Stated Clerk

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He Was Always Preparing

In 1982, the denomination known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) was received into Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). This ecclesiastical merger was known as the Joining and Receiving (J&R). The RPCES was itself created by the union of two denominations, in 1965. One denomination had a shorter history. This was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), as it was known from 1961-1965. Prior to that, it operated under the name of the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, and this group was the larger portion of a split of the Bible Presbyterian Church [1938-1955].

The other denomination that merged with the EPC to create the RPCES was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (RPCGS), and this group had a much longer history, dating back to 1833. That was the year in which the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a split, thus creating the RPCGS. The other body created by this split is in existence to this day—the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

Are you thoroughly confused yet? To recap, the PCA received the RPCES in 1982, and the RPCGS was one of the two denominations that united to form the RPCES. (see! that wasn’t so tough!).

Black_John_1768-1849Which brings us to the Rev. John Black, who served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. And as the combined history of the denomination received in 1982 became part of the history of the PCA, it was in that sense, in a manner of speaking, that we might call Dr. Black the first Stated Clerk of the PCA.

John Black had been born in Northern Ireland, in the county of Antrim, on October 2, 1768, and it was only after reaching adulthood that he immigrated to this country. He had been educated at Glasgow College, in Scotland and left for America in 1797. For a while he worked as a teacher, but soon was licensed to preach by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in 1799. Upon his ordination, Rev. Black settled in the region of Pittsburgh, which was then just a small village, and there he remained the pastor of the same church for forty-eight years, until the close of his life, on October 25, 1849.

As a preacher, he was “distinct, plain, a fluent speaker, always interesting and often eloquent and powerful.” And time and again he proved himself as one who was always ready to preach, whenever called. Yet he never wrote out or memorized his sermons. “He was ready, because he had a full mental storehouse,—the power of abstraction, the gift of language, a great command of the resources of his own mind, and, above all, a strong, humble and unwavering dependence on the help of God’s Holy Spirit. He preached because he loved the work, and had found, by repeated trial, that he had from God the ready power to perform it. And, yet, Dr. Black prepared to preach. He was always preparing. His studies were never finished, and, to the close of his life, he was a laborious student. His views of the Christian ministry were too high to admit of the attempt to serve God with what had cost him nothing. He selected his subject, elaborated it in his mind, used all available helps, wrote upon paper an extended skeleton, and so went to the desk to speak on God’s behalf to sinners. He preached for nearly fifty years, and then died with the harness on.”

To give a flavor of his sermons, here is an excerpt from a sermon which he delivered at the opening of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church as it met in Philadelphia in May of 1816. The sermon is on the subject of “Church Fellowship;” Rev. Black begins:—

Saints by profession, are bound to hold communion and fellowship, in the worship and service of God.

I. I am to explain this Communion—

1. It is a communion of Saints. The house of God is holy, and holiness becometh it well forever. Here the social principle is exercised in its perfection on earth. It is devoted to holy purposes, and consecrated to the Lord of the whole earth. None have a right, in the sight of God, to this holy fellowship, but real Saints, and none but such really enjoy it. Others, though they may be present, and appear to participate in the communion of the Saints. yet it is only in appearance. Externally, they draw near to God in his holy institutions,. but their hearts have no concern in the solemnity. The character of such is given in Ezekiel, 33:31. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their month they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” But those who are Saints, were once, a very different character. They were, by nature, children of wrath, even as others. How then do they obtain this character? No way but by union to Jesus Christ, through the regenerating influence of the Spirit of God. Means are generally used, but the efficiency is of God. In the day of effectual working of his Holy Spirit, lays on them an arrest of mercy. They are apprehended by Christ, and are made to apprehend him. Their understandings are enlightened, so that they are enabled to discover the certainty, the value, the excellency, the suitableness of Jesus the Saviour, to their needy case. Objective testimony is furnished, with such undoubted evidence, that they become convinced, and are verily persuaded, not only that they may fully and freely accept of the offered salvation, but that it is the best and the most desirable thing so to do. The will, renewed by the Holy Ghost, follows the dictate of the understanding, and actually receives the Lord Jesus Christ, appropriating him for life and salvation. This completes a mystical and indissoluble union between Christ and the believer’s soul. Christ, by the bond of his spirit, unites himself to the elect sinner, in regeneration, and the sinner, effectually called, by the bond of faith unites himself to the person of the Redeemer. The believer, thus united to Christ, is in the court of heaven, sustained, as righteous. Christ and he being one, whatever is Christ’s is reckoned to the believer. Christ’s righteousness is his, and on account of that righteousness, he is justified. His name is changed from sinner to saint.

