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In troublesome times, draw ever nearer to your Lord and King, for His promise will, in due time, be fulfilled.

Excerpted from The American National Preacher, Sermon 205, preached at Baltimore, on this day, September 9th, in 1835, at the Annual Meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, D.D., Professor in the Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

THE EARTH FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
[click here for a full-length pdf version of this sermon]

Numbers xiv. 20, 21-And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly
as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord
.

THE practice of confirming a declaration with an oath, is of very early origin. And although the multiplication of oaths is a great evil, and the act of taking or administering them with lightness, an aggravated sin ; yet, they are, undoubtedly, in ‘great error who maintain that all swearing, even on the most solemn occasions, and on the call of judicial officers, is unlawful. An oath for confirmation, says an inspired Apostle, is an end of all strife. Accordingly, in the sacred history, we find many examples of holy men, on various occasions, employing this form of asseveration. But, what is much more decisive still, we find the High and Holy One himself repeatedly adopting it to confirm both s promises and his threatenings. Thus we read, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that, there being no greater, Jehovah sware by himself; and again, in the same Epistle, it is said, that God willing more abundantly-to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it with an oath, that by two immu-table things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, they might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. And in the passage before us, the Lord said, As I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.

These words were spoken on a very distressing, and, to the eye of man, a very discouraging occasion. When the twelve men who had been sent from the wilderness of Paran to spy out the land of promise, brought back their report, the mass of the people were almost overwhelmed with alarm and discouragement. Nay, overcome by apprehension, and infatuated with a spirit of unbelief and rebellion, they proposed to make choice of another leader, and return back to Egypt. With this ungrateful and daring revolt the Lord was greatly displeased, and threatened to give them up to his destroying judgments, and to disinherit them for ever. Moses, however, interceded for the people in a most touching strain of importunate prayer and he prevailed. The Lord said, I have pardoned them according to thy word. But as truly as I live, the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. As if he had said—”Unbelieving and rebellious as this people now appear, and utterly desperate as their prospects may seem;—neither my plans nor my promises, in regard to them or the world, shall be frustrated. My cause shall finally triumph over all the infatuation and rebellion of man. The whole earth shall, in due time, be filled with my glory.”

There are three things in the passage before us which demand our notice—THE IMPORT OF THE PROMISE WHICH IT CONTAINS;—THE REASONS WHICH WE HAVE FOR BELIEVING THAT THIS PROMISE WILL, IN DUE TIME, BE REALIZED;—AND THE DUTY DEVOLVING ON US IN RELATION TO THE PROMISE

I. Let us attend to THE IMPORT OF THE PROMISE BEFORE US. This import, expressed with so much solemnity of asseveration, is large and precious. As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.

Glory is the manifestation of excellence. The glory of God is that display of his most blessed character and will, which opens the way for his intelligent creatures to know, to love, and to obey him. This glory is exhibited in various ways. It shines in all the works of creation. All the works of God, we are told, praise him. The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Again, the glory of God is manifested by the works of his providence. Here his wisdom, his power, and his benevolence, gloriously shine. The Lord, we are told, is known—that is, is made known,—by the judgments which he executeth. But, above all, is the glory of God displayed in the work of REDEMPTION; in that great plan of love and mercy by a Redeemer, which was first revealed to the parents of our race immediately after the fall; which was more and more unfolded in the ceremonial economy; and which reached its meridian brightness, when the Saviour, the blessed “Sun of Righteousness” rose upon a dark world. In this wonderful plan of salvation, the glory of God shines with its brightest lustre. Here all his perfections unite and harmonize, and shine with transcendant glory. Now, when the Gospel, which proclaims this plan of mercy, shall be preached and received throughout the world; when every kindred, and people, and nation and tongue shall not only be instructed in its sublime doctrines, but also brought under its benign and sanctifying power; then, with emphatic propriety, may it be said that “the earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.” As the highest glory, of which an individual creature is capable, is to bear the image of his Maker; so the highest glory of which our world at large is capable, is to be filled with the holy and benevolent Spirit of Him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;—is to have the knowledge and love of the Saviour reigning over all the population of our globe, from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same.

It is this universal prevalence of the true religion; that religion which alone can enlighten, sanctify and save; that religion which imparts the highest physical and moral glory, wherever it reigns, and in proportion as it reigns;—it is the universal prevalence of this glory which is promised in our text. When this holy and benevolent religion shall fill the world, then shall be brought to pass the promise which is here recorded. Yes, when the benign power of the Gospel, and all the graces and virtues which it inspires, shall reign over all the family of man; when the highest intellectual and moral culture shall be every where enjoyed; when the voice of prayer and praise shall be heard in every tabernacle; when the Sabbath shall be universally kept holy to God; when the Christian law of marriage, that noblest and most precious bond of social unity and happiness, shall be universally and sacredly obeyed; when the temperance reformation, without any unscriptural extremes, or fanatical perversions, shall pervade the world: when “wars shall cease to the ends of the earth;” when fraud and violence shall be banished from the abodes of men; when the voice of profaneness shall no more pollute the lips or the ears of creatures claiming to be rational; when tyranny and oppression, in every form, shall come to an end; when sectarian feuds and jealousies shall be unknown, save only in the pages of history; when all heresy and error shall give place to the power of truth, and all vice and profligacy to the reign of Christian purity; when the Mosque and the Pagoda shall be transformed into temples of the Christian’s God: when the habitations of savage cruelty shall become the, abodes of holiness and peace; when the activity of a greatly extended commerce shall be directed chiefly to the intellectual and moral culture of society; when justice, order, industry, brotherly kindness, and charity shall universally reign;—in a word, when the church of God, with all its choicest influences, shall fill the earth;—then shall the promise before us be gloriously realized. This will be emphatically, “the glory of the Lord;”—the glory of his power; the glory of his holiness; the glory of his love. It will be, in its measure, the same glory which forms the blessedness of the heavenly world; the same glory in which those whose robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, walk in white raiment before the throne of God. O how glorious shall this fallen world be, when all the nations which compose it shall be “just, fearing God;” when those who are nominally “the people of God, shall be all righteous;” when every family shall be the abode of purity, order, and love; when every individual shall be a “temple of the Holy Ghost;” and when, from pole to pole, the song of jubilee shall be heard—Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him who sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever! Alleluia! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Such appears to be the import of the promise before us.—Let us next inquire,

II. WHAT REASON HAVE WE FOR BELIEVING THAT THESE SCENES OF GLORY WILL ONE DAY BE REALIZED?
This is, to the Christian’s heart, a most interesting inquiry. Let us ponder it with a seriousness corresponding to its unspeakable importance.

