William Smith

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SmithWm_1834_FamilyCatechistRecently the PCA Historical Center was able to add to its research library a copy of THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST, by Rev. William Smith, A.M. According to WorldCat, just three other institutions of record hold copies of this title.

Rev. Smith [birth & death dates not known], was a Scottish divine residing in Glasgow. An author of some note in his own era, he published at least four or five other works, and this particular work seems to have met with some success, going through at least three editions in Scotland and one in North America. As he opens this little volume in a Preface, I’m struck by true words which remain timely even today:

An acquaintance with the principles of our holy religion is a matter of high importance, both to our present happiness, and to our future welfare. It is always in a religious community that the best members of society are to be found, whether man be contemplated in the capacity of a magistrate, or of a subject, as filling the higher, or as occupying the more subordinate stations of human life. In those countries where true religion is unknown, or, which amounts to nearly the same thing, where it has little or no hold upon the minds of the people at large, crimes the most shocking, and the most revolting to humanity, are perpetrated without remorse. If then, a religious education be highly advantageous to us, even as members of civil society, and as beings appointed to act a part on the stage of time, how does it rise in importance, when we consider that it is essentially necessary, and indispensable, to our preparation for eternity, and for entering upon that state of being, in which our everlasting happiness or misery shall, as we are assured, greatly depend upon the habits we have formed in the present life. If we be desirous of reaping the proper fruit, let us take care that the soil be well cultivated, and the seed sowed in due time. If we are anxious, that our children should act their part in life in such a manner as to promote their comfort and respectability here, and their eternal happiness hereafter, let us be careful to have their minds stored, as early as possible, with sentiments of religion and of virtue. This is the only sure foundation that we can lay for their future usefulness and comfort in life, and for their welfare in another world. If a religious education is thus important, it must then be evident, that an acquaintance with the principles of religion is indispensably necessary, since without this no real progress can be made in spiritual knowledge. Hence the evident utility of those publications in which these princples are laid down clearly and distinctly, divested of all extraneous matter.

[emphasis added]

Smith’s approach is similar to that of Fisher in his Catechism, where additional questions and answers are added to explain and expound those found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Rev. Smith however is careful to note that his approach is to remain succinct and to keep the whole work short, thus the more likely to be used with some profit.

To provide a sample of Rev. Smith’s approach, here is his text for the first several questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism :—

Quest. 1. WHAT is the chief end of man?
Ans. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

EXPLICTION.

Chief end.—The principle purpose or design for which man was made, and to which he should, above all things, labor to attain.
To glorify God.—To do honor to his name, by loving him, and trusting in him, believing his word, and keeping his commandments.
To enjoy him for ever.—To have God’s favor, and the influences of his Spirit in this world, and to share in the happiness of his immediate presence in heaven hereafter.

ANALYSIS.

Here we learn that the principle design of every man’s being sent into the world is twofold:
1. To glorify God.—1 Cor. x. 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
2. To enjoy God.—Psalm lxxiii. 25, 26. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.—God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

EXPLICATION.

The Scriptures.—The writings, or books of the Old and New Testaments, so called, by way of eminence, on account of their great importance.
To direct.—To point out the proper method.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer there are four things pointed out:
1. The necessity of a rule to direct us in glorifying God.—Acts ii. 37. They said unto Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
2. That the Word of God is this rule.—2 Tim. iii. 16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
3. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God.—Eph. ii. 20. And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.
4. That the Word of God is the only rule given to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him.—Isa. viii. 20. To the law and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

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A Heart Firmly Attached in the Interest of His Country.

Abraham Keteltas was born in New York City on December 26, 1732. His father, Abraham Keteltas, Sr., was a merchant who had immigrated to the American colonies in 1720. The family had settled in New Rochelle, New York, which was at the time heavily populated with Huguenots. Young Abraham’s friendships among the Huguenots allowed him to become fluent in French. He later studied theology at Yale, graduating there in 1752, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1756.