We have said, that only such as are thus really Saints, are, in the sight of God, entitled to the communion and fellowship of his church. But as the heart of man is known only to God—as it is his prerogative, and only his, to search the heart and try the reins, an absolute knowledge of this union to Christ, which constitutes men really Saints, cannot belong to this communion. Only Saints by profession, such as possess those distinctive characters which the head of the church has laid down in his word, by which we may, in the judgment of charity, know, and esteem men to be his followers. By their works shall ye know them. If they are sound in the faith, and have a life and conversation, such as becometh the gospel; they are to be reputed Saints, and with such, we are bound to have communion.

2. It is a communion of love and holy affections.

Not only are all Saints united to the Head Christ Jesus, but they are all united to one another in love. They are members one of another. They have one common interest, and they mutually seek each other’s good. They are all actuated by the same spirit. They are all concerned for the honour of their glorious head. They are brethren, children of the same Father and of the same Mother. God is their Father. By him they were spiritually begotten, through the instrumentality of the word of truth. The Church is their Mother. By her they were brought forth. The spouse (the individual believer) calls the church her mother’s house, the chambers of her that conceived her. There are, it is true, some mother’s children, that are not the Father’s children, nominal professors, who love not the real children of the family: but all who are the children of adoption, the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty—have a communion in one another’s love. They seek the good of the family, and they live together in unity, as it becometh brethren. This love, and kind affection, is opposed to the biting and devouring of one another. It is opposed to quarrels and intestine broils, the disgrace and the ruin of every family. It is opposed to schism and divisions. Those who possess this principle of love, will cover with the mantle of charity the failings and the infirmities of their brethren. They will bear one another’s burdens. They will be gentle and easy to be entreated. They will not willingly give, or take, offence. But bound up in the bundle of life and of love, with the rest of the members of the household of faith, they will take sweet counsel together, and walk to the house of God in company….”

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WarfieldBB_1903REVISION OR REAFFIRMATION?

The following letter was sent by Professor Warfield to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., with Warfield declining to serve on the Committee of Revision appointed by the last Assembly. For at least a decade prior, certain elements in the PCUSA had worked to bring about a revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Warfield opposed this effort with a number of articles and short works, but in the end. lost this battle. In 1903, the Assembly approved the addition of two chapters to the Confession—a “chapter 34” on the Holy Spirit and a “chapter 35” on “The Love of God and Missions.” The PCA, OPC, RPCNA and most other conservative American Presbyterian denominations have rejected these added chapters, and it is worth noting that the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod has this year voted to remove these added chapters from their edition of the Confession.

Princeton, N. J., June 25, 1900.

To the Rev. Dr. William Henry Roberts, D.D., LL.D.,

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.

My Dear Dr. Roberts :

The intimation you have sent me of my appointment to the committee, authorized by the last General Assembly, “to consider the whole matter of the restatement of the doctrines most surely believed among us,” reached me duly. I am deeply sensible of the honor of such an appointment, and as well of the duty of the servants of the Church to address themselves diligently to the tasks assigned to them by its highest court. Nevertheless, I am constrained to ask to be relieved from this service. There are circumstances arising from illness in my family, and others arising from losses sustained lately in the teaching force of the Seminary in whose immediate service I am employed, which would require me to hesitate to undertake additional labors at this time. But I should not be true to myself did I not say frankly that the decisive reason moving me to request release from service on this committee is an unconquerable unwillingness to be connected with the present agitation for a revision of our creedal formulae in any other manner than that of respectful but earnest protest.