And here it is obvious to remark, that there will be no need of miracles (in the ordinary sense of that word) to bring about the accomplishment of the promise before us. Only suppose the genuine power of the Gospel, which we see to reign in thousands of individuals and families now—actually to reign in all hearts, and to pervade the world,—and the work is done. But how can we hope for this? I answer-

1. First of all, and above all, our hope is founded on JEHOVAH’S FAITHFUL AND UNERRING PROMISE.

2. But further, our confidence that the religion of Christ will, one day, fill the whole earth with its glory, is confirmed by the consideration, that THIS RELIGION IS, IN ITS NATURE, ADAPTED ABOVE ALL OTHERS TO BE A UNIVERSAL RELIGION.

3. I have only to add, under this head, THAT THE PRESENT ASPECT OF THE WORLD FURNISHES MUCH REASON TO HOPE THAT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS PROMISE IS DRAWING NIGH.

It remains that we

III. Inquire, WHAT IS OUR PRESENT DUTY IN RELATION TO THE PROMISE BEFORE US? And here,

1. Undoubtedly, our first duty is to believe the promise.

2. Another duty incumbent upon us in relation to this promise, is to labor and pray without ceasing for its accomplishment.

3. A third duty, in relation to the promise in our text, is, that, in laboring for the spread of the Gospel, no adverse occurrence, however painful, ought ever to discourage us, or at all to weaken either our confidence, or our efforts.

4. A further duty, in reference to the promise before us, is, that we pray without ceasing for the power of the Holy Spirit, to render all the means which are employed for its accomplishment, effectual.

5. Finally; if so great a work as evangelizing the whole world, is promised, and is certainly to be accomplished, then our plans and efforts for promoting this object ought to bear a corresponding character: that is, they ought to be large, liberal, and ever expanding. We ought to consider it as our duty to devote to this object our utmost resources, and to engage the co-operation of all, over whom we can exert an influence.

The promise of God to his people is, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. . . We scarcely ever lift our eyes to the real grandeur and claims of the enterprise in which we profess to be engaged. We are too apt to be satisfied with small and occasional contributions of service to this greatest of all causes instead of devoting to it hearts truly enlarged; instead of desiring great things; expecting great things; praying for great things; and nurturing in our spirits that holy elevation of sentiment and affection, which embraces in its desires and prayers the entire kingdom of God; and which can be satisfied with nothing short of the “whole earth being filled with the glory of the Lord.”

But how ought we to be still more deeply humbled and animated, when we call to mind what our blessed Saviour has done for us! I have sometimes heard professing Christians talk of doing and giving as much toward the spread of the glorious Gospel, “as they conveniently could.” Surely this is wonderful language for the professed followers of a crucified Redeemer! Did our blessed Master do no more for us than he “conveniently could?” Did He not give his life for our redemption? Did He not, in offering up himself a sacrifice, that we might not die, yield himself to sufferings unparalleled and indescribable? Shall not every one, then, who calls himself by the name of Christ, make the language of Paul, in all its force and tenderness, his own? — For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died far all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.

Lift up your eyes, Christian brethren, on the unnumbered millions of our globe; sunk in ignorance, pollution and misery! Think of their condition: a condition in which you must have been at this hour, had it not been for the wonderful grace of God. Contrast with that condition your own mercies and privileges, and then ask, whether you ought not to feel for those who, are thus miserable, and try to help them? Christians! can you enjoy your Bibles, your Sabbaths, your sanctuaries, your sacramental tables, and all your precious privileges and hopes alone? Can you enjoy these hallowed scenes, and heavenly gifts, and know their value, and yet slumber in ignoble indolence over the moral desolations of those who are perishing for lack, of them? Can you calmly sit by, and see million after million of treasure cheerfully expended for amusement, luxury and sin; and only a few stinted thousands devoted to the greatest, best work of enlightening and saving the world? O whither has the spirit of the Bible fled? May He who gave the Bible, and the promise before us, restore it in his time!

Let us, then, with one accord, rouse ourselves, and endeavor to rouse others to new zeal, and larger enterprise in spreading the knowledge and glory of the Lord. Every heart, every tongue, and every hand that can be stirred up to engage in this great work, from infancy to old age, is needed. And remember that the more thoroughly any of the children of men can be excited and consecrated to this work—the richer the benefit they gain for themselves. Christian brother! Christian sister! whoever you are, in this large assembly!—you have each, respectively, a duty to perform in reference to this mighty work. It is incumbent upon you to do all in your power for sending the light of life to the benighted and the perishing. Nay, upon every human being, whether in the church, or out of it, there lies an obligation to aid, as far as God gives the opportunity, in sending to “every creature” that gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” We invite you all, my hearers, not merely to the duty, but to the precious privilege, of co-operating in this holy and blessed enterprise. And we can venture to assure you, that, if the day should ever come, in which your hearts shall be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of missions, it will be the happiest period of your lives; as well as the pledge and the dawn of that wide-spread glory, which our text proclaims as certain and approaching. We can point you to no higher honor, no richer pleasure on this side of heaven, than that which is found in enlightened, zealous, active, absorbing zeal for spreading the holy, life-giving religion of Jesus Christ from the rising to the setting sun.

For the promotion of this work, my friends, the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions” has convened in this place. Our hope in coming together is, that we maybe enabled, by the grace of God, to excite each other to more lively sensibility, and more ardent zeal, in the great Missionary cause which we have associated to carry on; and also that we may be instrumental in adding something to the missionary spirit which we hope already exists in the enlightened and favored population of this city. We are now celebrating the twenty-sixth anniversary of our Board: and, instead of being weary of our work, we can sincerely declare, that in looking back on our past course, our only regret is, that we have not labored with far more diligence and sanctified ardor in the cause of the world’s conversion; that our plans have not been more enlarged; and that we have not prayed more, and done more in this greatest of all causes in which Christians can engage. Yes, brethren, beloved of the Lord, we come to mingle our vows with yours; to proclaim with deeper conviction than ever, that we consider the cause of missions as the most precious cause in the world; and to bind ourselves by new resolutions, that we will, by the help of God, with greater zeal than heretofore, “spend and be spent” in this most blessed service. What more worthy object can we seek than contributing to fill the earth with the glory of the Lord? Brethren, pray for us, that we may be faithful to our sacred trust. Pray for yourselves, that you may not be found wanting in the payment of that mighty debt, you owe to your Divine Master, and to a perishing world. And let us all, more and more, aspire to the honor of being “workers together with God” in hastening the triumphs of Immanuel’s universal reign. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly; and let the whole earth be filled with thy glory! Amen! and Amen!

