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A Personal Revival Needed

Rev. Dr. Daniel Baker [17 August 1791 - 10 December 1857]Every Christian worker should have an experience like that of Daniel Baker.

In the thirty-ninth year of his life and ministry, the twelfth year of his pastoral ministry, he felt a dryness in his soul, which was evidenced by a lack of fruitfulness in his ministry.

So he went not to the philosophers of his day, nor to the Christian counselors, nor to any self-help guru, but rather to God Himself.  Going into the woods on August 10, 1830 near his house in Savannah, Georgia, he came to a cemetery. Entering it, finding a tree near a brick tomb, he began to cry to God for revival.

Returning to his congregation, he held a congregational prayer meeting in which he requested  the members of that church to write notes for whom prayer might be especially desirable.  Forty-six notes were returned to him, all of them desiring the regeneration either of themselves or others of their families.  Dr. Baker added a note that  he might be given a love for the souls of lost men and women, with the result that there be a successful ministry in his labors for Christ.

Following up this spiritual exercise were a series of meetings, sometimes upwards to three sermons per day being preached.  The outpouring of God’s regenerating Spirit  was such that 250 individuals professed Christ as Savior and were led into God’s kingdom.  In addition, the work of grace went through the entire city of Savannah, Georgia.

That work of grace continued in other parts of Georgia, as revival swept the whole coastlands of the state. Multitudes of people came into the kingdom.  Eight of the converts became ministers of the gospel.   Dr. Baker went into full-time evangelistic work.  It would be noted that in the two years after this event, some 2500 people acknowledged Christ as Lord and Savior.

Words to live by:  It all started with a personal day of reflection and prayer.  Think about it a moment.  Could not all of us need such a day as this?  Oh, we need not find a lonely cemetery in the country, but rather some place where we would not be interrupted and could commune with the Lord God of heaven and earth.  Look at your life.  Are you satisfied that you are  having the kind of spiritual influence on your family, church, work, and society that you could be  having?  If that answer is in the negative, why not plan such a day right now, set it aside, and pray for a personal revival in your soul.

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

We have more than once made reference to the diary of David Brainerd in this historical devotional guide.  Often times it filled a date in which no other Presbyterian person, place, or event had occurred, so this writer was thankful for that.  But it also set forth the true example of an individual who by his own statement wanted to wear out his life in God’s service and for His glory.  How scarce are they found today in Christ’s church!

Talk about a Christian who, by all reports, was skinny and sickly. No modern missionary agency, whether for overseas or in our own country, would even approve of one like this for missionary service. So the very fact that he was a missionary in the first place to native Americans had to be of God. There simply was no other reason for it.  God was in the whole plan as well as the details of the plan.

From his ordination to his death was approximately three years.  As his inscription on his tombstone reads, “Sacred to the memory of the Rev. David Brainerd, a faithful and laborious missionary to the Stockbridge, Delaware, and Susquehanna Tribes of Indians.”  And yet his influence to them doesn’t really tell the whole story. His diary has caused countless in every century since that time to open themselves up to the call of God upon their lives.  He life and ministry had stood the test of time, and a stream of workers for the kingdom of God have been sent forth to the nations of the world with the gospel of Christ.

His closing days were precious in more than one way.  After discovering that he had tuberculosis, he spent his months in the home of America’s greatest philosopher, Dr. Jonathan Edwards, in Northampton, Connecticut.  While there, Dr. Edwards youngest daughter, Jerusha, a mere teenager, took care for him in an atmosphere of spiritual love.  Whether they were engaged has never been proved, but there was a loveliness in that relationship which brought words like “we will spend a happy eternity together,” on the day he died, which was October 9, 1747. That eternity came sooner than later, as Jerusha contracted the same dread disease, and died a year later.  They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Northampton.

Words to live by:  If you have never, dear reader, read the Diary of David Brainerd, it is available on both the web as well as books still being published today.  Open your heart to the words of this young man who died at age 29.  Not only will it convict you of your need for more holiness, but give you a sense of urgency to take the gospel to those unsaved loved ones, friends, and strangers, as David Brainerd did in his day.  And who knows? Maybe it will send you to far off shores as a missionary, as it had done for so many since that time in colonial America.

Through the Scriptures:  Ezra 8 – 10

Through the Standards: Proof texts of Marriage and Divorce

Genesis 2:18
“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (KJV)

Genesis 2:24
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave  unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  (KJV)

Matthew 19:9
“And I (Jesus) say unto you, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery.'”

1 Corinthians 7:15  (See context of vv 11 – 16)
“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God has called us to peace.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

 Millennial Issues Hit the Fan

The noble infant seem to be coming apart at the seams. Its “father,” Dr. J. Gresham Machen had been taken to heaven on the first day of the new year of 1937.  His “warrior children,” as they were described once, were not in agreement over a number of issues.  The first theological battle in the Presbyterian Church of America was over the “last things,” or eschatology (study of the last things).