I cannot think that the violent assault upon certain of our confessional statements—statements which are clearly Scriptural and as clearly lie at the centre of our doctrinal system—in which the agitation originated, was a fitting occasion for a movement of this kind, or for any action of the Church except the rebuke of the assailants by the courts to which they were directly amenable. I cannot think the precipitate action of a few presbyteries following these assaults with a request for some review of our confessional position other than unwise. I cannot believe that the Assembly acted with that regard for the peace of the Church and the integrity of its testimony to the truth which is becoming in our highest court, when it paid such heed to these few discordant and, as I must believe, ill-considered overtures that it ignored the eloquent silence of five-sixths of the Presbyteries of the Church and precipitated an agitation as to its doctrinal standards upon the whole Church. My conviction is clear that, in the circumstances, it was rather the duty of the Assembly, in fulfillment of its high function of guardian of the truth professed by this Church, to reaffirm the doctrines that had been assailed; to quiet the disturbance that had been raised; and, by renewed hearty commendation of our Standards to the churches under its care, to strengthen in them a firm and intelligent attachment to these Standards and their forms of sound words. It is greatly to be feared that the effect of its contrary action, by which on so small an occasion it has invited every Presbytery to subject the fundamental law of the Church to searching inquisition, will be to foment carping criticism and discontents if it be not taken in some quarters as a license to unrebuked assaults upon the very bond by which our churches are held together, and on the very substance of the truth delivered into our keeping by the great Head of the Church. It is my hope and prayer that the. Presbyteries may be led by the Divine grace to avert these dangers and to repair the evil already done, by entering an effective protest against this whole movement through a reaffirmation of their hearty loyalty to the system of doctrine brought to such admirable expression in our Standards.

In my own person at least I feel constrained to make this protest and reaffirmation with the utmost emphasis, and I am unwilling to enter into any relations which may seem to any to lessen this emphasis in any degree. I am thoroughly out of sympathy with the whole movement of which the work of this committee is a part. I desire above all things to see the Church pass quietly away from this disturbing agitation concerning its fundamental beliefs, which form the basis of its unity. It is an inexpressible grief to me to see it spending its energies in a vain attempt to lower its testimony to suit the ever changing sentiment of the world about it. I would fain see it, rather, secure in the peaceful possession of its well-assured doctrinal system, and animated by an enthusiastic loyalty to it and to the Standards in which it is expressed with such singular clarity and power, go forth in strength to win the world to the evangelical truth it has drawn from the Scriptures and professed through so many years of struggle and suffering, of progress and triumph. That God may bless the Church through these coming months with a double portion of the knowledge of His truth and of wisdom from on high, and with a double portion of holy courage to believe in its heart and to reassert in the face of whatever unbelief or doubt the whole truth that He has delivered to its keeping, is my constant and fervent prayer.

Will you kindly, my dear Dr. Roberts, communicate to the Moderator of the Assembly this my request to be released from service upon the committee, and make my excuses in whatever manner may be proper.

I am very truly yours,

BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD.

Words to Live By:
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” — 2 Timothy 1:13-14, KJV.

Image source: Frontispiece photograph in The Power of God unto Salvation. The Presbyterian Pulpit series, no. vi. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1903.

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He Was Always Preparing

In 1982, the denomination known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) was received into Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). This ecclesiastical merger was known as the Joining and Receiving (J&R). The RPCES was itself created by the union of two denominations, in 1965. One denomination had a shorter history. This was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), as it was known from 1961-1965. Prior to that, it operated under the name of the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod, and this group was the larger portion of a split of the Bible Presbyterian Church [1938-1955].

The other denomination that merged with the EPC to create the RPCES was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (RPCGS), and this group had a much longer history, dating back to 1833. That was the year in which the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a split, thus creating the RPCGS. The other body created by this split is in existence to this day—the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

Are you thoroughly confused yet? To recap, the PCA received the RPCES in 1982, and the RPCGS was one of the two denominations that united to form the RPCES. (see! that wasn’t so tough!).

Black_John_1768-1849Which brings us to the Rev. John Black, who served as the first Stated Clerk of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. And as the combined history of the denomination received in 1982 became part of the history of the PCA, it was in that sense, in a manner of speaking, that we might call Dr. Black the first Stated Clerk of the PCA.

John Black had been born in Northern Ireland, in the county of Antrim, on October 2, 1768, and it was only after reaching adulthood that he immigrated to this country. He had been educated at Glasgow College, in Scotland and left for America in 1797. For a while he worked as a teacher, but soon was licensed to preach by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in 1799. Upon his ordination, Rev. Black settled in the region of Pittsburgh, which was then just a small village, and there he remained the pastor of the same church for forty-eight years, until the close of his life, on October 25, 1849.

