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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Celebrations at a Memorial Service

With few Presbyterian historical events to remember on this date, we turn our attention to Shorter Catechism question and answer number 96.  It asks, “What is the Lord’s Supper?” and answers “The Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.”

Here is the other Sacrament after the initial one of baptism.  Its essence is by “giving and receiving bread and wine,” Christ’s death is “showed forth.”  In one phrase, the truth of the substitutionary atonement of Christ dying in place of sinners is represented.  Christ clearly appointed that meaning when he instituted it near the end of His earthly life.

The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is put forth as a spiritual edification or building up of the Lord’s people. That this is so, is made clear by our Confessional fathers when they specifically state that “the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, make partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.”

The churches of the Reformation divided over the manner of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Roman Catholics believe that the actual body and blood of Christ are present in the bread and wine. Lutherans believe that the actual body and blood of Christ are in, with, and under the elements. Presbyterians believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper, while He in His physical body is in heaven as a glorified body, seated at the right hand of God. So, when we partake of the elements of bread and wine, we do  in a spiritual manner partake of His body and blood. Rightly partaking of them will strengthen, encourage, and spiritually build us up in the totality of the Christian faith and walk.

Words to live by: In succeeding days, when we have nothing to report of historical persons, places, and things of Presbyterianism, we will look at the Larger Catechism’s treatment as to what duties we are to perform before, during, and after our observance of the Lord’s Supper. For now, do not be carelessly absent when the Lord’s Supper is offered at your congregation. It is a means of grace to our souls, a channel of blessings of the covenant of grace.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 10 – 12

Through the Standards:  The subjects of baptism according to the Shorter Catechism

WSC 95 — “To whom is baptism to be administered?
A.  Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

God is the Only Soul-satisfying Portion

We have often in this series of Presbyterian highlights through American history taken time to inquire in the Diary of David Brainerd.  In the life of this young missionary to the Indians of his day, he reveals much of himself, and us through him, as well as speaks to the things that are primary  in our lives.  This day is no exception to that rule.

In his travels, David Brainerd had experienced some success in reaching the hearts and souls of the various tribes of Indians.  Some had responded to the gospel.  Others were convicted by the Word of God.  There seems to be some “success” in his desires that Christ be found among them, and in them.

Yet immediately after this high point in his life, he goes through a real deep valley experience which bring him low.  He speaks of it as “sore inward trials,” and how he has lost any confidence that qualified himself to be a missionary to the Indians.  He is exceedingly depressed in spirit.  He sees that there is too much self-exaltation, spiritual pride, and warmth of temper in him.  He is ashamed and guilty before God.  He goes through what we might call a “dry period” of Christian experience.  But listen to what he writes on the Lord’s day, which is August 22, 1742.

“In the morning, continued still in perplexity.  In the evening, enjoyed that comfort that seemed to me sufficient to overbalance all my late distress.  I saw that God is the only soul-satisfying portion, and I really found satisfaction in Him.  My soul was much enlarged in sweet intercession for my fellowmen everywhere, and for many Christian friends in particular, in distant places.”

In short, he found that the source of joy is found in the Lord his God, and as he was able to rest in Him, all depression and perplexity vanished away as he glorified God and enjoyed Him forever.   

Words to live by: It was the Psalmist Asaph in Psalm 73 who asked and answered what David Brainerd (and ourselves) was experiencing here.  Verse 26 reads, “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (NASB) May this text benefit you, dear reader, this day and always.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Chronicles 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The definition of prayer:

WLC 178  —  “What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” 

WSC 98 — “What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

A Deluge of Pentecostal Power

We have at  various times in this historical devotional turned to the Diary of David Brainerd.  Brainerd was a Presbyterian missionary to the Indians, or native Americans as we would call them today, in the mid seventeen hundreds.  In his short life and ministry among them, he recorded his thoughts and his actions to them and on their behalf, which diary has been used by the Holy Spirit of God to lead countless in both olden times and modern times to commit their lives to service to the Lord.