Installed as pastor in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1757, he remained there but a year. Rev. Keteltas married about this time and resided at Jamaica, Long Island, yet without pastoral charge. Still, as he was fluent in the three languages dominant in the region and was a masterful preacher, he frequently was called to the pulpits of the Dutch and French churches, as well as the Presbyterian, and during this time his reputation grew among that population.

His reputation and stature apparently extended well beyond the Long Island community, for it is recorded that his advice was held in high esteem by many, George Washington being among that number and known to have frequently consulted him on various matters. Rev. Keteltas readily became a strong advocate in the struggle for independence, so public in his declarations that his personal safety required him to flee Long Island for the relative safety of New England. He was elected in 1777 to serve as a delegate to the New York State constitutional convention, though he did not attend.

Four of Rev. Keteltas’s sermons are extant, preserved in a small number of libraries. These are:

The Religious Soldier: or, The Military Character of King David, display’d and enforced in a sermon, preached March 8, 1759, to the regular officers and soldiers in Elizabeth-Town.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming poor for men displayed and enforced in a charity sermon preached in the French Protestant Church, in New-York, December 27, 1773.

Reflections on Extortion shewing the Nature, Malignity, and Fatal Tendency of that Sin to Individuals and Communities, displayed and enforced in a sermon preached at Newbury-port, on Lord’s Day February 15th, 1778.

and

God Arising and Pleading His People’s Cause: or, The American War in Favor of Liberty, Against the Measures and Arms of Great Britain, Shewn to Be the Cause of God.

The last mentioned of these, delivered in 1777, is perhaps the best known of his sermons. It is a bold and patriotic record of his support for the American cause. Reiner Smolinki, of George State University, has skillfully made this sermon available in digital edition (see the above link). Of this sermon, Mr. Smolinski states:

In the former sermon . . . Keteltas enlists Jehovah of Armies in defense of America’s rights. Drawing on typological parallels from both Testaments, Keteltas demonstrates that God always supports the cause of righteousness, liberty, and self-government, especially where His people are concerned. If God is on the side of His American Israel, Kelteltas prophecies, the British enemy cannot succeed for long. Religion and politics are joined in a bed of patriotism.

During the war years, Rev. Keteltas supplied the pulpits of many churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, continuing in that capacity until declining health forced his retirement in 1782. He died while residing in Jamaica, Queens County, New York, on this day, September 30, in 1798, at the age of 65 years, 9 months and 4 days. The New York Historical Society has preserved a portrait of Rev. Keteltas, which can be viewed hereHis gravestone, which can be viewed herereads as follows:

“He possessed unusual talents which were improved by profound erudition & a heart firmly attached in the interest of his Country. His mind was early impressed with a sense of religion, which fully manifested itself by his choice of the sacred office, in which he shone as the able & faithful Divine. It may not perhaps be unworthy of record in this inscription, that he had frequently officiated in three different languages, having preached in the Dutch & French Churches in his native City of New York.”

Something to Consider:
The question is still with us to this day, whether Christians,
as Christians, should be involved in politics. Without voting here on the matter, we only make an historical observation of the strong involvement of the clergy in favor of the American Revolution, so much so that the War was sometimes called the Presbyterian Rebellion. To discover how these pastors came to their convictions, it is necessary to take into account the wider context of, first, the English Civil War (1642-51), and second, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary (1688). The American Revolutionary War was very clearly at the time seen as a continuation of these earlier conflicts. For a Presbyterian defense of the struggle for liberty, see particularly Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex: The Law and the Prince, A Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People (1644).

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A Long and Faithful Ministry

rodgersJohnJohn Rodgers was born in Boston on the 5th of August, 1727. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rodgers, who had emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland just six years prior. When John was little more than a year old, he and his parents relocated to Philadelphia.

