Over at Presbyterians of the Past, my good friend Barry Waugh posts more or less weekly, and has graciously allowed me to present his latest blog here today. And as we try to tie things to the calendar date, I can’t pass up noting that Rev. Milledoler had the distinction of being born on September 22nd (1775) and dying, 77 years later, on that same date.

Philip Milledoler was born in Rhinebeck, New York (about a hundred miles north of New York City), to John and Anna on September 22, 1775. John had emigrated from Berne, Switzerland and married Margaret Mitchell, March 9, 1760. Margaret’s ancestors emigrated from Zurich, Switzerland. The family had moved from New York to Rhineback anticipating the conflict with Great Britain regarding independence. John’s brother-in-law was Captain Crowley of the Massachusetts Artillery and when he moved to Boston to lead his troops in battle, the Milledolers sent eight-year-old Philip along so he could access better schooling opportunities. He returned home after a few years of study and as a young teenager he attended a Methodist meeting and became a Christian. His studies continued with a classical teacher named James Hardie and the boy made sufficient progress to join the freshman class of Columbia College in 1789 at the age of fourteen. Columbia was founded as King’s College in 1754, but after the Revolution it reopened with its new name. He was a good student graduating with honors in May 1793; he presented his graduation oration on natural philosophy. The German Reformed Church on Nassau street served by John D. Gross, D.D. was his church home.

Philip Milledoler believed he was called to be a minister, so he began theological studies in preparation for examination and ordination. Pastor Gross instructed him in theology, but Philip turned to Columbia College’s John Christopher Kunze for instruction in Hebrew. Kunze was from Germany, had studied at the university in Leipzig, and then taught in the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Columbia. Gross was getting on in years and suffered from the weakness of age, so he was looking to retirement from his church ministry. The prime candidate to succeed him was Milledoler, and Gross knew it. While the two were on a trip to the meeting of the German Reformed Synod in Reading, Pennsylvania, Gross informed Milledoler that the church wanted him to be the next minister. Though reluctant, he agreed to accept the call, was examined during the synod meeting, and ordained May 21, 1794. Gross continued on for a time to ease the transition when Milledoler accepted the unanimously approved call issued May 6, 1795. The call required that he should preach in German three-quarters of the time and English the other quarter. Once ministry began he realized the situation was more difficult than expected and there were unanticipated problems in the congregation. But helping him through his work was Susan Lawrence Benson whom he married March 29, 1796.

Milledoler was facing some difficulties ministering to his congregation, but the specifics of the problems were not given in the sources. However, the issues may be indicated by the stipulation regarding preaching in German and English. The German Reformed Church, as the Reformed Dutch and Lutherans, struggled with maintaining its ethnic-linguistic identity while desiring to assimilate in the United States as Americans ministering to non-German people. The older church members tended to hold to the ways and language of their homeland, while the generations born in America were growing up in their country with its language and culture as their own. If this was the problem Milledoler faced, and it likely was, it led to his accepting the opportunity to visit Philadelphia and preach to the Pine Street Presbyterian Church which was without a pastor due to the recent death of John Blair Smith from yellow fever during the epidemic of 1799. He accepted the invitation and his preaching was appreciated greatly resulting in a unanimous call from the church issued August 11, 1800. The call was accepted and the Milledolers moved to Philadelphia in October. The situation for him was a good one, but it seems his former church could not agree on a candidate to replace him, so it extended a call for him to return three successive times over the period of a year. One of the calls was even delivered by his father to drive home the point. He turned them all down. Whatever led to his decision to leave the German Reformed Church, he knew without a doubt that he did not want to deal with it again.