We look at one day in August 8, 1745 when in a return visit to the Indians of Crossweeksung, New Jersey, the Lord brought about an awakening of their hearts which surpassed anything David Brainerd had experienced up to this time.  Listen to his words from his diary:  “. . . the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a mighty raging wind’ and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it.  I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience almost universally; and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible form of a mighty torrent, or swelling deluge, that with its insupportable weight and pressure bears down and sweeps before it whatever is in its way.  I must say . . . that the Lord did much to destroy the kingdom of darkness among his people.”

And then at the bottom of his diary, he writes “This was indeed a surprising day of God’s power, and seemed enough to convince an atheist of the truth, importance, and power of God’s Word.”

When so much of his missionary work has been dry of any results, at least from what he could see, it must have been refreshing to finally see God’s powerful work in breaking up  the hard hearts and the giving to them soft hearts for the gospel.

Words to live by:  There is a powerful text which all believers to remember.  It is a wonderful comfort for us.  It is found in the last phrase of Acts 13:48 where it says, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Both parts of this text are correct.  Who will believe the gospel?  Answer: as many as were appointed to eternal life.  How do we know those appointed to eternal life?  Answer: They will believe.  Be encouraged to continue to share the good news of eternal life with all those who are interested in listening to you – unsaved loved one, neighbors, work associates, school mates, friends, and strangers you meet.

Through the Scriptures: Jeremiah  9 – 12

Through the Standards: The ninth commandment: Duties required

WLC 143 & WSC 76 — “What is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” 

WLC 144   “What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A.  The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency, a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.”

WSC 77 “What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Highly Religious Man with Strong Presbyterian Beliefs

We might more readily suggest any number of men and ministers of whom this title might describe.  But when it is known that this description was given to a man, indeed a minister, by the name of Richard Denton in the early sixteen  hundreds residing in Long Island, New York, most, if not all of our readers might reply with at statement like “I never  heard of  him.”  And yet, he established the first Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Richard Denton was born in 1603 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated at Cambridge in 1623, he ministered in Halifax, England for some years in the parish of Owran.  Emigrating to Connecticut, he worked first with the famous preacher Cotton Mather.  The latter said of him that “Rev. Denton was a highly religious man with strong Presbyterian views.  He was a small man with only one eye, but in the pulpit he could sway a congregation like he was nine feet tall.”

When religious controversies, like which church government the  congregations should follow, threatened to disrupt the Connecticut group, Denton and a group of families moved to what is now Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  He settled there in a large Dutch colony.  Because there were some English settlers also there, that was enough for a congregation to be organized.

Back in those early days, his salary came from every inhabitant of the area.  In fact, you could be fined for not attending worship, and that fine was aggravated each week to a higher level for succeeding absences.  The church he began, today called Christ Presbyterian Church, was so successful with Rev. Denton in its pulpit, that Dutch people began to attend it as well.

On August 5, 1657, a letter was written by two Dutch settlers to the Classis of Amsterdam, saying: “At Hempstead, about seven leagues from here, there lives some Independents.  There are also many of our church, and some Presbyterians.  They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything.  The Independents of this place listen attentively to  his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of (Dutch) parents who were not members of the church, they rushed out of the church.”

As time went on, the salary of Rev. Denton began to be collected sporadically by the citizens.  As a result, he planned to go back to England.  After all, he did have a large family of seven children. And it was said that his wife was sickly in constitution.  Another letter was written two months later on October 22 in which the same two writers stated, “Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways.”  They were not successful, and he returned to England.  He died in 1662.

Words to live by: The date of the presence of Presbyterians boggles our minds and hearts.  Since that time, countless servants of the gospel have labored in difficult fields where money has been tight.  The New Testament more than once urges the members in the pews to share all good things, including remuneration, with those who teach them the Word.

Through the Scriptures:  Obadiah, Jeremiah 1, 2

Through the Standards: The eighth commandment: Duties required

WLC 140 & WSC 73 — “Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.”

WLC 141 — What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
A.  The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, affections concerning worldly goods; and provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary law-suits, and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.”