As a preacher, he was “distinct, plain, a fluent speaker, always interesting and often eloquent and powerful.” And time and again he proved himself as one who was always ready to preach, whenever called. Yet he never wrote out or memorized his sermons. “He was ready, because he had a full mental storehouse,—the power of abstraction, the gift of language, a great command of the resources of his own mind, and, above all, a strong, humble and unwavering dependence on the help of God’s Holy Spirit. He preached because he loved the work, and had found, by repeated trial, that he had from God the ready power to perform it. And, yet, Dr. Black prepared to preach. He was always preparing. His studies were never finished, and, to the close of his life, he was a laborious student. His views of the Christian ministry were too high to admit of the attempt to serve God with what had cost him nothing. He selected his subject, elaborated it in his mind, used all available helps, wrote upon paper an extended skeleton, and so went to the desk to speak on God’s behalf to sinners. He preached for nearly fifty years, and then died with the harness on.”

To give a flavor of his sermons, here is an excerpt from a sermon which he delivered at the opening of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church as it met in Philadelphia in May of 1816. The sermon is on the subject of “Church Fellowship;” Rev. Black begins:—


Saints by profession, are bound to hold communion and fellowship, in the worship and service of God.

I. I am to explain this Communion—

1. It is a communion of Saints. The house of God is holy, and holiness becometh it well forever. Here the social principle is exercised in its perfection on earth. It is devoted to holy purposes, and consecrated to the Lord of the whole earth. None have a right, in the sight of God, to this holy fellowship, but real Saints, and none but such really enjoy it. Others, though they may be present, and appear to participate in the communion of the Saints. yet it is only in appearance. Externally, they draw near to God in his holy institutions,. but their hearts have no concern in the solemnity. The character of such is given in Ezekiel, 33:31. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their month they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” But those who are Saints, were once, a very different character. They were, by nature, children of wrath, even as others. How then do they obtain this character? No way but by union to Jesus Christ, through the regenerating influence of the Spirit of God. Means are generally used, but the efficiency is of God. In the day of effectual working of his Holy Spirit, lays on them an arrest of mercy. They are apprehended by Christ, and are made to apprehend him. Their understandings are enlightened, so that they are enabled to discover the certainty, the value, the excellency, the suitableness of Jesus the Saviour, to their needy case. Objective testimony is furnished, with such undoubted evidence, that they become convinced, and are verily persuaded, not only that they may fully and freely accept of the offered salvation, but that it is the best and the most desirable thing so to do. The will, renewed by the Holy Ghost, follows the dictate of the understanding, and actually receives the Lord Jesus Christ, appropriating him for life and salvation. This completes a mystical and indissoluble union between Christ and the believer’s soul. Christ, by the bond of his spirit, unites himself to the elect sinner, in regeneration, and the sinner, effectually called, by the bond of faith unites himself to the person of the Redeemer. The believer, thus united to Christ, is in the court of heaven, sustained, as righteous. Christ and he being one, whatever is Christ’s is reckoned to the believer. Christ’s righteousness is his, and on account of that righteousness, he is justified. His name is changed from sinner to saint.

We have said, that only such as are thus really Saints, are, in the sight of God, entitled to the communion and fellowship of his church. But as the heart of man is known only to God—as it is his prerogative, and only his, to search the heart and try the reins, an absolute knowledge of this union to Christ, which constitutes men really Saints, cannot belong to this communion. Only Saints by profession, such as possess those distinctive characters which the head of the church has laid down in his word, by which we may, in the judgment of charity, know, and esteem men to be his followers. By their works shall ye know them. If they are sound in the faith, and have a life and conversation, such as becometh the gospel; they are to be reputed Saints, and with such, we are bound to have communion.

2. It is a communion of love and holy affections.

Not only are all Saints united to the Head Christ Jesus, but they are all united to one another in love. They are members one of another. They have one common interest, and they mutually seek each other’s good. They are all actuated by the same spirit. They are all concerned for the honour of their glorious head. They are brethren, children of the same Father and of the same Mother. God is their Father. By him they were spiritually begotten, through the instrumentality of the word of truth. The Church is their Mother. By her they were brought forth. The spouse (the individual believer) calls the church her mother’s house, the chambers of her that conceived her. There are, it is true, some mother’s children, that are not the Father’s children, nominal professors, who love not the real children of the family: but all who are the children of adoption, the sons and the daughters of the Lord Almighty—have a communion in one another’s love. They seek the good of the family, and they live together in unity, as it becometh brethren. This love, and kind affection, is opposed to the biting and devouring of one another. It is opposed to quarrels and intestine broils, the disgrace and the ruin of every family. It is opposed to schism and divisions. Those who possess this principle of love, will cover with the mantle of charity the failings and the infirmities of their brethren. They will bear one another’s burdens. They will be gentle and easy to be entreated. They will not willingly give, or take, offence. But bound up in the bundle of life and of love, with the rest of the members of the household of faith, they will take sweet counsel together, and walk to the house of God in company….”