Milledoler was enjoying a good ministry in Pine Street Church until he developed a problem with his head that he believed indicated the need to relocate to a different climate so he could recover his health. In February 1805, the Reformed Dutch Church in Harlem, New York (named for Haarlem in the Netherlands, New York was originally New Amsterdam), presented him a call having heard of his impaired health and desire to leave Philadelphia. While on his way to Harlem he was told by an acquaintance in New York that the Collegiate Presbyterian Churches, in particular the one on Rutgers Street (see regarding this church, John Rodgers, 1727-1811), was in need of a minister. In the end, it was not the Reformed Dutch but the Presbyterians who benefited from his visit because in August he accepted the Rutgers Street call. The Pine Street Church was reluctant to let him leave, but it recognized the severity of his health problem and acquiesced. During his installation service, November 19, 1805, the sermon was preached by the minister of the Wall Street Church, Samuel Miller. Milledoler had transitioned from one Calvinistic denomination, German Reformed, to another, the Presbyterian Church.

The Rutgers Street Church ministry returned him to familiar New York while alleviating his health problem. His work extended beyond the local church to his presbytery, synod, and general assembly. Even though he had been in the Presbyterian Church for only eight years, he was respected enough to be elected moderator of the Assembly in 1808. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) convened in First Church, Philadelphia for its annual gathering and Milledoler received the gavel from retiring moderator Archibald Alexander. A good bit of the Assembly’s time was spent deliberating theological education because the denomination was working through the complexities of establishing a seminary. Possibly the biggest issue was where it would be geographically with each of the nation’s sections appealing for a site conveniently located for its use. Education was a subject near to Milledoler’s heart and one he would have an important part in as the years passed. When he returned to Philadelphia for the General Assembly the following year his retiring moderator’s sermon was delivered from Matthew 24:45-47.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

Milledoler was a very popular minister based on the number of pastoral calls he was offered, several of which have been left out of this biography because they went unaccepted. But one unaccepted call came from his previous ministry in Philadelphia. Archibald Alexander had resigned from Pine Street Church in the summer of 1812. The issue of theological education had been resolved by the General Assembly by locating the seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Alexander became the first professor. Milledoler would have been returning to familiar and friendly ground if the Pine Street offer was accepted, but he turned it down. The reason is not given but fear his health problem would return may have contributed to his decision. But then another opportunity came when the Collegiate Dutch Church of New York offered a call. He wrestled with the decision and William B. Sprague notes that one of the factors contributing to his decision was the doctrinal controversy in the Presbyterian Church over Hopkinsianism and the New England Theology. Milledoler left Rutgers Street with a good legacy as is indicated by the 604 individuals admitted to membership during his tenure, August 1805 to May 1813. Sprague commented further that Milledoler’s ministry at Rutgers Street was “an almost constant revival of religion during nearly the whole period of his connection with it.” The Collegiate Dutch Church call was accepted, and his ministry began June 6, 1813.

Swiss-American Pastor Milledoler had grown up German Reformed, been converted through Methodism, pastored Presbyterian congregations, and become a minister in the Reformed Dutch Church. Not only was he changing denominations, but another change, a tragic one, was the death of Susan, July 3, 1815, but then he married Margaret Steele shortly thereafter. In July 1823, Milledoler and Gardiner Spring of the Brick Church in New York were appointed members of the commission to visit missionary stations at Tuscarora, Seneca, and Cattaraugus in the area south-southeast of Buffalo. It was a goodly trip to a rugged area. Their journey took about six weeks and when they returned a large public meeting was held in New York so their report could be heard. Even though it was a Presbyterian trip for the purposes of the denomination’s ministries, hearing about such trips was popular among the general public, just as was seen on Presbyterians of the Past in the account of James Hall’s trip to the Mississippi Territory and his diary of the journey. Milledoler’s next ministry would involve a change from pastoral to educational work.

Just as the PCUSA had resolved its ministerial education problem with Princeton Seminary, the Reformed Dutch resolved the same problem with the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick. In 1825 the seminary’s founder John Henry Livingston passed away in January and Milledoler led his funeral service. His death left New Brunswick without a Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, so Milledoler was appointed by the Reformed Dutch Church Synod to succeed Livingston. Added to his duties was the presidency of Rutgers College, which shared the campus with the seminary. In 1840, he retired from both positions but continued to supply pulpits and help out with denominational work when he could.

