January 2014

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More than an ordinary man?

Alexander Peden was born sometime during the year 1626 in Scotland.  His father was a small business man who left  him a small inheritance.  He could  have entered into any of the social positions in the area, but a call from God came to him early to seek the proclaim the good news of everlasting life to his neighbors.  Graduating from the University of Glasglow, he was ordained and became the pastor of New Luce, in Galloway, in his native Scotland.  It was here that his congregation discovered that Pastor Peden was more than an ordinary man.

Let Rev. J.M. Dryerre sum it up for us.  He writes, “his prayers were conversations with a personal friend.  His sermons were visions of the glory of God which had come to him in his meditations, and filled his people with awe.  His talk was about God and His will in regard to downtrodden Scotland.  Tall in stature and well-built, he proclaimed his message from God.”  (Heroes and Heroines of the Scottish Covenanters, Rev. J.M. Dryerre, Religious Tract and Book Society of Scotland, 1907, p. 100)

But these were times in the kingdom which were not easy for anyone to bear.  The infamous ejection of ministers from their pulpits by the Crown included the removal of  Pastor Peden from his pulpit after his first three years.  With great sorrow, he left the people he loved to begin a ministry in the fields and pastures of the countryside.  Under an indictment from the king of England for that, he made many marvelous escapes from the soldiers, sleeping in caves and barns.

Once when a group of soldiers appeared at one of the country spots where he was proclaiming the Word, he began to pray. His prayer went something like this: “Lord, we are ever needing at Thy hand, and if we had not Thy command to call upon Thee in the day of trouble, and Thy promise of answering us in the day of our distress, we know not what would become of us.  If Thou hast any more work for us in Thy world, twine them about the hill, Lord, and cast the lap of Thy cloak over poor old Sandy (himself, he meant) and these people, and we will keep it in remembrance and tell it to the commendation of Thy goodness, pity, and compassion, what Thou didst for us at such a time.”  It was said that a dense white cloud of mist appeared, enveloping the troop of soldiers and the worshiping Covenanters alike.  The latter was able to escape through the midst, with the soldiers not able to advance to find the Covenanters.

Later, Alexander Peden was captured, tried, and cast into the  infamous Bass prison where he suffered greatly for several years.  Removed from there, he was placed in the hold of a ship with sixty other Covenanters to be sold as slaves to owners in the American colonies.  However, when the ship’s  captain found out the reason for their captivity, he released them all.  Peden went back to his Scottish home, and spent the last years of  his life among his friends, spending days and nights in a nearby cave when the soldiers came too close. He died on January 26, 1686.

In a final act of atrocity, the authorities dug up his  body and hung it on a tree.  After that symbolic act, they buried him at the base of the tree on which his body had hung, thinking that it would become a tree of shame to his memory.  But the Sovereign God overruled their evil intentions.  Even though there was a graveyard around the local church, his friends would bring their loved ones to be buried at the foot of the hanging tree. It became the resting place of countless of the people of God to whom he had ministered during his life.

Words to Live By:  To some faithful servants of the King of kings, they are set apart to serve their Lord and Master in the great halls of learning and wide open fields of opportunity in this world.  Others, though equally called by the same Spirit of God, are set to minister in obscure places of ministry.  In both cases, we are to be faithful to minister in large or small opportunities.  The former is not to belittle those in the latter callings, but each should serve faithfully according to the Lord’s calling. Support the work of Christ by your spiritual gifts and prayers, dear reader. 