WSC 74 — “What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

As a Christian, None More Sincere

There is some doubt as to whether James Wilson was a Presbyterian. That he was a Christian, no one doubts, but there is doubt that he was Presbyterian in his convictions.  So who was James Wilson, you ask? James Wilson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Wilson was born in Scotland in 1742. Studying at three educational institutions in his native land, he never did earn a degree from any one of them. But he did emigrate to the America colonies in 1766 with good recommendations, which enabled him to teach at the College of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, upon his arrival. Studying law while he was doing that enabled him to be admitted to the profession of law. Moving around in the colonies eventually brought him to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

With his marriage to Rachel Bird in 1771 in an Anglican Church, it is here that the claim was made that his religious connection was with what we know as the Episcopal Church.  However, raising a strong contention that he was Presbyterian, is the fact that he was one of twelve appointed to form a Society of Presbyterians on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church on the square in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. That commitment to Presbyterianism never faltered, even when he moved to Philadelphia.  He  was faithful to maintain a pew, for which he paid pew rent, to the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.

It was on August 2, 1776 that James Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence.  Why was there this delay from July 4 when many of the others signed it?  Wilson, being a good representative of the people in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, wished to know what his constituents desired.  So he traveled back to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to find out their sentiments for independence from England were strong in favor of declaring independence.  So he signed the historic document.  He was also an key member of the Constitution of the United States.

George Washington nominated him as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  But because of risky land purchases, he would die  in poverty in 1798 while on a court case down in North Carolina.

Words to Live By: 
It is true that his religious affiliation is strong argued by two Protestant churches.  The overwhelming evidence seems to be with the Presbyterians, given his financial support of that Presbyterian church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, Pa.  More important than that is the assessment that as a Christian, none was more sincere.  We must make sure our election and calling, brothers and sisters, that we are a member of God’s kingdom by sovereign and saving grace, first and foremost.  Then, and only then, being a Christian Presbyterian, is strongly recommended!

Through the Scriptures: Zephaniah 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The seventh commandment: required duties

WLC 137 & WSC 70 — “Which is the seventh commandment?
A.  The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

WLC 138 — “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A.  The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of contingency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings, shunning all occasions of uncleanliness, and resisting temptations thereunto.”

WSC 71 — “What is required in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment requires the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Disabled in Body, But Not in Spirit

The teenager had gathered that Sunday, July 30, 1967 with some friends and sisters to swim in the Chesapeake Bay waters.  Diving into the bay seemed like a safe thing to do, but Joni Erickson was not aware of the shallowness of that water.  As she struggled to rise to the surface, her sister had to assist  her because she had no feeling in her arms.  Indeed, after an emergency vehicle had taken her to the emergency room was it discovered that she  had broken her neck.  She was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Understandably, she went through a horror of emotions in the first two years.  The “why” answers were not being given by God or anyone else.  She immersed herself in the Bible and there in that inspired book found both the strength to continue on  and a purpose to continue living.

With her loving husband, Ken Tada by her side, whom she married in 1982, they began a ministry for the disabled called Joni and Friends.  It is a world-wide organization which seeks to minister to those  disabled to conquer life’s challenges, and especially to find the love of God through Christ.

Joni has had an autobiography in her book (“Joni”) , then in movie form, several musical albums, books galore, etchings — all to show that disabled people can have a ministry  in the church and in the world.  And as a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, she has had extraordinary opportunities to share her saving faith in all sorts of forums.

Even in her recent challenge of breast cancer, which she successfully endured, she is hopeful of a positive prognosis.  God has not abandoned those with disabilities.  All kinds of sufferings will “work together and  will fit into a plan for good and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.” (Amplified, Romans 8:28)

Words to Live By: Jesus, in one of the dinners he had been invited to while on earth, gave some instructions to his host.  He, in Luke 14, told him “to invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind.” (v. 13)  We have a ministry to these ones who are in desperate need of acceptance by the believers of today.  Let’s plan on ways we can minister in word and deed to these ones, especially the disabled in our churches and neighborhoods.  What can you do to show them hospitality?

