June 2012

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Christianizing of the Christian

With no relevant date readily associated with historic Presbyterianism on this June 30th day, we turn to the benefit of effectual calling known as sanctification.  Question and answer 35 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks and answers that “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed, in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live  unto righteousness.”

If you can remember the answers to justification and adoption (S.C. 33 and 34), you see immediately that this benefit is a “work of God’s free grace,” not an “act of God’s free grace.”  The latter definition for justification and adoption spoke of something completed at once by God’s Spirit.  Sanctification is a work, that is, one of progress in this spiritual life.  As our title puts it, it is the Christianizing of the Christian.

The sphere and extent of this work of sanctification is “in the whole man,” or throughout the whole man.  Sanctification, like depravity, is total in extent, though partial in degree. Why is that?  Because sanctification is imperfect in this life.  There abides in each one of His people still some remnants of the corruption of sin in every part of us.  Paul realized this in Romans 7, when he acknowledged in verses 22, 23 “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (ESV)  The result of this is continual conflict between the flesh and the spirit, which are two opposite principles.

This work of God’s free grace has two aspects to it.  The first speaks of “dying unto sin.”  To die unto anything is to become indifferent to it, to shake off its power, to be superior to its attractions.  In sanctification, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed and the several lusts are to be more and more weakened and put to death.

The other aspect of sanctification is “living unto righteousness.”  Holiness is to be our constant aim and lifestyle.  In fact, “sanctification” and “holiness” come from the same root word in the original.

The end of sanctification is “the image of God.”  Through His Spirit and Word, we are seeking to have a better likeness of God in our life.  He is to be seen in our thoughts, words, and actions.  This is the whole issue of sanctification.

Words to Live By: So, how is the work of sanctification going in your life?  Are you going forward or backward?  Two steps forward and one step backward?  This work is a lifelong work.  One day, in glory, we will have the final victory.  Look forward to that day, and be zealous in growing in grace and the knowledge of the LordJesus Christ on this day.

Through the Scriptures: Amos 7 – 9

Through the Standards: The Second Commandment: duties required

WLC 107, S.C. 49 — “Which is the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

WLC 108 — “What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A.  The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God; and vowing unto him; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”

WSC 50 — “What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his Word.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

 A National Historic Site for Presbyterians

We may well wonder whether such a historic site would be  established in the twenty-first century, given our anathema and apathy toward spiritual matters in our land.  But it was set apart in the early part of the twentieth century by none other than the United States Congress and signed by President Franklyn D. Roosevelt on June 29, 1936.  It honored Presbyterian home medical missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who were martyred for their faith and deeds in 1847 by the very Indian tribe they had gone to evangelize and disciple.  (See August 18 and October 13, for other days regarding their godly faith and deeds.)

The Whitmans had joined the Henry Spaldings (also Presbyterian missionaries with a zeal to win native Indians to Christ) on a trip to the northwest territories.  Accompanying a group of fur traders, they had traveled west across the Continental divide.  The two missionary women were the first white women to do that.  Arriving near present day Walla Walla, Washington, they set up their medical center and mission church.  But growing tensions soon arose due to the presence of Western immigrants, many led by Marcus Whitman himself as “trail boss,” and a measles outbreak, which killed half of the tribe.  Blaming the deaths on the Whitmans, the Cayuse Indians massacred the Whitmans and eleven other people at the mission compound.

The bill signed into law creating the public national site and monument to the Whitman’s has some interesting words for a national historic site.  It reads in part that they “established their Indian missions and school, and ministry to the physical and spiritual needs of the Indians until massacred” by the Indians.

Marcus Whitman saved Oregon for the United States by  developing the Oregon Trail.

Words to Live By: What would you be willing to do for the sake of strangers outside of Christ in undeveloped countries of the world?  Not all of us are called to go, but all of us are to be willing to pray and support  those who are called to spread the unsearchable riches of Christ in these way.  Are you doing so now?  If not, consider beginning today to be “the support staff” of missionaries of the cross at home or in far away places.

Through the Scriptures: Amos 4 – 6

Through the Standards: Proof texts of the first commandment.

Exodus 20:3
“You shall have not other gods before Me.” (NASB)

1 Chronicles 28:9
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.” (NASB)

Isaiah 43:10, 11
“‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, In order that you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.  I, even I, am the LORD’ And there is no savior besides Me.'” (NASB)

1 Corinthians 8:4 – 6
“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (NASB)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Wonderful Songs Despite a Life of Sorrow

She could have been  bitter.  She could have blamed God for what happened to her.  She could have lived a life of depression and hopeless sorrow.  But Eliza Edmunds Hewitts did not do any of these.  Instead she lived a life of joy in anticipation of heaven’s shores.

Born June 28, 1851, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she attended public schools in the city..  Graduating valedictorian from the Girls Normal School, he became a teacher in the public school system of Philadelphia.  During one of those classes, an unruly student threw a large piece of slate at her.  Her career was cut short in teaching as the effect of that slate gave her a spinal injury.  She was confined to bed at first.  Eventually she was able to be partially restored, but the rest of her life was spent in great pain.