The Milledolers were both weakened with age but Margaret had been declining in health for a number of years such that everyone expected her to be the first to pass away. Philip was feeble but getting along well until an intestinal problem led to his death in the matter of a few days. He died on Staten Island on his birthday, September 22, 1852, in the home of his son-in-law, Hon. James W. Beekman. Margaret was sick in bed in the same house and died the next day. They had a common funeral with the sermon delivered by his seminary colleague, John DeWitt. The two were buried in a single grave. Philip Milledoler was the father of ten children—six children were born to Susan, and four to Margaret.

Given the multi-faceted life of Philip Milledoler it is not difficult to understand why he was an honored minister. In 1801 he was chosen Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Church and in 1802 he joined Ashbel Green and others on the Standing Committee of Missions of the General Assembly. In 1805 he was honored with the Doctor of Sacred Theology by the University of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the organizing convention for the American Bible Society in 1816; he also delivered to the society an address in 1816 and another in 1823. During the challenges of Princeton Seminary’s first year, 1812-1813, he was on its board of directors. One aspect of his extended work which is not commonly found in the lives of subjects for Presbyterians of the Past is his participation in organizing the Society for Evangelizing the Jews; he was the society’s president from the date of organization. He was an active member of the United Foreign Missionary Society from its formation in 1817 as well as its corresponding secretary.

The following brief account concerns the small controversy over the ecclesiastical views of Jonathan Edwards. There is a separate account, to the same conclusion, originally told by Dr. Archibald Alexander and then related by the Rev. R. J. Breckinridge on the pages of the Philadelphia magazine, The Presbyterian. [perhaps I can retrieve that article soon]. But for now, this account comes from a September issue of The Christian Observer, 1850 :


In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Erskine of Scotland, President Edwards , (whom Robert Hall calls, “the greatest of the sons of men,”) gives the following statement of his views in respect to Presbyterianism :—

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian Form of Government. As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to Presbyterian Government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of Church government in this land, and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things.”

Such were the views of many pastors in New England, twenty-five years ago—and such we presume, are the views of many at this time, notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Bacon, the Independent and others, to create and waken up prejudice against Presbyterianism.—It is very natural for an agitator, a man of progress, or of loose views in theology, to prefer some type of Independency. Without a Session to advise with him in the spiritual oversight of the Congregation, he can (if a manager) have his own way in controlling everything in his church. If a careful and discreet ruler, he may acquire more power in his charge as an Independent, than he could hope to gain as a Presbyterian minister.—Amenable to no permanent judicatory for the doctrines which he teaches, he can follow the impulses of his own nature, and teach all the contradictions and transcendentalism found in Dr. Bushnell’s book without losing his place or influence in his church and association.

But if it be desirable that the members of the Church should be duly represented in the administration of its spiritual government,—if the pastor should have responsible counselors, well acquainted with the Church, and all its interests and peculiarities, to aid him in this work, the Presbyterian form of government is to be preferred. It is equally important as a shield to the minister in many cases of discipline, as well as to render him duly responsible for his personal and official conduct, teaching, and character.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX, No. 38 (21 September 1850): 150, columns 2-3.]

The question now, of course, is did that letter survive? Where are Erskine’s papers, including his correspondence, and which institution preserves that collection?

Dr. David Calhoun just a few years ago published a volume on the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, the Columbia Seminary professor who was such a powerful influence in the lives of many of the founding fathers of the PCA. [Pleading for a Reformation VisionBanner of Truth, 2013]. Let’s let Dr. Calhoun introduce the substance of our post today, a sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. Wm. Childs Robinson:—

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Robinson preached on “God Incarnate for Suffering Men” in Warm Springs, Georgia. Among the worshipers were seventy-five polio sufferers including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The whole front of the chapel was free of pews so that the patients could be brought in on stretchers and in wheelchairs. . . . It was President Roosevelt’s last Easter. The day before his death, April 12, 1945, he wrote to Robinson, “That was indeed a grand service and it was wonderful that you could participate.” “It is not likely that I shall ever again preach to a president of the United States,” Dr. Robinson said, “but I may well remember that the King of kings is always in the audience and that I ought to preach Him as in His presence.”

