Southern Presbyterian Church

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A SMALL FUNERAL

On April 23, I attended a funeral of a member of my local congregation. She had been a founding member, attending a Bible study before a pastor even showed up to start a church. Virginia Tidball was a lifelong resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She was among the very last of an old tradition: a staunch Southern Presbyterian of the old school. By that, I mean the Old School. That was what her wing was called. It was the Scottish Calvinist wing of the American church. Its last institutional traces disappeared in the 1940’s in the South. In the North, the last of the Old School ministers had been forced out in 1936. On June 15, for the last time, an article on the Presbyterian theological conflict appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The headline announced: “Barring of 3 Philadelphia Pastors Brings Walkout by Presbyterians.” The same page announced: “G. K. Chesterton, Noted Author, Dies.”

When I say she was the last, I mean it. She was like a thread across time to an ancient past. Her father had been a Southern Presbyterian minister. He in turn had studied theology under Robert L. Dabney. For most people, the name “Dabney” does not ring a bell. The textbook writers have done their work well. Robert L. Dabney was the South’s most respected Protestant theologian and the co-founder of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1861. (The founding meeting took place in the home of Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, who oversaw the Southern Presbyterian Church, 1865-98, as Stated Clerk, and whose son Woodrow went first into the field of higher education, then politics.) During the war, Dabney served as both chaplain and aide de camp for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He later wrote a biography of Jackson. He was so completely unreconstructed that in 1867, he allowed to be published his book, written during the war, A Defence of Virginia [And Through Her, of the South]. It included a vigorous defense of slavery, which by 1867 was politically incorrect in the South. He ended his career on the original faculty of the University of Texas, teaching free market economics (still called political economy), blind when he retired in 1894, and also teaching at a Presbyterian seminary in Austin. He died in 1898.

Virginia Tidball was born in 1904, the same year that the last major party candidate for President openly supported the gold standard, the long-forgotten Alton B. Parker, whose defeat by Teddy Roosevelt ended the Old Democracy, seemingly forever. But there were remnants, and Virginia Tidball was one of them.

They still tell the story of the time that John Duncan, the mathematics teacher from Scotland, ended the music portion of the worship service by having the congregation sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After the service, Miss Tidball told him: “I forgive you, for you are not a native of this country.” Whether or not she was speaking of the United States, no one had the courage to ask.

The world she left behind is a very different world from the one she was born into. In the South, Dabney’s name is forgotten. The textbook story of the late unpleasantness, 1861-65, is the victors’ story. The South adopted tax-funded education with a vengeance, thereby turning the region’s children over to the New York textbook publishers long before World War I. A New York-published and edited U.S. history textbook provides a view of Southern history that is as faithful to the facts as Joseph Ruggles’ son was faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which he swore before God that he believed when he became a ruling elder in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Biographical Sketch, by Gary North [online at http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north100.html; used by permission]

The Papers of Virginia Tidball have been preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

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The Anti-opium League in China
written by davidtmyers

DuBose, HampdenC_02This author earnestly hopes that none of our readers see another missionary biography in this post and respond with a ho-hum attitude. These dear servants of Christ, even in earlier centuries and countries, are important to acknowledge in the overall kingdom of Christ down through the ages. And our post today on August 19 is no exception to that rule.

His name was Hampden Coit DuBose. Born in 1845 in South Carolina, he was a Confederate soldier during the War Between the States. But of far more importance was that he was a Christian soldier in that eternal war between Christ and Satan. Graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary, he and his wife Pauline went to China under the American Presbyterian Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, aka Southern Presbyterian Church. Settling in Soochow, China, they began to preach the gospel to a people steeped in Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Over the next 38 years, in preaching in the market and the street, he claimed for his King this city in China.

Far beyond normal mission endeavors, his ministry entered the cultural mandate area in that he took on the opium trade in China. At the time, this crop in the land hindered greatly the gospel message as it brought Chinese citizens under its power. We are talking about millions addicted to it. Complicit in the use of this deadly narcotic were both England and America. Rev. DuBose was successful in bringing both nations to own their responsibility for the opium trade, and stop doing so. The Presbyterian missionary galvanized missionaries and Christian medical workers to organize the Anti-Opium League in China. Rev. DuBose became its first president.

It was on this day, August 19, around 1906, that the Presbyterian missionary placed a petition signed by 1,333 British and American missionaries and Christian medical personnel into the hands of the Chinese emperor, Giangxa, seeking to prohibit the trade and abuse of opium. The Emperor issued an imperial edict two weeks later, which was practically verbatim the petition DuBose had drafted and given to him.

Rev BuBose served as a Christian missionary until his death in 1910. Recognition for his service included a stone tablet at the time in Soochow, China. He had as well earlier been elected to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1891.

Words to Live By:
Like Hampden DuBose, every Christian in these United States should be involved in a needy cultural mandate area which begs for a Christian witness. A biblical church ought to have at least one ministry in which it shines the light of the gospel into some needy area of culture. With Rev. DuBose, it was the opium trade which had captured large numbers of Chinese people to the exclusion of the gospel. Which arena of culture is it in your area of ministry? And are you being the salt of the earth to that area of culture? Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men?” (Matthew 5:13, NASB). May our Lord keep us from becoming good-for-nothing Christians and/or Christian churches, especially in this great hour of spiritual need in our land.

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Prayer in Times of Apostasy

This is a rare bit of early Westminster Seminary history, located in an old issue of THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATE, dated June 1937.  Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen, the annual Day of Prayer was held on the Westminster campus in March of 1937. Arrangements had been made to have the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn [1889-1959] present as the main speaker at the event.

