Scriptures Proverbs

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Adopted into God’s Forever Family

The Christian woman was relating the sad story of her abandonment by both parents at an early time in her life.  Thank God, she had said, for a godly grandmother, who reared her through the years until adulthood.  Then she was reminded to  thank God for a heavenly Father who had adopted her into the forever family of God when she confessed Christ as Lord and Savior.   And all of us who have been recipients of God’s free grace can rejoice in this wondrous truth.

With Presbyterian themes scarce on this 9th day of June, we turn our attention to the magnificent words of Shorter Catechism No. 34, “Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.”

Adoption, like that of justification, is a gracious act of God.  On his side, it is completed at once, indeed, before the foundation of the world.  On our part, we are called into the ordained number of  sons and daughters of the Almighty when we repent and believe the gospel.  Then we have a right to all the privileges of being children of God.

Those privileges are from two directions.  God discharges for us, first, the duties of a Father in that  God pronounces us to be His children.  John the apostle wrote of this wonder when in 1 John 3:1, he said, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God, and such we are.” (NASB)  We have been called children of God, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, as 2 Corinthians 6:18 declares.  Second,  He pities us.  The psalmist said in Psalm 103:13, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on his children.” (NASB)  Where would we be without a compassionate heavenly Father.  Next, our God protects us.  How often have we prayed when we are going on a trip, or passing through a dangerous time in our lives, or been ill to the point of death.  Yet, we feel His presence, recognizing that His angels are sent to those who have inherited eternal life (See Hebrews 1:14)  Fourth, He provides for us, body and soul.  Whether it is the fulfillment of the daily bread or the precious promises relating to our spirit, God is the Author of them all.  And last, when we need it, He paternally chastens us, for our good.  It is too long to quote here, but Hebrews 12:5 – 11 points this out clearly.

The other direction of these adoptive privileges is that we are enabled by God to fulfill the duties of children.  We have the spirit of adoption placed within us by the Holy Spirit, just as the Christian woman did in the above illustration.  As such, at any time, in any place, we have the confidence to draw near to the Heavenly Father, as Hebrews 4:16 states.

We are God’s children, adopted into His heavenly family.

Words to Live By: As sons and daughters of God, let us conduct ourselves in accordance with that high position, “above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom (we) appear as light in the world.” (NASB – Philippians 2:16)

Through the Scriptures: Proverbs 29 – 31

Through the Standards: Duty to God is obedience to His revealed will

WLC 91 and WSC 39, which is the same.

“What is the duty which God requires of man?
A.  The duty which God requires of man, is obedience to his revealed will.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

God’s Gifts Recognized by God’s People

There are three dates in the life of Archibald Alexander, the first professor of Princeton Theological Seminary, which stand out in importance to this stalwart for the faith.

The first is October 1790.  That was the month and year when young Alexander was placed under care by the Lexington, Virginia Presbytery.  How different is this proceeding than what takes place today in being brought under care.  A candidate bring an endorsement from the Session of Elders of which he is a member.  That endorsement includes his Christian character and promise of usefulness in the ministry.  It should also speak of the activities of ministry that the candidate  has involved himself in within the church at large or a local church in particular.  An examination is made concerning his experimental religion and his motives for seeking the ministry.  Two questions of personal promises regarding both his relation to his Session and the Presbytery in Christian experience and education are then made.  A brief charge is brought from the Bible and then his name is on the role of Presbytery as a man under care.

In  eighteenth century  America, the prospective candidate. was assigned a paper in Latin on a doctrinal subject along with a sermon to be proclaimed.  Alexander was assigned justification by faith alone and a sermon subject of the difference between a dead and living faith.  Further, he was to lecture on Hebrews 6:1-6 and assigned Jeremiah 1:7 as his sermon.

