Lucy Craft Laney is widely recognized as Georgia’s most famous female African American educator. Founder and principal of the Haines Institute for fifty years (1883-1933), she was born on April 13, 1854 in Macon, Georgia. Lucy was  one of ten children born in the years before emancipation to Louisa and David Laney. However, her parents were not slaves. Her father was both a Presbyterian pastor and a skilled carpenter who, while previously a slave, had managed to buy his freedom some 20 years before Lucy was born, and had also purchased his wife’s freedom.

Much has been written about Lucy Craft Laney. Deservedly so. But today I would like to share what I’ve been able to find out about her father, though admittedly it’s not much, thus far.

Rev. David Laney is noted by some as the organizing pastor of the oldest black Presbyterian church in all of Georgia, established in 1839, serving that church as pastor before, during and after the war. And there is the stirring note that “When the Civil War came to an end, it was Lucy’s father who rang the bells of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church to celebrate emancipation.”

Rev. Laney was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and their Minutes of General Assembly for 1895 make record of Rev. Laney’s death in October of 1894, at the age of 86. He had been a member of the Knox Presbytery and had been noted on their rolls as honorably retired. Based on his death date and age, it is likely that he was born in 1808. If the records of Knox Presbytery were available, it is possible we might find a brief memorial spread upon the pages of their Minutes. And while a search of those buried at three historical African American cemeteries in Macon [Linwood, Riverside and Rose Hill cemeteries] failed to locate his gravesite, that search was far from conclusive.

Surprisingly, it was so recent as 2018 that a nice account of the church he founded in Macon was read into the Congressional Record, and we conclude today’s post with that history:

From the Congressional Record, 13 November 2018, pages E1510-E1511  [https://www.congress.gov/115/crec/2018/11/13/CREC-2018-11-13.pdf]

HON. SANFORD D. BISHOP, JR. OF GEORGIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honor and pleasure to extend my sincere congratulations to the membership and leadership of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church in Macon, Georgia for 180 years of remarkable service. The congregation of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church commemorated this milestone with a celebration on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

Tracing its roots back to the pre-Civil War era, the Church was organized around 1838 when Pastor Samuel Cassels was instructed to preach and minister to the slaves of the members of the 1st Presbyterian Church’s congregation. The ‘‘African Chapel,’’ a separate facility, was built on Fourth Street (now M.L. King Drive) but remained associated with the 1st Presbyterian Church. With a request for full independence by ‘‘African Chapel’’ members that was granted on May 5, 1866, the present Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church was formed. Joseph Williams, David Laney, and Robert Carter were the first Ministers ordained to serve the church following its formal establishment.

The Church had humble origins due to racial and social stratification in the post-Civil War South. With the end of the Civil War, the bells of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church rang to celebrate emancipation. Under the pastorate of David Laney, most notably, the distinguished Gothic Revival structure of the Church was constructed. The Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church is not only the oldest African-American congregation in the state of Georgia, but also bears the distinct honor of being one of the oldest minority congregations in the country. Named for the street on which it is located, the Church has become the primary place of worship for many generations of the most prominent black families in Macon. It also enjoys the privilege of being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in America, another indication of its importance in the local, state, and national communities.

The story of Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church, which began as a small group of slaves worshipping in a small ‘‘African Chapel’’ and has grown into an expansive and successful church, is truly an inspiring one of the dedication and perseverance of a faithful congregation of people who put all their love and trust in the Lord.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues in the House to join me in paying tribute to the Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church in Macon, Georgia for its congregation’s enduring commitment despite adversity, to each other and to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for over 180 years. May their actions continue to inspire the community in courage, in dedication, and in faith.

Words to Live By:
As I said above, much has been written about Lucy Craft Laney, but it is interesting to try to search out the story of the father who raised her, taught her and helped to equip her for such remarkable success in life. Godly parents are an incalculable aid and benefit as we start our way in this troublesome world. We owe so much to them, so much that we can never repay. Our best efforts in honoring our parents begin as we take prayerful care to live a righteous, faithful life before the Lord our God.

Larger Catechism, Q. 123. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

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“The Little Moses”

James Muir was a son of the Rev. Dr. George and Tibbie (Wardlaw) Muir, and he was born on the 12th of April, 1757, in Cumnock, Scotland. Both his father and grandfather were highly respected ministers in the Church of Scotland, and the town of Cumnock was where his father served as pastor.

Little is known now of his early years. He studied at the University of Glasgow, and then studied theology at Edinburgh, completing his preparation in London. James was there licensed to preach by six clergymen who called themselves “dissenting ministers in the city of London” and who were loyal to the Church of Scotland. James then worked as a teacher in London until, in 1781, this same Presbytery ordained him and he answered a call to serve a congregation of Scotch Presbyterians on the island of Bermuda.

Rev. Muir’s story becomes rather complicated to tell from that point on until his death in Alexandria, Virginia, August 8th, 1820. The details are more than can be easily related in our small space here. It has been noted that Rev. Muir and his wife are two of  the very few buried inside the city limits of Alexandria, despite an 1809 restriction on cemeteries there.