Blackburn is interesting on several levels. His mother was Annie Williams Girardeau, one of the daughters of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau. [His father, George A. Blackburn, authored The Life Work of John L. Girardeau, D.D., LL.DJohn Cavitt Blackburn was educated at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1914-1918, back when the Seminary was still located in Columbia, SC. John also became quite the bibliophile. He had a significant library, built in part upon the libraries of his father and grandfather, and which collection later became a significant early addition to the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, by way of a donation from Blackburn’s widow. Rev. Blackburn’s library was apparently sizable enough that duplicates and other items even made their way to the Buswell Library at Covenant Theological Seminary.

It is also interesting to note Blackburn’s presence as indicative of a connection between Westminster Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  To engage in a bit of speculation, the invitation to have Rev. Blackburn speak at the annual Day of Prayer would have been extended months prior, certainly well before Machen’s death, and perhaps even by Dr. Machen himself. Without troubling ourselves to access Machen’s correspondence to confirm that idea, we do know that Dr. Machen had presented his lectures on the virgin birth of Christ at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia. These were the Thomas Smyth Lectures for 1927, and during that time, Rev. Blackburn pastored a church just twenty-some miles away. He could easily have attended those lectures. Lastly, Machen’s father served for a time as one of the trustees at the Seminary. So in light of those connections, it is entirely possible that Machen might have known Rev. Blackburn for many years prior to 1937.

Though he was a pastor for over thirty years, to my knowledge, this is the only surviving example of a sermon by Rev. Blackburn.

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY.
by the Rev. John C. Blackburn
[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian Guardian 4.3 (15 May 1937): 40-42.]

This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary last March. Mr. Blackburn is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.

The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity. The ends justified the means.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshipped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!!

Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes. While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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Freely adapted from a tribute written upon his death, the original source now long lost in antiquity. . . 

cockeARIt was on this day, January 7th, in 1858 that Alonzo and Frances Rice Cocke praised God for the birth of a healthy son, and they named him Alonzo Rice Cocke. He was a decendent of both the Rev. Samuel Blair, pastor of the historic Presbyterian church at Faggs Manor, Pennsylvania, and of the Rev. David Rice, who went from Virginia to Kentucky after the Revolutionary War, and did much to establish Presbyterian churches west of the Alleghanies.

Like Samuel of old he was early called of God. He professed conversion at the age of eight, telling his mother he hoped it was the grace of God that made him happy and even at that young age, was said to have shown a perfect understanding of the plan of salvation. His father having died, his religious training rested upon his mother. When he was just nine years old, he joined Diamond Hill Church, of Roanoke Presbytery. After reading the life of General Lee, he said, “I had rather preach the gospel than be the greatest general that ever was.”

Alonzo studied at the New London Academy and later at Washington and Lee University, graduating in his twentieth year with distinction. He went to Union Seminary in Richmond, a school founded by a distinguished member of his mother’s family, finishing his course at the age of twenty-two. He preached at Covington, Va. and Hot Springs, Ark., declining calls to these churches. His first regular pastorate, beginning in 1880, was with the Windy Cove Church and when the congregation at Millboro was particularized, he served both churches as pastor.

As we see so often with pastors in the nineteenth century, he waited until he had a pulpit to serve before taking a wife, and so in 1880 he was married to Miss Jeanie Leyburn, of Lexington, Virginia, who was very helpful to him in his work. One child, Frances Lea came to bless their lives. It was here at the Windy Cove Church where he met the saintly Rev. Samuel Brown who was like a father to him in his friendship.

At last, Rev. Cocke was compelled to resign his beloved pastorate on account of ill health in 1884. After recuperating he took a course under the brilliant Dr. R. L. Dabney in Texas. While there he taught some of the classes of Dr. Dabney who said of him, “Such a display of didactic skill and tact showed him to be a born teacher.” Great inducements were offered him to remain in Texas, but personal and domestic duties caused him to return to Virginia.

He was called to Waynesboro in 1886. The church there had 105 members, but during his pastorate it increased to five or six hundred with two organizations. In all, eight hundred were added to the church. During his pastorate there he filled the chair of Philosophy at the Valley Seminary. He was offered the Presidency of Agnes Scott Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia, and the chair of Systematic Theology in South Western University, Clarksville, Tennessee. He was appointed chaplain of the University of Virginia but served only one term (1895-96), as his congregation was unwilling to sever the pastoral relation.

Rev. Cock’s zeal for winning souls was earnestly displayed at the University of Virginia. Beginning in 1897, Dr. Cocke wrote the Practical and Illustrative Department of The Earnest Worker. He authored Studies in Ephesians and Studies in St. John and No Immersion in the Bible. These works were all enthusiastically received by his friends. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was confered on him on the same day by Washington and Lee University in Virginia. and Central University, in Kentucky.

“Such was his culture of mind and heart, his ability and many sided activities, his rare union of pastoral and preaching gifts, his tact, his sympathy and his cheerful courage, that a large promise of usefulness in the service of God and man was before him,” thus wrote one of his friends. One of the members of Windy Cove Church writes, “We know that earth is better and brighter, lives richer and fuller, hopes and aspirations more glorious for those who came into close contact with his saintly life.

Rev. Cocke not only preached the glorious gospel with great earnestness and power–he lived it. He lived among his people and he loved them–each man, woman, and child felt sure of a sympathetic friend in him of him more can it be said than of any one I have ever known, ” ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’ ” One of the last sermons he preached was from the text of Revelation 21:21, “Each of the gates made of a single pearl.” He seemed to be gazing beyond the Pearly Gates into the celestial city. Those beautiful gates opened for him in a few days. He died at Mercy Hospital, in Chicago, on August 23, 1901, at the age of forty-three, following an operation. His body was brought back to Waynesboro and interred in River View Cemetery, where he awaits the resurrection call. For him to live was Christ and to die was gain.

Words to Live By:
To whom much is given, much is required. But do you feel your gifts to be small by comparison? Then be faithful with what the Lord has given you, for he who is faithful in the small things will be intrusted with greater.

Bibliography:
1. Studies in Ephesians. Lectures delivered at the Presbyterian church at Waynesboro, Va. Chicago : Fleming H. Revell, 1892. 137 p.