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The Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., LL.D. (April 17, 1772 – Oct. 22, 1851)

AlexanderArchibaldThe Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander was born near Lexington, Va., on April 17, 1772. His classical and theological studies were pursued under the direction of the Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, afterward Washington College. He was licensed to preach the gospel at the early age of nineteen. After spending a year or more in missionary labor according to the rules of the Synod, he was ordained and installed pastor of Briery Church, November 7, 1794. In 1796 he was chosen President of Hampden-Sydney College at the age of twenty-four. On May 20, 1807, he was installed pastor of the Pine Street Church, Philadelphia. In the same year, being thirty-five, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and in his sermon made the suggestion of a Theological Seminary. In 1812 he was appointed Professor in the Theological Seminary just established at Princeton. Here he remained for the rest of his life.

Dr. Alexander was seized with his final illness in the summer of 1851. He died on October 22, 1851.

Dr. Alexander’s published writings are too numerous to recite here. We may only mention “History of the Colonization Society,” “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” “Thoughts on Religion,” “Counsels to the Aged,” “Practical Sermons.” He also published numerous tracts and was a frequent contributor to the Princeton Review.

Words to Live By: Our Lord calls us to bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life, giving evidence of the reality of our saving faith in Christ. We are not saved by our faithfulness, nor by our works, but if our trust in Christ as Savior is real, there will be evidence of that reality in our lives. We will die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness.

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chaferLS.Yep. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, was a Presbyterian. As was Chafer’s mentor, C. I. (Cyrus Ingerson) Scofield, and as was Scofield’s mentor, James H. Brookes. Presbyterians all. Perhaps that helps to explain how it was the dispensationalism made such inroads into Presbyterian circles in the era from the 1880′s to the 1930′s. That, and the fact that dispensationalists did a fair job of defending the Scriptures when few others. apart from the Princeton conservatives, would or could.

Lewis Sperry Chafer was born in Ashtabula county, Ohio, on February 27, 1871. His parents were the Rev. Thomas Franklin Chafer, a Congregationalist pastor, and Lois Lomira Sperry Chafer, the daughter of a Welsh Wesleyan lay preacher. When Lewis was just eleven, his father died of tuberculosis. Lewis developed an interest in music while attending the New Lyme Institute as he prepared for college. At Oberlin College, he majored in music and met his future wife, Ella Loraine Case. After their marriage in 1896, he began to serve as an evangelist.

An invitation to teach at the Northfield Boys School in turn led to a close friendship with C. I. Scofield, and as they say, the rest is history. Dallas Theological Seminary, founded in 1924 as the Evangelical Theological College, continues to this day. Its founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, died on August 22, 1952.

In a prior post we talked about Milo Jamison’s role in the split that created the Bible Presbyterian Church. Jamison was a dispensationalist, while the recently formed denomination that was renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was quickly aligning itself against that system. In the last several decades, dispensationalism as a system has been going through a number of changes, but historically it has been anchored to three key tenets: (1) A “normal, literal” interpretation of Scripture; (2) A strict distinction between Israel and the Church; and (3) a scheme of dispensations or ages which divide up Biblical history. The latter two points are particularly where we find ourselves in disagreement with dispensationalism.

D. James Kennedy, when examining men for ordination, would routinely ask for the candidate’s views on dispensationalism, and whether the candidate approved or disapproved of the 1944 Southern Presbyterian report on dispensationalism. And Dr. Kennedy was right to use that Report in that way. However, the untold story behind that PCUS report is that in all likelihood, the Report was an attempt to split the conservatives in the Southern Presbyterian denomination, many of whom at that time were dispensationalists. As modernists were gaining power in the PCUS, the 1944 Report gave them an opportunity to set one camp of conservatives over against another and so dampen opposition to their own agenda.

In Sum:
Few conservative Presbyterians today consider themselves dispensationalists. The old Reformation doctrine—really the old Biblical doctrine—of covenant theology is being taught once again, and taught well in our seminaries and in our churches. How it came to be virtually ignored in the 19th-century is something of a mystery, but the general lack of such teaching in that era does help to explain the rise of dispensationalism during the same time period. Nature abhors a vacuum.

For Further Study:
One of the better popular-level works on covenant theology is O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants. Ask your pastor about other helpful materials on this important subject.

Image source: From a photograph on file at the PCA Historical Center, with the scan prepared by the staff of the Historical Center. The photograph lacks any indication as to who the photographer might have been.

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February 21, 1830 marks the birth of Caspar Wistar Hodge, youngest son of Dr. Charles Hodge, named after the eminent physician Caspar Wistar [1761-1818]. Another of Dr. Hodge’s sons, Archibald Alexander Hodge, also taught at Princeton Theological Seminary.  The Rev. Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge died on 27 September 1891.

The following is excerpted from Francis Landey Patton’s memorial tribute to his close friend and colleague. And not surprisingly, given self-effacing portrait that Patton paints of his friend, we were unable to locate a photograph of C.W. Hodge. If you know of a good portrait photography in the public domain, we would like to know of it.

“He was my most intimate friend. I have come to-day to place a wreath of affection upon his grave. My text [“He opened to us the Scriptures.”–Luke 24:32] is taken from the floral tribute which you who were his pupils placed upon his bier. This is your answer to the question, What did he do? It is a sufficient answer. He wrote no books, his voice was seldom heard beyond his native town, he took no active part in public affairs, and he shrank from the public gaze; but he opened to us the Scriptures. To more than thirty classes he unfolded the truths of the New Testament. He led them reverently over the ground that had been hallowed by the Saviour’s feet, and traced the history of the Apostolic Church from Peter on the day of Pentecost to John in Patmos. Year by year he sent his pupils forth into the world laden with material for use in the service of the gospel, filled with quickening thoughts, and ready to testify that the reverent spirit can handle the subtle questions of criticism without suggesting doubt or lessening zeal.

“Dr. Caspar Wistar Hodge was born in Princeton, 21 February 1830. He grew up in Princeton; and, with the exception of the short period covered by his two pastorates, he spent his life there. We can see, then, why he loved Princeton. Others love it; even those who have spent only three or four years of academic residence here speak of it in enthusiastic terms. We who have come here to live, and who expect to die here, love it with an affection that grows deeper even if it grows sadder every year. But we are only adopted children after all. We love sometimes with a divided heart. It was not so with Dr. Hodge. He loved it as one loves the home of his childhood. He loved it with an unfaltering and an unwandering affection. Its rough streets and crooked lanes and weather-beaten houses had tender associations for him. The bridge we crossed and the brook we would sometimes pensively look into in our summer rambles would often suggest an anecdote that showed how the neighborhood was haunted by the ghosts of memory.

