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Courage in the Cause of Mission
The young seminary graduate traveled with his bride to a two year foreign mission stint in Alberta, Canada. Settling in the apartment underneath the church sanctuary, the newly ordained minister on Reformation day in 1966 began his first pastorate to the small Canadian mission church. Sometime during the first few months, he discovered in a used book store the two volume set of John G Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides. That stirring mission account became the Lord’s Day reading for the  young couple all during their stay and ministry in the capital city of the province.
Yet the author of this post in Presbyterian history did not have to worry about his physical safety, or that of his bride during our time there. Being eaten by cannibals was never on our minds and hearts. But to the Rev. John G. Paton and his wife, this was a constant danger in a society utterly depraved in word and deed. Indeed the lives of some earlier missionaries to those islands did end in that terrible way, while attempting to minister the Word of Grace to these same inhabitants. Yet still these Presbyterian missionaries in the mid-eighteen hundreds went courageously to these islands with a firm belief in the sovereignty of God and a loving desire to see the natives converted to Christ.
Paton believed in the power of the gospel. Yes, there were difficulties. His first wife and child both perished in childbirth. He was subject to threats of life and limb on a day by day basis. More than once, he had to flee for his life to a tree limb or to a ship which came providentially off the coast. But with the provision of a second wife, he was blessed with a quiver full of children. In God’s timing, he was also blessed with a quiver full of spiritual children, as the entire island of Aniwa inhabitants came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And it was on this day October 24, 1869, that he was able to offer the Sacrament of Communion, in the Presbyterian manner, as he was apt at saying in his ministrations on that island.
He would go to be with the Lord on January 28, 1907, with his wife proceeding him by two years. Both are buried in Australia.
Words to Live By:
There is a notable quotation which was given to a Scotsman who, upon hearing of John Paton’s desire to minister in the islands of the South Pacific, said to him, “Cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals.” Paton replied to the old saint, “You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” May you and I, dear Reader, have a similar desire to go and minister for the Savior, come what may, knowing . . . knowing that our lives are sure and firm in the Savior’s plan for our lives.

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It was on this day, October 14th, in 1814, that the Cumberland Presbyterians adopted their unique edition of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Taking our text from George P. Hays, The Presbyterians, p. 470-471, we review today the Cumberland Presbyterian edition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, as formerly adopted by that denomination on October 14, 1914.  The full text of The Presbyterians is available here. A copy of the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith can be found here.

“When Cumberland Synod was formed in 1813, one of its first acts was to appoint a committee to prepare a Confession of Faith. In the form of words adopted three and half years before, in constituting Cumberland Presbytery, was this provision concerning doctrine:

“All licentiates and probationers who may hereafter be ordained by this Presbytery shall be required, before such licensure or ordination, to receive and adopt the Confession and Discipline of the Presbyterian Church, except the idea of fatality, which seems to be taught under the mysterious doctrine of predestination. It is understood, however, that such as can clearly receive the Confession without an exception shall not be required to make any.”

In forming the Synod a brief doctrinal statement was adopted in which the points of dissent from the Westminster Confession were thus stated: 1. “There are no Eternal reprobates. 2. Christ died not for a part only, but for all mankind. 3. All infants dying in infancy are saved through Christ and sanctification of the Spirit. 4. The Spirit of God operates on the world, or as coextensively as Christ has made the atonement, in such a manner as to leave all men inexcusable.”

The committee appointed by the Synod to prepare a creed, simply modified the Westminster Confession, expunging what they believed unscriptural and supplying what they thought omissions of vital truth. The chief changes were in chapters iii and x, and consisted in the elimination of what is known as preterition, or what the fathers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church called “fatality.” The Presbyterian polity was retained; also the Evangelical Presbyterian doctrines—such as the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, the fall and condemnation of the race, total depravity, the salvation of believers through a vicarious atonement, and the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent.

This revised Confession of Faith was adopted by the Synod, October 14, 1814, and continued to be the accepted creed of the Church until 1883, when a new revision was adopted in which the same essential doctrines enunciated in the revision of 1814 are stated in somewhat briefer form and with a more logical arrangement of subjects. The creed of Cumberland Presbyterians, as it differs from Calvinism on the one hand and Arminianism on the other, may be stated in connection with the doctrine of the new birth—the central theme of the revival of 1800—as follows:

1. All men must be born again or perish.

2. All may be born again and not perish.

3. None who are born again will perish.

The first proposition, while it is accepted by all, means more to Cumberland Presbyterians than to others; for they believe that the soul’s salvation is made certain in the hour of the new birth, while Calvinists believe that this certain election of the soul to eternal life was made by divine decree before the foundation of the world, and Arminians hold that the soul’s decision or choice cannot be so made as to be secure from reversal or failure until after death—possibly not then.

