Westminster Theological Seminary

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Plans for a New Seminary

The “school of the prophets” was lost to Old School Presbyterianism. The great theologians of old Princeton — Alexander, Miller, Hodge, etc. — might still be buried in the cemetery plot of Princeton, but so also was buried their historic stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints. Re-organization of the trustees was now done and signers of the infamous Auburn Affirmation placed on the board. It was only a matter of time the fruits of liberalism would be manifest in the teachings of the classrooms.

Recognizing that sad truth, the Rev. Walter Buchcanan, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City, invited on June 17, 1929 a group of teaching and ruling elders to the University Club to respond to these developments. The following statement was approved by the group of elders:  “Resolved: that this group will support the loyal members of the former Board of Directors of Princeton Theological Seminary in any step they may see fit to take (1) toward prevention by legal means the misuse of the Seminary’s funds, or (2) toward the formation of a new Seminary if they decide that it is necessary.”  A wide latitude was allowed in this resolve, as you can see.   Despite the new liberal members, see if we cannot keep Princeton  Seminary from digressing away any further from the faith, but failing that, the possibility of a new seminary is on the table as well.

There were meetings taking place in other cities as well.  Philadelphia was the site of a meeting of elders, including one in which finances were pledged for one year of the new seminary.  The historic meeting which launched the new seminary took place on July 18, 1929 with seventy-eight teaching and ruling elders present at the YMCA in Philadelphia.  The name of Westminster Theological Seminary was chosen at this meeting. An executive committee was chosen as composed of six (6) teaching elders and eight (8) ruling elders.

The teaching elders represented were: Maitland Alexander, Roy T. Brumbaugh, Walter Buchanan, Samuel Craig, Charles Schall, and Frank Stevenson. Ruling elders Roland Armes, Edgar Frutchey, Frederick Paist, James Runkin, T. E. Ross, James Schrader, John Steele, and Morgan Thomas were also present. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen,and O.T. Allis served as advisers.

The happy fruition of this meeting on that same year of 1929 was September 25, in which fifty students gathered at the Seminary campus at 1528 Pine Street in Philadelphia.  A seminary was born!

WTS_studentBody_1929-30_75dpiPictured above, the Student Body of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1930.

Words to Live By: One of the minor prophets of the Old Testament wrote that we were not to despise the day of small things.  Certainly, this founding of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa., was just a tiny speck in comparison with Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey in the world’s eyes.  But when your standard is the authoritative Word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus, then there is more that meets the eye in the start of this school which carried on the historic testimony of old Princeton.  Let us learn to look ever to the Bible, not the world’s estimation, in your prayers and financial support of churches and institutions of the biblical gospel.

The Library at Westminster Theological Seminary, 1929-1930.

Before moving to its present location in Glenside, PA, Westminster Theological Seminary was first situated in a residence owned by Professor Oswald T. Allis. As Dr. Allis and his family removed to the top floors of the building, the first floor was reconfigured for an assembly room and chapel where daily prayer services were held, a room which would accommodate about sixty-five people.
Also on the first floor were small offices for the Registrar and the Secretary of the Seminary, as well as the dining hall and kitchen. The dining hall operated under the management of the Student Dining Club. with about forty-five men taking their meals there regularly, at a cost of about $6.50 per week. One evening a week was set aside for times of fellowship and singing following the dinner hour.
Classrooms and the Seminary library were located on the second floor of the building. The library held about 5,000 volumes at its inception. Three classrooms were also on this second floor, with about eighteen students typically in the largest class.

Also on this day :
July 18, 1823
marks the birth of Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest son of Charles and Sarah Hodge.

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He Was OP, RP, EP and RPCES

grayRichardWThat tag line will bring back for some of our readers the famous Dameron and Jones song. Others, not so blessed, will draw a blank. The Rev. Richard W. Gray was the living expression of that song:  “We’ve been OP, BP, and RPCES. What we’ll be next is anybody’s guess.”

Richard Willer Gray was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 6, 1911. After the age of 12 he lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until moving to attend Wheaton College, from 1930-1934. Following graduation from Wheaton, he received the M.Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary, in 1937. In 1936, a year before graduation from Westminster, he married Emily MacDonald. To this marriage, three children were born. Their son Richard is himself a PCA pastor, serving in Florida.

Rev. Gray was ordained by the Presbytery of New Jersey on May 18, 1937 and installed as pastor of the Covenant OPC church of East Orange, New Jersey. He served this church from 1937 until 1945. Resigning that post, he then answered a call to serve Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in Bridgeton, New Jersey [now New Hope OPC], serving there from 1946-1949. His third pastorate was with the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, which at that time was an independent church. Rev. Gray served this church from 1949 to 1958, and during these same years he was also the editor of a magazine, The Witness, a publication widely utilized by OPC, BPC and Reformed Presbyterian congregations. In April of 1958, Dr. Gray transferred his credentials to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, leading his independent congregation into this denomination. By way of two later denominational mergers, the Willow Grove congregation is today a part of the PCA.

