A Manual for Members
by Rev. David T. Myers

What should we expect ourselves and our fellow members to be doing for the Lord through our respective congregations?  Various answers might be forthcoming, but it is interesting what a famous congregation in the Bible Presbyterian Church specified were its members responsibilities to the Lord.

In a leaflet written on March 3, 1946, a pamphlet was published of the Collingswood, New Jersey, Bible Presbyterian Church.  After listing its pastoral staff, including the Rev. Carl McIntire, and recording  the names of the Session of Elders, Trustees, and Deacons, as well as specifying all the ministry opportunities of the church in home and abroad,  there was a section stating the purposes of its members.  It read:

 “Every member a worker” is the idea for our church.  The church is falling short of its goal unless every member attends its services regularly and engages in at least one specific service or ministry.  Here is our program for every individual member:

  1. Read the Bible daily
  2. Pray every day
  3. Give thanks at every meal
  4. Have regular family worship
  5. By example and speech moment by moment, honor the Lord Jesus Christ
  6. Attend church services on the Lord’s Day regularly
  7. Attend the mid-week service
  8. Contribute your tithe regularly and proportionately to the work of the church
  9. Take an active part in at least one of the organizations or projects mentioned in this pamphlet, and
  10.  Invite at least one person a month to attend the services of the Church — someone who is unsaved or unchurched.

Now, in conclusion, some of our readers, and even some of the ministers, might have objections to this list, but as you read them again, there are very few items which are not taught or inferred in the Bible as necessary traits of the disciples of the Lord Jesus.  Nevertheless, however we might think of it,  this is one congregation’s attempts over eighty years ago which sought to help its members by being faithful members of the local congregation to which they were committed.

Words to Live By: Let us seek to fulfill our promise as members of the local church to which we are committed, to  live as becomes the followers of Christ Jesus.

An Answer to the Charge of Being Unloving

There is a relevant editorial in the March 2, 1936 edition of The Presbyterian Guardian.  Historically minded readers will recognize this magazine as the voice of conservative leaders who were at that time still members of the Presbyterian Church, USA.  However, their remaining time there was but short, for in that year, trials and suspensions were taking place at an alarming rate for no other charge other than refusing to desist from the support of an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  J. Gresham Machen was still alive and writing vigorously for the defense of the Christian faith.  Others were taking their stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

On the editorial page of that issue (Volume 1, Number 11), H. McAllister Griffiths writes in defense of the need to expose modernism in the church at large.  Specifically, he answers why such an exposé is not unloving.  Listen to his words, which even today are apt in addressing the errors of today, both inside and outside the church:

“Why then do we present the facts concerning modernism . . .?  Only because it is our duty.  We find no happiness in the betrayals of which we must tell.  No one in his right mind could gloat over them, or be other than sorrowful.  But — if we love the souls of men we must warn them.  We must warn a sleeping church, largely uninformed about the nature of its official boards.  And finally, if we care anything about the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the place due His Holy Word, we are under a solemn obligation to speak.

“This speaking, let it be understood, is in love. But what, exactly, is speaking in love?  Is it to speak lovingly?  Yes—in part.  But there is more to it than that.  We speak most in love when the motive that prompts us is love, and when the end desired is the supreme good of the one addressed.  The most loving words to a blind man approaching an unsuspected precipice would be ‘Stop! Stop! Stop where you are!’  What would you think of anyone who criticized the speaker of those words because he ‘didn’t have a good spirit,’ did not speak ‘lovingly,’ and who advised the blind man to go on, paying no attention to such an un-Christian fellow?

“(We see the church moving) on toward the precipice. The ground will feel solid beneath its feet until it gets to the edge. After it steps over it will be too late.  That is why we cry ‘Stop!’ now. And the cry of those who would save is the most loving cry in the world, even if unadorned with honeyed words.”

The Presbyterian stalwarts for the faith back in the 1930’s were praying and working for the elimination of unbelief in the Presbyterian church.  As we know now from history, such was not to be.  And those who were standing for the faith once delivered unto the saints were expelled from the church.

Words to Live By: The apostle Paul wrote 2000  plus years ago that all true Christians are to “take no part in the  unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11 (ESV)

Something for you to ponder, this Lord’s day. This is an excerpt from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs, who served as a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. I’m just about finished reading this classic work, and have been greatly blessed by it.


By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to Him.

            It is a special part of the divine worship that we owe to God, to be content in a Christian way, as has been shown to you. I say it is a special part of the divine worship that the creature owes to the infinite Creator, in that I tender the respect that is due from me to the Creator.