The second proposition [above] Cumberland Presbyterians think is contradicted by the Calvinistic doctrine of election and reprobation, and the third [is contradicted] by the Arminian doctrine of apostasy.

Words to Live By:
On the one hand, we can be thankful that the Cumberland Presbyterian Church resolved to state their convictions in a written statement of faith. On the other hand though, we are saddened that their doctrinal statement falls far short of the Scriptural teaching on salvation.  There is no contradiction between the gospel message and methods and the eternal call of God’s elect. Indeed, such a view as our Westminster Standards teaches is consistent and indeed comforting to the belief that God has chosen a people for His own from all eternity past. The inspired writer  Luke understood this plainly when in describing the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles in Acts 13:48 stated in the last phrase,  “as many as  had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (NASV)  Both parts of this last phrase are true. How do we know those appointed to eternal life? Answer: They believe the gospel. Who are those who believe? Answer: As many has had been appointed to eternal life. That one phrase is the great comfort of those who share the gospel with all  whom they come into contact with in their day’s activities.

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What follows provides us with an interesting insight into the process of licensure and ordination for ministerial candidates nearly 300 years ago. Here too, our readers find out where our masthead comes from, namely the source of today’s post: Historical Discourse of the 150th Anniversary of the Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church, by J. Smith Futhey, Esq.

This section appears on pages 42-45 of the above volume:

“The Rev. Adam Boyd, who was the first regular pastor of this Church, was born in Ballymena, county Antrim, Ireland, in 1692, and came to New England as a probationer [in this context, the word means that he was licensed to preach] in 1722 or 1723. While there, he preached at Dedham. After remaining there for a time, he concluded to return to his native country, and was furnished by the celebrated Cotton Mather—who esteemed him well—with a certificate of his good character in this country, dated June 10, 1724. He, however, had formed an attachment to a daughter of Rev. Thomas Craighead, one of the pioneers of the Irish Presbyterians of New England, and, relinquishing his design of returning home, came to Pennsylvania, whither Mr. Craighead and his family had shortly preceded him, bringing with him the commendatory letter of Cotton Mather, as well as credentials from Ireland, and was received under the care of New Castle Presbytery. The following is the minute of Presbytery on the occasion of his reception: “July 29, 1724. The testimonials of Mr. Adam Boyd, preacher of the gospel, lately come from New England, were read and approved, and he being interrogated by the moderator, whether he would submit to this Presbytery, he answered that he would, during his abode in these parts .” Mr. Craighead had been received as a member of Presbytery on January 28, 1723-24.

“On the same day on which Mr. Boyd became a member of Presbytery, he was sent as a supply to Octorara, with directions to collect a congregation also at Pequea, and take the necessary steps towards its organization. He was so acceptable to the people that at the next meeting of Presbytery, September 14, 1724, a call was presented for his services as a pastor by Cornelius Rowan and Arthur Park, representatives of the people at Octorara and Pickqua. This call was accepted by him on the 6th of October, and at the urgent request of the commissioners who presented it, that an early day should be fixed for his ordination, the Presbytery met at the “Ackterara Meeting House” on the 13th of October, 1724, for that purpose.

“At this meeting of Presbytery—the first held on this spot—there were present as members, Thomas Craighead, of White Clay creek, George Gillespie, of Head of Christiana, Henry Hook, of Drawyers, Thomas Evans, of Pencader, and Alexander Hutchinson, of Bohemia, ministers, and Peter Bouchelle, elder. Mr. Craighead presided as Moderator.

“Mr. Boyd having passed the usual examination, the minutes of Presbytery record that “Proclamation being made three times by Mr. George Gillespie, at the door of the meeting house of Octorara, that if any person had any thing to object against the ordaining of Mr. Adam Boyd, they should make it known to the Presbytery now sitting, and no objection being made, they proceeded to his ordination, solemnly setting him apart to the work of the ministry, with prayer and imposition of the hands of the Presbytery. Mr. Henry Hook preaching the ordination sermon, and presiding in the work.”