   “God Incarnate For Suffering Men”


By Rev. Wm. C. Robinson, D.D.,
Professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia
(Hebrews 1, 11:9-18 and 5:7-8.)

As a nation we seem to stand on the edge of a great victory. But when the hope of victory is near, that is the moment to see ourselves in the light of God’s presence and to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Otherwise we shall give ourselves to such boastings as the Gentiles know. And lest we forget, the war has given us the solemn reminder of the fearful cost at which the victory has come. The Christmas season just past piled up the longest casualty list in American history. At Chicamauga there were thirty-three thousand casualties, at Gettysburg fifty-three thousand, at the Battle of the Bulge over fifty- five thousand American casualties. No wonder a recent weekly ran the Odyssey of a casualty, the story of one of our three hundred and eighty-odd thousand American wounded. Has the Church an answer to this chorus of suffering and heart ache that is rising from every heart and in every home? Blessed be God she has. To suffering man we offer the suffering Saviour. For the torn in body, for the shocked in mind, for the broken in heart the Gospel presents God who became incarnate that He might suffer with us and for us in our own human flesh.

The solace for the sorrow and the suffering of the last Christmas is in the first Christmas. It is precisely this—that “the Lord of glory of His own will entered into our life of grief and suffering, and for love of men bore all and more than all that men may be called to bear.” “God, the Almighty and Eternal God, has shared our experience in its depths of weakness and pain.”* [*William Temple.]

I.  The LORD who in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth and who upholds them by the Word of His power laid aside the glories of heaven and took our flesh and blood that in our nature He might suffer. In Himself God is the being of pure activity living in the blessedness and glory which no creaturely force can attack. But God willed to put Himself into our frail and suffering humanity that therein He might be susceptible to the flings and arrows of man’s rage and hate, and to all the suffering brought on by the creature’s rebellion against his Maker, and by man’s subsequent inhumanity to man. Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death that by the grace of God He might taste of death for every man. He entered into our life with all its miseries. The joy of heaven and the Lord of angels became the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. While He was here He was so busy healing the sick and ministering to the suffering that the first Evangelist remembered what was written by the prophet: Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.

It pleased God in bringing many sons unto glory to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering. Have your nerves twitched and pained where some limb was no more? His nerve centers, His very hands and feet, were pierced with cruel spikes. Have your temples throbbed with a fever that would not abate? His throbbed with thorns crushed into them. Have the implements of war torn and lacerated your body? The war-spear of the soldier was thrust into His side.

In the long days of agony are you asking why does He not work a miracle and restore you at once as He healed the multitudes in old Galilee? In The Robe, Lloyd Douglas has fancied the story of Miriam, a bed-ridden Jewish lass, whose body He did not heal, but in whose heart He placed a song. The Gospels have a surer story than Douglas’ fancy. There is one Person for whom Jesus did not work a miracle to avert suffering. That Person fasted forty days until He was tempted to turn the very rocks into bread. That Person was mocked and scourged and spit upon, but He never whimpered and He never beckoned for the twelve legions of angels that were at His call. When He suffered He threatened not. My brother, if He does not heal you with a word, He is inviting you to follow in the steps He Himself has trod without a single miracle to ease one bit of His agony. Refusing the deadening effect of the ancient drug He drained the bitter cup the Father gave Him to drink.

With the suffering, sorrowing people of Holland Pastor Koopman pleads: “Why so much suffering comes no one can say. But one thing I know and whoever knows it has the true faith in life and in death—it does not happen outside the merciful will of Jesus Christ. He understands your suffering because He has borne it all before you did.