While still a child, he gave evidence of a deep love of knowledge and even a care and thoughtfulness about his eternal soul. It was under the preaching of Whitefield that he was first solidly impressed with the truths and duties of the Christian faith. On one occasion, when Whitefield was preaching in the evening, near the Court House on Market Street, young John was standing near him, holding a lantern to assist Whitefield. But Rodgers became so impressed with the truth to which he was listening that, for a moment, he forgot himself and dropped the lantern, breaking it in pieces. Years later, when Rodgers was settled in his first pastorate, Dr. Whitefield came to visit his house, and Rev. Rodgers related the incident to him, asking if he remembered it. “Oh yes,” replied Whitefield, “I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost any thing in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Rev. Rodgers replied with a smile,—”I am that little boy.” Whitefield burst into tears, and remarked that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry, whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

When William Buell Sprague asked the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller for his recollections of Rev. Rodgers, this was Miller’s reply:

Rev. dear Brother: When you request me to prepare for your forthcoming biographical work some brief memorials of the late venerable Dr. Rodgers of New York, I feel as if I were called not to the performance of a task, but to the enjoyment of a privilege. If there be a man living who is entitled to speak of that eminent servant of Christ, I am that man. Having been long and intimately acquainted with him; having served with him twenty years as a son in the Gospel ministry; and having enjoyed peculiar opportunities of contemplating every phase of his character, personal and official; so my ardent attachment and deep veneration of his memory make it delightful to record what I knew with so much distinctness, and remember with so much interest.

“My acquaintance with Dr. Rodgers began in 1792, when he was more than sixty years of age, and when I was a youthful and inexperienced candidate for the ministry. He recognized in me the son of an old clerical friend, and from that hour till the day of his death treated me with a fidelity and kindness truly paternal. And when, next year, I became his colleague, he uniformly continued to exercise toward me that parental indulgence and guardianship which became his inherited friendship, as well as his Christian and ecclesiastical character.

rodgersJohn_memoirs“Without attempting in this connection to enter into the details of his history, which I have already done at large in my “Memoir” of this beloved man, I shall content myself with recounting in a brief manner those features of his character which I regard as worthy of special commemoration, and which rendered him so conspicuous among the pastors of his day.

“One of the great charms of Dr. Rodgers’ character was the fervour and uniformity of his piety. It not only appears conspicuous in the pulpit, dictating his choice of subjects, his mode of treating them, and his affectionate earnestness of manner; but it attended him wherever he went, and manifested itself in whatever he did. In the house of mourning it shone with distinguished lustre. Nor was this all. He probably never was known to enter a human dwelling for the purpose of paying an ordinary visit, without saying something before he left it to recommend the Saviour and his service. Seldom did he sit down at the convivial table, without dropping at least a few sentences adapted to promote the spiritual benefit of those around him…

“Another quality in Dr. Rodgers which, next to his piety, contributed to his high reputation, was prudence, or practical wisdom. Few men were more wary than he in foreseeing circumstances likely to produce embarrassment or difficulty, and in avoiding them…

“He was remarkable also for the uniform, persevering and indefatigable character of his ministerial labours. In preaching, in catechising, in attending on the sick and dying, in all the arduous labours of discipline and government, and in visiting from house to house, he went on with unceasing constancy, year after year, from the beginning to the end of his ministry…

“The character of Dr. Rodgers’ preaching was another of the leading elements of his popularity and usefulness. The two qualities most remarkable in his preaching were piety and animation. His sermons were always rich in evangelical truth; and they were generally delivered with solemnity and earnestness which indicated a deep impression on his own heart of the importance of what he uttered…

“Dr. Rodgers was eminently a disinterested man. Few men have ever been more free from private and selfish aims in acting their part in the affairs of the Church, than he…

Dr. Rodgers was further distinguished by a punctual attendance on the judicatories of the Church. He made it a point never to be absent from the meetings of his brethren, unless sickness or some other equally imperious dispensation of Providence rendered his attendance impossible. And when present in the several ecclesiastical courts, he gave his serious and undivided attention to the business which came before them, and was always ready to take his full share, and more than his share, of the labour connected with that business…”

Dr. Samuel Miller continued a bit further with his recollections, but we will leave him there. If you would like to read Miller’s Memoir of Dr. Rodgers, it can be conveniently found on the Web, here. Dr. Rodgers lived a long life, and was blessed to minister to the Lord’s people for some sixty three years. He died on May 7th, 1811.