Pictured below, the building occupied by the Calvary OPC church of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where Rev. Gray served from 1946-1949.

grayRW_CalvaryOPCAs editor of The Witness, Rev. Gray had a pulpit which effectively reached a number of Presbyterian denominations, and the magazine in turn allowed Dr. Gray to eventually become the leading voice in the eventual merger of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod [1833-1965] and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1961-1965]. The denomination resulting from that merger, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod [1965-1982], eventually was received into the Presbyterian Church in America, in 1982.

[This coming Sunday, June 16, we will feature Dr. Gray’s sermon delivered before the Synod on the occasion of the RP/EP merger in 1965. His sermon was titled, “Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”]

Rev. Gray never saw the merger of the RPCES with the PCA. Following the merger of the RPC,GS and the EPC, he had continued as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Willow Grove until 1975. At that time he answered a call to serve as the founding pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Coventry, Connecticut. It was while serving as pastor of this church that the Lord called him to his final reward. He died on February 28, 1979.

Apart from his pastoral duties at the above four churches, Dr. Gray participated in a wide variety of denominational and intellectual activities. At various times he:

Edited a Christian magazine (The Witness)
Taught courses at a seminary
Was active in the establishment of four branch churches
Started the Christian Counseling Center of Willow Grove
Was active in the establishment of Christian schools
Wheaton College awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1959
Served on the Board of Directors of National Presbyterian Missions; Quarryville Home; and Covenant College
Served as a chief architect of the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Moderator of the 148th Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1970)
Frequent moderator of denominational committees, regional presbyteries, and synodical reports
Founded the Christian Counseling Service in Coventry, Connecticut
Presided over the Evangelical Ministerial Association of greater Hartford

The people who fell under Dick Gray’s ministry were as diverse and varied as his multi-faceted personality, yet all found common ground in his infectious enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God.

From a young counselee: “I thank God for the vast help that Dr. Gray has been in my life. I came to him in desperate anxiety. He allowed me to expose all that was ugly and frightful. He was both utterly trustworthy and wisely insightful. God used him to lead me into the health and maturity and objectivity about myself which now is a part of my abundant and joy-filled life.”

From a ministerial colleague: “Although in God’s providence Dick and I were working on the most recent church problem from different sides of it, I want you to know that that in no way diminished my admiration and esteem for him as one of the God-given leaders to the RP Church. I  particularly appreciated his openness to new ideas and his willingness to encourage the young ministers. At the same time, no one could question his concern for the welfare of the churches and his tireless energy on their behalf.”

From a former elder and long-term friend: “[Dick] had a capacity for concentration and single-mindedness that was maddening, and a capacity for empathy that was healing. He could have written books of great significance, if he had the patience. He was one of only several individuals it was my privilege to know who had the mind of an intellectual explorer, a discoverer of principles, relationships between what are too often labeled ‘spiritual’ and ‘intellectual.’ He thought and wanted others to think, and this caused him undeserved difficulties because thinking is painful. He shunned superficial statements that would have won him acceptance among those believers who limit orthodoxy to set phrases. He bore the risk of being considered not Biblical enough, in order to be truly Biblical.”

Words to Live By:
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him, for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work; this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)

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Regrettably a day late, but as we haven’t shared any Machen news lately, we’ll squeeze this one in. The following news item appeared in THE PHILADELPHIA BULLETIN on April 22, 1936. This news clipping is from the scrapbook collection gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. When the General Assembly did meet, Machen and the others were suspended, as was expected, and so the split did occur, less than two months later, though admittedly the numbers that left the old denomination were surprisingly few by comparison. 

Machen_threatens_splitTHREATENS SPLIT
OF PRESBYTERIANS.

Dr. Machen Says It Will Come
If General Assembly Confirms
Suspension of Pastors.

5 Fundamentalists Out.

“If the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., at its meeting next month, confirms the suspension of five Philadelphia militant Fundamentalist clergymen from the ministry then there will be a split in the Church.

This assertion is made today by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1528 Pine St., leader of the militant faction and one of those under suspension.

“If that action is taken by the General Assembly,” says Dr. Machen, “some earnest people, at very great sacrifice of worldly goods and with bleeding hearts, will leave church buildings, hallowed for them by many precious memories, and will sever their connections with a great church organization.