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A Heart for Missions

gilchristRWIt was a proud day in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on March 14, 1892, when Elizabeth Rowland Gilchrist and her husband Joseph James Gilchrist welcomed their new child into the world. George Riggle Monfort Gilchrist was, in part, named after a favorite uncle, the Rev. George Washington Riggle, who was a pastor in Socorro, New Mexico. The name Monfort was in honor of the Huguenot side of the family, in particular, Joseph Glass Monfort, who was George’s great uncle. He was quite involved with Old School Presbyterian Church, working primarily in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

George Gilchrist attended Occidental College, graduating with the Bachelor of Science degree in 1915, and from there proceeded to Chicago, where he attended the Moody Bible Institute for two years, graduating in 1918. Seminary added a few more years as he prepared for the ministry, and graduated in 1923. Even while in school, he had his eye on mission work, and in particular the field of Chile, annually serving there as a short term missionary during his Seminary years, primarily teaching in the Instituto Ingles, located in Santiago.

Rev. Gilchrist was ordained by the Presbytery of San Francisco (PCUSA) on April 27, 1924 and he was installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Richmond, California. He served this congregation less than two years before he departed as a foreign missionary, serving in Chile under the auspices of the PCUSA’s World Missions Board. He would remain on the field in that capacity for twenty years.

gilchristRW&RuthThen in 1945, Rev. Gilchrist transferred his credentials to the Bible Presbyterian Church, and continued to labor another fourteen years in Chile, now under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. When the Bible Presbyterian Church split in 1956, Rev. Gilchrist aligned himself with the Columbus Synod BP’s and concluded his missionary work in 1959 with World Presbyterian Missions. In retirement, Rev. Gilchrist eventually came to live in Mount Hermon, California (circa 1968).

George R. M. Gilchrist died August 13 at Bethany Manor in Ripon, CA, just a few weeks after a family reunion for his sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. His mortal remains were laid to rest in the cemetery in Felton, California. Gilchrist was a teacher and an evangelistic missionary in Chile for more than three decades. He was survived by his widow Ruth and four children. Of these children, the Rev. Paul R. Gilchrist is noted as having served as the second Stated Clerk of the PCA, from 1988 to 1998.

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There are just a few men who, when spoken of, are remembered with the utmost respect and veneration. Dr. Harold Samuel Laird was one such man. In 1987, Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist, who was at that time serving as the Stated Clerk of the PCA, wrote the following memorial upon the death of the Dr. Laird. Dr. Gilchrist’s final summary comments are particularly in keeping with every estimation that I have heard of Harold Samuel Laird over the years. 

In Memoriam: Harold Samuel Laird

lairdhsBy Paul R. Gilchrist. Dr. Harold S. Laird quietly went home to be with the Lord on August 25 at Quarryville Presbyterian Home, PA, at the age of 96. He was one of those valiant Presbyterians who stood for “the faith once delivered to the saints.” With J. Gresham Machen and others, he was tried by his presbytery in the liberal UPUSA (Northern Presbyterians) for dis­obeying the General Assembly mandate to disband the Independent Board for Pres­byterian Foreign Missions which they had established in 1934 for the proclamation of the Gospel. Dr. Laird also had been a founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929. When the General Assembly of 1936 upheld the convictions of Machen, Laird, and five others, they banded together and formed the Presbyterian Church of America (later renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church).

Harold S. Laird was born on August 8, 1891, in New Castle, PA. He studied under the giants of the faith at Princeton Theological Seminary: Robert Dick Wilson, B. B. Warfield, C. W. Hodge, and J. G. Machen. He received the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wheaton College in 1938. In 1965 he was elected moderator of the 142nd Genera! Synod of the Reformed Pres­byterian Church in North America, General Synod which merged with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church that year to form the RPC,ES (which joined the PCA in 1982).

Harold Samuel LairdDr. Laird was best known as an outstanding preacher of the Gospel, a loving and tender pastor, and a contender for the faith. He was always vitally interested in world missions and the theological education of pastors and missionaries. He served seven churches in the Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia area for 40 years.