“Besides, the theology of this seminary was to him a precious heritage. He was in intellectual sympathy with it to be sure; but his hereditary relations to Princeton theology gave an emotional warmth to his convictions. He believed that Princeton had performed a mission in the past, and he believed that in the maintenance of the same truth she had a mission just as great to perform to-day.

“He had no love for novelties; and he regarded all schemes that fettered the individual conscience by man-made regulations as new modes of returning unto the weak and beggarly elements, where unto so many still love to be in bondage. . .

“. . . The worst heresy is a half-truth, because it is so hard to deal with it. There are so many reasons that can be given for this bad influence in the class-room. Men are ambitious and seek notoriety. They love to be thought original, and they step out of the beaten path. Men raise the cry of progress, and think what is new is an improvement. Men find themselves in unstable equilibrium between the old and the new modes of thinking, and they adopt a paradoxical and inconsistent style of utterance. They try to pour the new wine into the old bottles. They teach orthodoxy with the voice, and suggest heresy with a shrug of the shoulders. But there was nothing of all this in Dr. Hodge. He was a reverent believer in the Bible as the Word of God, and in the doctrines of the Bible as they are formulated in the creed of his church. He was honest, fair-minded, and firm. When he saw difficulties and it was necessary, he held his judgment in suspense. He knew the resources of the enemy, and did not underrate them. But he also knew the argumentative resources of Christianity. The consequence was that his lectures strengthened faith and deepened conviction; and men who had no great critical sagacity themselves felt that they had been reinforced immensely by the fact that they had a man of Dr. Hodge’s scholarship and judgment on the side of the theology of the catechism.”

Words to Live By:  It is often true that some of the greatest and most abiding work in God’s kingdom is accomplished by dear saints whose names you may never know, those men and women who work faithfully in the work that God gives them, yet without drawing attention to themselves. Do your work faithfully, as unto the Lord, for this is His calling and purpose for your life. And if God should later bring you into wider fields of service and usefulness in His kingdom, then praise Him for that as well.

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Dr. Allan A. MacRae

macrae05It is an enduring memory these many decades later for the author of this post. Looking from my living room window during my teenage years, I could see on many a Sabbath day afternoon, Mrs. Grace MacRae reading from a book, under a tree on the Faith Seminary campus in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, to her husband Allan MacRae, and their only child and son, John. It was a  habit which I started in my family when I was married and later had a daughter to whom we could read Christian books.

Today, February 11, is the birthday of Allan A. MacRae. Born in 1902 in Calumet, Michigan to John and Eunice MacRae, Alan showed an inclination from his earliest age for scholarly pursuits. Who among our readers studied Latin in grammar school, often reading that ancient language in a six-language Bible edition? Their home was often the hub for literary clubs, political groups, and church fellowship times. Allan would receive Christ as Savior and Lord at an early age. In those same young years, he read the Bible through, often reading twenty to thirty chapters a day.

Due to the poor health of his physician father, Allan moved with his parents when he was ten years of age, to Rome, Italy. Continuing his education each morning, he found the time in the afternoons to visit all of the sites in that ancient city. Those of us readers who were in his theological classes can remember illustrations from that time in his life. Returning to the United States, he moved to Los Angeles where he finished high school. Entering Occidental College at the age of sixteen, he excelled in college life, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree and one year later, a Master of Arts Degree.

Studying under R.A. Torrey for a year at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, the latter encouraged him to attend Princeton Theological Seminary. Under the teaching of theological greats like Geerhardus Vos, Robert Dick Wilson, Caspar Wistar Hodge, John Gresham Machen, and Oswald Allis, he graduated from this school of prophets.  Returning to his home, he was licensed and ordained by a presbytery who asked  him simplistic questions in his exam, like “who wrote the four gospels?” Thankfully, ordination candidates today among the conservative Presbyterian denominations face a more appropriate line of questions.

With an award in hand from Princeton Seminary to study Semitics at the University of Berlin in 1927, Allan proceeded to study Babylonian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Arabic, and Syriac.  A four-month trip to Palestine afforded him the invaluable experience of an archaeological dig at the biblical city of Ham, under the tutelage of William F. Albright. But his studies oversees were interrupted by a call from Robert Dick Wilson to return to the States to take on the teaching of the Old Testament at a newly formed seminary called Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was one of the founding faculty of that new institution. Eventually, he would received his Ph.D from the  University of Pennsylvania in 1936.

The rest of Dr. MacRae’s long ministry in the Lord’s kingdom began during the era of themodernist controversy in the 1930’s, during which time he threw his lot in with the newly formed Presbyterian Church of America, and later became a founding member of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Leaving Westminster Seminary in 1937, he became the first president of Faith Theological Seminary in 1938, and later was founding president of Biblical Theological Seminary, in 1971.  His students over these many years included men like Francis Schaeffer, Joseph Bayly, Vernon Grounds, Kenneth Kantzer, G. Douglas Young, Samuel Schultz, Jack Murray, John Battle, Charles Butler, and not a few readers of these web posts.  The latter can no doubt add their own remembrances of this man of God in the comment lines.

The late professor of Systematic Theology Robert Dunzweiler, from which most of this post was gleaned from an address which he gave, highlighted Dr. MacRae’s faithfulness as rooted and grounded in the inerrant authority of the Scriptures, coupled with his stress upon vital Christian living. He departed this life in 1995 and now worships before the throne of grace. His only son, John, as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, is now a missionary in Australia after years of pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania.

Words to Live By: To be known and recognized as being faithful to the Scriptures, while also being diligent in practical Christian living, is a worthwhile goal in our Christian lives.  The Christian life is ever built upon Christian doctrine. O Lord Jesus, give Your Church Christian men and women and children who follow in the steps of those who have gone before  us.

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wilsonrw04A Noble Example

Robert Dick Wilson was the fifth professor, and last apparently, who first served at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and then went on to a career at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The fourth such professor was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Dr. Wilson had received his A.B. and his M.A. from Princeton University and his Th.B. from Western Theological Seminary. Then he had studied for two years at the University of Berlin prior to receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University, whereupon he took up his teaching position at Western Theological Seminary, first as an instructor, 1883-1885, and then as a professor, 1885-1900.

While teaching at Western, Dr. Wilson gathered a group of students about him and breathed into them, even the least promising, the spirit of research and adventure in the study of the Word of God. Undoubtedly he carried this same enthusiasm and pedagogy with him when he left for Princeton in 1900. It was said of Dr. Wilson, that “he seemed to fit into Princeton as an old glove fits the hand.”