Yes Christ bore our suffering, all that we bear and more. For He suffered not only the cruel scourging and the agonizing crucifixion by which His form was marred more than any man and His visage more than the sons of men. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. Thus He endured in His soul the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. He suffered as the Lamb of God for the sins of the World. It pleased the Father to bruise Him for our transgressions. And all this suffering with us and for us He freely took of His own loving and sovereign will. He who was God freely became man that His flesh might be torn and His body mangled for us men and for our salvation. And today:

“He, who for men in mercy stood,
And poured on earth His precious blood . . .
Our fellow-suffered yet retains A fellow feeling of our pains . . .
In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of sorrows had a part;
He sympathizes in our grief,
And to the suffered sends relief.”

II.  God incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth not only suffered our bodily pains, His breast also throbbed with our heart aches. He who numbers the stars heals the broken in heart. He who marshalls the spiral nebulae binds up our sorrows. The vast diamond-studded Milky Way is but as “dust from the Almighty’s moving Chariot Wheels.” And yet in all our afflictions He is afflicted and the Angel of His Presence saves us.

The Epistle to the Hebrews shows the Saviour walking by faith as we walk, beset by our anxieties and fears. So really did He share our flesh and blood that these words express the faith He placed in God: “I will put my trust in Him.” More even than the Gospels, the Epistle to the Hebrews unveils the agony of Gethsemane: “Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death and having been heard for his godly fear, though He was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” In becoming our complete and compassionate High Priest Christ passed through the whole curriculum of temptation, trial, patience, fear, anxiety and heart agony we face. Therefore He is a faithful and merciful High Priest who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring in that he himself was also compassed with infirmity.

In the days of His flesh our Lord showed the deepest concern for the heart anxieties, the worries and the fears of those about him. As he stood with Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus their sorrow so moved His heart that Jesus wept with them. The last week shows him time and again weeping over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest those that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered Thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not.” At the last when the women bewailed and lamented him, Jesus turned and said unto them: “Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but weep for yourselves.” The dreadful punishment in store for Jerusalem brought tears that his own cross was not then extorting from His eyes.

The acme of tender consideration is reached in Jesus’ treatment of Jairus. As he goes to heal the daughter the report arrives that the child is dead and there is no need to trouble the Master further. But before Jairus has time to answer Jesus word of encouragement is steadying his wavering faith, “Fear not only believe, and she shall be made whole. Though the weight of a world’s redemption is upon Him, the anxieties of Mary are all met as her crucified Son says: “Mother, behold thy son,” and (to John) “Son, behold thy mother.”

Nor has this concern for our anxieties been dimmed by the glories and blessedness of heaven. When Stephen is stoned the Son of Man rises from His Father’s Throne and so manifests Himself to His dying martyr that Stephen’s face shines like the face of an angel. When He manifested His glory to John on Patmos, He was quick to manifest with it His understanding grace. “And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not: I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive forever-more, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

As little children in their games stand in a circle about a common center so we all face one great fear, the fear of death. And that is the particular fear our Lord came to face with us and for us. He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that by the grace of God He might taste of death for every man. He died that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage.

On land, on the sea, under the sea, and in the air the Lord Christ is entering into the hearts of His men when they find terror on every side. A letter was recently received from a lieutenant in the 79th Division telling how depressed he was as he contemplated the near approach of D-Day. Then God spoke to him through the chanting of the ninety-first, the soldier’s Psalm. The terror by night and the arrow that flieth by day; the pestilence that walketh in darkness and the destruction that wasteth at noonday are no mere figures of speech to our men. But deeper than the dangers of war there is the calm of the presence of the Lord, the steadying touch of His hand, the understanding assurance of His voice. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man may do unto me.”