It can truly be said of him that he walked with God. All who heard him pray came into the presence of God. His life verse — “Seek first the kingdom of God and His right­eousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33) — was evident through his godly spirit. Through all his tri­als, he ever remained content in the provi­dence of God. To the very end, his cheerful countenance was a blessing and inspiration to all.

We salute this valiant servant for the faith — as he moves from the church militant to the blessedness of the church victorious.

Life Chronology:
8 August 1891 – Birth
1914 – Graduation from Lafayette College, with the B.A. degree
1917 – Graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary
1917-1919 – Pastor of the Arlington Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, Maryland
1919-1924 – Pastor, Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
1924-1927 – Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Lewiston, PA
1927-1933 – Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, NJ
1933-1936 – Pastor, First & Central Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE
1936-1957 – Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE
Honorably retired
1982 – Ministerial credentials transferred into the PCA
25 August 1987 – deceased. Dr. Laird was a member of the Susquehanna Presbytery at the time of his death.
Honors:
1938 – Doctor of Divinity degree awarded by Wheaton College
1965 – Moderator of the 142nd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Presbyterian Martyr in the Abolitionist Cause

This Presbyterian minister was called by some the first casualty of the Civil War. Certainly, his death on November 7, 1837 was over the primary issue of that War Between the States, namely, that of slavery. With the intriguing name of Elijah Lovejoy, the pastor of Des Peres Presbyterian Church and later, the College Avenue Presbyterian Church, was well-known in the twin states of Missouri and Illinois in the early part of the nineteenth century.

He was the son of a Congregationalist minister, but Elijah only came to faith in Christ as a young adult, while sitting under the preaching of a Presbyterian preacher. No long after, he made the decision to attend Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1833, shortly after graduation. (See April 18th historical devotional). It wasn’t his ministry in the pulpit which was so controversial. Nor was it his service as the Stated Clerk of the local Presbytery. Both of these positions were acceptable to the church world, and unexceptional in the world at large. What set him up in notoriety was that he had organized the American Anti-Slavery Society in the area. He then backed up that organization as a newspaper editor of an abolitionist paper in both St. Louis, Missouri and Alton, Illinois.

Both of these places were on the front line of this issue. Missouri was a slave state, even though all around her were free states. It was also the focal point of slave catchers who would enter into their confines to hunt down slaves who had escaped their plantations. In short, it was the center of both pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the population. And Elijah Lovejoy became the voice of the latter faction.

Initially, reactions against Rev. Lovejoy’s work were aimed solely at the tools of his publishing trade. The pro-slavery citizens of the area simply responded to the good Presbyterian minister by destroying the printing press of his abolitionist newspaper, which effectively stopped him from printing either the St. Louis Observer or the Alton Times. Three times, his printing press was destroyed and its parts were scattered into the Missouri River. Each time, another press was located and the abolitionist newspaper continued to be published.

As Rev. Lovejoy sought to prevent yet another attempt to hinder his work, his next printing press was moved to a warehouse building near the waterfront. This time a dozen or so law enforcement men were organized to guard it, assisted by Rev. Lovejoy, and his supporters. But the people who were determined to stop him were larger in number. There are varying reports of the ensuing skirmish. Some say that when Rev. Lovejoy tried to shove a ladder, placed there for the purposes of burning the two-story building, away from the structure, he was killed by a shotgun slug fired from the front of the building. Others say that he tried to reason with the mob on the ground floor before being shot. In either case, he was killed instantly in the ensuing gun battle. The printing press was again destroyed after his killing, and with his death, tensions continued to be inflamed. A later attempted prosecution in the courts failed to find anyone guilty.

A monument was erected in 1897 in his memory, at a cemetery in Alton, Illinois. But in the ensuing years, and particularly with the heat of national crisis in 1861–1865, in many ways Lovejoy became little more than a footnote in the nation’s history. To this day there are certainly those who work to keep alive the memory of his work, but for most, it seems he is largely forgotten.

Words to live by:  Elijah Lovejoy had a firm conviction that the righteous God would overrule the sin of slavery, for the good of black and whites alike, to say nothing of His own glory. With firm conviction, this Presbyterian clergyman became a catalyst in print for efforts to put an end to the terrible institution. He paid the ultimate price for his stand against slavery. The church today needs godly men and women to take stands against the evils of our day. Will you be one who will answer that call for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ?

Through the Scriptures:  John 11 – 13

Through the Standards: Definition of baptism in the Larger Catechism

WLC 165 — “What is Baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of the ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection and everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.”

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