What better reason for remembering this day. No, not Halloween. Rather, October 31st, and specifically October 31, 1517, as it marks the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On this date, an obscure Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenburg, because that was the usual custom of advertisement for the people’s attention. It was in effect a public bulletin board. Luther nailed the document up at noon sharp because that was the time of the most frequent feasts. Professors, students, and the common people would be coming from all four corners to the church on “All Saints Day,” for that was a time when it was filled up with relics for transfers of credit or “merit” under the Roman Catholic system.
A lot of Protestants, when hearing of this incident of the nailing of ninety-five theses, think that they were ringing endorsements of Protestant theology. In reality, they were more Roman Catholic than Protestant. There is no protest against the Pope and the Roman Catholic church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences. These theses were silent about justification by faith alone. They were primarily opposed to the abuse of indulgences.
But while the form is Romish, the spirit and aim is Protestant. They represent a state of transition between twilight and daylight. We must read between the lines, as the leaders of the Roman Catholic church did in the sixteenth century. As they did, they saw a logical drift which sought to undermine the whole fabric of Romanism.
Luther hoped that there would be a scholarly debate of the abuse of indulgences. But no one came to debate him. Instead, with the recent invention of the printing press, the copies of the ninety-five theses were sent all over the empire. The pope had a copy within two weeks. The common people read them and rejoiced over them. Luther was the talk of Germany. His ninety-five theses had gone viral! There was a trumpet call being sounded for what later on became the Protestant Reformation.
Words to live by: In less than five years, in 2017, we will celebrate the five-hundredeth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Will there be a revival of its themes in your church and more important, in your heart, such as Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and glory to God alone? That sums up what Luther, and Calvin, and Knox thundered to the masses and the visible church. Reflect on the story of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in your heart, home, and church.
Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.
This day, October 30, marks the anniversary of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery (PCA). As you will remember, the denomination itself did not meet in General Assembly until December 4-7 of 1973. However, several Presbyteries were formed in advance of the official founding of the denomination. The first of these, as evidenced by its name, was the Vanguard Presbytery, organized on September 7, 1972. The churches comprising Vanguard Presbytery eventually merged into other Presbyteries and Vanguard was dissolved in March of 1977. In addition to Vanguard, there were another thirteen Presbyteries organized in advance of the official founding of the PCA. Mid-Atlantic Presbytery was the last to organize prior to the First General Assembly
1. Warrior – 13 February 1973
2. Gulf Coast – 10 April 1973
3. Westminster – 10 April 1973
4. Central Georgia – 30 May 1973
5. North Georgia – 2 June 1973 [dissolved by division and continued by Metro Atlanta Presbytery]
6. Southern Florida – 4 Jun3 1973
7. Covenant – 18 June 1973
8. Calvary – 1 July 1973
9. Grace – 17 July 1973
10. Mississippi Valley – 19 July 1973
11. Texas – 31 July 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by North Texas Presbytery]
12. Evangel – 5 August 1973
13. Mid-Atlantic – 30 October 1973 – [dissolved by division and continued by James River Presbytery]
As these Presbyteries and their churches organized, they met as Presbyteries of “The Continuing Presbyterian Church,” that being the working name of the new denomination prior to its official organization. What follows are a few highlights from the Minutes of the organizational meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery:—
WHEREAS, we, the undersigned, are agreed that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and,
WHEREAS, we are agreed that the Westminster Confession of Faith (in the edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms set forth the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and
WHEREAS, we are agreed that the mission of the Church has been given her by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and is to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all things whatsoever He has commanded; and,
WHEREAS, The Book of Church Order (in the revised 1933 edition published in 1973 by the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church) sets forth a reasonable and practical formulary for church organization (although we do not regard the quota of three ministers necessary for a quorum of presbytery to be in effect until there are at least four minister members of our presbytery); and,
WHEREAS, the appended statement “Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and Its Courts” is adopted by us as setting forth priniciples of Presbyterian government essential to our agreement, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED,
1. That we, the undersigned, to covenant together to form an association to be known as Mid-Atlantic Presbytery; and,
2. That this association shall have as its purpose to perpetuate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in the Scriptures and declared in the Westminster standards; and,
3. That we, the undersigned, met in Hopewell, Virginia at 11:00 A.M. on October 30, 1973.
Rights of Particular Churches in Relation to the Denomination and its Courts.