Words to Live By:
To those of our readers who are not ordained teaching elders, the setting aside of qualified men to the office of the ministry in our Presbytery meetings may indeed sound foreign. But in another sense, those who are not ordained and not attenders of your regional Presbytery meetings still have the written record of Holy Scripture, such as 1 Timothy 4:14, where Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy and said, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” (NASV)  The laying on of the hands of the presbytery  in our regional meetings have a biblical basis to them! It may indeed be a worthwhile day for you to attend as a layman or laywoman the proceedings of your local Presbytery some Saturday, or whenever they meet during the week. Visitors are welcome. Just talk to your pastor or a ruling elder for information on the next meeting.  It will enable you to pray more for your church, see the work of the Spirit in other nearby churches, and realize anew the biblical basis for being a Presbyterian!

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Have You Cashed In Your  Baptism?

At the PCA Historical Center listed on the web, there is a sermon preached by the Rev. Donald Dunkerley at Mcllwain Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida, on November 26, 1972.   For those who know the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, this would have been a full year almost to the day when the latter church began her witness as a separate denomination outside of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  The theme of this message by the veteran pastor was that of the sacrament of baptism, in the light of the Word of God.  This writer would like to quote its concluding paragraphs which have an excellent gospel challenge to them.  Pastor Dunkerley writes:

“One must not trust in baptism.  One must not trust in anything that he has done or in any works of man, but only in Jesus who died for us.  Baptism is a sign that God offers us a Savior and promised to cleanse us if we believe in Him, if we stop trusting in anything in ourselves — even in our baptism — and put all our trust in Jesus alone.  Then we will be cleansed from sin.  But until we come to that point of renouncing all self-trust and put our trust in Jesus alone, then our baptism is sign of our condemnation.

“A pastor I know was once calling on a man who was not a converted person.  He frequently attended the church where this man pastored, he had lived in that town all his life and indeed, years before as an infant, he had been baptized in that very church.  He was showing the pastor around his house, and the pastor noticed a frame certificate on the wall and he turned to the man and he said ‘What is this?’  ‘Oh,’ the man said, ‘that’s my baptismal certificate.  I was baptized in our church, you know!’  The pastor said, ‘Ah, your baptismal certificate. Very good!   Tell me, when are you going to cash it in?'”

To read the rest of Rev. Dunkerley’s sermon, click here. [PDF file]

Words to live by:  The pastor of this sermon asks a serious question to those who have been baptized in their infancy by godly parents.  When are you, the adult now, going to claim the promise signified by your outward baptism?  You are baptized for sure.  You may even have the baptismal certificate signed by the preacher and any witnesses who were there to see it. But unless you have put your personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that baptism is a sign of your condemnation, not a sign of the covenant.  Reader, how is it with you?  Have you received the gift of eternal life?

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 19:11 – 20:1 ; 2 Corinthians 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The manner of partaking the Lord’s Supper

WCF 29:7
“Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Excluding Some from Partaking of the Lord’s Supper

It was back on November 20th that this historical devotional began to look at what the Larger Catechism states about  partaking of the Lord’s Supper.   We continue with that theme on this day, November 25, finding no specific Presbyterian topic for our consideration.   What is involved in excluding some people from the Lord’s Supper.

Larger Catechism question 173 asks “May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it?  And the answer, “Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding  their profession of faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in the church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

It is clear that this catechism answer speaks of some “who are found to be ignorant or scandalous” being excluded from the participation in the Lord’s Supper. On their part, they have a profession of faith and an equal desire to partake of the elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.  And so many might think that the issue is settled.  They believe and they have the desire to participate. Isn’t that enough? Our Confessional fathers answer that it is not enough of a reason to participate in this Sacrament.

First, there may be by these ready participants an “ignorance” about their profession of faith.  This ignorance may be the result of simply an absence of what biblical Christianity is, or on the other end, they might believe and accept some theological errors regarding biblical Christianity. Both of these constitute a reason to exclude them from the Sacrament when it is offered by the church.

Then there is another exclusion, and it is with respect to a “scandalous” manner of life.  The profession might be present, but the possession of faith is doubtful due to a carnal or fleshly lifestyle. The individual is openly carrying on a conduct which violates the Ten Commandments, for example. Such an individual shows that he or she does not understand the work of sanctification in the Christian life.

Now, in both of these cases of ignorance and scandalous living, the Catechetical fathers do not specifically state what they mean. They wisely leave it up to the spiritual courts of session, presbytery, and general assembly to determine this.  Sometimes, a local church will designate conduct which it believes is contrary to Christian doctrine and living.The “power which Christ has left in his church”refers to biblical church discipline which must be carried on by each church for its overall purity. And with most of our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, that is the purpose of the Book of Discipline in our Book of Church Order. There are found specific guidelines with respect to the use of “that power which Christ has left in his church.”