Was the new denomination going to be  classic or historic pre-millennialist, that is, Christ would return, then reign on earth for a literal one thousand years?  Was it going to be a dispensational premillennial return, where Christ’s return is divided into a two-step process: first a secret rapture, with countless people left behind?  Second, a public event, with seven years of tribulation at the hands of the anti-christ, then a one thousand year reign by King Jesus, at which time Israel will receive all the promises made down through the years?  This latter view was that taught by the Schofield Reference Bible.  Or was it to be a-millennialist, in which the one thousand years is a figurative number describing the whole period between the resurrection of God and His return? During this time, Christ rules from heaven, and peace comes through the proclamation of the gospel message.  Which viewpoint will characterize this new Presbyterian denomination?

Professor John Murray, of Westminster Seminary, beginning in December of 1935, wrote a whole series of articles on “the Reformed faith and Modern Substitutes.”  He attacked vigorously Modernism, Arminianism, and dispensational pre-millennialism.  Many were offended by his articles.

In 1937, already a new seminary had been begun over the issue of the last things, when Professor Allan A MacRae left Westminster to begin Faith Theological Seminary.  These same issues of the last days also came publicly to the floor of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America on August 13, 1937.  Eventually they, along with other issues such as Christian liberty, would lead to the beginning of the Bible Presbyterian Church.

Words to live by:  In hindsight, this surely was one of the least reasons to separate from brothers and sisters in Christ.   We need to believe that Christ Jesus will return in power and great glory. That is fundamental.  But to quibble over the events surrounding his return, and worse yet, to separate from other Christians, is questionable, to say the least.  Let us instead resolve to share the gospel with every creature, and then rejoice as Christ  comes back to this earth.

Through the Scriptures: Jeremiah 27 – 29

Through the Standards: Proof texts for the tenth commandment:

Deuteronomy 5:21
“Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife, nor desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his manservant or his maidservant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Amplified)

Romans 7:7
“What then do we conclude?  Is the Law identical with sin?  Certainly not!  Nevertheless, if it  had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or  have known its meaning. [For instance] I would not have known about covetousness [would have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, You shall not covet and have an evil desire [for one thing and another]. (Amplified)

Hebrews 13:5
“Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]. (Amplified)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Greatest Divine of the South

When the great Southern theologian died on August 1, the South was winning her independence from the Union.  But it was only one year into the War Between the States.  In 1862, James Henley Thornwell succumbed to tuberculosis at age 50.  Three years later, his beloved Confederacy would be a defeated people.  He didn’t live to see that defeat and feel that sorrow.

James Thornwell, as our title puts it, was the greatest divine of the South. Biblical philosopher, Calvinistic theologian, and Old School Presbyterian defender—all these descriptions characterized Dr. Thornwell.  He believed in principle rather than expediency.  And his writings continue today in both North and South.

We will think again of him when we come to his birthday on December 9, but when he was 20 years old, he came to Christ, making a public profession of faith.  Determined from that time forward to enter into the field of theology, he began to study first up north, and then in his beloved South, where the weather was better suited to his nature.  Due to a scarcity of preachers, even before he finished seminary, he was able to be licensed and ordained two years after his salvation.  Other than a few years in the pastorate, he became a teacher at South Carolina College, serving there for the next 18 years, with only a couple of intervening calls for a short time.

Active in the church government of his chosen church, he was chosen in his young age of 34 years to be Moderator of the General Assembly. Truly his leadership gifts were outstanding for this to happen.  It had not happened before or since to someone this young.  When the northern assembly became a political agency in the eyes of Southern Presbyterians in supporting the Federal government of President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, Thornwell became the guiding light for the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America.  He  wrote and published the Address to all Churches, which stated why they as the Old School Presbyterians of the South could no longer be a part of the Old School Presbyterians of the North.   He would pass on to glory  in the next year.

Words to Live By: What saith the Scriptures?  It was said that this question, and subsequent answer, was the all-embracing rule of Thornwell’s faith and life.  Regardless of how we stand on the great national issues of the Civil War,  this question must be our key standard for believing and living.  How often do you go to the Bible to guide your thoughts, words, and actions? Since it is our rule for faith and life, your answer must be all the time. And yet before it can be so, you must know the Bible.  That is why there is in this historical devotional reading a through-the-Bible plan of reading God’s Word.  Don’t skip it.  It is the most important part of this  devotional.

Click here for an 1862 newspaper report on the death of James Henley Thornwell.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 20, 21

Through the Standards: Proof texts of the sixth commandment:

Deuteronomy 5:17
“You shall not murder.” (NIV)

Genesis 9:6
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.” (NIV)

1 John 3:14, 15
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. Any who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” (NIV)

Matthew 5:21, 22
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, ‘you fool,’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (NIV)

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Man of Many Gifts and Talents

Eldest son . . . trained for the ministry . . . licentiate of the gospel . . . member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia . . . math teacher . . . physician . . . Revolutionary soldier . . . essayist . . . businessman . . . politician . . .what more can we say of Hugh Williamson?  He was a man of many gifts and talents.

