November 19: John L. Burns

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Two Heroes of Gettysburg Attend a Presbyterian Church

The High Water Mark of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, had been fought that July of 1863. Attending just four months later in the same town of Pennsylvania, was President Abraham Lincoln for the dedication of the new National Cemetery in that town. The president wasn’t the main speaker that day of dedication.  But he  delivered a short pithy message which he thought was a failure, due to its brevity, but which turned into an immortal address which the world will long remember.

One of the residents of Gettysburg Lincoln wanted to meet, after the presentation, was local and later national hero John L. Burns. The latter was the only civilian who grabbed his old War of 1812 flintlock, and exchanging it for a more modern weapon from a wounded Union soldier, joined in the fighting of the Confederate army on July 1, 1863.  His fame immediately after that brief stint in battle, at which he was wounded three times, caused his name to be on every lip, including that of President Lincoln.

It was on November 19, 1863  that the President of the United States met John Burns at the home of attorney David Wills. The latter had been responsible more than any one else for setting aside the plots of ground which later on became the National Cemetery of Gettysburg. Wills was also a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Gettysburg on Baltimore Street. Together, John Burns and Abraham Lincoln, along with David Wills,  walked south down Baltimore Street to the building of the Presbyterian Church to attend a patriotic service held there that evening.  It was reported that the seventy-one year old Burns slept through much of the service, but Abraham Lincoln was able to be present for most of the service, before duties called him back to Washington, D.C.

A century later in 1962, the church building was replaced with another building, and all the furnishings with it, with the exception of “the Lincoln – Burns Pew” which can still be seen in the new church at the same location.

Words to live by:  There are “heroes” in church history who have been mentioned in great advances of the Lord’s kingdom and church. In point of reference, this very  historical devotional  is all about Christian, and more specifically Christian Presbyterians who have been used of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom of Christ in various periods of time and places. It is as we acknowledge these men and women of the Presbyterian faith that we are more fully appreciate the progress of the church in general, and our local church in particular. So, as you look at your church of your choice, who among them can be found who have in the past or present been instrumental in advancing the cause and kingdom of Christ? After you identify them, why not go up to them and thank the Lord for their spiritual gifts which have been used for God’s glory and His cause?  It will both praise the Lord and encourage their  hearts to know that someone has remembered them for all their hard work.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 15 – 18:11

Through the Standards:  Definition of the Lord’s Supper, in the Confession

WCF 29:1
“Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of His body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in His Church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body.”

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