a. The corporation of a particular church, through its duly elected trustees or corporation officers, (or, if unincorporated, through those who are entitled to represent the particular church in matters related to real property) shall have sold title to its real property, and shall be sole owner of any equity it may have in any real estate. No superior court, as such, shall have any claim whatsoever upon any real property or any equity in any real estate, or any fund or property of any kind by or belonging to any particular church, or any board, society, committee, Sunday School, class or branch thereof. The superior courts of the church may receive monies or properties from a local church only by free and voluntary action of the latter.
b. All particular churches shall be entitled to hold, own, and enjoy their own local properties, without any right of revision whatsoever to any presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, its trustees or other— officers.
c. The provisions of this chapter are to be construed as a solemn covenant whereby the Church as a whole promises never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or not such congregation remains within or chooses to withdraw from its body. All officers and courts of the Church are hereby prohibited from making any such attempt. The intent of the provisions of this section are unamendable and irrevocable.
d. Particular churches need remain in association with Presbytery, synod, or any other courts hereafter created, only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based only upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any kind of force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from its presbytery, synod, or any other court hereafter created, at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, by orderly ballot at a legal meeting of its congregation or corporation. A simple majority of those present and voting shall decide the issue.
With some further changes, the principles of the above text was subsequently incorporated into the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, as part of BCO Chapter 25.
A Question to Ponder: While the above provision is a wise one, can you offer a Scriptural defense for this provision? (I’m seeking wiser minds here)
I’ve heard of Warrior Children, . . . but Kidnappers?
The Presbyterian was a long-standing periodical issued out of Philadelphia. The last solidly conservative editor of that journal was the Rev. Samuel G. Craig. When Craig was eased out of his post, he went on to establish the Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company.
Some six years later, a new denomination was formed by theological conservatives who were leaving the mainline denomination known as the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). This new group chose to organize under the title “The Presbyterian Church of America. But the mother Church deemed that name too similar to its own. Or perhaps more accurately, the name “Presbyterian Church of America” had been one of the names under consideration in the early 1930’s, when the PCUSA and the United Presbyterian Church of North America were briefly engaged in merger talks.
So the PCUSA brought suit against the fledgling denomination that had formed in June of 1936. Before they had even met for their second General Assembly, the lawsuit was filed, and before another two years had passed, they concluded that they simply did not have the funds or the inclination to pursue the matter further through the courts. Thus the young denomination yielded and chose a new name, which they bear to this day: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
[One of several parallels, by the way, with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which initially took the name “National Presbyterian Church,” but which had to surrender that name to avoid a conflict]
So much for background (it takes patience to be a Presbyterian!). Now on to our story. As the lawsuit had been filed by the PCUSA, discussion ensued in the papers, as you would expect. One of the more interesting letters appeared in the October 29, 1936 issue of The Presbyterian. In this letter, a Mr. Robert C. McAdie told why he opposed the lawsuit brought by his own denomination. His letter is, if nothing else, entertaining, for Mr. McAdie certainly had a gift of expression. But it also provides, in the reading of it, a good, though brief, look at the issues at stake:—
RE: BILL OF COMPLAINT
Editor The Presbyterian:
In your issue of September 3, your readers are presented with the full outline of a “Text of Bill of Complaint Against the Presbyterian Church of America”! Sponsored by a committee of our leading ministers and elders, who claim to represent “all other officers and members of the said Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” it seemed to me, as one of that great family, a wise precaution to give this somewhat portentiously worded “Complaint” a sufficiently careful study to either endorse or disavow a proceeding for which “all officers and members” are made responsible.