Through the Scriptures: Micah 5 – 7

Through the Standards: The Sixth commandment: Required duties

WLC 134 & WSC 67 — “What is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill (murder).”

WLC 135 — “What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A.  The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thought and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physical, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness, peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed and protecting the defending the innocent.”

WSC 68 — “What is required in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Hymn Writer Par Excellent

The Union fort was surrounded on all sides by the forces of the Southern Confederacy in 1864. Wondering whether he should surrender or not, the  Union military commander looked to the north and saw the signal coming his way.  It read, “Hold the fort. I am coming. Sherman.” He did, and his command was rescued by the Union forces. The Christian hymn writer heard the story and turned it into a hymn for the visible church yet on the earth.  “Hold the fort, for I am coming,” he interpreted Christ saying. And the Christians in His church, replied “By thy grace we will.”

That hymn writer was Philip P.  Bliss, who was born in a log home on this day July 9, 1838 in Rome, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania to Christian parents.  For the first ten years of his life, he moved constantly to Ohio and to different places in northern Pennsylvania.  He received most of his early education from  his mother.  Early on, he developed a passion for music.  For the next eight years, he worked constantly for other people, on farms, as a cook, at lumber yards, in sawmills — anywhere he could get a job. Staying with various families, one such stay resulted in marriage with Lucy Young.

Lucy Young was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Rome, Pennsylvania,  having come to Christ when she was sixteen years of age. Philip Bliss joined the Presbyterian Church at well, becoming superintendent of the Sunday School. Two children would be born of this union with Lucy.

Moving to Chicago in 1864, he began to be involved with music within the context of evangelistic preachers, such as Dwight L Moody, Major Whittle, and others.  He also began to write music, and publish his own gospel song books.

It was for one of these evangelistic campaigns with D. L. Moody that he and his wife left their two small children with his mother in Rome, Pennsylvania to travel by train in 1876. The train in a blinding snow storm traveled on a bridge which was compromised. It caused the train to fall into the gorge.  Philip Bliss was able to extract himself through a window, but went back to help his wife Lucy, when the train was engulfed by fire. They never found any bodies after that storm of fire.

Hymns written by Philip Bliss are some of the most memorable in Christian music.  Some of them are: Almost Persuaded, Hallelujah What a Savior, Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, The Light of the world is Jesus, Whosoever Will,  Wonderful Words of Life.  I am so Glad that Jesus Loved me,  Dare to be a Daniel, I will Sing of My Redeemer, Man of Sorrows, What a Name, More Holiness Give Me, and Jerusalem the Golden.

Words to Live By:
The next time you sing in church one of Philip Bliss hymns, or around the piano in your home, reflect on the love Philip Bliss had for his Redeemer, the love of lost souls, and the self-sacrificing love he had for his wife, Lucy.  Indeed, “google” Philip P. Bliss and read more of his life. He used his God-given talents and gifts for the Savior in the Presbyterian Church, as well as for the church at large. So should we do the same.

Through the Scriptures:   Isaiah 7 – 9

Through the Standards: The fourth commandment: Duties required in the catechisms

WLC 115 and WSC 57 — “Which is the fourth commandment?
A.  The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.  For in six days the Lord made  heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them  is, and rested in the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath-day and  hallowed it.” 

WLC 116 — “What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called the Lord’s day.”

WSC 58 — “What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be  a holy Sabbath to himself.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Happy Independence Day

On this Independence Day, we reflect on what freedom means to us as Christian Presbyterians.  Among all the benefits which we enjoy as Christian citizens, chief among which should be the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience as regulated by His Word, the Bible.  That didn’t happen by accident, of course.  We must thank at least in word the signers of the Declaration of Independence who were ready to sacrifice everything so that we might enjoy the blessings of this nation today.  And of the 56 signers of that historic document, 12 individuals,  or 21% of the fifty-six signers were Presbyterian in conviction, or in some way possessed close ties with the Presbyterian church.

