Scottish Presbyterian

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slessorMaryIn these United States, we are accustomed to seeing various historical figures from the early days of our country on our paper currency. From 1997 to 2009, the people of Scotland were used to seeing the picture of a Presbyterian missionary by the name of Mary Slessor on their ten pound bank-note. On one side of the bill, Mary Slessor was seen holding a child and literally surrounded by other children from that nation of Nigeria. On the other side of the legal tender, there was a map of her mission station in what is now eastern Nigeria. It is still legal tender in Scotland, even though her picture on the ten pound note has been replaced by someone else.

Mary Slessor was born into a family of seven children in 1848. Her father, who was an alcoholic, passed away, which left her mother struggling to support the large family. To help out, Mary, at age eleven, worked in the local mill. She is described by Dr. David Calhoun, professor emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary, as “a tough, street smart girl, with striking blue eyes, red hair, and a flaming temper.” At age fifteen, with just a few short hours of sixty hours a week as a “mill-lassie,” she also taught a Sunday School class in her local Presbyterian church, supported a youth group composed of tough local kids, and became “an angel of mercy in miserable homes” in Dundee, Scotland.

As a result of the influence of her mother, who made available to the family the stories of missionary exploits from the Missionary Record magazine of the United Presbyterian Church, Mary received a call from the Lord to be a missionary in Calabar, Nigeria. Sailing on August 5, 1876 on the SS Ethiopia, she reached her target area.

After centuries of slavery in the area, human life was cheapened, tribes were divided, and the culture, such as it was, perverted. Especially was this so whenever African couples would bring twins into the world. One of the two children was looked upon as a child of the devil, but because no one would identify which one was demoniac, both were killed, or left to die in the jungle. Enter Mary Slessor into this whole scene. She literally rescued hundreds of these castaway children. One could not enter her missionary home without finding a dozen or so children in it.

Further, this missionary lady obviously believed the text of 1 Corinthians 9:22 where Paul writes, “I have become all things to all . . . so that I may be all means save some.” And so this Scot lady became African in all things, in eating their food, in dressing in their clothes, and learning their language. She wanted to become an African to win Africans to Christ!

It wasn’t long before the British government recognized her ability to minister to Africans. She was appointed a vice-consul – the first ever woman to be so appointed in the whole of the British Empire — by the new consul-general of her territory. David Calhoun states that she “could prevent battles, out-shout chiefs, and stop riots merely by walking into the middle of them.”

Weakened by fever throughout her life and service in the country, she finally succumbed on January 13, 1915.

Words to Live By:
Our focus has been on this remarkable servant of Christ, but consider how her mother, in circumstances less than ideal, influenced Mary’s life for the mission field. She did it by subscribing to a mission magazine which was reading material in her home. Other ideas would be the reading of missionary biographies to our children. Having visiting missionaries in your home for rest and recreation on their furlough would be a wonderful help for them and a vital example for your family. And certainly, when your covenant children grow into their teen years, participation on a short-term mission trip might indeed inculcate a mission heart all of their life. But most important, the frequent prayer of Matthew 9:38 ought to be practiced in the home, namely, “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.:

For Further Study:
There is a chapter on Mary Slessor in the recent work by William W.J. Knox, Lives of Scottish Women: Women and Scottish Society. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006). Other works on her life and ministry include Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneering Missionary, by W.P. Livingstone (1915); The Expendable Mary Slessor, by James Buchan (1980); and Mary Slessor, by E. Robertson (2001).

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An Opportunity for Vindication

Scots Presbyterian Church, PhiladelphiaThe letter is still preserved at the state history building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Written to the Rev. William Marshall on June 6, 1786, it states simply that he, the pastor of the Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had infringed on the rights of several members of the congregation. The letter continued on to state that he had a right to answer their complaints by appearing before these men, and this is the interesting part of the letter, his appearance was “for his own vindication.”

Whether such a meeting ever took place, the records of the church do not say. But we do know that the alleged confrontation between the pastor and several men of the congregation did take place against the backdrop of a schism in that local church. It seems that half of the congregation wished to separate from the mother synod in Scotland and united with the American Presbyterian denomination. The dissenters who desired the latter must have had the majority as Rev. Marshall and his followers were forced out of the pulpit and pew. They relocated to another place in Philadelphia and built their church.