The next step was licensure, which took place on October 1, 1791.  What is remarkable here is that his ministry under licensure was away from the Presbytery rather than being immediately and directly within the bounds of the Presbytery.  Archibald Alexander would travel on horseback to various communities for the next thirty-six  months, preaching 132 sermons during that three plus months.  And these sermons were not the introduction, three points, and a poem for application type sermons.   They were two hours or more in length.  And they were proclaimed without notes on the pulpit desk.

Then Hanover Presbytery ordained Archibald Alexander on June 7, 1794.  Upon that event in his spiritual life, he began the preaching, teaching, administering, and studying the Word of God for which he was recognized by all believers in all centuries.

Words to Live By: Normally, all we must do is to please God by our plans and activities.  Yet when God’s people confirm our Lord’s calling to His service, we are encouraged to proceed ahead in our efforts to study, serve, and/or sacrifice.  Let us pray fervently for God’s people to be thrust out into His harvest field, for the harvest is great, but the laborers are so very few to take advantage of that spiritual harvest.  Will you pray specifically today for someone you know (or don’t know) to discovered his calling to do God’s work?

Through the Scriptures: Proverbs 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  Assurance of salvation lost and recovered

WCF 18:4
“True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.”

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An Opportunity for Vindication

The 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 5:12, 13 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).]

Through the Scriptures: Proverbs 19 – 21

Through the Standards:  The duty and fruits of true assurance

WCF 18:3
“This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be a partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.  And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:   

A false start?

The beginnings of the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936 were small but richly blessed with men who had taken their stand for the faith of historic Christianity.  Yet, but a year later, in the midst of the Third General Assembly of that church, a group of ministers were meeting to set up a new Presbyterian church, made up of elders out of that original group of stalwarts of the faith.  What had happened?

They had all agreed on the reasons for the separation from the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  That church had allowed departures from the faith at home and on the mission field without doing anything about it.  Failure to discipline those who had broken their ordination vows was rampart.  Indeed, not one minister who had signed the Auburn Affirmation was ever charged by any Presbytery.  J. Gresham Machen himself had acknowledged this failure when he was alive.  But he had been taken from the small body of Presbyterians separatists by death on January 1, 1937.

Now in the new church, various secondary issues had sprung up to threaten the peace and unity of the church.  One was the eschatological issue.  Pre-millennialism had always been allowed in the church, but dispensational pre-millennialism had not been accepted.  This was proving to be a divisive issue.  Second, prohibition was raging in the nation at that time.  Many churches, especially in the midwest, were taking a position against the saloon trade.  In that light, an overture was made at the PCA general assembly to bring the church to a position of total abstinence from intoxicating drink.  That was voted down by the Assembly.

Believing that these two issues were fundamental, fourteen teaching elders and three ruling elders met on June 4, 1937 at St. James Hotel in Philadelphia to discuss their concerns.  Believing that a “false start” has been made by the delegates of the Presbyterian Church of America,  the articles of association were drafted for what later on became the Bible Presbyterian Church.  Their call for a new church which was Calvinistic, fundamental, premillennial, and evangelistic was made at that time.  The first General Synod did not take place until September in 1938.  At that meeting, there was a statement which stated that the church and its members pursue the course of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, condemning the liquor traffic and the modern saloon.  Interestingly though, while they spoke of pre-millennialism as being a hallmark of the new church, they acknowledged liberty in the things of the last day.

In more recent days, the Bible Presbyterian church have recognized the schismatic nature of that separation from what is now the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  After many examples of extreme separation down through its history, the current Bible Presbyterian Church has twenty-one churches  nationwide, as found in four presbyteries.

Words to Live By:  We can be thankful for churches which are true to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Reformed in doctrine, looking forward to the Lord’s return in power and great glory, and evangelistic.  Let us seek to be part and parcel of such congregations.

Through the Scriptures:  Proverbs 12 – 14

Through the Standards: The privilege of true assurance

WCF 18:1
“Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false  hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish); yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

WLC 80 —  “Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
A. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to talk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.”

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