doctrine, and, of course, to the prevalence of Christian knowledge.

5. It is an argument of no small weight, in favor of creeds, that the experience of all ages has found them indispensably necessary.

6. A further argument in favor of creeds and Confessions may be drawn from the remarkable fact that their most zealous opposers have generally been latitudinarians and heretics.

7. The only further argument in support of creeds on which I shall dwell is that their most zealous opposers do themselves virtually employ them in all ecclesiastical proceedings.

Concluding Comment:

The church is still “in the wilderness”; and every age has its appropriate trials. Among those of the present day is a spirit of restless innovation, a disposition to consider everything that is new as of course an improvement. Happy are they who, taking the word of God for their guide, and walking in “the footsteps of the flock,” continually seek the purity, the peace, and the edification of the Master’s family; who, listening with more respect to the unerring Oracle, and to the sober lessons of Christian experience, than to the delusions of fashionable error, hold on their way, “turning neither to the right hand nor the left,” and considering it as their highest honor and happiness to be employed as humble, peaceful instruments in building up that “kingdom which is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost!.” May God grant to each of us this best of all honors! And to his name be the praise, forever! Amen!

To read the entire work by Dr. Miller, click here.

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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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