This catechism holds out the remedy to any who might be precluded, namely, “until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.” There is a place, and it usually is found in the membership class held to any who wish to join the church, for “instruction” with respect to both faith and life as seen in the Bible. When reformation is manifested after instruction is given with respect to their manner of lives, (and it may have to  happen for a definition or indefinite period of time,) then the door will be opened to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Words to live by:  In the early part of our country’s history, in Presbyterian circles, this was the task of the pastor, and Session of Elders, if there were any, to examine the participants as to their faith and life.  Finding an understanding of the things which were of God, and hearing about their conduct, they then gave each potential participant a metal token, which was then turned in on the day of Communion. That practice has gone away and it  is then dependent upon the discernment of the Session of Elders that they have a spiritual understanding of the members under their shepherding care in determining their qualifications to partake of the break and wine. Pray for your elders—teaching and ruling elders—in this important ministry.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13 – 16

Through the Standards:  Elements of the Lord’s Supper remain unchanged

WCF 29:5, 6
“The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.  That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Demise of a Soldier Parson

It was back on June 23 that we profiled the provision of psalm books as wadding for the American Revolutionary forces at the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey.  The cry of “Give them Watts, boys, give them Watts,” referring to Isaac Watts’ many hymns, became a celebrated phrase from the Revolutionary War.

The Rev. James Caldwell, from whose mouth that famous line sprung, was an American Presbyterian minister from Elizabethtown, New Jersey.  He was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of that town.  Early on, this Scot-Irish minister threw his lot in with the forces of George Washington in the battle for freedom from Britain.  Joining as a chaplain of the New Jersey troops, he rallied his church for the cause of liberty, with over forty of the members becoming line officers in the battles. Caldwell himself, was known at “the Soldier parson.”

He was born in Virginia from the well-known Scot or Ulster-Irish heritage of many Presbyterian patriots. Graduating from the College of New Jersey in 1759, he was ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1761, and no doubt, installed as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of  Elizabethtown, New Jersey (now called Elisabeth).

Because his conviction for the American cause were so well-known, the British burned both the congregation and his house at least once.  His wife was either accidentally or purposely killed by a British soldier who fired on her figure through a window or a wall, as she was praying for her children.

A year later, Rev. Caldwell was picking up a traveler in his buggy.  After carrying the baggage to the horse-drawn buggy, he went back to pick up a package.  An American sentry ordered him to stop but distance precluded the command from being heard.  With that, the sentry fired and killed Rev. Caldwell on November 24, 1781.  At the trial and subsequent hanging of the sentry, there were rumors that he had been bribed by the British to kill the soldier parson.  At any rate, he was buried beside his wife in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey.  A monument was placed up honoring him in 1846.  Three towns in New Jersey are named after him, including an educational facility.

Words to live by:  While the Rev. James Caldwell did not physically pick up a rifle and fire it at advancing British troops, the “soldier parson” did preach the necessity of armed revolution as well as provide supplies for the Jersey brigade.  He is looked upon as a defender of liberty as well as preaching the words of grace to a lost people.  He wasn’t the first Christian minister to embrace liberty and justice for God’s people, and he won’t be the last minister to do so.  There is a place for ministers of the Word to apply that Word of God to the social and moral issues of the day.  Our people need guidance to do the right thing in the right way.

Also on this day:

This day marks the 440th anniversary of the death of the Scottish Reformer, John Knox.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 9 – 12

Through the Standards:  Errors of Romanism regarding the Lord’s Supper

WCF 29:4
“Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other alone; as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The World Turned Upside Down

In writing his journal on November 22, 1739, the Rev. George Whitefield described an evangelistic tour in the year of 1739 through the American colonies.  Coming to the home congregation of Rev. William Tennent, Senior, in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, Whitefield preached to some 3000 individuals gathered in the yard. After the Word  has been proclaimed in all of its fulness, to the immediate spiritual effect upon the hearers, Whitefield went on to describe the famous forerunner to Princeton Seminary and University, the Log College.  He wrote,