Words to Live By:
Piety, the depth and consistency of holiness in a Christian’s life, is something particularly requisite in the life of a pastor. Dr. Rodgers was noted, not simply for his piety, but for how that character worked itself out in so many facets of his life. Now more than ever, before a watching world, Christians must be careful to live out to the full the Christian life, and pastors must be leaders in this witness.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”—James 1:22-25, KVJ.

 

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At last! Minutes of the Second Presbytery

RehobothFour days ago, you read the historical devotional on March 18, where we noted that the stated clerk of the first presbytery held in this country lost all but a short paragraph of the minutes of that meeting. In 1707, beginning on March 22, the second presbytery was held in Philadelphia. George McNish, one of the seven ministers present at this second meeting, was chosen Clerk of the Presbytery, while John Wilson was chosen the Moderator.   Present also were teaching elders Jedidiah Andrews and  Nathaniel Taylor. Francis Makemie would show up on the 25th of March. Ruling elders Joseph Yard, William Smith, John Gardener, and James Stoddard were present from several churches within the bounds of the Philadelphia Presbytery.

» At Right: Old Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Rehoboth, Maryland (1683), which competes with Fairfield Presbyterian Church, Fairton, New Jersey (1680) in the claim for the oldest Presbyterian church in America »

Samuel Davis sent in his excuse as to why he missed the last Presbytery and would not be present at this meeting either. The presbyters did not sustain his reasons for his absence, and sent a letter to teaching elder Davis requiring him to be present at the 1708 presbytery meeting. He did, and they immediately elected him the moderator of the next Presbytery.

The church at Snow Hill, Maryland, had called Mr. John Hampton to be their pastor, but the latter had declined their call.  He gave several satisfactory reasons to the presbytery as to why he was not in favor of going there as pastor. They nevertheless moved that the call be left in his hand until the next presbytery in 1708, hoping that the call would be finally accepted by Mr. Hampton. In the meanwhile, they sent a letter of encouragement to the church to continue in their endeavors for a settled pastor among their ranks.

It was on the 25th of March, 1708, that two biblical sermons were given onHebrews 1:1 and Hebrews 1:2 by teaching elders Francis Makemie and teaching elder John Wilson, which messages had been approved at the last Presbytery meeting.  These texts were no doubt taken from the Genevan Bible, as that was the version carried over to these shores by the early Presbyterian pilgrims. And given the practice of early Scottish ministers, the length of the sermons easily could have been two hours long.  We are told  that both sermons were approved by the Presbytery.

Since Francis Makemie had been successful in convincing two ministers to come over and help the infant Presbyterian church previously, the Presbytery urged Makemie again to write to Scotland and a certain minister by the name of Alexander Coldin. He was to give an account of the state and circumstances of the dissenting Presbyterian interest in and among the people, especially in and about Lewistown, and signify the earnest desires of those members that Mr. Coldin travel over to these shores and become their minister.

We conclude that their meeting was not unlike the gathering of Presbyterians in presbyteries across the modern world now.  Sermons are preached, though not as long as these early expositions of the Word. Elections are held for presbyterial office.  Excuses are considered as to absences, and approved or disapproved. Pastors without call are considered for vacant pulpits. Overtures are recommended, discussed, and voted upon by the presbyters. All in all, the work of the Lord began in Philadelphia, 1706, and continues today in hundreds of presbyteries across the world.

Words to Live By:  Speaking to elders, be faithful to your presbytery meetings, for there the work of the Lord is initiated, issues of interest to the church are discussed by and for elders, warnings are heeded, encouragements are given, and support is given to the kingdom of grace.

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