Born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1856, Robert Dick Wilson was the son of a wealthy merchant. Like his brother, he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged their children in their studies. Well before graduating from college, Robert was adept in reading nine languages and already had his Latin, Greek and Hebrew well in hand. Over the course of his life, he would come to master several dozen languages, focusing primarily on ancient near-eastern tongues. Wilson’s linguistic talents were judged comparable to those of an earlier Princeton professor, J. Addison Alexander, and in his own day, Wilson was judged by many as the world’s greatest Old Testament scholar.

He devoted all of this vast learning to the defence of Holy Scripture. He believed with all his mind and heart that the Bible is true, and he supported his belief with a wealth of scientific material which even his opponents could not neglect. Only a short time before his death he
was engaged in an answer to a notable mono­graph, published at Oxford, which had recently devoted itself to a consideration of his views.

He was greatly beloved as a teacher and as a friend. With the simplicity of a true scholar, he was always ready to cast reserve aside and receive
his students into his heart. He called them his “boys”, and they responded with affection as well as with respect.

But great as were Dr. Wilson’s achievements throughout a long and fruitful life, his greatest achievement was his last. It was the achievement
by which, putting selfish considerations and unworthy compromise of principle aside, he left his home at Princeton and entered the Faculty
of a new institution devoted unreservedly to the Word of God. It is arguable that no one man sacrificed more in establishing the new school.

Many arguments might have been adduced to lead Dr. Wilson to remain at Princeton Seminary after the reorganization of that institution in 1929. He was at that time in his seventy-fourth year. An honorable and advantageous retirement awaited him whenever he desired. He had a good salary and a comfortable home. He had the friends that he had made at Princeton during a residence there of nearly thirty years. Might he not retain these advantages without being un­faithful to the cause to which he had devoted his life? Would not the new Board of Princeton Seminary keep in the background, for a time at least, the real character of the revolution that had been wrought? Would not the doctrinal change be gradual only, as at so many other institutions, formerly evangelical, which have conformed to the drift of the times? Could he not, meanwhile, serve God by teaching the truth in his own class-room, no matter what the rest of the institution did? Could he not round out his life in peace? Could he not leave to younger men the battle for the Faith?

Those considerations and many like them were no doubt presented to Dr. Wilson in very per­suasive form. But he would have none of them. His Christian conscience, trained by a lifetime of devotion to God’s Word, cut through such argu­ments with the keenness of a Damascus blade. He penetrated to the real essence of the question. He saw that for him to remain at Princeton would be to commend as trustworthy what he knew to be untrustworthy, that it would be to lead Christ’s little ones astray. He knew that a man cannot have God’s richest blessing, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach the truth is gained by compromise of prin­ciple. He saw clearly that it was not a time for him to think of his own ease or comfort, but to bear testimony to the Saviour who had bought him with His own precious blood.

He did bear that testimony. He left his home at Princeton, and all the emoluments and honors that awaited him there. He cast in his lot with a new institution that had not a dollar of endow­ment and was dependent for the support of its professors upon nothing but faith in God.

wilsonRD_grave_closeupDr. Wilson was supremely happy in that decision. He never regretted it for a moment. He entered joyfully into the life of the new seminary, and God richly blessed him there. Then, having rounded out more than the allotted period of three-score years and ten, a Christian soldier without tarnish of compromise upon his shield, he entered into the joy of his Lord. He died early in October of 1930, at the beginning of Westminster’s second academic year.

Words to Live By:
The gospel cannot well be preached unless there be a school of the prophets to train men to preach it in all its purity and all its power. And these schools must be found consistently faithful to the Lord if they are to properly fulfill their role. Pray for these schools. Pray for the men who are being raised up to proclaim the precious Gospel of saving grace in Christ Jesus alone. Pray that they would be courageous, sparing no effort in giving all their time and talents in serving the Lord. Pray for those who teach, for those who administer, and for those who serve. Pray that together all their efforts would serve to expand the kingdom of our Lord and Savior throughout all the earth.

[A large portion of the above is taken from “The Power of a Noble Example,” a tribute published by Westminster Theological Seminary upon the death of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. To view that document and other tributes to Dr. Wilson, click here.]

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EDWARD PORTER HUMPHREY, D.D., L.L.D., was the eldest son of Rev. Dr. Herman and Sophia Port Humphrey, and was born in Fairfield, Conn., January 28, 1809, and died in Louisville December 9, 1886.

He was from one of the oldest English-American families.  The first of his ancestors in England were those who followed William the Conqueror from Normandy in 1066.  Dr. Herman Humphrey, the father of Dr. E. P. Humphrey, was for twenty-two years president of Amherst College.  One can trace in the father’s character and career a marked similarity to the character and career of his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. E. P. Humphrey.  Both were eminently successful in the pulpit and in their services among the people.  Both were distinguished teachers, excelling in clearness of mind and in lucidity of statement.  Both were wide in their sympathies, counting nothing beyond them when their fellow-men were concerned.  Each after retiring from active service lived to enjoy the honors and esteem of those whom they had served so faithfully, and yet each was, to the quiet close of an eventful life, untiring in all the labors of which his constitution was capable. One might write of Dr. E. P. Humphrey as was written of his father, “As the years went on the position accorded him in the town was phenomenal.

In connection with many families his relationship was truly patriarchal.  Their homes, their tables, their gardens with all they contained of bounty or fruitage were as open to him as if each had been his own.  The sick and the dying watched eagerly for his coming, and for the comfort of his ministrations, and when some heavy sorrow fell with crushing weight upon a household the most natural cry seemed to be: `Send for Doctor Humphrey.'”

Dr. Edward Porter Humphrey’s youth was spent in Connecticut. He was prepared for college at the academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in 1828 he graduated with honor from Amherst College.  In 1831-32 he was principal of the academy at Plainfield, Connecticut.  During this time he pursued his theological studies, and in 1833 graduated at the Andover Theological Seminary.  His inclination led him to begin his ministry in the Southwest, and during the year 1834 he labored in connection with the Presbyterian church in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

In 1835 he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian church in this city.  He gave himself completely up to work in the interest of his church for eighteen years, and his influence was felt, not only in its rapid and permanent growth, but also in a marked degree throughout the city, and in the entire denomination to which he belonged.

Dr. Humphrey, as early as 1852, was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the then Old School Presbyterian Church, and his sermon, called “Our Theology,” preached at Charleston, S. C., as retiring Moderator, was circulated by the Presbyterian Board of Publication for many years after.  Dr. Humphrey preceded Dr. Stuart Robinson as pastor of the old Presbyterian church on Third street, between Green and Walnut, which was afterward converted into a theater, and is now known as the Metropolitan building.  His eloquence, when pastor of this church from 1835 to 1853, won him great fame.  His discourse at the dedication of the Cave Hill cemetery, in 1848, was rich in eloquence and classical learning, and strong in that faith in immortality which he taught at all time.