“The place wherein the young men study now is in contempt called the Log College.  It is a Log-house, about Twenty Feet long, and near as many broad; and to me it seemed to resemble the School of the old Prophets. For that their Habitations were mean (low), and that they sought not great things for themselves, is plain from that Passage of Scripture wherein we are told that at the Feasts of the Sons of the Prophets, one of them put on the Pot, whilst the others went to fetch some Herbs out of the Field.  All that can be said of most of our public Universities is, they are all glorious without!  From this despised Place Seven or Eight worthy Ministers of Jesus Christ have lately been sent forth; more are almost ready to be sent, and a Foundation is now laying for the Instruction of many others. The Devil will certainly rage against them, but the Work, I am persuaded, is of God, and therefore will not come to nought. Carnal ministers oppose them strongly; and because People, when awakened by Mr Tennent, or his Brethren, see through, and therefore leave their Ministry, the poor Gentlemen are loaded down with contempt, and looked upon (as all faithful Preachers will be) as Persons that turn the World upside down.”

To George Whitefield, a spiritual battle was commencing between the angel Michael and the devil himself as a result of these Log College graduates going out into the world. Yet  the great revivalist was confidant that God would prevail in the coming struggle.

Words to live by:  There is no  doubt that this tiny theological school had a spiritual influence far beyond its size in the infant Presbyterian church.  Let us learn never to judge any Christian work from the numbers which attend it. Every large church today began as a smaller congregation, sometimes but a handful of committed Christians. The more important question is, is the whole counsel of God being taught and believed and followed? If it is, then that is the church to which you need to commit your soul and body, to say nothing of your spiritual gifts and your time.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Corinthians 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  Dispensing the Lord’s Supper

WCF 29:3
“The Lord Jesus has, in this ordinance, appointed  His ministers to declare His Word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.”

Image sources:
1. Engraved portrait of George Whitefield, from The General Assembly’s Missionary Magazine: or Evangelical Intelligencer: For 1806. William P. Farrand, Editor. Vol. II. Philadelphia: Printed for, and Published by, William P. Farrand, No. 170, Market Street. Fry and Kammerer, Printers. 1806. Portrait of Whitefield facing page [401].
2. Frontispiece portrait from The Presbytery of the Log College, by Thomas Murphy. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work, 1889.
Scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

 

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Bringing Bibles and Rifles to Worship

It was in uncivilized territory where the Rev. Robert Cooper took his first pastorate in central Pennsylvania. Born in Northern Ireland in 1732, the young man stayed there for the first nine years of his life. When his father died, young Robert accompanied his widowed mother in 1741 to the American colonies across the Atlantic. Following so many of their Scot-Irish race, he studied at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, graduating there in 1763. As was common practice in that era, Robert prepared for the ministry by studying theology with a private tutor, and he was ordained to the gospel ministry on November 21, 1765. Within that same year, he was called to Middle Springs Presbyterian Church, just north of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He was to remain there for thirty-one years, finally leavening in 1797 due to declining health.

Worship in pre-Revolutionary times was a challenge, due to the presence of hostile native American in their region. The usual items brought to a worship service were a Bible (the Genevan edition, with Calvinistic footnotes), a hymn book (a Psalter for unaccompanied singing of psalms), and a  rifle, with ammunition readily available. Their defensive armament would then be stashed at the entrance of the church whenever they would attend church services.

Dr. Cooper remained at Middle Springs for three decades plus. He was a scholar of considerable merit. He had served later on for a brief time in the Revolutionary Army. His interests were of wider influence than the local scene, for he had helped to plan for the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1789, at which he was a voting delegate.

He wrote a tract entitled “The Signs of the Times” as well as written messages delivered to the American troops of the Revolutionary Army. He went to be with the Lord on April 5, 1805.

Words to live by:  If  you remember that the Scots-Irish Presbyterians initially settled in Cumberland County of Pennsylvania, and then after about thirty years began to migrate west and south, we will have a real appreciation for the Rev. Robert Cooper. He no doubt influenced the evangelistic and revival traditions of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in America.  With the danger of Indian attacks ever present as they walked to and from church, or upon their homes while they were away at church, it took real courage to be a Reformed Christian in those days. Increasingly we have our own challenges to faith and life today. Then as now, a firm resolve based upon God’s sure care for each of His children, is necessary in standing for faith and righteousness.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Thessalonians 1 – 3 ; Acts 18:12 – 19:10

Through the Standards: The Lord’s Supper: Commemorative, not Sacrificial

WCF 29:2
“In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for the remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the only propitiation for all the sins of His elect.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Two Heroes of Gettysburg Attend a Presbyterian Church

The High Water Mark of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, had been fought that July of 1863. Attending just four months later in the same town of Pennsylvania, was President Abraham Lincoln for the dedication of the new National Cemetery in that town. The president wasn’t the main speaker that day of dedication.  But he  delivered a short pithy message which he thought was a failure, due to its brevity, but which turned into an immortal address which the world will long remember.