2. No Immersion in the Bible; or, Baptism as taught and practiced by Christ and the apostles. Richmond, Va., Presbyterian committee of publication, 1893. 80 p.

3. Studies in the Epistles of John, or, The Manifested Life. Richmond, VA : Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1895. 159 p.

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There was No Ecclesiology 101 on How to Begin a Denomination

There wasn’t a manual on denomination beginnings. No teaching elder had ever taken seminary courses on it. No one on the steering committee had any experience in the process.  It was entirely new to everyone, and yet it was something which had to be done.

Much like the northern Presbyterian church, the seeds of apostasy had entered the Presbyterian Church in the United States in the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century. It was very small then, most often in the sense of shame of some of the language in the Confessional Standards. But then there came a decided effort to capture the Southern Presbyterian Church for the liberal agenda, led as usual by the seminaries of the church. Members would return from, for example, a war, and find that they no longer recognized the church of their fathers. Principles and practices began to be printed in the denominational agencies which were contrary to the essentials of the Presbyterian faith. And, like the Northern Presbyterian church experience, various conservative individuals and churches began to organize committees outside the church which would accomplish the work of the church.  So we read of the Southern Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United. These organizations, and the joint meetings they held, galvanized the conservatives of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Eventually all of these joined forces and established a Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church. Separation from unbelief would be demanded of them.

It was on May 19, 1973 in Atlanta Georgia in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church that 450 ruling elders from 261 churches representing 70,800 members joined together in a convocation of presbyters or Sessions. They listened to stirring messages. They viewed slide presentations which shared the kinds of churches and ministries which would be a part of any continuing church. They reaffirmed their committment to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission. And when the pivotal time came for a vote as to whether to proceed ahead and actually begin a new denomination separate from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the convocation voted 349 – 16.  Yet at the same time, they let it be clearly understood that there was love and respect toward any of their number, or within the church as a whole, who did not believe they should withdraw at this time. It would be seven more months that such a new denomination became a reality, but this was one of the important beginnings of what became known eventually as the Presbyterian Church in America. And this beginning came primarily from the ruling elders of the church.

Words to Live By: Pray much for your ruling elder in the congregation of which you are a part. They are men just like you who sit in the pews.  They have their fears and foibles just like you. Yet God has called them to be overseers of the flock, to pastor the flock of God whom the Son has redeemed with His own blood. Therefore, submit to them in the Lord, support them in the work, and be an encouragement to them in their work of shepherding the people of God. They are a vital part of the church.

For Further Study:
Three of the addresses presented at the Convocation of Sessions are available on the PCA Historical Center’s web site:

Law and Procedure, or, How and Why in 1973,” by RE W. Jack Williamson.

No Compromise Men and Church,” by Rev. William E. Hill, Jr. 

How Is the Gold Become Dim!,” by Rev. Morton H. Smith.

 

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For today’s post, we have the Rev. Caleb Cangelosi, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Cookeville, TN, as our guest author, writing on one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church.

It is a great honor to be elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of a Presbyterian denomination. Yet one man was given this honor twice. His name was William Swan Plumer, and though he has fallen out of general knowledge in our days, he was a titan of the nineteenth century Presbyterian church. Moses Drury Hoge, who served under Dr. Plumer for several years in Richmond, Virginia, had this to say about his mentor:

plumerws02Probably no man in our time was more widely known in these United States than Dr. Plumer. His reputation as a preacher secured for him great audiences wherever he went. Those who did not care for the ordinances of God’s house, and who rarely attended any place of worship, would flock to any church where it was known that he would officiate. He touched society at so many points and had so many ways of impressing himself on the public that his reputation extended far and wide. As an editor; as a contributor to the periodical press; writing for reviews, for magazines, for the publication boards of all denominations; as the author of commentaries on the Scriptures, and many religious books, some of which were republished in Europe, and others translated into German, French and Modern Greek; as a professor in two theological seminaries, which have sent forth hundreds of ministers, with his impress upon them, to labor in every part of the world; as a lecturer before literary institutions and benevolent associations; as a correspondent, writing innumerable letters, especially to those whom he knew to be afflicted and bereaved, letters full of sympathy and consolation; in all these and many other ways, he gained the eye, the ear and heart of the great public, by availing himself of every channel of communication and every avenue of usefulness.

Born on this day in 1802, Dr. Plumer passed into glory on October 22, 1880. Thus his life spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century, and his ministry traversed the high points of that century’s controversies. He was born in Greersburg, Pennsylvania, a small town northwest of Pittsburgh, to Presbyterian parents. His family eventually settled in Washington County, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River outside present day Marietta. His father was a river trader, and as he grew up he desired to obtain a liberal education and one day become a doctor.

Though he had grown up in a Presbyterian home, hearing the gospel from his earliest days, yet it was not until the age of 17 that the Lord saw fit to convert him, through the ministry of a Congregationalist minister serving in a Presbyterian Church under the 1801 Plan of Union. In Plumer’s own words, “I surrendered to God’s will & ways. I saw a beauty & fitness in the plan of salvation. I saw it was right that God should rule everywhere, in particular in me & over me. I at once desired to honor him in every possible way, &, in particular, if he would open the way, I desired to serve him in the ministry of the gospel. For my idol, medicine, I now cared nothing. I was not ashamed to let all the world know that I loved Christ.” His sense of call to the ministry accompanied his conversion, and he moved to Lewisburg, Virginia, to study at the classical school of Dr. John McElhenny. In 1822 he began attending Washington College, in Lexington, Virginia, and in 1825 he enrolled at Princeton Seminary. He completed his studies in September 1826, and was ordained as an evangelist in May 1827.