“The time for separation comes when the existing church organization ceases to heed the Word of God and follows some other authority instead. It is schism to leave a church if that church is true to the Bible, but it is not schism if that church is not true to the Bible.”

Further warning of a separation from the Presbyterian church is given in an editorial in the Presbyterian Guardian, official organ of the militant Fundamentalists, which, in the current issue, says:

“If the Church should say ‘No’ to reform, in such fashion as to demonstrate that reasonable hope of purification is impossible, true Christian men and women would, we believe, be obliged to separate themselves from an apostate organization.

“Who is there that can look forward with untroubled mind to an indefinite continuation of the unnatural union between belief and unbelief and unbelief that prevails in the church, and to all that accompanies such a union?”

The five local clergymen who have been ordered suspended from the ministry because of their refusal to obey the General Assembly Mandate and resign from the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, in addition to Dr. Machen, are: the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, editor of the Presbyterian Guardian; the Rev. Merril T. MacPherson, minister of Central North Broad Street Church; the Rev. Edwin H. Rian, of Westminster Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Paul Woolley, of the Independent Board and also of Westminster Seminary.

At Columbus, O., yesterday the Rev. Carl McIntire, youthful pastor of the Collingswood, N.J. Presbyterian Church, lodged three complaints against the Presbytery of West Jersey with the permanent judicial commission of the church.

The complaints resulted from McIntire’s conviction by the New Jersey Synod on charges similar to those against the Philadelphia minister.

The first complaint charged that the Presbytery erred in starting McIntire’s trial after a constitutional stay signed by more than one third of the members had been obtained.

The second charged that the Presbytery rescinded illegally an overture to the general assembly to “clean up” the regular board of foreign missions of the church, after it had been passed with only one dissenting vote, and the third charged the Presbytery with violation of the constitutional right of ministers to protest actions, and have their protests made a matter of record.

Words to Live By:
Some of the best treatments on the subject of schism were written by the old Scottish theologians, in particular, James Durham and James Wood. In short, they taught that it is only right to separate from a church when staying would mean having to sin. One quote from Rev. Wood will have to suffice here today:

“How often was it so with the ancient Church, that we may say, more than three parts of four were profane and naught? And yet did not the godly and the Prophets of the Lord continue in the exercise of the Ordinances and Worship of God in that Church? Was it not so in the Church of the Jews, in the time of Christ’s being amongst them upon earth? Did ever Christ for that require his disciples to depart and separate from that Church? Or did he not himself, never a whit the less, continue in the Church communion thereof? Yea when in glory writing a letter to the Church of Sardis, of whom he testifies, that they had a name that they were living, but yet were dead, and that there were but a few names there which had not defiled their garments: Yet his wise and meek zeal is not for pulling down and rooting up and separating from the Church Communion in his Ordinances and Worship. But that is his direction (vs 2, 3), Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain and are ready to die. — Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent.

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Many of our readers will know of Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who has served so faithfully for so many years as a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. But you may not know that his parents were missionaries to China, sent out under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. For all the glorious news of the growth of the Church in China in recent years, it is good to remember those who were greatly used of the Lord in plowing the ground, and planting the seed some seventy and eighty years ago.

gaffinFamily_1935MR. AND MRS. RICHARD B. GAFFIN and their daughter Margaret have just arrived in China. [Ed. – The Gaffin’s son Richard was born about a year after this photograph was taken].

The Presbytery of Milwaukee refused to ordain Mr. Gaffin, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, because he would not pledge allegiance to a missionary program which he could not conscientiously support. He chose to remain unordained rather than to submit his conscience to men. Does that suggest Hebrews 11: 25, 26?

The following extracts from the Gaffins’ letters reveal some of their first impressions upon reaching China:

“In the first place, my reaction to things physical was that of surprise, in that things in Shanghai, Chinkiang, Tenghsien, and Peiping are much better than I had expected, especially the way in which the Presbyterian missionaries live. It appears to me that a great deal of good mission money has been put into expensive foreign houses, which means that money which could have been used for direct evangelization was put into wood and stone; and that for missionaries to live in so distinctly a foreign style has not helped them to get as close to the people as they might. . . .

“In the second place, I was very much distressed to see how strong Modernism is out here. Surely all that Dr. Machen and Mclntire have exposed is all too true and more too. . . .

“In the third place, I was astonished when I learned how much territory there is that is unevangelized up and down the coast of China. I had imagined that we would have to go far inland to find any untouched territory; instead I learn that after all very few of the millions of people in Shantung have been reached, not to mention other provinces.

“We are very happy here and we thank the Lord that He has sent us to this great land. We thank Him that He has given us His assurance at every turn. We thank Him for our health and strength and we pray that we may always be found in Him. We are so happy in our new home, and have met such good people at Mr. Kok’s. . . .”