From the Writings of Alexander Peden:—
The following is something of a curious piece, some might even say a bit controversial given the way it is phrased, as if written from the perspective of the Trinity. I would understand this short article as a teaching tool, explaining the nature and content of what theologians term the “covenant of redemption,” which is the covenant between the Persons of the Trinity, designed to effect our salvation:—

THE COVENANT OF REDEMPTION
Be it known to all men, that, in the presence of the Ancient of Days, it was finally contracted, and unanimously agreed, betwixt these honourable and royal persons in the God-head, to wit, the great and infinite Lord of Heaven and earth, on the one side; and Jesus Christ, God-man, his eternal and undoubted heir, on the other side, in manner, form and effect, as follows; That forasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ is content and obliges himself to become surety, and to fulfil the whole law; and that he shall suffer and become an offering for sin, and take the guiding of all the children of God on him, and make them perfect in every good word and work; and that of his fulness they shall all receive grace for grace; and also present them, man, wife and bairns [i.e., children], on Heaven’s floor, and lose none of them; and that he shall raise them up at the last day, and come in on Heaven’s floor with all the bairns at his back: therefore, the noble Lord of Heaven and earth, on the other side, binds and obliges himself to Christ, to send all the Elect into the world, and to deliver them all fairly to Christ; and also to give him a body, flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone; and to carry Christ through in all his undertaking in that work, and to hold him by the hand; and also, let the Holy Ghost, who is our equal, go forth into the world, that he may be sharer in this great work, and also of the glory of this noble contrivance; and let him enlighten the minds of all those whom we have chosen out of the world, in the knowledge of our name; and to convince them of their lost state; and perswade and enable them to embrace and accept of his free love offer; and to support and comfort them in all their trials and tribulations, especially these for our name’s sake; and to sanctify them, soul and body, and make them fit for serving us, and dwelling with us, and singing forth the praises of the riches of our free grace in this noble contrivance, for ever and ever. Likewise the same noble Lord of Heaven and earth doth fully covenant grace and glory, and all good things, to as many as shall be perswaded and enabled to accept and embrace you, as their Lord, King and God; and moreover, he allows the said Jesus Christ to make proclamations by his servants, to the world in his name, that all that will come and engage under his colors, he shall give them noble pay in hand for the present, and a rich inheritance for ever; with certification, that all those who will not accept of this offer, for the same cause, shall be guilty and eternally condemned from our presence, and tormented with these devils, whom we cast out from us, for their pride and rebellion, for the glory of our justice, through eternity.

In testimony whereof, he subscribes thir presents, and is content the same be registrate in the Books of Holy Scripture, to be kept on record to future generations. Dated at the throne of Heaven, in the ancient records of eternity.

[excerpted from Six Saints of the Covenant: Peden, Semple, Welwood, Cameron, Cargill, and Smith, by Patrick Walker. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1901, pp. 114-115.]

For Further Study:
A Brief History of Covenant Theology,”  by Dr. R. Scott Clark
and for more specifically about the covenant of redemption, click here to read Paul Helm’s discussion of Robert Letham’s criticism of that theological concept.

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The Pastor to the Confederate States of America

palmerBM_02The guest preacher in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was closing out his prayer when the cannon shot hit outside the window of the church.  Union forces of the Northern states were known to be advancing, but it was thought that Confederate forces were blocking their entrance to the city.  They were wrong, as the cannon shot proved.  But the Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer was not about to let anything hinder his prayer to the God of providence, But when he finally finished that long prayer and looked up, he found the pews empty with the congregation fleeing to safer places.

We could describe Benjamin Palmer in countless ways during his lifetime of 84 years.  He was a faithful pastor,  powerful preacher, theological professor, a Presbyterian of the Presbyterians, and a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of the Christian religion.  Let’s take just three of these descriptions.

Palmer was the teaching elder at three Presbyterian churches during his pastoral ministry.  It was at this last one — the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, Louisiana — that he would reach the zenith of his influence.  The congregation increased in size under his ministry until it became the third largest Presbyterian church in the South.  He feared no one or nothing.  Once when a yellow fever epidemic hit the town, and most of the other pastors fled, he stayed on to minister in home and hospital to  those stricken with the disease. In later years, Palmer almost single-handedly brought an end to the practice of lottery in Louisiana. Click here to read his famous sermon on that subject.