While Presbyterians were never thought of as being the state church of the new nation, still countless Presbyterian congregations were thought on as being the building blocks of the new nation.  There was a reason why a member of the British Parliament commented during the American  Revolution that Cousin America has run away with a Presbyterian parson.  Further,there was a particular hatred of the Presbyterianism by  British officers and  troops.  They burned down countless Presbyterian churches, destroyed their Bibles and pastoral books, or used their buildings for hospitals, stables, and storage centers.  During the years of the Revolution, presbyteries often met for business far from their normal locations during peace time.

So as I simply list the twelves signers of the Declaration of Independence, how many had you heard of before, and what do you know of their lives?  They are: Benjamin Rush (of Pennsylvania), James Smith (of Pennsylvania), George Taylor (of Pennsylvania), James Wilson (of Pennsylvania), Abraham Clark (of New Jersey), Richard Stockton (of New Jersey), John Hart (of New Jersey), and John Witherspoon  (of New Jersey), Philip Livingston (of New York), William Floyd (of New York), Matthew Thornton (of New Hampshire), and Thomas McKean (of Delaware).

Some of these will be covered at relevant dates in this historical devotional.  But all of them need to be remembered by you for their faithful commitment to God and country.

Words to Live By: 
It would be a great spiritual exercise for you or one of your family to study the background of each of these men for a daily or Sunday home devotional to share with the members of your family, or just for yourself, or for your congregation.  Many of them shared great hardship due to their commitment to our nation.  May we be just as eager to stand up for righteousness today, whether in our homes, or at our work places, or in society at large.

Through the Scriptures:  Hosea 8 – 10

Through the Standards: The Third Commandment

WLC 111 & WSC 53 — “Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.”  

The Third Commandment Requirements:

WLC 112 — “What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holy and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by a holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.”

WSC 54 — “What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires the holy and reverence use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Chaplain Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice

The Union chaplain was assisting the medical staff in the sanctuary of College Lutheran church on that chaotic day of July 1, 1863.  Hearing shots outside on Chambersburg Street, he said to the surgeon working on one of  the 140 wounded Union men inside, “I will step outside for a moment and see what the trouble is.”  Walking through the door with Sgt. Archibald Snow, they both saw a Confederate soldier at the bottom of the church steps demanding them to surrender.  Chaplain Howell began to explain that he was a non-combatant, when the Southern soldier let his rifle finish the conversation.  Chaplain Howell fell dead on the top step of the church.

Horatio Howell was the Presbyterian chaplain of the 90th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.  He had graduated from Lafayette College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  After marriage with Isabella Grant in 1846, he served a couple of Presbyterian churches before entering the Federal army on March 13, 1862.  His reason was the wickedness of slavery, then being practiced by the Southern states.  He believed that this practice of slavery would “reduce to the condition of brutes those whom God had created in his own image, and for whom Christ had died.”

He was the  regimental chaplain for the 90th Pa. Volunteer Regiment at this battle, which was  mauled on Oak Ridge of the battlefield by Southern troops of Robert Rodes.  He was 42 years of age when he died, and  buried on the church grounds of what is now Christ Lutheran Church.  After the battle, his remains were shipped to Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1889, in the first monument to honor a fallen Union chaplain, members of the Survivors Association of the 90th Pa. Volunteers along with personal friends of the lamented chaplain erected a memorial featuring an open bronze book at the foot of  the front stairs of the Lutheran Church.  Located on the same spot as the Confederate soldier who fired the fatal shot, the moment reads, “In memorium  Rev. Horatio Howell  Chaplain 90th Pennsylvania Vol. was cruelly shot dead on these church steps on the afternoon of July 1, 1863  “He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou lifteth me up above those that rise up against me.” 18th Psalm  43 verse,  “he being dead yet speaketh” 11 Hebrews, 4 verse.”

Also on this date:
July 1, 1643 marks the first gathering of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, considered by many to be the greatest gathering of theologians of all time.