His ministry was primarily in the South. He planted several churches across Virginia and North Carolina, and after marrying in 1829 he became the Stated Supply of Briery Church in Prince Edward County, Virginia. In October 1830 he was, for the first time, installed as pastor of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1834, he moved to First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where he labored until 1846. It was during this pastorate that he cemented his reputation as a preacher, presbyter, and theologian. He was present as a commissioner at the 1837 General Assembly that saw the Plan of Union abrogated, and the Old School and New School split. In fact, though only 34 years old, he was one of the primary advocates for abrogation; William Henry Foote states that Plumer’s speech “changed the fate of the question,” swaying those on the fringe to vote against the Plan of Union. Upon returning home, and discovering that Amasa Converse and his Southern Religion Telegraph supported the New School, Plumer began the Watchman of the South, an Old School newspaper he edited until 1845. Due to Plumer’s sound theology and wide influence, the 1838 General Assembly elected him as Moderator at the young age of 35.

In 1847, Plumer was called to Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Here he began writing in earnest, and became what Moses Drury Hoge alluded to, one of the most prolific authors the Presbyterian Church in America has known. His writings were of a practical nature, yet they were filled with theological meat as well, as evidenced by his election in 1854 to the chair of Didactic and Pastoral Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His Christ-centered and experientially-oriented piety is clearly seen in his Inaugural Address to the Seminary:

In proportion as men are truly pious, they make [Christ] the foundation and top-stone, the sum and substance and centre of all their hopes and rejoicings. He is believed on in the world, not merely because there is no other way of salvation, but because this way is so admirably adapted to all the necessities of sinners, and because it brings glory to God in the highest. The true believer not only trusts in Christ; he glories in him. He not only makes mention of him; he admits none into comparison with him…We sadly err, when we begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh; when we regard Christ as the author but not the finisher of faith. A legal spirit is the bane of piety. It is as great a foe to comfort as it is to gospel grace. Through the law believers are dead to the law that they might live unto God. This is the gospel plan. Here is the secret of growing conformity to God. Here is power, here is wisdom, here is life. We are complete in him.

Though nineteenth century Presbyterians, especially in the South, are well known for their reflection on ecclesiology, Plumer’s writings demonstrate that there was a breadth and depth to their theologizing that we often fail to see in them.

Plumer’s time at Western Seminary came to an end in 1862, as members of the Central Presbyterian Church (which he had pastored since 1855) became upset that he would not during corporate worship ask “God’s blessing upon the Government of our country in its efforts to suppress rebellion,” nor would he “give thanks to God for the victories which God has granted our armies.” Some have interpreted his inaction as due to pacifism. It is more likely that he was motivated by a conviction that the question of the war was a political question with which God’s ministers had nothing to do as such, coupled perhaps with Southern sympathies. Further research would be needed to discover the truth, but in any event, he resigned both pulpit and seminary chair, and five years later the Southern Presbyterian Church elected him to fill Dr. Thornwell’s chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary. During those intervening years, Dr. Plumer continued to write. Some of his most familiar books, including treatises on the law of God, experimental piety, and a commentary on the Psalms, were produced during this time.

Till his final months he was actively involved in preaching, teaching, writing, pastoring God’s people, and participating in church courts. In 1871 he was elected for a second time as Moderator of the General Assembly, this time of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Commentaries on Romans and Hebrews, as his Helps and Hints in Pastoral Theology, came out during the last years of his life. Unfortunately, though, his time at Columbia ended on a low note, as he was embroiled in disputes with other seminary professors, and many became disillusioned with his pedagogical effectiveness. At the 1880 General Assembly he was, against his wishes, made Professor Emeritus. A few months later, following complications from kidney stone surgery, he died.

To our loss, no Life and Letters was ever written of Dr. Plumer, perhaps in part because he had only two daughters and no sons (though one of his grandsons was a minister in the Southern Presbyterian Church). Yet his life was full and useful, and his writings call for our perusal and digestion. Several of his last words close this brief survey of his life and work. Upon being asked, “Do you suffer much, Doctor?” he replied, “Not nearly as much as my Saviour did.” When a visitor exclaimed, “I am sorry to see you suffer so, Doctor!” he responded, “One who loves me better than you do put me here.” When the word submit was used, he said, “Perhaps acquiesce is a better word for the Christian to use. We may submit, because we are obligated to – but the Christian cheerfully, joyfully yields all to his Lord’s will.” These sayings show the heart of this servant of Christ, devoted in every way to our reigning King who suffered for our salvation.

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Today’s entry is not easy reading. It is long, too. But it will reward your time, if you will set aside some time for thoughtful reading. The Rev. John L. Girardeau was one of the brightest lights of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. He gave much of his life to minister to the slaves of the seaboard of South Carolina. He wrote, “Having rejected a call to a large and important church which had very few Negroes connected with it, I accepted an invitation to preach to a small church, surrounded by a dense body of slaves.” As Dr. Otis Pickett has noted, “God had given him a heart for the Low-country blacks of Charleston, and he refused to leave them.” The Rev. John L. Girardeau passed on to his eternal reward on June 23, 1898.

The Only Way of Salvation
by John L. Girardeau
Old Paths, Vol. III, no. 5 (date?)

(Note: The following discussion is drawn from a workbook of sermon outlines found among the literary remains of Dr. Girardeau. It was never designed for publication, but we feel justified in printing it just as it stands–an unrevised outline. It was used as a basis of a sermon, in two parts, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church (Arsenal Hill), Columbia, S.C., Feb. 20 and 27, 1887.–Editor.)

Text: Romans 1:17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

The Apostle Paul furnishes in this chapter a summary of his great argument, touching justification before God, in three leading propositions.

He first states its conclusion–namely: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek; that is, to all sinners of every class.

But why is the Gospel such a power? Because, in the second place he declares, therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.

But why was such a righteousness necessary? Because, in the third place he affirms, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

To make this general statement of the argument perfectly clear, let us invert the order of the propositions, so as to present the reasons first and the conclusion last.

First. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. That is to say, all men are ungodly and unrighteous; they are therefore guilty before God and justly exposed to His wrath.

