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The season of General Assemblies and Synods is upon us, June being the month when most of the American Presbyterian denominations convene in their national meetings—and so this seemed a good time to look over a little tract from the late 1840’s titled “Ten Reasons for Being a Presbyterian. We will look at one reason each day, as offered by our anonymous author, working from an original copy of the tract, which is pictured below on the right. On the cover of the tract is this quote from the great Swiss historian, J.H. Merle d’Aubigne:—

“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.

ten_reasons_for_being_a_PresbyterianTen Reasons for being a Presbyterian.

1. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that in Doctrine, in Discipline, in Government and Worship rests so entirely on the Word of God. The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Presbyterians. In all matters, whether of faith or practice, holy Scripture is supreme and sufficient. To this rule all creeds and confessions, canons and articles, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be brought for examination: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.“—(Isaiah viii. 20). It is not “Thus saith antiquity,” nor, “Thus saith tradition;” nor, “Thus saith the Church;” but to the Presbyterian the sole authority is, “THUS SAITH THE LORD.”


2.
I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of Persons therein—the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall—the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer—the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner—the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Grace through Faith alone—the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment—the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked—these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God;—the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace,—the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God.—(Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

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Bringing Bibles and Rifles to Worship

It was in uncivilized territory where the Rev. Robert Cooper took his first pastorate in central Pennsylvania. Born in Northern Ireland in 1732, the young man stayed there for the first nine years of his life. When his father died, young Robert accompanied his widowed mother in 1741 to the American colonies across the Atlantic. Following so many of their Scot-Irish race, he studied at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, graduating there in 1763. As was common practice in that era, Robert prepared for the ministry by studying theology with a private tutor, and he was ordained to the gospel ministry on November 21, 1765. Within that same year, he was called to Middle Springs Presbyterian Church, just north of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He was to remain there for thirty-one years, finally leavening in 1797 due to declining health.

Worship in pre-Revolutionary times was a challenge, due to the presence of hostile native American in their region. The usual items brought to a worship service were a Bible (the Genevan edition, with Calvinistic footnotes), a hymn book (a Psalter for unaccompanied singing of psalms), and a  rifle, with ammunition readily available. Their defensive armament would then be stashed at the entrance of the church whenever they would attend church services.

Dr. Cooper remained at Middle Springs for three decades plus. He was a scholar of considerable merit. He had served later on for a brief time in the Revolutionary Army. His interests were of wider influence than the local scene, for he had helped to plan for the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1789, at which he was a voting delegate.

He wrote a tract entitled “The Signs of the Times” as well as written messages delivered to the American troops of the Revolutionary Army. He went to be with the Lord on April 5, 1805.

Words to live by:  If  you remember that the Scots-Irish Presbyterians initially settled in Cumberland County of Pennsylvania, and then after about thirty years began to migrate west and south, we will have a real appreciation for the Rev. Robert Cooper. He no doubt influenced the evangelistic and revival traditions of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in America.  With the danger of Indian attacks ever present as they walked to and from church, or upon their homes while they were away at church, it took real courage to be a Reformed Christian in those days. Increasingly we have our own challenges to faith and life today. Then as now, a firm resolve based upon God’s sure care for each of His children, is necessary in standing for faith and righteousness.

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