            You worship God more by this than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship, to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But this is the soul’s worship, to subject itself thus to God. You who often will worship God by hearing, and praying, and receiving sacraments, and yet afterwards will be forward and discontented—know that God does not regard such worship, He will have the soul’s worship, in this subjecting of the soul unto God. Note this, I beseech you; in active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases God by being pleased with what God does. Now when I perform a duty I worship God, I do what pleases God; why should I not as well worship God when I am pleased with what God does? As it was said of Christ’s obedience: Christ was active in His passive obedience, and passive in His active obedience; so the saints are passive in their active obedience, they are first passive in the reception of grace, and then active. And when they come to passive obedience, they are active, they put forth grace in active obedience. When they perform actions to God, then the soul says: ‘Oh! That I could do what pleases God!’ When they come to suffer any cross: ‘Oh, that what God does might please me!’ I labor to do what pleases God, and I labor that what God does shall please me: here is a Christian indeed, who shall endeavor both these. It is but one side of a Christian to endeavor to do what pleases God; you must as well endeavor to be pleased with what God doe, and so you will come to be a complete Christian when you can do both, and that is the first thing in the excellence of this grace of contentment. [pp. 130-132]

The above is perhaps explained in part by what Burroughs says later:

            It should be the care of a Christian to observe what are God’s ways towards him: What is God about to do with me at this time? Is God about to raise me, to comfort me? Let me accept God’s goodness, and bless His name; let me join with the work of God, when He offers mercy to me, to take the mercy He offers. But again, is God about to humble me? Is God about to break my heart, and to bring my heart down to Him? Let me join with God in this work of His; this is how a Christian should walk with God. It is said that Enoch and Noah walked with God – walked with God, what is that? It is, To observe what work God is now about, and to join with God in that work of His; so that, according as God turns this way or that way, the heart should turn with God, and having workings suitable to the workings of God towards him.

            Now I am discontented and murmuring, because I am afflicted; but that is why you are afflicted, because God would humble you. The great design God has in afflicting you, is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God? For you to murmur and be discontented is to resist the work of God. God is doing you good if you could see it, and if He is pleased to sanctify you affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life. Now will you still stand out against God? It is just as if you were to say, ‘Well, the Lord is about to break me, and humble me, but He shall not’; this is the language of your murmuring and your discontentedness, though you dare not say so. But though you do not say so in words, yet it is certainly the language of the temper of your spirit. Oh, consider what an aggravation this is: I am discontented when God is about to work such a work upon me as is for my good; yet I stand out against Him and resist Him. [pp. 211-212]

chaferLS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The provisions of God often speedily arrests the success of wicked men.

The following sermon begins with a wonderful treatment on how the seeming triumph of wickedness is always temporary and brief, by God’s mercy and by His sovereign design. This opening section, reproduced below (pp. 3-7 in the original), stands on its own and has an abiding relevance. I think you will find it valuable.

As the title indicates, this sermon was delivered on February 26, 1854, in opposition to the Nebraska Bill, a piece of legislation which threatened to expand the reach of slavery across the developing western states. It is in the second half of Rev. Crowell’s sermon where he turns to specifically address the outrage of this legislation. (page 7-15 in the original publication).

The Wickedness of the Nebraska Bill. A Sermon preached in The Second Presbyterian Church, Orange, N.J., February 26th, 1854, by John Crowell, pastor of the church. (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1854)

SERMON.

The triumphing of the wicked is short.” — Job xx. 5.

That the wicked often do triumph can neither be doubted nor denied. Thus they themselves are able to boast over the righteous, and the righteous are perplexed, and sometimes ready to repine. “I was envious at the foolish” (confesses one long ago) “when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Behold, these are the ungodly that prosper in the world : they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washing mine hands in innocency.”

The text furnishes part of the solution to this perplexing problem of the providence of God.

THE TRIUMPHING OF THE WICKED IS SHORT.

It is generally short, even with reference to this life, and always with reference to the life to come. I wish to speak of it at present only with reference to this life; and without attempting to discuss fully even this last important branch of the subject, I would briefly offer a single general remark.

The triumph of the wicked man’s success is short.

A moment’s reflection will show us that the success of wicked men and wicked plans is at least as likely to be temporary as that of the righteous and their plans. If it is the common lot of earthly things to be transient and uncertain, no exemption surely can be claimed in favor of wicked plans.

But there are causes peculiar to wickedness, which tend to the speedy interruption of its success.

1. The rival plans of other wicked men.

These will often clash with each other. And as some will prevent the success of their rivals, so they will speedily break in on the career of the prosperous. All wickedness springs from selfishness, which from its very nature tramples upon every object weaker than itself. Success in one instance will excite the desires of other wicked men; will inflame their envy; will teach their ignorance, opening a path which they can easily follow; affording a model for their imitation, and supplying light to guide them on their way. Thus the very success of the wicked man tends to his destruction. “Every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.