Secondly. God has provided a way of escape from His wrath for guilty men. He has revealed His righteousness to them, and declared that whosoever believes in it shall live.

Thirdly. This righteousness of God the Gospel alone reveals, and therefore the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

It is evident that the second of these propositions, either in the Apostle’s order of statement or the inverse, is that which gives an answer to the question, How can a sinner escape the wrath of God, and be justified and saved? How? He must by faith accept and rely upon the righteousness of God. He who is justified by faith in the righteousness of God shall live.

This is the inspired Apostle’s account of God’s method of justifying and saving sinners.

Let us examine the different answers which men give to the great question. How may we as sinners be justified and saved?

I. The Answer of the Mere Naturalist or Indifferentist : “We may be justified and saved with no righteousness. God will not require of us, weak as we are, a righteousness which embraces conformity to His law. We may be saved by the mere benevolence or mercy of God. He is infinitely good, and will not condemn any of His creatures to hell. He may dispense with the Law.”

This is impossible, because:
1. His justice would be sacrificed.
2. His law would be sacrificed.
3. His truth would be sacrificed.
4. His holiness would be sacrificed. It [His holiness] forbids fellowship with the unholy, and none can be holy except they be first justified.

This supposition requires that the standard of mercy should be planted on the graves of justice, truth and holiness.

5. The interests of God’s moral government would be sacrificed.

6. The scheme of redemption precludes the supposition. The cross of Christ and the grace of the Holy Ghost are not vanities. They mean something.

7. The supposition is impossible and absurd. The sinner would be justified without justification, saved from guilt without salvation from it. To say that he need not be justified, or saved, is to insult God and common sense alike.

God cannot dispense with His law; and as it requires righteousness, the sinner must furnish it, or continue under its condemning sentence. He must be righteous or be lost.

II. The Answer of the Legalist : “We may be justified and saved on account of our own righteousness–a merely personal and inherent obedience to law.”

This is refuted by the Apostle’s brief, but irrefragable argument: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

1. The law convinces of sin. The law condemns for sin. The law therefore kills. It cannot save. What convicts cannot acquit; what condemns cannot absolve from punishment; what kills cannot confer life.

2. One sin destroyed the possibility of Adam’s justification. The inference as to the sinner is overwhelming.

3. The righteousness of one who is already a sinner, even if he supposed that he could produce any, would be necessarily imperfect and unsatisfactory. It would not be the righteousness which the law demands. The Legalist is thrown back upon the position of the Naturalist or Indifferentist. According to his own view, he must present a perfect righteousness. He fails; and out of his own mouth will be condemned.

4. A sinner under the curse of God’s law cannot furnish any acceptable righteousness. He cannot be unjust and just, cursed and blessed, at the same time.

But he may take the ground that God will relax His law.

Answer:
(1) God cannot relax His law. That would be to relax justice, an infinite attribute of His nature, of which the law is a transcript.

(2) If He did, it would be a graduated scale adapted to the strength of each subject. And as in fact none have in themselves any strength, it would be reduced to zero. This is infinitely absurd.

(3) Even were it relaxed, it has already condemned. To relax the condemnation as well as the requirement of the law would be to sacrifice justice and truth.

(4) The law was not relaxed in the case of the angels that fell, nor in the case of the suffering Savior.

He may contend that God will accept his sincere though imperfect righteousness.

Answer: That only holds in the case of the justified believer.

Finally, he may hope that his imperfect righteousness will be accepted for Christ’s sake, and be supplemented by Christ’s merit.

Answer: This is impossible. There can be no compounding of law and grace, faith and works. They are contradictory and mutually exclusive.

Further, Christ’s merit is infinite; and there can be no addition of the infinite to the finite, or of the finite to the infinite.

The conclusion is: THe case of the Legalist, either pure or modified, which would include the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian, is hopeless.

III. The Answer of the Socinian : “We may be justified and saved by sincere repentance for sin.”

This is impossible, because:

1. Repentance is impossible to a sinner. He is legally and spiritually dead. He cannot repent. Another view of repentance is altogether unscriptural.

(1) He is under the curse of the law. If he could repent, he would be restored to God’s favor, for God cannot condemn a penitent. The sinner, then, would be condemned and not condemned, cursed and blessed, at one and the same time.

(2) Repentance is a spiritual function or saving grace. It implies turning from sin to God, from [i.e., because of, or out of] spiritual motive of love to God. This [is] impossible to one in his natural condition.

If it be said, that repentance removes the curse of the law: God will forgive; the answer is: First, God says He will not without blood. Secondly, repentance does not remove sentence of human law.

2. Even if he could repent, his repentance, as a confession of unrighteousness, would negative his claim to furnish righteousness. His personal condition is that of an unrighteous man. He pleads guilty, and law knows no mercy. It has already proved that mercy cannot set aside the divine law. Righteousness is required.

Repentance offers no atonement for sin, and if it be supposed that God must save one as penitent, even without atonement, since no penitent being can be punished, He would contradict His own express word that without shedding of blood is no remission.

To say that our tears can wash away our sins, is to impeach the love of God the Father for His dying Son. Why that blood, if our tears can expiate sin? Stop this audacious impeachment of the Cross!

The supposition is impossible, and we are therefore obliged to fall back upon the scriptural doctrine that no sinner, in his natural strength, can repent. There can, consequently, be no justification and salvation on account of repentance.

3. Repentance, in one’s natural strength, would be compliance with the requirement of the law. It would be a deed or work of the law; and the Apostle declares that by the deeds (or works) of the law shall no flesh be justified. It is clear that repentance is required by the law. But nature gives no strength to meet the demand.

IV. The Answer of the Romanist : “We may be justified and saved by our own righteousness, made possible by the atoning merits of Christ and produced by the aid of the Spirit’s grace.”