Let us then draw near the Table with Gospel viands for our sorrows spread. And as He gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness let our overwhelming wonder be—

“That the Great Angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze, to shine in a poor Shepherd’s eye;
That the unmeasur’d God so low should sinke,
As Pris’ner in a few poore Rags to ly;
That from his Mother’s Brest he milke should drink,
Who feeds with Nectar Heaven’s faire family,
That a vile Manger his low Bed should prove,
Who in a Throne of stars Thunders above;

That he whom the Sun serves, should faintly peep
Through clouds of Infant Flesh! that he, the old
Eternall Word should be a Child, and weepe;
That he who made the fire, should feare the cold,
That Heav’ns high Majesty his Court should keepe
In a clay cottage, by each blast control’d;
That Glories self should serve our Griefs and fears,
And free Eternity submit to years.”

III.  The ever-blessed God became incarnate that He might suffer the pangs of our torn flesh, the ever active Creator became a man that He might be susceptible of the creature’s fears and tears. But the Great Gospel paradox is yet to be uttered: He who has life in Himself and who giveth life to whom He will became mortal man that for our sins He might die. He whose years shall not fail became obedient unto death and that the death of the Cross. To the dregs He drank our cup of woe that we might quaff His cup of salvation. That He might bring many sons unto glory He tasted death for every man. Christ both died and rose again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Thus, He calls us to go through no darker room than He has gone through before us. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me and even death is no new way to Thee.

This Friend has gone through the strait gate of death, His own death, before He goes through the gate of death with us. And in that going through of His own death He drew the sharpest sting out of our death. For the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But Christ died for our sin, the Just for the unjust. There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Compare the death of Jesus with the death of Stephen and you are immediately struck with the contrast. Why should the face of Stephen shine like the face of an angel while the visage of Jesus was so marred more than any man? Why? Because Jesus who had no sin of His own was made sin for Stephen in order that Stephen who had no righteousness of his own might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification. Therefore,

“In peace let me resign my breath
And Thy salvation see:
My sins deserved eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.”

It is a proper thought that one draw the veil of charity over the short comings of those who die, especially of those who die in faith. For the spirits of those who die in the Lord are beautified, made perfect in holiness. By the grace of the Lord their spirits are glorified like Him who takes them to Himself. The noble, fine, generous, loving spirit is changed into His likeness and all that was base and wicked is done away. Thus we properly think of them as pure and kind all through like the angelic spirits which surround the throne.

“All rapture, thro’ and thro’
In God’s most holy sight.”

The Christ who pierced the mystery of the tomb rose again from the dead and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father where He ever liveth to intercede for us. There His understanding heart, His unceasing prayers, His constant grace keep our faith from failing and carry onward the Church of God until that day when He shall appear a second time apart from sin unto salvation. By tasting death for us He drew its sting. By rising from the dead and ascending to the Right Hand of the Majesty on High He has given us an anchor sure and steadfast. Even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Accordingly, to a gold-star mother there comes the victory of faith:

“God has given me a guiding Light,
A star called Faith
‘That substance of things hoped for,
That evidence of things not seen.’
And now within me peace and joy are born,
For some day there shall come a Resurrection morn!
And I shall see again and know my son.”

[“God Incarnate for Suffering Men,” can be found included in the volume by Dr. David B. Calhoun, Pleading for a Reformation Vision: The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982)on pages pp. 258-265.]

The Westminster Standards are the Standards of the Presbyterian Church

We have already considered the meeting which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which stopped an impending schism in the infant Presbyterian Church by The Adopting Act of 1729, as was presented on September 17. But there was another important commitment made by the infant church as part of this multi-day meeting on this day, September 19, 1729.  And it was the adoption by the presbyters of this American Presbyterian Church of the Westminster Standards (together, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism) as their subordinate standard, behind that of Scripture itself, as their required standard for ordination.