The history of wickedness would supply many instances of rivals pursuing, supplanting, destroying those who formerly followed in the rear of another, overwhelming his rival, a little time on the pinnacle of success. One conqueror is seen raising for a moment the shout of triumph, but he himself is soon struck down by a mightier arm. Thus the great battlefield of history presents, to an unpractised eye, a confused and discordant assemblage of nations, costumes, and languages; one banner for a moment waves triumphantly, but soon is trampled in the dust, and another is advanced on high; and this is repeated over and over again, from the most remote period, where the shadows of time almost conceal the vision, down to the spot upon which the strong light of the present age is concentrated—where for a moment Napoleon triumphed and fell. And on the same spot new hosts are assembling for a new and perhaps more extended and fearful conflict than any which the world has yet seen.

The same thing often happens among a less splendid and less lauded class of wicked men. One dishonest man speedily arrests the triumph of another’s success. Some may for a time pursue an iniquitous business with what they call brilliant good fortune, but this will attract others as unscrupulous as they, and their occupation may soon be gone. Let any man adopt unfair practices in a lawful business, and, escaping all the hazards incident to success, rejoice in his gains; he will soon find that others can be equally dishonest and equally adroit, and his triumph in the monopoly of fraud is but for a moment.

2. Success increases the desire of the wicked man, and prompts to new and greater efforts. These often fail, and thus frequently all is lost that had been gained. A wicked career is like a game of chance, where small winnings entice to greater risks, till at length on one venture all may be lost.

Success in wickedness renders a man reckless. It excites his mind, inflames his passions, hardens his heart, and overwhelms his judgment. Thus, being madly impelled upwards on slippery places, by one false step he may be plunged into the lowest depths. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever; they which have seen him shall say, ‘Where is he?’ “

3. There are also many barriers against which success will drive a wicked man, and which will speedily arrest his triumphant career.

I have already said that he will entice and provoke the opposition of rivals in wickedness, who are anxious to share his spoils. But in addition to this, we are told that “oppression makes even wise men mad.” We may add, as equally true, that it makes gentle men fierce, and weak men strong. A tyrant may triumph over a weak and gentle person or nation, but his cruelty, his injustice will be goading the gentleness into opposition, and nerving the weakness into strength. Thus his success is creating the materials for its own destruction.

Success in wickedness also combines opposition. The wicked man seeks to extend the sphere of his triumph and the number of his victims. Thus many will be united against him by common sufferings, and many others, through fear that their turn may next come.

The wicked man must also encounter the sense of justice which is lodged deep in every breast. It exists even in the breasts of the wicked themselves. The ability to distinguish right from wrong is never entirely destroyed by transgression; sometimes, on the contrary, it is increased. Men may be keen-sighted to detect evil in others, though it exists in themselves; yes, in proportion as it exists in them; and the worst may love justice, provided it be not inflicted on their own heads. Thus the opposition of the wicked against the wicked is strengthened when one can plead the claims of justice against the other. When does cruelty revel and riot so fiercely as when the abandoned and the vile, maddened by wrongs, trample down the barriers of law, and take the infliction of vengeance into their own hands? Then the innocent share the fate of the guilty—the pure fall with the corrupt and the infant with the man; then the adroitest executioner and the most rapid stroke are too slow for the work of death; and the nearest lampposts receive their victims; the rivers flow with blood. Then, indeed, it is “the reign of terror” over the land. The very “Furies” of hell are lost spirits, armed as the ministers of justice.

But it is the opposition of the upright and pure which is chiefly aroused by the success of the wicked, and which proves the most effectual barrier against their continued triumph. The strong among the good are alert and determined in defence of the weak. Physical strength is quickly by the side of the feeble; intellectual strength pours forth its treasures in behalf of the ignorant, and moral strength encounters its greatest risks to uphold the innocent.

The provisions of God often speedily arrests the success of wicked men.

All the influences which I have mentioned are parts of His providential arrangement. But, in addition to the ordinary operation of these, we often find God manifestly overruling and controlling them, giving them special efficiency. Sometimes He interferes by an unusual and unexpected agent, or without any visible agency whatever. The only verdict that the strictest investigation can render is, that the mighty have fallen by the hand of God.

The close of the chapter in which the text is found, thus sums up the influences by which the success of the wicked is brought to an end; combining the superintendence of God’s providence with the instrumentality of God : “The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath. This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed him by God.”

To read the remainder of Rev. Crowell’s sermon, click here.

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