Christ, he contends, by His merit secured a second probation for sinners. He also acquires for them the grace of the Holy Ghost to enable them to produce personal obedience. This he urges, is not a legal, but a gracious, rightousness; and consequently justification on its account is not justification by law, but by grace.

On the contrary, such a righteousness, were it possible, would be a legal righteousness, and justification would be impossible. For by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.

The great principle which holds here is this: A righteousness receives its denomination not from the source in which it originates, but from the end which it contemplates.

Take the case of the Pharisee: Judged in accordance with his claim, his case was that of Adam in innocence. Of course, had Adam produced his righteousness and been justified on account of it, his righteousness would have been legal, and his justification a legal debt. Yet, it would have originated in grace. For all his natural endowments were the gifts of the Creator. In his case, while he was innocent, there was no difference between nature and the strength of grace. Natural ability was gracious ability. Although, therefore, had he stood, he would have wrought out his righteousness in the strength of grace, it would have been a legal righteousness, because it would have been his own and because he sought justification on its account. But is is preposterous to talk of a sinner being justified in that way.

The Romanist’s justifying righteousness is clearly a personal and inherent one, on account of which he seeks justification, and is therefore a legal one—that is it is a complement of his own works. But by the deeds of the law, no matter how, no matter in what strength performed, no flesh, not even Papal, shall be justified. The Apostle’s great enouncement excludes all works of our own from the ground of justification.

Think of it! The agonies of Calvary undergone that the sinner may have a chance to justify and glorify himself! The blood of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Ghost mere ministers to self-righteousness! The soul sickens at the blasphemy.

Justification is monstrously confounded with sanctification, and holiness, the matter of sanctification, cannot be the ground of salvation. It is an essential part of salvation; never a ground.

Not that which is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost Himself can be a ground of salvation.

Consider this you professing Christians. How much better are your claims than those of the circumcised Pharisee and the baptized Romanist? Solemn question! Settle it aright.

V. The Answer of the Arminian : “We may be justified and saved by faith in the merit of Christ, our faith being imputed to us as our righteousness, in place of a strict, personal righteousness of law.”

Distinction admitted to be made by the Evangelical Arminian. He does not make faith the ground of justification, but he does make it the matter. The merits of Christ he holds to be the ground of justification, but faith in those merits is the righteousness which justifies. We are justified by faith, not as the instrument through which we merely receive justification, but as the justifying righteousness itself. Yet this is not a righteousness, consisting of works.

In proof, they plead Abraham’s case in the fourth chapter of Romans: “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” That is to say, Abraham’s faith was imputed to him, as his justifying righteousness: by it, on account of it, he was justified.

Let us try to get at the Arminian’s position–if we can. The question being, what is justifying righteousness? He answers: Faith. Is faith then a righteousness of works? He answers: No. What then is it? It is, he says, only trust in the merits of Christ. Is it then Christ’s righteousness which is imputed to faith? He answers, no. Where then is there any righteousness at all? He answers: Faith is imputed as if it were righteousness, in place of a legal righteousness. God regards and treats it as righteousness, and this makes it evangelical righteousness. But an evangelical righteousness must consist of evangelical works. But according to the Arminian, faith is no work, it can neither be legal nor evangelical, righteousness. Yet it is the righteousness which justifies. As such it is imputed to us. What then is it? What can it be? The only solution is, that the Arminian is right in saying, Faith justifies: as to the general fact that is true; but when he undertakes to show how faith justifies, he utterly breaks down. His denial of Representation and Imputation plunges him into self-contradiction and absurdity.

The argument against this view:

1. A wholly untenable distinction is drawn between the ground and the matter of justification. What is the ground? That on account of which we are justified. What is the matter? The same. Where then is the difference? To say, then, that faith is the matter of justification is to displace Christ’s righteousness as the grounds; and on the other hand, to admit Christ’s righteousness as its ground is to confess that faith cannot be its matter. Self-contradiction is lodged in the doctrine.

2. Faith is made our own righteousness–a personal, subjective obedience. It must therefore be our own work. But this contradicts both Scripture and the Arminian position itself; the former, because it declares that by works no man can be justified; the latter, because it denies faith to be a work.

There is a great principle here involved, which the Arminian theology utterly rejects, but which is absolutely necessary to the settlement of this question. It is, That we must possess—ourselves possess—a righteousness of works, which completely satisfies the requirements of the law, or else the law is dispensed with and sacrificed. There are only two ways, in which we can be possessed of such a righteousness: Either we must consciously work it out ourselves; or, another must work it out for us, and it must become ours by its being imputed to us. The Arminian holds that neither is possible; neither can we consciously work out a legal righteousness ourselves, nor can the legal righteousness wrought out by another be imputed to us so as to become ours. What then is his position? That: That while neither of these suppositions can be realised in fact, our faith or trust in the merits of Christ-—a faith or trust which is not itself a legal work or righteousness—is imputed to us in lieu of a legal righteousness, and God justifies us as believers, without our possessing any legal righteousness at all. Faith, then, which justifies, is according to his own statement not a legal righteousness. Now, to sum up: As, according to him, we have no legal righteousness, either as wrought out by ourselves, or as inputed to us, or as believing in Christ, we have no legal righteousness in any way; we are justified without having–possessing any legal righteousness. But this is impossible. God cannot pronounce us righteous unless, in some way, we are so.

The proofs of this position are given, under the first head, in which the answer of the Indifferentists is considered.

3. It makes faith a suppositious, constructive and unreal righteousness. It is not the righteousness which God’s law requires, but is accepted in the place of it as though it were. But God requires a real, substantive righteousness. Now, either that is Christ’s righteousness, or our own. Arminians deny that it is Christ’s righteousness which is imputed for justification. Therefore, according to them, it is our own. But by our own righteousness, real or unreal, shall no flesh be justified.

4. The reality of faith as an instrument or condition is destroyed. If not it is part of a real substantive righteousness; but that is denied. What of reality then is left to faith?