Palmer’s preaching stirred many a soul.  Here were the fruits seen of his mother’s home-school training.  He could quote Biblical passages and Shakespeare with equal ease.  In fact, it was his Thanksgiving message in 1860 on secession and slavery which stirred the southern states to rise up and defend their homes against the threat of Northern aggression.  That one message caused him to become the pastor of the Confederacy. It convinced Louisiana to join the other seceding states.  And when after four hard fought years ended in defeat, he became the high priest of the Lost Cause.

Named after his uncle, who was himself a Congregational pastor, Benjamin Morgan Palmer was born on January 25, 1818, in a family full of ministers, including his own father. In schools and congregations, in seminary as a student and professor, as the first moderator of the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of  America, as the chaplain to the Army of the Tennessee (C.S.A.), as the spiritual comforter of the defeated South, Palmer served God and his generation as a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of the historic Christian faith.  He possessed a life-long commitment to Reformed theology.

Words to Live By: Can it be said of you that you are known by your unswerving commitment to the essentials of historic Christianity? If you can, give praise to God for it, and if not, resolve to have it be your testimony from this day forward.

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God’s Great Blessing & Provision in Marriage

brumbaughRoyT Roy T. Brumbaugh was raised in a Christian family with godly parents and proper training. He once said that his mother had prayed him into the Kingdom and then into the ministry and that his father had made generous provision for his education.

Little was recorded of his early life, but it is known that he graduated from Northeast Manual Training High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1908, and commenced studies at Lehigh College the next year. He was there for one year and then went to Gettysburg College, where he graduated in 1912. It was during this time at Gettysburg that he met Margaret Valentine, who was the granddaughter of the President of the school. They were married on January 24, 1911.

She would prove to be the greatest single influence in his life and was the epitome of grace and friendliness to everyone she met. She had a quality of never getting upset about anything and always being positive and confident in the Lord’s blessing.

He did graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois during 1914 and 1915. The Gettysburg yearbook, The Spectrum, states that he was a talkative, stuttering, effervescent youth who was very casual about his studies but that after his marriage, he became a candidate for valedictorian. His athletic achievements were legendary. He was the “shining star” and was elected captain of both the basketball and football teams. He was not large, but fiercely competitive and disciplined—qualities that would manifest themselves in his latter life In 1916, he commenced studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was a married man with children, and his education was largely financed by his father. At this time, Princeton Theological Seminary represented the conservative side of the above mentioned controversy and Union Theological Seminary the more liberal or modernist position. It was during his time at Princeton that Roy became involved in the issues of the day. The faculty at Princeton included men who were to be influential in the struggle, on both sides of the issues. They included J. Ross Stevenson, John D. Davis, Geerhardus Vos, W. P. Armstrong, Frederick W. Loetscher, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, J. Ritchie Smith, J. Gresham Machen, and William Brenton Green.

Words to Live By:
Regrettably, we could not locate a photograph of Mrs. Brumbaugh. Perhaps that is to be expected, and may even be fitting, for so often, those who are most influential are those same ones who work quietly in the background, never seeking attention for themselves.

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.—(Proverbs 18:22, KJV)

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Our Ability is Ever from God, Not from Ourselves.

The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:5 (read please) spoke for every Christian when he acknowledged that, regardless of the effect of the gospel on people’s hearts, we in spreading that good news, are “a sweet fragrance to God.” He goes on to spell out that our spiritual aroma is a “smell of doom” to those who are lost, but a “vital fragrance, living and fresh” to those who are found in Christ. And then, in the latter part of verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 2, he asks the question which all soul-winners have asked of themselves, “And who is qualified, fit and sufficient, for these things? (Who is able for such a ministry? We?” (Amplified Bible)

brainerd02David Brainerd, missionary to the Indians in the middle part of the seventeen hundreds, asked the same question on June 23, 1743 in his diary. Listen to his words:

“I scarce ever felt myself so unfit to exist as now: saw I was not worthy of a place among the Indians, where I am going, if God permit. Thought I should be ashamed to look them in the face, and much more to have my respect shown me there. Indeed I felt myself banished from the earth, as if all places were too good for such a wretch. I thought I should be ashamed to go among the very savages of Africa. I appeared to myself a creature fit for nothing, neither heaven nor earth. None know but those who feel it, what the soul endures that is sensibly shut out from the presence of God. Alas! It is more bitter than death.”

