June 2014

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As we are in the season when so many of our various Presbyterian denominations meet in annual Assembly, this short note defining “fraternal relations” and “corresponding relations” between denominations may be a helpful reminder. This comes from the Minutes of the Twenty-eighth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (2000), page 63:

28-14   [from the] Committee of Commissioners on Interchurch Relations

III.       Recommendations:

3.         That the General Assembly establish two levels of relations with other denominations:       Adopted

  1. Fraternal Relations – The General Assembly may maintain a fraternal relationship with other Presbyterian/Reformed denominations that are voting members of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council and with other such Churches with whom the General Assembly wishes to establish fraternal relations unilaterally.  This would involve the exchange of fraternal delegates, exchange of General Assembly or General Synod minutes, communications on matters of mutual concern, and other matters that may arise from time to time.

  2. Corresponding Relations – The General Assembly may maintain corresponding relation with other evangelical Churches in North America and in other continents for exchanging greetings and letters of encouragement.  This may include the exchange of official observers at the broadest assemblies, and communications on issues of common concern.

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Charles Hodge enters into eternity

hodgeCharles_grayEarly in July of 1878, on the pages of The Christian Observer,this brief note appeared under the title, “Calvinism and Piety,” :

The Christian Union, which has no friendship for Calvinism, closes its article on the death of Dr. Hodge, as follows:

“Dr. Hodge, who was the foremost of the old Calvinists in this country, was, in character, one of the sweetest, gentlest and most lovable of men. His face was itself a benediction. We doubt whether he had any other than a theological enemy in the world. Curiously too, the peculiar tenets of his theology were reserved for the class-room and for philosophical writings. In the pulpit he preached a simple and unsectarian gospel; his favorite texts were such as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;” and his sermons were such as the most successful missionaries delight to preach in foreign lands. In Princeton he is regarded as without peer in the conduct of the prayer meeting. His piety was as deep and as genuine as his learning was varied and profound. The system of theology of which he was the ablest American representative seems to us, in some points, foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, but the life and personality of the man were luminous with the spirit of an indwelling Christ.”

Words to Live By: May we all—those of us who name the name of Christ and who also claim that same biblical faith commonly called Calvinism—so find our maturity in Christ as to live in a similar way, luminous with the spirit of the indwelling Christ, pointing all men and women to the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the Bethel Presbyterian Church of Clover, South Carolina. Bethel was also one of the founding churches of the Presbyterian Church in America, and remains to this day one of the oldest constituted churches in the PCA, having been organized in 1764. An anniversary volume on the history of the church, edited by Helen Grant and Janice Currence, is available and may be ordered from the church.

Rev. George Gray McWhorter, 4th 
Pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church, Clover, South Carolina, 1796 – 1801.
BethelPCA_CloverSC_250thThe Rev. George Gray McWhorter served Bethel from July 7, 1796 – September 29, 1801. Bethel had united with Beersheba Presbyterian Church in calling Rev. McWhorter and he served both congregations for the same period of time.

George Gray McWhorter was born in 1762.  One source states that his parents were possibly Jacob McWhorter and Elizabeth Gray McWhorter.  He was married to Eliza Drusilla Cooper  and they were the parents of eight children.  One child, James Miller McWhorter, died while Rev. McWhorter was the pastor at Bethel.  This child died January 15, 1800 at the age of 4 years 11 months and 1 day and is buried in Bethel Cemetery.

Little is known about Rev. McWhorter’s education except that he was trained for the ministry under Dr. James Hall.

After serving Bethel and Beersheba for five years, he resigned the charge in 1801, moved south, and served several different churches in South Carolina.  At a later period he moved to the state of Alabama.  Historical accounts state that in about 1823 Rev. McWhorter reorganized Lowndesboro Presbyterian Church, Lowndesboro, Alabama.  Then later about 1825 Rev. McWhorter became the first pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.

Rev. McWhorter was a Patriot in the Revolutionary War.  At the sight of his grave he has a DAR marker that reads:

“Revolutionary Soldier George Gray McWhorter
1775 – 1783
Placed by William Bibb Chapter D.A.R.”

In his fading days he remained strong in faith and hope.  Like most of God’s ministers he was poor.  Although destitute of the luxuries and almost all of the necessities of life, he continued to preach the gospel to the destitute with all the vigor of youth.