In 1852 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Hanover College, Indiana.  In 1853 he was appointed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, professor in Princeton Theological Seminary.  This he declined, but soon after he accepted the professorship of Church History in the Theological College in Danville, Ky.  It was during the latter years of his residence in Danville, 1851-66, that the exigencies occasioned by the bitter and disastrous civil strife called into prominence many of his distinguishing characteristics.  Among these were his unwavering loyalty to the National Government, together with a magnanimity and conciliation of spirit which were potent influences in hastening the return of concord and amity, both in society and in the church. In 1866, in response to an urgent appeal, he returned to Louisville to take temporary charge of a new church made up of many members of the old Second Church, of which he had been pastor for eighteen years.  The new organization was called the College Street church.  His health, which had begun to fail, rapidly improved on his return to Louisville, and he became permanent pastor of the new church.  Under his ministry it became one of the largest and most influential congregations in the city.  In 1871 his Alma Mater, Amherst College, conferred the degree of L.L. D., on him.  He continued his labors as pastor and preacher until 1880, when he retired from the active duties of his pulpit and was succeeded in the new and handsome church, which his congregation had built, by Rev. Dr. Christie.

After his retirement he engaged in literary and theological work, and spent the remainder of his life among the people to whom he had devoted himself in his early manhood.  The positions which Dr. Humphrey occupied demanded rare qualities and gifts, and with these he was peculiarly endowed.  His preaching, so distinctive as a simple and earnest presentation of the Gospel, enhanced in attractiveness by convincing argument and impassioned eloquence, made him distinguished as an ambassador of Christ.  As a theological teacher his knowledge of history, sacred and profane, and his unique methods of imparting truth not only stimulated the imagination of his pupils, but gave them the philosophy of the subject and stores of definite information.  His life covered a period in the Presbyterian church in which great questions of policy and theology were considered, and his power in the discussion of vital subjects, together with the clear and calm judgment he brought to bear upon them, impressed itself with controlling influence upon the great assemblies of the church.

His power was always the greater because of his kindly nature.  In advocating measures which seemed to him of great importance one felt that his fervor was inspired by the strength and courage of his convictions rather than by any personal considerations.  He was a man greatly beloved by his ministerial brethren and all who knew him, and while zealously devoted to the Presbyterian organization known as the “Old School” so long as it remained separate, he was no less earnest in his work for the unity of the Presbyterian church throughout the land, and foremost in promoting it in special crisis in later life.  His theology was always conservative and fully deserved the eminence be attained by a long life devoted to a cause he loved.  Dr. Humphrey was of slender figure and of about medium height.  His face was expressive of high intelligence.

His general appearance, in spite of his stature, was striking.  His voice, until near the end, was strong and clear, but even as he advanced in years he still retained his powers as an orator.  His last few years were spent with the family of his youngest son, but he was ready on all occasions to assist with his knowledge and experience all who applied to him.  He took the liveliest interest in the College Street Presbyterian church, of which he had been pastor, and the members of that congregation are among those who will most keenly feel his loss.  His last public appearance was at the funeral of the late James F. Hubner, when he assisted in conducting the service.

Excerpted from Kentucky: A History of the State, by Perrin, Battle, and Kniffin, 8th ed. (1888). — http://www.rootsweb.com/~kygenweb/kybiog/jefferson/humphrey.ep.txt 


For Further Study:
Archival collections at The Filson Historical Society, in Louisville, Kentucky:
1.  Isaac Shelby Papers, [John Williams Jacobs, Collector], 1792-1893, 0.66 cu. ft.
Abstract:  The collection primarily consists of papers of Isaac Shelby acquired from Shelby’s son-in-law, Charles S. Todd.  Included are letters and autographs of prominent political and military leaders from the late 18th to mid-19th centuries.  The letters discuss Indian hostilities, Ky. politics, and national affairs.  Correspondents include Willie Blount, John Breckinridge, John Brown, Elijah Clark, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Joseph H. Daviess, Felix Grundy, Andrew Jackson, Robert P. Letcher, George Mathew, George Nicholas, Edmund Randolph, Charles Scott, Thomas Todd, Anthony Wayne, Daniel Webster, and James Wilkinson.  Subjects include Humphrey, Edward Porter, 1809-1897.

2.  Pope-Humphrey Family Papers, 1807-1938, 2 cubic ft. [1058 items].
Abstract:  Correspondence, 1807-1859, mainly concerning the family of Alexander Pope, a prominent Louisville lawyer, his son Fontaine, and son Henry Clay Pope during the Mexican War. Correspondence, 1860-1868, regards the family and social lives of Reverend Doctor E.P. Humphrey, a Presbyterian clergyman, his wife Martha Pope Humphrey, their daughters, and sons Edward W.C. Humphrey, and especially Alexander Pope Humphrey who attended Centre College and the University of Virginia from 1862 to 1868.

3.  Yandell Family Papers, 1823-1877, 2.66 cu. ft.
Abstract:  The correspondence, diaries, and medical notes of a family of KY and TN physicians. Most of the letters were written by Wilson Yandell, Lunsford Pitts Yandell, Susan Wendell Yandell, and Lunsford Pitts Yandell, Jr. The letters consist mostly of family news but also contain information relating to a variety of other topics, including medical practice,…slavery, the secession crisis, and the Civil War.  Correspondents or subjects include Edward P. Humphrey.

4.  Lecture notes : manuscript, Edward P Humphrey, 1856-1858, 240pp., in the Reuben T. Durrett Collection at the University of Chicago Library.
Abstract: Student notes from Edward P. Humphrey’s lectures on church history at Danville Theological Seminary in Kentucky. 

Bibliography—
1848
An address delivered on the dedication of the Cave Hill Cemetery : near Louisville, July 25, 1848 (Louisville, Ky. : Printed at the Courier job-room, 1848), 32pp.; 22 cm.  Appendix contains bylaws of the Board of Trustees and rules and regulations of Cave Hill Cemetery.

1849
A discourse of the spiritual power of the Roman Catholic clergy (Louisville, Hull & Brothers, Printers, 1850), 20pp.; 22 cm.  Delivered before the Synod of Kentucky, Oct. 13, 1849.

1850
A discourse on the death of Gen. Zachary Taylor, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Saturday, July 13, 1850 (Louisville, Hulls and Shannon, 1850), 16pp.

Breckinridge, W.L. and Edward P. Humphrey, Theological Seminaries in the West (Louisville : Hull & Brother, 1850), 41pp.

1851
A sermon for domestic missions, preached before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, by appointment, at their sessions at St. Louis, Missouri, May 1851 (Philadelphia, Published by the Board of Missions, 1851), 16pp.; 24 cm. “Thoughts on Presbyterian foreign missions”  Supplement to The Home and foreign record.