As a sort of “multum in parvo” outline of the forces and activities of the three Churches, Presbyterian, U.S.A., the United Presbyterian, and this latest intruder, the “Presbyterian Church of America,” it supplies much useful information in compact form, and for this I am properly grateful. But as a complaint on the part of our great denomination against the comparatively tiny organization, which somewhat egotistically demands the right to march under the obviously top-heavy title, “Presbyterian Church of America,” the assertions and charges embodied in the document give me an impression of either “Much Ado About Nothing,” of elephantine jitters caused by the presence of a mouse, or, even less complimentary spiritually, of an ecclesiastical vindictiveness which, having done its own best, or worst, now seeks an ally in secular law!
Thus our complainants emphasize at one point that, like the conies, this Machen following “are but a feeble folk,” since I read: “The organization and membership of the defendant Church at the present time is largely limited to a few individuals and churches located in Philadelphia County and adjacent areas” (since that writing, Southern California has hatched a Machen presbytery!) yet, if allowed to wear the magic panoply of the new name, “Presbyterian Church of America,” what dynamically expansive or conquering qualities these same complainants attribute to the few! “The similarity of the name of the defendant Church to that of the plaintiff Church will cause, and is intended to cause, irreparable injury and loss to the plaintiff Church”! What a welcome revelation of their own powers these words ought to convey to the ousted rebels!
But, one may ask, is this similarity of names, thus denounced and evidently feared, really any more than that of our Southern and Northern Churches, the U.S. and U.S.A.? These mean practically the same thing, yet in my sojourn down South I cannot recall seeing or hearing of Presbyterians who could not distinguish which from t’ other! But apparently if these Machenites disguise themselves in the ample folds of their chosen name, the present membership of the U.S.A. branch–and why not that of the U.S. branch also?–are fated, if we accept the dolorous outlook of the complainants, to develop an immediate mental collapse, and so become easy victims of Machen’s kidnappers! Not much of a compliment to the usual discriminating ability of Presbyterians!
One also notes how the complaint asserts that “they (Machen et al.) renounced their membership in the plaintiff Church”! That they also employed every means of retaining that membership, renouncing it only expulsion therefrom, is not even mentioned! Or would not the secular court be interested in the militant preliminaries to this establishment of a new Presbyterian organization?
On these grounds I object to any partnership in the complaint, but most of all because, as pointed out by Dr. Barnhouse, such an appeal to Caesar makes light of Paul’s solemn warning against airing Christian quarrels in secular courts. And if successful would it lessen by one iota the zeal of these battling opponents? Quite the contrary. Under some other name they would but redouble their attacks on their mother Church, which not only cast them out of her fold, but also sicked on to them the legal dogs of war. Prosecuted out of their Church, persecuted through secular aid beyond its ecclesiastical bounds; what a powerful incentive to fight!
-Robert C. McAdie, S.T.M.
Words to Live By:
…and fight they did. And so must we fight today—not with carnal weapons, but with spiritual—and wherever the Gospel is at stake. As Christians, we do not live for our own sake, for our own comfort, or for our own safety. We live for the glory of God. We live to promote and proclaim the glory of God in Jesus Christ His Son and our Savior.
Our copy of the above letter, as it appeared in The Presbyterian, is found in Scrapbook no. 5, in the Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection (see scanned image below). Mr. McAdie’s letter was also reproduced on the pages of The Presbyterian Guardian, in the November 14, 1936 issue.
One good name deserves another. Yesterday’s post concerned the Rev. Elihu Spencer. The name Elihu means “He is my God.”—a wonderful testimony to have embedded in your name! Today we look briefly at the ministry of Septimus Tustin [1804-1871], whose first name means “seventh.”
An Unusual Name No Hindrance to God’s Working
This writer has to acknowledge that I was curious regarding the name of this Presbyterian minister for this day of October 28, 1871. It was on this day that he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. His name was Septimus Tustin.
My first thought upon seeing that name “Septimus” was what parent would possibly bestow upon their son such a name. But then, I noted that his father’s name was ”Septimus,” so I understood that it was a case of “like father, like son.” He was the son of Septimus and Elizabeth Tustin, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his father died when he was quite young. Septimus was reared by his mother, and she is described as a pious woman and a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. With such a home and church like that, it is no great surprise that he went into the pastoral ministry. Ordained by the Presbytery of the District of Columbia (the first such from that new Presbytery), he began his pastoral ministry in Leesburg, Virginia in 1825.