When the Rev. William Buell Sprague was gathering biographies of various pastors, the Rev. Elisha Harrison replied to his request with a good account of Rev. Muir’s life. In part, he related that

“Dr. Muir was a severe student. He could not tolerate the idea of addressing immortal souls on the most momentous of all concerns, without having prepared himself for it by careful study as well as earnest prayer; and few things would put down a ministering brother in his estimation more than to be told that his discourses were either almost or altogether unpremeditated. I rarely ever saw him more out of temper than he was with a young licentiate, who, burning with what he regarded as holy zeal, remarked that it seemed to him a waste of time to study and write sermons. The Doctor could not be called an active man, though he was always regular in visiting his people, and ministering to the sick and afflicted; and when he made an engagement eiher to preach or perform any other duty, it was never his own fault if it was not fulfilled.

“But for nothing was he more distinguished than an exemplary Christian life. I lived with his family and was in close proximity with him, for more than three years; and, during the whole of that time, was never able to detect a word, an action, or even a feeling, which I would dare to pronounce decidedly wrong. And yet, during that period, his church was rent with factions, many of his congregation inflamed with bitterness and wrath, and in the issue, about half of the number separated and constituted a new church. Against all these untoward influences, he struggled hard and prayed much; and the result was that he sustained himself throughout with the utmost Christian forbearance and good will. He was often called, in reference to his large share of gentleness and meekness, in connection with his smallness of stature,–“the little Moses.”

“Dr. Muir enjoyed, in a high degree, the good opinion and affectionate regards of his brethren in the ministry, and great weight was given to his counsels in the judicatories of the Church. The whole community in which he lived, reverenced him for the purity of his life, and the memory of his exalted virtues is still dear to many, though he has long since passed away.”

Words to Live By:
Rev. Muir clearly had learned to bridle his tongue. In this age of blogs and email, one constant problem is the ease with which we can address people and issues. Too often we speak without thinking, or hit Send before re-reading what we have written. If I may offer one guideline which would eliminate many of the problems we so often see in those settings–always speak or write from a context of true Christian humility, and in that context, strive to never say anything for which you might later have to apologize.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1, KJV)

If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26, KJV)

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27, KJV)

“EVERY ONE OF YOU.”

[The following passage is taken from one of the most wonderful gospel discourses on record, the beautiful and powerful sermon of John Bunyan, entitled “The Jerusalem Sinner Saved.”]

So far off was Peter from making an objection against one of them that by a particular clause in his exhortation, he endeavours that NOT ONE OF THEM MAY ESCAPE THE SALVATION OFFERED. “Repent,” saith he, “and be baptized everyone of you.” I shut out NEVER A ONE OF YOU; for I am commanded by my Lord to deal with you, as it were, one by one, by the word of His Salvation ….

Objection.–But I was one of them that plotted to take away his life. May I be saved by him?
Peter.–EVERY ONE OF YOU.

Objection–But I was one of them that bare false witness against Him. Is there grace for me ?
Peter.–EVERY ONE OF YOU.

Objection–But I was one of them that cried out, Crucify Him, Crucify Him; and desired that Barabbas, the murderer, might live, rather than Him. What will become of me, think you?
Peter.–I am to preach repentance and remission of sins TO EVERY ONE OF YOU, says Peter.

Objection–But I was one of them that did spit in His face when He stood before His accusers. I also was one that mocked Him when in anguish He hanged bleeding on the tree. Is there room for me ?
Peter.–FOR EVERY ONE OF YOU, says Peter.

Objection–But I was one of them that in His extremity said, give Him gall and vinegar to drink. Why may not I expect
the same when anguish and guilt is upon me?
Peter.–Repent of these your wickednesses, and here is remission of sins FOR EVERY ONE OF YOU.

Objection–But I railed on Him, I reviled Him, I hated Him, I rejoiced to see Him mocked at by others. Can there be hopes for me?
Peter.-There is FOR EVERY ONE OF YOU. “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the
remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Oh! what a blessed” EVERY ONE OF YOU” is here! How willing was Peter, and the Lord Jesus, by his ministry, to catch these murderers with the word of the gospel, that they might be made monuments of the grace of God! How unwilling, I say, was He that any of these should escape the hand of mercy ! Yea, what an amazing wonder it is to think that, above all the world and above everybody in it, these should have the first offer of mercy ~
“BEGINNING at Jerusalem.”

The following appears on the pages of THE PRESBYTERIAN in 1937. There is no obvious association with any adjoining articles. If the editor had any ulterior motive in adding this brief quote, it was perhaps in reflection on the recent departure of conservatives from the PCUSA, since none of those who left were able to leave with their congregational property. Maybe it was intended as a reflection on their plight. Maybe it was just an editor’s fillerEither way, it is a thought provoking quote.

CANON LIDDON ON PROPERTY
[The Presbyterian, 107.13 (1 April 1937): 18.]