1853
Address delivered before the Society of the “Phi Delta Theta,” at the Miami University, June 29, 1853 (Cincinnati, C. Clark & Co., Ben Franklin Printing House, 1853), 23pp.

Clarke, John, Robert J. Breckinridge and Edward P. Humphrey, Addresses delivered at the inauguration of the professors in the Danville Theological Seminary, October 13, 1853 (Cincinnati : Printed by T. Wrightson, 1854), 74pp.

“The Tree Known by Its Fruits,” in The Living Pulpit, or Eighteen Sermons by Eminent Living Divines of The Presbyterian Church, with a biographical sketch of the editor, by Geo. W. Bethune, D.D., edited and published by Rev. Elijah Wilson (Philadelphia : For Sale by Wm. S. Martien, 1853), pp. 374-414.

1857
Christian missions in their principles : a sermon for the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, preached before the General Assembly, at Lexington, Ky., May 25th, 1857 (New York : Printed by E.O. Jenkins, 1857), 31pp. [pp. 157-184]; 22 cm.  “Published by order of the General Assembly.”  Detached from The Foreign missionary, October 1857.

Our theology in its developments (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1857), 90pp.

1859
Humphrey, Edward P. and Thomas Horace Cleland [1816-1892], Memoirs of the Rev. Thomas Cleland, D.D., compiled from his private papers (Cincinnati, Moore, Wilstach, Keys & co., printers, 1859), 1 p. l., [9]-199 p.

1861
Robert J. Breckinridge and Edward P. Humphrey, editors, The Danville Quarterly Review (Danville, Ky. and Cincinnati, Ohio : Richard H. Collins, 1861), Vol. 1, no. 1 (March 1861) – Vol. 1, no. 4 (December 1861).

1862 – 1864
Breckinridge, Robert J. and Edward P. Humphrey, Danville Review (Danville, Ky. and Cincinnati [OH] : Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1862 – 1864), Vol. 2, no. 1 (March 1862) – Vol. 4, no. 4 (December 1864).

1866
Address delivered before the Lexington and Vicinity Bible Society, Lexington, Ky., December 23, 1866 (Lexington? 1866), 16pp.

1873
Africa and colonization : an address delivered before the American Colonization Society, January 21, 1873 (Washington, D.C. : M’Gill & Witherow, 1873), 14pp.

1877
The color question : a letter written for the sixtieth annual meeting of the American Colonization Society, Washington, D.C., January 16, 1877 (Washington, D.C. : Colonization Building, 1877), 10pp.

1883
Believe! only believe (Philadelphia, Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1883), 14pp.; 19 cm.  Tract no. 322 in the series Presbyterian Tracts.

The dead of the Presbyterian church in Kentucky : address delivered before the two synods of Kentucky at their joint centennial, held at Harrodsburg, October 12, 1883 (s.l., s.n., 1883), 20pp.

1888
Sacred history from the creation to the giving of the law (New York : A.C. Armstrong, 1888), xiii, 540pp.

Undated—
The inspiration of the scriptures (Philadelphia, Presbyterian Board of Publication, n.d.), 23pp.; 19 cm.  Alliance of Reformed Churches Holding the Presbyterian System. Council paper,; no. 2; Reprinted from Report of proceedings of the Second General council of the Presbyterian Alliance (September 1880).

Contemporary interaction—
Wilson, Samuel R. and Edward P. Humphrey, Rev. Dr. Wilson’s reply to the address of Rev. Dr. E.P. Humphrey, delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Ky., on the evening of July 27, 1866 (Lousiville, Ky., Louisville Courier Steam Press, 1866), 20pp.

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God’s Great Blessing & Provision in Marriage

brumbaughRoyT Roy T. Brumbaugh was raised in a Christian family with godly parents and proper training. He once said that his mother had prayed him into the Kingdom and then into the ministry and that his father had made generous provision for his education.

Little was recorded of his early life, but it is known that he graduated from Northeast Manual Training High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1908, and commenced studies at Lehigh College the next year. He was there for one year and then went to Gettysburg College, where he graduated in 1912. It was during this time at Gettysburg that he met Margaret Valentine, who was the granddaughter of the President of the school. They were married on January 24, 1911.

She would prove to be the greatest single influence in his life and was the epitome of grace and friendliness to everyone she met. She had a quality of never getting upset about anything and always being positive and confident in the Lord’s blessing.

He did graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois during 1914 and 1915. The Gettysburg yearbook, The Spectrum, states that he was a talkative, stuttering, effervescent youth who was very casual about his studies but that after his marriage, he became a candidate for valedictorian. His athletic achievements were legendary. He was the “shining star” and was elected captain of both the basketball and football teams. He was not large, but fiercely competitive and disciplined—qualities that would manifest themselves in his latter life In 1916, he commenced studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a married man with children, and his education was largely financed by his father. At this time, Princeton Theological Seminary represented the conservative side of the above mentioned controversy and Union Theological Seminary the more liberal or modernist position. It was during his time at Princeton that Roy became involved in the issues of the day. The faculty at Princeton included men who were to be influential in the struggle, on both sides of the issues. They included J. Ross Stevenson, John D. Davis, Geerhardus Vos, W. P. Armstrong, Frederick W. Loetscher, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, J. Ritchie Smith, J. Gresham Machen, and William Brenton Green.

Words to Live By:
Regrettably, we could not locate a photograph of Mrs. Brumbaugh. Perhaps that is to be expected, and may even be fitting, for so often, those who are most influential are those same ones who work quietly in the background, never seeking attention for themselves.

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.—(Proverbs 18:22, KJV)

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The Important Ministry of Ruling Elders

miller01 copyWith a lineage from the Mayflower, Samuel Miller was born in 1769.  Reared in a family of nine, in the home of a minister, he was home schooled and eventually studied at the University of Pennsylvania.  After prayer and fasting, he decided to enter the Christian ministry.  With his minister father, his home schooling in theology was a natural arrangement, and he was soon ordained to be a Presbyterian minister.  Serving as the pastor of a New York city congregation, he became convinced of the need to ordain ruling elders just as the church had long ordained teaching elders.