Between the years of 1826 and 1861, he ministered to six more Presbyterian churches, five of them in the Northern states and one in the South. The latter was in Mississippi, and his time there came quickly to an end when that Southern state joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Rev. Tustin worked hard to unify the two sectional Presbyterian churches, but without success.
What is interesting about this minister is that on two occasions, he was called to the halls of Congress as a chaplain. First, he was the House of Representatives Chaplain for two years, and following up that ministry with the United States Senate Chaplaincy for five years. He also served as a trustee of Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania.
Rev. Tustin also figured in the negotiations and meetings which led up to the reunion of the Old School and New School Presbyterian General Assemblies in 1869. See his Report, using the link provided below.
Words to live by: What might be seen as a hindrance to effective work in God’s kingdom, as in this case a name, is proven to be the opposite when God’s Spirit is in control. Indeed, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, this is the norm rather than the exception. From the Amplified, it reads, “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren: not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what is the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is low-born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.”
This year we have normally tried to prepare some sermon for those posts that fall on the Lord’s Day. However, this weekend, I found myself providentially hindered, and so we will revisit an entry from this date last year.
Victory Over England Brings Celebration in a Presbyterian Church
Granted! After the final victory over the British military forces at Yorktown, Virginia, there were celebrations being held everywhere in 1781 in the United States. But one of those celebrations took place in the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey on October 27, 1791. And this was no sparsely attending worship service. The Revolutionary War Governor, William Livingston, the Council of the state of New Jersey, the entire Assembly of Representatives, and citizens of the town came together to hear the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer delivered a discourse adapted to the occasion.
The pastor of this church, Elihu Spencer, was no stranger to the vicissitudes of the Revolutionary struggle. Indeed, he was the chaplain to colonial troops in the long battle for liberty. As such, he was a marked man by the British and his parsonage suffered damage as a result of his affiliation with the Continental army. Two revolutionary battles were fought in Trenton, including the famous midnight crossing of the river to do battle with the German mercenaries, or Hessians, in the town, which battle Gen George Washington and his troops won, bringing new morale to the American citizenry.
This celebratory day began with the beating of drums. The American flag was displayed throughout the town. At eleven o’clock, this worship service was held. In the afternoon, after artillery discharges, there came a series of toasts to everybody and anybody by the assembled political and general citizenry. In fact, it was good that they began with a worship hour, because had they done it after these toasts, none of them would have been able to stand up and sing praises to the Lord! There were many, many toasts of gratitude to those who brought about this victory. The night of celebration was over by 7 p.m. and the whole town was illuminated by candles in the evening.
Words to live by: Today in our secular culture, post-Christian era, the idea that you mention that God is the God of war, or the God of battles, or the One who brings victory over your enemies, is considered anathema. Yet our forefathers did not think so, and frequently mentioned the God of providence in the events which made up our country. We need to return to the God of our Fathers, in conversation, in conduct, in celebrations of liberty by our people, in concerns of patriotism in our assembly halls — in all of life. Without Him, we would be a defeated people long ago.
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 […]
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 […]
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 Vision. Banner of Truth, 2013]. Let’s let […]
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 […]
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 […]
A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith. But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this. So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be […]
Excerpted from Volume III of The Presbyterian Magazine, September 1853, pp. 413-415.This recounting of the venerable Dr. Alexander’s farewell to his congregation bears the following footnote: THE PRESBYTERIAN says, that “A valued friend recently discovered in the possession of one of the Pine Street parishoners of Dr. Archibald Alexander, a manuscript copy of the remarks made […]
This is the concluding article in the series PRESBYTERIANS IN AMERICA. The author, Rev. Prof. Paul Woolley, was formerly the professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I do hope you have found Rev. Woolley’s articles both interesting and instructive, and I do trust that our readers are more familiar now than […]
Dr. Paul Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America continues today with a segment on churches of Covenanter ancestry. Please keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. VI – The Churches of Covenanter Ancestry [Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 86.3 (March 1952): 25-26] […]
On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who […]