“Property is not an arbitrary and vicious product of an effete civilization; it is an outcome of forces which are always at work in human nature and life; it is a formation, it is a deposit which human industry is always accumulating; it is an original result of the terms on which men, at once industrious men and free men, live together as members of society. It has its duties, no doubt, as it has its rights. Its duties are not merely matters of choice, any more than its rights are matters of sentiment; but if property is in any sense imperiled, if communism is ever destined to get the upper hand in this our modern Europe, it will be because the holders of property have thought only or chiefly of its rights and have forgotten its duties. Nevertheless, while its rights may for high moral purposes be surrendered voluntarily, they are rights which may be retained and insisted on, and they cannot be violated without doing violence to the very nature of things, without, in Christian language, breaking the eighth commandment of the Decalogue.”

—Canon Henry P. Liddon, in a sermon preached at St. Paul’s, London, April 2, 1882.

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Gordon Haddon Clark was born on August 31, 1902, the only son of the Rev. David Scott Clark and Elizabeth Haddon Clark. Gordon’s father had graduated in 1887 from Princeton Theological Seminary and after pastoring two other Philadelphia area churches, was now pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church at the time of Gordon’s birth. The Rev. D.S. Clark remained as the pastor of Bethel until the time of his death in 1939 and so Gordon was truly “brought up in the shadow of the Bethel Presbyterian Church.”

Gordon Clark profited immensely both from the Christian home in which he was raised and also from the superior educational system of his day. At home, he was taught the Westminster Shorter Catechism by his father and he took full advantage of access to his father’s library, familiarizing himself with the writiings of Calvin, Warfield and Hodge. At school, though only enrolled in a vocational high school, he was given an extensive education which included both Latin and French.

He went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924 with a Bachelor’s degree, and again graduated from the same institution in 1929 with a Ph.D. in philosophy. In March of 1929 he married Ruth Schmidt, his wife of 48 years and to this marriage two children were born, Lois Antoinette and Nancy Elizabeth. Upon graduation, Dr. Clark took a position as Instructor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania from 1929 to 1936. Additional study at the Sorbonne in Paris took place during these same years. From 1936 to 1944 he served as Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. 

On August 9, 1944 Dr. Clark was ordained into the ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. He served as Stated Supply at the Trinity OPC Church of Cincinnati, OH while also working as Professor of Philosophy at Butler University. While remaining in his post at Butler until 1973, he left the OPC and was received on October 14, 1948 by the Presbytery of Indiana of the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA). From 1958 to 1965 he pastored the First UPCNA Church of Indianapolis, IN, which church soon moved with him to affiliate with the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod, Dr. Clark having been received by the Western Presbytery of the RPCNA, GS on October 29, 1957.

The RPCNA,GS was a very small denomination, but Dr. Clark was one of several men responsible for significant growth in the denomination during the 1950’s. He later supported the move to merge the RPCNA,GS with the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. This latter group was the larger wing of the 1956 division of the Bible Presbyterian Church, originally formed in 1937 in division from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In 1961 the Columbus Synod renamed itself the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, holding this name from 1961 until the 1965 union with the RPCNA,GS. The resulting denomination was now know as the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES).

[Later, when the RPCES merged in 1982 with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Clark choose not to join the PCA, but instead transferred his ministerial credentials into the unaffiliated Covenant Presbytery. That transfer occurred on 14 May 1983, and his ministerial affiliation remained there until his death.]

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During all of this ecclesiastical activity, Dr. Clark continued in his position as Professor of Philosophy at Butler University, working there until 1973. It was during his tenure at Butler that some of his best works were written and published. Thales to Dewey [1957] remains an important college-level introduction to philosophy. Other titles written during this same period include A Christian View of Men and Things [1952]; Religion, Reason and Revelation [1961]; Karl Barth’s Theological Method [1963]; What Do Presbyterians Believe? [1965] and Biblical Predestination [1969].

In 1974 Dr. Clark finally left Indianapolis and Butler University, having served there as Chairman of the Department of Philosophy from 1945 until his retirement in 1973. With the start of the 1974 academic year, he begin teaching at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. He remained there for ten years, while also teaching during the summers at the Sangre de Cristo Seminary in Westcliffe, CO and intermittently at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

The Rev. Dr. Gordon Haddon Clark died on April 9, 1985, after a brief serious illness. Dr. Clark’s wife, Ruth, had died in 1977, preceding Dr. Clark by some 9 years. At the time of his death, Dr. Clark was survived by his two daughters and their husbands, 12 grandchildren and one great grand-daughter. Funeral services for Dr. Clark were held on April 11, 1985 at the Sangre de Cristo Church in Westcliffe, CO.

Dr. Clark was the author of over 33 books and numerous articles and had been a founder of the Evangelical Theological Society. When discussion began in 1980 towards the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Dr. Clark found himself an opponent of that merger, perhaps in part because the plan also entailed the simultaneous union of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. While the OPC did not come into the merger, the 1982 joining and receiving of the RPCES into the PCA left Dr. Clark with the decision to be dismissed by the Tennessee Valley Presbytery of the PCA on September 11, 1982. He was received by the unaffiliated Covenant Presbytery in May, 1983.

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