This Presbyterian missionary was feeling what the apostle Paul was feeling as to his inadequacy of being a instrument of the gospel. Thankfully, he continued on his mission, even as Paul did, recognizing that “our power and ability and sufficiency are from God.” (Amplified)

Words to Live By: “It is God who has qualified us, making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient. . . .” Second Corinthians 3:5 (Amplified Version) Let us each one go forth in service to Christ in the knowledge of that truth.

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Birth of Francis Landey Patton

pattonFLBorn in Warwick, Bermuda on January 22, 1843 to George John Patton and his wife, Mary A. Steele Patton, Francis L. Patton never became an American citizen, though most of his adult years were spent in the United States.

Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia indicates that he received his education at the University College in Toronto, followed by preparation for the ministry at both Knox College, Toronto and Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, graduating there in 1865. Rev. Patton was ordained by the Presbytery of New York on June 1st, 1865 and installed as pastor of the 84th Street Presbyterian Church, and then served two other Presbyterian churches in the New York City area before moving to Chicago in 1873 to pastor the Jefferson Park Presbyterian Church. Dr. Patton also served concurrently as editor of The Interior, 1873-76 and as professor at what is now McCormick Seminary, 1871-1881. Capping his ministry in Chicago, he was honored to serve as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1878.

During those busy years, Dr. Patton was engaged as the prosecutor in the heresy trial of the Rev. David Swing, in 1874. The national attention given to this trial may in part have led to the call issued by Princeton Theological Seminary, where Dr. Patton then served as professor of apologetics from 1881 until his retirement in 1913.

In 1932, Edith Bane, a Pittsburgh native, paid a visit to Dr. Patton at his home in Bermuda. She wrote of that visit :

patton_carberry“When I met him last August, he was in his 90th year, yet seemingly in good health, unbowed in stature and alert of mind. Although handicapped by loss of eyesight, years had not dimmed his spirit, his well-known keen sense of humor, or his interest in old friends, his beloved Princeton and the work of the Presbyterian Church. He and Mrs. Patton were living with their son and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. George S[tevenson] Patton, at “Carberry Hill,” the stately old mansion in Warwick, Bermuda, where Dr. Patton was born and where he has lived since his retirement . . .

“. . . he was presented by his parents in Christ Church, Bermuda. It is significant that this child destined to be the powerful supporter and valiant defender of the faith of his fathers, should have been dedicated to the Lord in this historic church—the oldest Presbyterian church in the British overseas empire. Who can doubt that this great life work was but an answer to the prayers offered by his godly parents on that day? . . .

patton01” . . . In 1913, because of advancing years and failing eyesight, he resigned from the seminary and returned to his Bermuda home. It was surely the hand of Providence that led him back to these quiet coral gardens of the Atlantic to spend the evening of his life. As he looked out upon those cedar-covered hills and walked along the shores of the undescribable opalescent sea, he must often have repeated, with a thankful heart: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters . . . ”

“. . . November 25, 1932, after a short illness, he died, and the Presbyterian Church throughout the world faltered at the loss of its beloved patriarch.

Words to Live By:  Truly our lives are in the Lord’s hands. He guides and equips us to proclaim His glory in the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus alone. Our lives may have their disappointments, frustrations and failures, but God’s love for each of His children is unshakable and His plan is sure. What may seem an unprofitable failure will be used of the Lord as He refines us for greater service. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” (Psalm 37:23, KJV).

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