Born in Nottingham, Pennsylvania in 1735, he had the heritage of Scotch – Irish parents who had immigrated from Ireland to the shores of the colonies.  His parents desired that he go into the Presbyterian ministry, and so he was trained under the finest teachers of the Word of God in Samuel Finley.  He was even licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia to preach the gospel, but poor health intervened and hindered that holy desire.

Entering what later on became the University of Pennsylvania, he graduated in the first class of that school.  Completing his studies overseas, he began to practice medicine in Philadelphia.  Upon the start of the Revolutionary War, he moved to North Carolina because he was active in the move to bring medical supplies from the West Indies through the British blockade to the needy use of them for wounded Revolutionary soldiers.

After the war was over, he served in the Federal congress for two terms, declining to serve a third term.  But it was as a delegate from North Carolina to the Constitutional Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States that he is especially remembered.

Some sources claim that he became a deist in his later years.  If this is so, and it is by no means certain, then he fell away from the faith of his early years.  But this contributor doesn’t believe that was permanent, in that just eight years before his death at 83 years old on May 22, 1819,  he wrote a book which defended Scriptural accounts of the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt against those critics of the Bible.

Words to Live By: It was CH Spurgeon who compared the Christian life to a ship in the midst of a storm. As a result of the wind and waves, we may fall down on the deck often, but spiritually, we will never fall overboard.  Whether Williamson was a deist in the latter part of his life, no one can definitively state.  But if he was, he was restored back into fellowship with theistic faith and life, as all of us who stray spiritually can do the same, if we but repent of our sins and trust Christ again.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 124 – 126

Through the Standards: Proof texts of repentance unto life

Psalm 51:10 – 12

“Created in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence And do not take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.”  (NAS)

James 5:16

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. (NAS)

2 Corinthians 7:11

“For behold what earnestness this very ting, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in this manner.” (NAS)

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Prayer From the Catechism

With little or no Presbyterian history to find on this May 14 day, we go to the words of Shorter Catechism No. 31.   It tells us that Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

On the one hand, this is rich theology.  It defines for us the biblical doctrine of vocation.    It follows catechisms which tells us that we are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of the Spirit of God who works faith in us and unites us to Christ.  It precedes catechisms which define the benefits of vocation as being justification, adoption, and sanctification.

But on the other hand, this is devotional.  This is an evangelistic prayer.  It can formulate the requests which we make every time we or someone else shares the gospel of eternal life with the lost.  We can make each one of the verbal phrases in this catechism a prayer petition for our unsaved loved ones, or our neighbors outside of Christ.

Let’s look at the teaching first.  The Spirit first applies the effectual calling upon our minds by convincing us of our sin and misery.  This work of God’s Word, and especially His law, as well as His  Spirit convinces the heart of the unsaved as to his deserved guilt, the dreadful wrath of God, and endless miseries of hell, if we reject his gospel.    Then a second application of the mind by the Word and Spirit is  enlightening in the knowledge of Christ.  We know with conviction that Christ is the only answer to our sin and misery, that He has undertaken to save us and will be faithful to perform it.   We in short discover Christ in the gospel.  Our spiritual eyes are opened to His person and work on our behalf.

Second, the Spirit applies the effectual call upon our wills, by renewing them.  This is a secret, spiritual. and mysterious work, as Christ compares it to the wind which we hear but don’t know where it comes from or goes to in John 3.

But the full result of all this convicting work upon the mind and will of the sinner will be to persuade and enable him to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Christian, recognize that this is your spiritual history.  You might not have been aware that all this was happening inside of you.  But while others might have been externally called by the Word of God, you were called externally by that same Word and internally persuaded to become a believer.  None but the elect of God are thus called and chosen by the Word and the Spirit.

But this is more than mere doctrine, as important as that is.  It is also devotional.  The next time you present the gospel to someone else, or you hear it presented in a public meeting, like a church service, turn these expressions into prayer requests.  Holy Spirit, convince the lost of their sin and misery.  Enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Christ.  Renew their wills.  Persuade and enable them to embrace Jesus Christ this day as He is freely offered in the gospel.

Words to Live By:   For the purposes of both doctrine and devotion, it is important to memorize this answer.  If you do, and this contributor did so a long time ago, it is a comforting assurance in days of doubt which the old serpent enemy casts towards us, as well as an effective evangelistic tool to use anywhere and everywhere.   Your assignment is, memorize Shorter Catechism 31.

Through the Scriptures: Psalms 100 – 102

Through the Standards: Proof texts of saving faith

Ephesians 2:8
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NAS)

Romans 10:17
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NAS)

Romans 1:16 “For  I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .” (NAS)

Acts 16:31
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (NAS)

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