Words to Live By: Armchair “generals” in later days point out that the chaplain’s uniform in the Civil War was an officer’s coat and a dress sword.  This appearance thus confused the Confederate soldier who obviously had a chaotic day in this first day of the battle of  Gettysburg.  It is difficult to rationalize in split seconds time what could or should be our action when our life depends on it.  We need pray much for those of our citizens and fellow members who are fighting on far flung battlefields who are  in harm’s way, that God will providentially guard His people and protect them from harm.  And pray for their loved ones at home, and serve with love any of them who may be near you in location.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 15 – 17

Through the Standards: The second commandment: Sins forbidden

WLC 109 — “What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them, all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by traditions from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony, sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.”

WSC 51 — “What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbids the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Sad Schism Among the Saints

They were united in their conviction over the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  A number of the teaching and ruling elders had suffered over expulsion from the rolls of the visible church.  Others had lost church buildings, manses, and pensions.  But in God’s providence, they had gathered in great rejoicing to begin a new church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were one in coming out of the apostasy, but it was not too long before the members of the Presbyterian Church of America were divided over other issues.  It was at the third General Assembly of the P.C.A. in Philadelphia, as reported by the June 26th, 1937 Presbyterian Guardian, that these divisive issues came to the floor of the assembly.

The first one dealt with the issue of Independency versus ecclesiastical Presbyterianism within the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  Obviously, since 1933 at its organization, this mission board had not been affiliated with any denomination.  It was independent of it.  Independent agencies had always had a place within the American Presbyterian Church.  But now with the advent of the Presbyterian Church of America, the majority of the elders desired that a Presbyterian affiliation be adhered to again.  When Dr. J. Gresham Machen was voted off as president of the Independent Board, his place was filled by an Independent Presbyterian, with no affiliation with the new Presbyterian Church of America.  Further, the vice-president’s position was also filled by an individual who was independent of any ecclesiastical relationship to Presbyterianism.  Many members, including the General Secretary, Rev. Charles Woodbridge, resigned from the Independent Board.

The commissioners to the Third General Assembly, meeting in Philadelphia at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, overwhelmingly voted that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was no longer to be an agency for foreign missions by the Presbyterian Church of America.  By that same margin, they voted to endorse a new Committee on Foreign Missions by the P.C.A.

The second issue dealt with whether total abstinence from alcoholic beverages was to be the position of the church.  While it was acknowledged that the greater number of delegates to the assembly abstained from alcohol, yet they were  hesitant to make it a rule for the church, but instead leave it as a matter of Christian liberty to its membership.  This position was especially difficult for pastors in the middle west of the country who were fighting the saloon trade in western towns.  Given the national issue then in the country over the temperance issue, it was thought that this would have been a wise decision.  But again the Assembly refused by a wide margin to make total abstinence the only true principle of temperance.

It is interesting that Westminster Theological Seminary, soon after this assembly, stated to its students, that “to avoid any misconception by the public, a rule is established forbidding all beverage use of alcoholic liquors upon the grounds and in the buildings of the seminary.”

At the end of this assembly, those who  had been in the minority on both of these issues, gathered to begin what became the Bible Presbyterian church. (See June 4) What had been a united front before the watching world became two smaller church bodies of Presbyterians.

Words to Live By:   It is easy to look back at a later date and see the “right thing” to do.  But it is obvious that there were unfounded rumors of wild drinking parties on Westminster Seminary grounds as well as  a lack of understanding by some elders of the challenges facing pastors of western churches.  To be sure, the guiding wisdom of a J. Gresham Machen was missing from the assembly with his entrance into the heavenly kingdom earlier that year.  But all elders, both teaching and ruling elders, are to filled with the Spirit.  And working within the framework of love, deal wisely with others who differ from them in points of contention.   Let us learn to do this in our own circles.

Through the Scriptures:  Joel 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The first commandment: Required duties

WLC 103 — Which is the first commandment?
A.  The first commandment is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

WLC 104 — “What are the duties required in the first commandment?
A. The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him, trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please  him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.”

WSC 45 — “Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

WSC 46 — “What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the holy true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.”

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