5. As an exercise of power to believe man’s will is made to produce it, undetermined by grace. How then are we justified by grace?

6. The Arminian view is inconsistent with the express language of Scripture.
Take the text: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” Now that the righteousness mentioned here is the righteousness which justifies is so clear, that to deny it is to plunge into contradiction and absurdity. It cannot possibly be the rectitude of God; for that condemns the sinner. But if it be justifying righteousness, as, according to the Arminian, faith is our justifying righteousness, faith is said by Paul to be revealed from faith to faith! That construction of the Apostle’s language is scarcely possible.

So with other passages, this, for example: that I may “be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

It is evident that faith cannot be the matter of justification. It cannot be the righteousness of God which is revealed to faith; and that righteousness along justifies. The Arminian denies the imputation of another’s righteousness. He affirms that faith is not a real, legal righteousness. He is therefore shut up to the infinite absurdity that God justifies one who has no real righteousness.

VI. The Answer of the Lutheran and Calvinist: “We may be justified and saved only on account of the righteousness of Christ–that is the vicarious obedience of Christ–the righteousness of another, imputed to us and received by faith alone.

It is of great consequence to decide aright the question, which is the “righteousness of God” spoken of in the text.

1. It cannot be intrinsic righteousness, or rectitude, of the divine nature. That is absurd.

2. It cannot be the rectoral righteousness of God—that by which He administers His moral government. This is equally absurd.

3. It cannot be faith, as was shown under the preceding head.

4. It cannot be God’s method of justification. This view is adopted by some Arminians, and by some Calvinists, as Dr. John Brown, in his Analytical Exposition of Romans. This violates the analogy of Scripture.

(1) Righteousness without works is said to be imputed (Rom. 4). It would be absurd to speak of a method of justification being imputed.

(2) The righteousness which is by the faith of Christ is contrasted with the righteousness which is one’s own (Phil. 3:9). There would be no meaning in the comparison of one’s personal righteousness with God’s method of justification.

(3) Our guilt imputed to Christ is contrasted with His righteousness imputed to us (II Cor. 5:21).

(4) Christ is made of God to us—righteousness.

(5) Christ has brought in everlasting righteousness.

(6) Christ is the Lord our Righteousness (Jer. 23:6).

5. The righteousness of God is the righteousness of Christ—the vicarious obedience of Christ to the precept and penalty of God’s law.

Scriptural proofs: Jer. 23:6. This is His name, whereby He shall be called. The Lord our Righteousness. He who has Christ has His righteousness. II Cor. 5:21. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Take the whole verse and the proof is irresistable. I Cor. 1:30. Christ Jesus who is made of God unto us . . . righteousness. Rom. 4:6. Blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness, without works. A righteousness to be real must consist of works; but as this does not of our works, it must of another works; even Christ’s. Phil. 3:9. The righteousness which is said to be a gift, is expressly said to be the righteousness of One—that is, of Christ; and then it is, further exegetically defined to be the obedience of one by which many are made righteous. This absolutely settles the case. As the sinful act of Adam the representative of his seed is imputed to them as in him theirs; so the obedience of Christ the representative of His seed is imputed to them as in Him theirs.

The Calvinistic doctrine of justification contains the following things:

(1) The ground and matter (or material cause) of justification. This is the vicarious righteousness of Christ imputed to the sinner by God.

(2) The constituent elements of justification. These are, first, pardon, or the non-imputation of guilt; secondly, the acceptance of the sinner’s person as righteous, and his investiture with a right and title to eternal life.

(3) The instrument or organ of justification. This is faith. It receives and rests upon the righteousness of Christ, which God imputes.

Taken generally, justification may be said to consist of three things: first, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness; secondly, the non-imputation of guilt, or pardon; thirdly, the acceptance of the person as righteous and the bestowal upon him of a right and title to eternal life. But taken strictly, justification is the non-imputation of guilt, or pardon, and the acceptance of the person as righteous and the bestowal upon him of a right and title to eternal life. The ground and the constituent elements ought not to be confounded. It is not: justification is the non-imputation of guilt and the imputation of righteousness, which would seem to be the natural antithesis. But first comes the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, as the ground, and then the elements or parts, of justification—namely, pardon and acceptance.

Faith is no part of justification. It simply receives the righteousness of Christ, offered as the ground of acceptance and relies upon it. It is the condition—as an indispensable duty—without which we cannot be acceptably justified. It is Emptiness filled with Christ’s Fulness. It is Impotence lying down on His Strength. It is no righteousness; it is no substitute for righteousness; it is not imputed as righteousness. It is counted to us simply as the act which apprehends Christ’s righteousness unto justification. All it does is to take what God gives—Christ and His righteousness.

Illustration: A wounded soldier with both arms shot off, lying on his back helpless, fed from a bowl in the hands of a Christian nurse–a ministering angel to him in his inability. The dying man’s receiving life.

RECAPITULATION.

There are only three conceivable suppositions as to justification:

Either, we may be justified without any righteousness.
Or, we may be justified on account of a personal and inherent righteousness.
Or, we may be justified on account of a vicarious and imputed righteousness.

To state them more briefly: Either, no righteousness; or, Our own righteousness; or, Another’s righteousness.

The first and second suppositions have been disproved. Therefore the third remains established.

The vicarious obedience of Jesus, our Substitute, to the precept and penalty of the divine law is the righteousness of God, which is revealed from faith to faith. It is fitly termed the righteousness of God, not only because Christ’s righteousness was provided, and is accepted, by God, but because it was wrought out by God Himself in the person of His Incarnate Son. It is God’s righteousness, because God produced it. This is imputed by God to the believing sinner, who had no share at all in its conscious production. In that sense, it is not his, but another’s righteousness. But as Christ was his Representative and Substitute, and His righteousness is imputed to the believer, in this sense, it becomes his. It is his in law, before the divine tribunal. God therefore is just in justifying him, since he has a perfect righteousness, such as the law demands and such as satisfies its claims. When the sinner by faith accepts Christ, with this righteousness, he is actually and consciously justified.