She began to study English literature at that time.  That study enabled her to sing and write Christian hymns and songs.  With the help of several composers, she wrote the words for approximately seventy-one hymns.  Several of her best hymns are “More about Jesus would I know,” “My faith has found a resting place,”  “Stepping in the Light,”  “Sunshine in my soul,”  “When we all get to heaven,” “Give me thy heart, says the Father above,” and “Will there be any stars in my crown?”

Her other field of labor was still in the teaching field.  She became the Sunday School superintendent at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  At one point, she oversaw 200 children. She was a regular contributor to “Sunday School Helps.”

She died on April 24, 1920, to receive the  stars in her crown for her spiritual work, despite a bed and life of pain.

Words to Live By:  The New Trinity Hymnal has only “More about Jesus would I know” on page 538.  The blue (old) Trinity Hymnal has “Give me thy heart” on pg 723.  Other evangelical hymnals will give you other favorites of Eliza (or E.E.) Hewitt. Why not join with a group of  Christians, or on Sunday evening for a hymn sing, to lend your voice to singing her  hymns of the faith?  Then discuss her life, of being by God’s strength, able to write and serve the Lord despite her physical pain.  It would be a profitable study.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 14:26 – 29; Amos 1 – 3

Through the Standards:

WLC 105 — “What are we specially taught by these words [before me] in the first commandment?
A.  These words [before me] or before my face, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who sees all things, takes special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God: that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation: as also to persuade us to do as in his sight, whatever we do in his service.”

WSC 48 — “What are we specially taught by these words [before me] in the first commandment?
A. These words [before me] in the first commandment teach us, That God, who sees all things, takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Plan of Action for Revival

If you look at some of the early Presbyterian Guardian issues on-line, you will notice on the masthead the name of the Constitutional Covenant Union.  What was this organization?

The Covenant Union was an independent agency organized after the 1935 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That national meeting brought some powerful indications that the conservative Presbyterians days were numbered in the visible church.  So there went out a call to the supporters of the true Presbyterians to come to Philadelphia for a meeting on June 27, 1935.  Over one hundred people answered the call.  The Constitutional Covenant Union was organized, with officers elected, an executive committee named, and a constitution adopted.  Chapters were to be organized, and a program of reform of the Presbyterian Church USA promoted.

That program was set introduced by an opening statement.  The purposes were two-fold.  It said, “we, the members of this Covenant Union are resolved, in accordance with God’s Word and in humble reliance upon His grace, to maintain the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, (1) making every effort  to bring about a reform of the existing church organization and to restore the church’s clear and glorious Christian testimony, which modernism and indifferentism have now so grievously silenced, but (2) if such efforts fail, and in  particular, if the tyrannical policy of the present majority triumphs, holding ourselves ready to perpetuate the true Presbyterian Church, USA, regardless of cost.”

The meeting in Philadelphia would last from June 11 to June 14.  It was upon its closing promptly attacked by not only the church machine of the denomination, but also from a surprising corner in the Rev. Samuel Craig, editor of Christianity Today.  Remember, the latter magazine had been set up by Samuel Craig to expose the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church USA.  But there were changes being made in his purposes around this time.  Instead of supporting the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, he had resigned from both it, and the Board of Trustees of Westminster Seminary.  Now Craig was advocating the support of sound missionaries of the official Board of Foreign Missions.  When that became known, the Rev. McAllister Griffiths resigned as managing editor of Christianity Today, and became the editor of the Presbyterian Guardian.

Rallies began to be held in all parts of the country sponsored by this Covenant Union, with chapters formed in those areas.  However, even with this remnant meeting, it was obvious that the second purpose of the Covenant Union would be realized.  When the 1936 General Assembly met, and the supporters of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions were disciplined with expulsion, there was a call for another meeting.  Taking place on June 11 – 14 in Philadelphia, the Covenant Union was dissolved and the Presbyterian Church of America came into being.   (See June 11)

Words to Live By: J. Gresham Machen said on this occasion that we cannot trust the world.  We cannot trust civilization.  We cannot trust the visible church.  When God speaks through His Word, we can trust only Him.  His words are still true today.  Make the blessed Book of books your guide this day.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 14:21 – 25; Jonah 1 – 4

Through the Standards: The first commandment: Sins forbidden

WLC 105 — What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the first commandment are, Atheism, in denying or not having a God; Idolatry, in having or worshipping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and avouching him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of him; bold and curious searching into his secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God; self-love, self-seeking, and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part; vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, distrust, despair, incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments, hardness of heart, pride, presumption, carnal security, tempting of God; using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means; carnal delights and joys; corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal; lukewarmness, and deadness in the things of God; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God; praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and his commands; resisting and grieving of his Spirit, discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts upon us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.”

WSC 47 — “What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbids the denying, or not worshiping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.”

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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