On January 10, 1809, he presided over the first ordination of ruling  elders in a congregation in New Jersey.  That same year, he preached a sermon on “The Divine Appointment, the Duties, and the Qualifications of Ruling Elders.”  This theme eventually became a book in 1831.  This fundamental conviction was communicated to countless students when Samuel Miller was appointed to be the second professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1813.  Hear him as he enunciates his position:

“And as the members of the church session, whether assembled in their judicial capacity or not, are the pastor’s counselors and colleagues in all matters relating to the spiritual rule of the church, so it is their official duty to encourage, sustain, and defend him in the faithful discharge of his duty.  It is deplorable when a minister is assailed for his fidelity by the profane and the worldly, if any portion of the eldership either takes part against him, or shrinks from his active and determined offense.  It is not meant, of course, that they are to consider themselves bound to sustain him in everything he may say or do, whether right or wrong, but that, when they believe him to be faithful, both to truth and duty, they should feel it is their duty to stand by him, to shield him from the arrows of the wicked, and to encourage him as far as he obeys Christ.”

[Above right: Title page of Miller’s work on the ruling elder, as it appeared in the 1832 reprint.]

Words to Live By: “It is the elder’s official duty to encourage, sustain, and defend (the teaching elder) in the faithful discharge of his duty.” – Samuel Miller

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rayburnIt was on this day, January 5, 1990, that the Rev. Dr. Robert Gibson Rayburn died. Dr. Rayburn had most notably served as the first president of the Covenant Theological Seminary, from its inception until 1977. Previously he had served as president of Highland College, Pasadena, California, as an Army chaplain, and as pastor of churches in Nebraska, Texas, Illinois and Missouri.

The following message is excerpted from Koinonia: The Organ of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Roorkee, U-P, India, vol. 4, no. 2 (April 1978), pages 1-3.

The Place of Preaching

by Dr. Robert G. Rayburn

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in his recent book called Preachers and Preaching states in the opening paragraph his conviction that “the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” He then goes on to say that the primary task of the Church, and of every Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.

I would like to go a step beyond Dr.Lloyd-Jones’ statement and say that not only for the Christian minister, but also for every individual Christian the preaching (proclama­tion) of the Word of God itself is, next to his worship, his primary task.

We live in a day when evangelicals are placing more and more stress on the social implications of the gospel. One cannot read the Scriptures without agreeing that those implications are there. But such implications do not give us the direction for our primary emphasis.

Our Lord Himself has given us the great example and pattern for our lives. He was deeply concerned with the physical and material need of men. He performed many miracles of healing.  He never ignored the physical needs of those who came to Him for help.  But He did not come to heal the sick, to open the eyes of the blind, or to give soundness to the limbs of crippled men. He came to save the lost.  His own words were:  “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19 : 10). That which He considered primary is clearly evident when the four men brought their sick friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof of the house. The Lord was preach­ing there; He was undoubtedly preaching about saving faith in Him. When He saw the faith of the four men His first words to the paralytic were, “Son, your sins are for­given.” This was the matter of first impor­tance. Then, however, when questioned by the scribes about His power to forgive, He said, “That ye may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home,” and the man was healed.  Salvation was first; healing second.

Not only, however, do we learn of the primacy of preaching from our Lord. It is evident in ths lives of the Apostles, and also in the practice of the early Church. As soon as the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost they began not to heal the sick nor to aid the poor, but to preach the gospel of salvation. Peter’s great sermon on that occasion is preserved for us in part. It must be pointed out that as soon as people began coming to Christ and being converted by the thousands, the authorities did everything they could to stop these men from preaching.  There was not a word of complaint about the miracles of healing they had performed.  Thev were forbidden to preach!  “Speak no more henceforth in His name” (Acts 4:18 and 5:40)

In Acts 8 we read that there was a great persecution. This came, of course, because of their preaching! Then they were all scattered, except the Apostles, and “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word”. This was not the Apostles; it was the company of believers. They were not preaching in a formal way from a pulpit as our pastors do today. Theirs was the kind of preaching which every earnest Christian is responsible to carry on.

We speak a great deal about witnessing today. We usually mean giving our own personal testimony concerning the Lord’s work in our hearts. This is important, but something more than this is before us in Acts 8. The believers were telling the good news of salvation through Christ. Every one of us must be equipped to convey clearly and forcefully the message from God which we call the gospel.

It is not enough for us just to study the Bible and learn what its message is. To understand its fulness requires a lifetime of study. But the very heart of the message is the divine program of redemption, of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To preach this message clearly, simply, appealingly, accurately and faithfully is the responsibility of every believer and we all should make sure we are prepared for this high task. True preaching ought not only to instruct the hearers in Biblical truth, but it also should bring men and women face to face with their own need in the light of the realities of sin and guilt, salvation and eternal  life and then it should appeal to them to trust God and obey Him. Many who read these words will never be called of God to be professional preachers.  However, if you are a true believer and are obedient to Christ you will have a great desire to obey Him with respect to preaching the gospel and you will take steps to perfect your knowledge of and ability to declare the gospel.

If you are concerned to please God in your preaching you will be careful to make your preaching pre-eminently evangelistic. By this I mean that you will be continually presenting a Saviour to sinful men. No ordained minister has a nobler function than this. Jesus came to save sinner’s, to preach the gospel to the poor. To be evangelical one does not need to be traditional, but he must be informed and intelligent.

Remember that the Gospel is not a nice message for some men. It is an absolute necessity for all men! Why? Because of human sin, sorrow and suffering, not because of social inequalities and the frustrations and failures of human relationships. That which is behind all social problems of every age is sin. The message that we preach then must be a message which offers salvation from sin. We do not need to prove that there is sin in the world. Conscience, experience, and history prove that well enough. What is necessary, however, is convincing men who want to deny it that their own sinfulness is so severe that their only hope is receiving the salvation God has provided through the shed blood of His Son.

In trying to convince men of their sin it is not wisest to pick out such sins as drunken­ness, dishonesty and adultery to get men to see their personal sinfulness. Emphasizing such sins may leave some without any sense of guilt. What we must show men is the secrecy, the subtlety of sin, its ability to appear attractive and harmless. Our Lord’s most severe words were not addressed to the drunkards nor to the adulterers, but to people who were respected for their outward moral­ity and religiousness, while their hearts were unclean. To be more concerned with per­sonal success, prosperity and pleasure than bringing glory to God, that is sin! To harbor in our hearts attitudes of antagonism and animosity for others, and a willingness to see them lose out if we can gain by their loss, this is evil! Anything which is contrary to the holy character of God is sin.

Of course, if we are to be truly evangelical we must be able, having aroused men to a consciousness of sin, to make clear and win­some the nature of salvation by showing them the love of God the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because man is a helpless, hopeless sinner, salvation, if it is a true and adequate salvation, must make him right with God. If he sees himself in his sin he must also see how completely God has provided the remedy for his sin through the blood of His Son.

If you are going to be faithful to your task of preaching the Gospel, a few worn cliches will never serve adequately to present to dying men the wonders of God’s great salvation. May you give yourself whole­heartedly to the task of being prepared to preach with power.

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