The exact words as taken from the Minutes of that Presbytery meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were the following:  “we are undoubtedly obliged to take care that the faith once delivered to the saints be kept pure and uncorrupt among us, and so handed down to our posterity; and do therefore agree that all the ministers of this Synod, or that shall hereafter be admitted into this Synod, shall declare their agreement in, and approbation of, the Confession of Faith, with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as being in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine, and so also adopt the said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith. And we do also agree, that all the Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate of the ministry into the exercise of the sacred function but what declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of said Confession, either by subscribing the said Confession of Faith and Catechisms, or by a verbal declaration of their assent thereto, as such minister or candidate shall think best.”

It might surprise our readers to think that a full twenty-two years after the first Presbytery in 1707, finally such a doctrinal commitment was made by the infant Presbyterian church.  But this is not to say that the ministers who made up this church did not automatically confess this subscription. Remember, the first page of the 1707 minutes were lost to history.  It well might have been part and parcel of that document.  Further, while not found in subsequent recorded minutes, all of the ministers had confessed their faith in the mother countries by subscription to the Westminster Standards. Up to this time in the colonies, their attention was taken up with church extension and government.  But finally, the historic creed which had fed the faith of the Presbyterian Church for three hundred years is made the foundation of the infant Presbyterian church in America.                                                                                      


Words to live by:
A historic document is made the subordinate standard of an infant church.  All ministers, past, present, and future, are to receive and adopt it before they can be ordained.  The young church is placed on a Reformed foundation.  While members must hold to a credible profession of faith, they know  that the preaching and teaching will be the depth and historical content of  the greatest theological statement ever produced by godly men. This is why we have included the Confession and catechisms in this historical devotional guide.  Read and ponder its words. Memorize its shorter catechism answers.  This writer has done so, and it has enabled him to stand in the test of perilous times.


It was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking.

This appears to be one of Machen’s messages which is now lost. I did not find any title close to “Shall We Obey God, or Man?” among Dr. Machen’s published works, but if I missed something, please bring it to my attention. Like so much of Machen’s writings, this too would have remained a timely message for our own day. Perhaps there are still some notes, an outline, or even a transcript preserved among the Machen Papers at Westminster Theological Seminary?


“Shall We Obey God, or Man?” is the subject to be discussed by Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Masonic Temple. This meeting, the last in the series of three sponsored by a local committee interested in the newly organized Presbyterian Church of America, has been planned to bring before the public some of the outstanding issues before the Presbyterian Church today.

Dr. Machen, who is Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and long identified with the fundamentalist group in the Presbyterian Church, today is a national figure. IN 1928 he headed a group of men that left Princeton Seminary and about four years later was instrumental in the founding of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. It was the establishment of this board that brought to a head the fast growing differences between the two groups, for from this board, termed illegal by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Dr. Machen and others were ordered to resign. Their refusal to do so lead finally this year to their withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America.

Why the matter has been doctrinal rather than administration as claimed by the General Assembly that met in Syracuse last May, in what way the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. has placed the word of man above the word of God and why Conservatives cannot expect to purify the church from within are among the things which will be explained by Dr. Machen.

Acclaimed by his friends and foes alike as the outstanding Greek scholar of the world today, known as an ardent defender of Fundamentalism and the author of numerous well-known books, Dr. Machen will come prepared to state authoritatively the position of the new Presbyterian Church of America.

This same news clipping, pictured at right, can be found in context on the front page of The Westfield, New Jersey Leader, here :
http://archive.wmlnj.org/TheWestfieldLeader/1936/1936-09-17/pg_0001.pdf . Our copy of this clipping is from the scrapbook collection gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.

Words to Live By:
In every age and era, there are challenges that confront the Christian. There is always the contest, whether to obey God or man. Strive to obey God daily, moment by moment, while the challenges may still be simpler and less painful. Set the habit now. Walk in the light of His Word and make a practice of remembering God’s faithfulness. For one, make a habit of noting His answers to your prayers. Then, when real challenges to obedience come, you should be able to say, “How can I deny Him now, when He has been faithful to me all these years?”

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