This righteousness is “antecedently and immediately” imputed to all the elect, in mass in the justification of Christ as their Federal Head and Representative, upon His resurrection and appearance in the heavens.

The application is obvious: There is one only way of justification and salvation. Believe, take Christ’s righteousness and be saved. Reject this justifying righteousness, and you are lost.

[The sermon reproduced here today comes from a rare publication titled Old Paths. That publication was issued by the Rev. John Cavitt Blackburn, grandson of the Rev. John L. Girardeau.  The PCA Historical Center has among its collections this one sermon, clipped from volume 3, no. 5 of Old Paths. Regrettably, to date we have not been able to locate other issues of that publication.]

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Civil War is Finally Over

The Civil War was finally over, ecclesiastically, on June 10, 1983.  By this we mean, that the two denominations which claimed the name of Presbyterian in their titles—122 years previous in the United States and the Confederate States—did at last unite.

A little history will help us understand this.  On May 16, 1861, the Old School General Assembly split into north and south over the Gardner Spring Resolutions, which sought to support the Federal Government and Abraham Lincoln.  (See May 16, 1861)  Shortly after that  point in time, the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America began.  When the South lost their attempt to be a sovereign nation in 1865, their name was changed to the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

There were attempts to heal this national split all the time.  Southern Presbyterians, as they were called in general, went up to the next General Assembly after the close of the War Between the States in Pittsburgh, only to find out that their Northern Presbyterian brethren were not only not interested in unity, but further they were speaking of the southern states as worthy of missions!

Fast forward a hundred years. Another attempt to merge in the middle of the twentieth century, in the 1950’s, failed because the southern Presbyterians were unwilling to accept centralization of power.  They placed a great deal more emphasis on local power than national power, such as the northern Presbyterians did.

In 1973, there was an exodus from the Presbyterian US over the same issues which brought forth their Northern cousins in the 1930’s — issues of Scriptural faith and practice.   So the Presbyterian Church in America began in December, 1973.

Then in 1964, the Southern Presbyterian Church ordained women, as the Northern Presbyterian had done previously.  Further the former accepted a book of confessions in 1975, as the Northern had done in 1967.

There was really no opposition left to stop this union. Perhaps that was because so many conservative Presbyterians had already left both denominations. Perhaps it was because of the increasing worldliness and continued decline of faithful righteousness in this nation. Regardless, on June 10, 1983, the Presbyterian Church US merged into the Presbyterian Church USA to form the largest Presbyterian church in the nation. They brought together some 3 million members, but ever since that day, the church had been losing members and churches over various issues.  At the time of this post, the removal of restrictions over homosexual clergy this past year is bringing another group of  losses of membership and churches, as remaining Bible believing ministers, members,  and churches recognize the proverbial handwriting on the wall and leave to one of the evangelical and Reformed Presbyterian churches in existence.

Words to Live By: If Francis Mackemie would rise up from his grave and look at the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America today, would he recognize it as  possessing the witness and testimony of 1706?  If we could go back to the pivotal points of Presbyterian history, what would be our position now with respect to those time periods and challenges?  It all demands of us to be aware of sites like the PCA History Center, support such efforts with our financial offerings, read its columns and articles, pray for its effectiveness in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, and live in the light of its information.  By the grace of God, perhaps we will not repeat earlier mistakes if we are aware of our history.

Through the Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The moral law was given prior to sin, as is stated in the Confession of Faith

WCF 19:1
“God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

There was No Ecclesiology 101 on How to Begin a Denomination

There wasn’t a manual on denomination beginnings. No teaching elder had ever taken seminary courses on it. No one on the steering committee had any experience in the process.  It was entirely new to everyone, and yet it was something which had to be done.

Much like the northern Presbyterian church, the seeds of apostasy had entered the Presbyterian Church in the United States in the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century.  It was very small then, most often in the sense of shame of some of the language in the Confessional Standards.  But then there came a decided effort to capture the Southern Presbyterian Church for the liberal agenda, led as usual by the seminaries of the church.  Members would return from, for example, a war, and find that they no longer recognized the church of their fathers.  Principles and practices began to be printed in the denominational agencies which were contrary to the essentials of the Presbyterian faith.   And, like the Northern Presbyterian church experience, various conservative individuals and churches began to organize committees outside the church which would accomplish the work of the church.  So we read of the Southern  Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United.  These organizations, and the joint meetings they held, galvanized the conservatives of the Southern Presbyterian church.  Eventually all of these joined forces and established a Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church.  Separation from unbelief would be demanded of them.

It was on May 19, 1973 in Atlanta Georgia in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian Church that 450 ruling elders from 261 churches representing 70,800 members joined together in a convocation of presbyters or Sessions.  They listened to stirring messages.  They viewed slide presentations which shared the kinds of churches and ministries which would be a part of any continuing church.  They reaffirmed their committment to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission.  And when the pivotal time came for a vote as to whether to proceed ahead and actually begin a new denomination separate from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the convocation voted 349 – 16.  Yet at the same time, they let it be clearly understood that there was love and respect toward any of their number, or within the church as a whole, who did not believe they should withdraw at this time.  It would be seven more months that such a new denomination became a reality, but this was one of the important beginnings of what became known eventually as the Presbyterian Church in America.  And this beginning came primarily from the ruling elders of the church.

Words to Live By: Pray much for your ruling elder in the congregation of which you are a part.  They are men just like you who sit in the pews.  They have their fears and foibles just like you.  Yet God has called them to be overseers of the flock, to pastor the flock of God whom the Son has redeemed with His own blood.  Therefore, submit to them in the Lord, support them in the work, and be an encouragement to them in their work of shepherding the people of God.  They are a vital part of the church.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 115 – 118

Through the Standards: Warning and encouragement regarding repentance

WCF 15:4
“As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”

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