“I never dreamed of the density of the population nor of the immensity of the unfinished task of evangelizing China.

“Would that we could paint a vivid picture of the need of the gospel to those at home. I am going to try to make all my correspondence prevail to that end. I know that words are incomplete but I pray that the Holy Spirit may add the needed vividness.”

[excerpted from The Independent Board Bulletin, 1.12 (December 1935): 10.]

Richard B. Gaffin, Sr. died on February 4, 1996. To read more about his life and ministry, click here to view an historical memoir written by John P. Galbraith (see pages 19-20).

Words to Live By:
There was great sadness when the War forced missionaries to return home from the field. But the God never left the side of His Church in China. Through a great many trials the Church was sifted and purified and now stands stronger than ever. Not ten years before the Gaffins moved onto the mission field, a PCUSA missionary by the name of Henry G.C. Hallock wrote of the tense situation on the field even in 1927, clearly recognizing, almost in a prophetic way, how the Lord was at work despite all appearances:

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before.

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1973 – Dr. Oswald T. Allis, one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, died on this day, January 12, 1973, at the age of 92.

Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on September 9, 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til and the subsequent formation of the Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and as Professor of Old Testament at the same institution from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under Dr. Allis to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.

Words to Live By: Obviously not everyone is called to be a biblical scholar like Dr. Allis, but we can and should, each of us, bring a similar care and attention to our life and work, in all that we say and do.—”And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23, KJV.)

Note: Our Through the Scriptures and Through the Standards sections have now been replaced by RSS feeds which appear at the top of right-hand column.

 



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Plans for a New Seminary

The “school of the prophets” was lost to Old School Presbyterianism. The great theologians of old Princeton — Alexander, Miller, Hodge, etc. — might still be buried in the cemetery plot of Princeton, but so also was buried their historic stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints. Re-organization of the trustees was now done and signers of the infamous Auburn Affirmation placed on the board. It was only a matter of time the fruits of liberalism would be manifest in the teachings of the classrooms.

Recognizing that sad truth, the Rev. Walter Buchcanan, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City, invited on June 17, 1929 a group of teaching and ruling elders to the University Club to respond to these developments. The following statement was approved by the group of elders:  “Resolved: that this group will support the loyal members of the former Board of Directors of Princeton Theological Seminary in any step they may see fit to take (1) toward prevention by legal means the misuse of the Seminary’s funds, or (2) toward the formation of a new Seminary if they decide that it is necessary.”  A wide latitude was allowed in this resolve, as you can see.   Despite the new liberal members, see if we cannot keep Princeton  Seminary from digressing away any further from the faith, but failing that, the possibility of a new seminary is on the table as well.

There were meetings taking place in other cities as well.  Philadelphia was the site of a meeting of elders, including one in which finances were pledged for one year of the new seminary.  The historic meeting which launched the new seminary took place on July 18, 1929 with seventy-eight teaching and ruling elders present at the YMCA in Philadelphia.  The name of Westminster Theological Seminary was chosen at this meeting. An executive committee was chosen as composed of six (6) teaching elders and eight (8) ruling elders.

The teaching elders represented were: Maitland Alexander, Roy T. Brumbaugh, Walter Buchanan, Samuel Craig, Charles Schall, and Frank Stevenson. Ruling elders Roland Armes, Edgar Frutchey, Frederick Paist, James Runkin, T. E. Ross, James Schrader, John Steele, and Morgan Thomas were also present. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen,and O.T. Allis served as advisers.

The happy fruition of this meeting on that same year of 1929 was September 25, in which fifty students gathered at the Seminary campus at 1528 Pine Street in Philadelphia.  A seminary was born!

Also on this day :
July 18, 1823
marks the birth of Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest son of Charles and Sarah Hodge.

Words to Live By: 
One of the minor prophets of the Old Testament wrote that we were not to despise the day of small things.  Certainly, this founding of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa., was just a tiny speck in comparison with Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey in the world’s eyes.  But when your standard is the authoritative Word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus, then there is more that meets the eye in the start of this school which carried on the historic testimony of old Princeton.  Let us learn to look ever to the Bible, not the world’s estimation, in your prayers and financial support of churches and institutions of the biblical gospel.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 34 – 36

Through the Standards: The Fifth commandment: Duties required

WLC 123 and WSC 63 — “Which is the fifth commandments?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother: that they days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God gives thee.”

WLC 126 “What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
A. The general scope of the fifth commandment is, the performance of those duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as inferiors, superiors, and equals.”

WSC 64   “What is required in the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment requires the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.”

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