The original majority continued on at their place of ministry, seeking fellowship with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1822. It was said that they desired this union as there would be “more catholicity of communion and more liberty of worship.” As they were closely aligned with the covenanting side of the Scottish Presbyterian church, this contributor assumed that they wished to have more fellowship as well as not being bound by exclusive psalmody.  From 1866 to 1884, the church was without a pastor and for all intents, closed. In 1883, the remaining congregation was merged with the young South Broad Street Presbyterian church, under the Scots Presbyterian name. Pictured at right is the building constructed in 1886 for the recently merged congregation. Eventually this church merged with the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, which today now has the oldest pre-Revolutionary Presbyterian building still in use in Philadelphia.  It is associated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Words to Live By: Christians in general need to think twice about how they approach the teaching elder, or pastor of their church with a critical spirit. Scripture is clear on this. Hebrews 13:17 reads, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (NASB)  And 1 Thessalonians 5:1213 reads, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB) Pastors need prayer more than criticisms by the congregation. When there are serious, real problems, invest much time in prayer and then follow Matthew 18:15.

For further reading : Scots Presbyterian Church, Old and New, 1766-1887, by John C. Thompson.[copies of this history may be found preserved at the PCA Historical Center (St. Louis); the New York Historical Society Library (New York City); the American Antiquarian Society (Boston); and at the Presbyterian Historical Society (Philadelphia).]

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chisholmWHWilliam Hugh Chisholm was born February 1, 1894, in Emerson, Michigan, to godly parents, Hugh and Mary MacLennan Chisholm, who had immigrated to the United States from Scotland, bringing with them that Scottish Presbyterian background. Despite difficulties connected with his father’s health, William managed to attend the University of California and later the University of California Medical School. He graduated in 1921 and did his residency in San Francisco. Then by the summer of 1923 he had been appointed a medical missionary to Korea under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

In trying to select even just one short story of this amazing life, I am guided by the realization that Dr. Chisholm’s life was, more than anything else, marked by believing prayer. And so today we will recount something of William’s college years. It was during those college years when a “nobody” in the eyes of the world entered his life–a man named Mr. Stout. A number of students would go to his home for Bible study and prayer. They loved and respected this man, for they could see he was mighty with God, a man of prayer whose prayers God heard. One day the thought passed Will’s mind, “I bet Mr. Stout is praying that I will be a medical missionary.” He felt quite indignant and his first impulse was to go and ask Mr. Stout to stop praying! Then on second thought he said to himself, “I can’t call myself a Christian and ask a man to stop praying for me.” Knowing the power Mr. Stout had in prayer, he then said to himself, almost dejectedly, “I just wonder if I won’t end up on some mission field because of this man.”

Through the fellowship of this wonderful man, Bill learned to pray. He started praying for his pastor, an unbeliever in a modernist church. Some weeks later this man received Christ as his Savior, openly rejected the unbelief he had been preaching, and came out totally for Christ and the Word of God. Other wonderful answers to prayer were experienced at this time.

Skipping ahead in Dr. Chisholm’s story, in September of 1923, Dr. Chisholm and his wife sailed for Korea, and in October they arrived in the small city of Syen Chun near the Manchurian border, where they were to labor for many years in medical missionary work. It was not long before Bill realized that he had come to an impasse. The senior missionary did not believe in any Gospel preaching in the hospital; instead, good works were to lead the patients to God! Again Bill went back to God in prayer, saying, “Lord, open up a way to present the Gospel to these patients.” Shortly thereafter that senior missionary came down with an acute pain that could not be diagnosed and he had to return to America. Thus this obstacle was removed and Bill had free course to give out the Gospel!

Words to Live By:
chisholm_bookThere are many, many more stories concerning this amazing life of this medical missionary. His was truly a life marked by prayer. Upon returning to the States some years later, Dr. Chisholm authored a book, titled Vivid Experiences in Korea. If you can find or borrow a copy, it is well worth the reading. A few copies show up on the used book market from time to time.

God tells His people to call upon Him. He tells us to come before His throne with our needs. And He promises to hear our prayers.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jer. 33:3).

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Matt. 7:7)

[Dr. Chisholm died on September 17, 1977. Our account today is freely adapted from portions of the eulogy delivered in memory of Dr. Chisholm by Dr. Louis M. Barnes at the Valley Presbyterian Church in North Hills, CA on September 20, 1977.]

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