One of the residents of Gettysburg Lincoln wanted to meet, after the presentation, was local and later national hero John L. Burns. The latter was the only civilian who grabbed his old War of 1812 flintlock, and exchanging it for a more modern weapon from a wounded Union soldier, joined in the fighting of the Confederate army on July 1, 1863.  His fame immediately after that brief stint in battle, at which he was wounded three times, caused his name to be on every lip, including that of President Lincoln.

It was on November 19, 1863  that the President of the United States met John Burns at the home of attorney David Wills. The latter had been responsible more than any one else for setting aside the plots of ground which later on became the National Cemetery of Gettysburg. Wills was also a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Gettysburg on Baltimore Street. Together, John Burns and Abraham Lincoln, along with David Wills,  walked south down Baltimore Street to the building of the Presbyterian Church to attend a patriotic service held there that evening.  It was reported that the seventy-one year old Burns slept through much of the service, but Abraham Lincoln was able to be present for most of the service, before duties called him back to Washington, D.C.

A century later in 1962, the church building was replaced with another building, and all the furnishings with it, with the exception of “the Lincoln – Burns Pew” which can still be seen in the new church at the same location.

Words to live by:  There are “heroes” in church history who have been mentioned in great advances of the Lord’s kingdom and church. In point of reference, this very  historical devotional  is all about Christian, and more specifically Christian Presbyterians who have been used of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of Christ in various periods of time and places. It is as we acknowledge these men and women of the Presbyterian faith that we are more fully appreciate the progress of the church in general, and our local church in particular. So, as you look at your church of your choice, who among them can be found who have in the past or present been instrumental in advancing the cause and kingdom of Christ? After you identify them, why not go up to them and thank the Lord for their spiritual gifts which have been used for God’s glory and His cause?  It will both praise the Lord and encourage their  hearts to know that someone has remembered them for all their hard work.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 15 – 18:11

Through the Standards:  Definition of the Lord’s Supper, in the Confession

WCF 29:1
“Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of His body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in His Church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Covenanters Begin with Colorful Ceremony

Following the first schism of the Presbyterian Church in 1741, Rev. Alexander Craighead in 1742 argued that the New Side Presbyterian branch should renew the historic Scottish National Covenant of 1581 and also the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, thus committing themselves to be in opposition to the British government. When the New Side Presbytery responded with opposition to the proposed covenant that his views were full “of treason, sedition, and distraction,” Craighead and his congregation, the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, withdrew  from the New Side Presbyterians on November 11, 1743.  They then renewed these covenants themselves with four swords pointing to the four winds.

In their declaration, they professed their adherence to the true Reformed Presbyterian religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as it is contained in the Word of God and summed up in the Westminster Standards, along with the book of church order, which included the directory of worship and the covenants of the mother church.

Further protestations were made against the Adopting Act of 1729, which gave allowance to the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian Church of America to declare exceptions to the subordinate standards of the church. They charged that the present adoption act was “contrary to the true Constitution of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Christ.:

Last, they protested against the rulers of England as  having any legal right to rule over the colonies. The leaders of the New Side Presbyterians were not ready to do that in 1743, but a bare three decades later, that is exactly what American Presbyterians did, when they supported the Revolution.

The significance of the drawn swords was to remember the heritage of their Covenanter forefathers, who adhered to a true Reformation.  The swords were a pledge to defend their lives and their religion rather than relinquish it.  They wanted to stand body and soul with their spiritual forefathers in this matter.

< Gravesite of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, at the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Words to live by:   One of the reasons why this historical devotional is being published by the PCA Historical Center is that Presbyterians in our pews, and even some behind our pulpits, do not know the history of our Church. And in not knowing it, they can fail to appreciate stands for righteousness and against wickedness which our forefathers took at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. Reader, you need to make the PCA Historical Center’s pages a “favorite” on your computer, and check with it frequently to read the resources and frequent new additions there. You might also send some financial help to the Historical Center regularly, and have your church put the Center in their annual benevolences. If we forget the past, we will continue to make mistakes in our church faith and life in the present and future.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 3 – 5

Through the Standards:  Subjects of Baptism according to the Confession

WCF 28:4
“Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.”

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