Rev. McWhorter died June 18, 1829 in Washington (Autauga County), Alabama.  He is buried beside his wife in Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.  The inscription on his tombstone reads:

“He was a Patriot and soldier in the Revolutionary War . . . Sacred to the memory of Rev. George Gray McWhorter – he was a minister of the Gospel of the Presbyterian order forty years . . . Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord . .  Let angels trim their lamps and watch his sleeping clay till the last trumpet bid him rise to bright celestial day . . . Also, Mrs. Eliza McWhorter . . . Born February 4, 1769 . . . Died February 3, 1810”

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The following is a newspaper account of the proceedings of the PCUSA General Assembly of 1837, in which the Old School men effectively excised four New School synods from the denomination. Here in this account is a record of the debate over that action. A Convention of Old School men met in Philadelphia in May, prior to the Assembly, and a Memorial rising from that Convention was presented at the Assembly. The Memorial sought the dissolution of the 1801 Plan of Union, a reinvigoration of sound Presbyterian principles throughout the denomination, and immediate disciplinary measures directed at both men and the inferior courts (presbyteries and synods) charged with holding specified theological errors.

I realize this may be more than some will want to read, but as a record of the history of that event, this account is quite interesting on a number of levels.

The Charleston Observer, Vol. XI, No. 24 (June 17, 1837), pages 93 and 96:—

Page 93


Debate on the Memorial of the Convention, touching the citation of Inferior Judicatories—as reported by the Editor of the Presbyterian.

Mr. Plumer moved to bring up this business under the following resolutions :

1.  That the proper steps be now taken to cite to the bar of the next Assembly such inferior judicatories as are charged by common fame with irregularities.

2.  That a special committee be now appointed to ascertain what inferior judicatures are thus charged by common fame, prepare charges and specifications against them, and to digest a suitable plan of procedure in the matter, and that said committee be requested to report as soon as, practicable.

3.  That as citation on the foregoing plan is the commencement of a process involving the right of membership in the Assembly :


Resolved, That agreeably to a principle laid down, Chap. V. Sec. 9th, of the Form of Government, the members of said judicatories be excluded from a seat in the next Assembly, until their case shall be decided.

He then read from Book of Discipline, Chap. V. 9, on the discretionary right of a church judicatory to exclude one under process from the privilege of deliberating and voting.  Also, from Form of Government, Chap. XII. 5, on the powers of the General Assembly in relation to controversies and errors. Also, from the Book of Discipline, Chap. VII. Sec. 1, sub. Sec. 5 and 6, in relation to powers of review and control.—These quotations went directly to the proof that the Assembly had all the powers of interference contemplated in the resolutions before the house.  When common fame alleged the existence of grievance in inferior judicatories, they had the right of citation and trial, and until this was done, the persons charged might be denied their seat in the Assembly.

Mr. Jessup rose to oppose the adopt of the resolutions, on the ground that they infringed the constitution.  The language of the instrument has not left it to implication, what are the precise powers of the Assembly—they are all specified.  He had no doubt that it had the power to cite Synods to its bar.  This has been exercised ; one Synod (Western Reserve) had thus been cited, had appeared, and had answered satisfactorily.  But Synods, as such, cannot be excluded from this floor ; Presbyteries are represented here, and we cannot reach Presbyteries except by a constructive power.  It is not competent to the Assembly to carry on an impeachment against a Presbytery, for this is the province of a Synod.  The doctrine is advanced that the right of reproving, implies right to cite and try, for how can they be reproved before trial.  When, however, gross irregularities or erroneous doctrines prevail in a Presbytery, a testimony may be borne against them, and they may be reproved.—It is not necessary to this, that a citation should be issued ; this is a power which does not belong to the Assembly, in relation to a Presbytery,as it is expressly delegated to another body.  It is not implied in “suppressing schismatical contentions” that we may arraign Presbyteries or individuals, and try them as if it were for their lives.  Consult your book on actual process, and see to whom is intrusted the power of commencing it. . . .

Mr. Breckinridge regarded the subject as one of great importance, as well as of difficulty.  The speaker who preceded him, had probably given the strongest views which could be given on that side of the question.—What is contemplated in the resolutions, is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Assembly ; nay, they could do much more than this. . . . .

Mr. White.  He admired the talent of the last speaker, but he had, as he himself had acknowledged assumed unconstitutional grounds.  . . . .

Friday Morning, May 25.

Dr. Beman.  In remarking on this subject he noticed the opposite grounds assumed by gentlemen.  One (Mr. Plumer) says, the measure proposed carries out the constitution, and another (Dr. Breckinridge) says, we should proceed on the ground, that necessity knows no law.  He would be led to notice both positions.  The first point he would insist on, was in reference to the power of the Assembly in relation to inferior judicatories.  The question was, had the General Assembly any right to originate process, involving deposition ; he contended that it had not, and he appealed to the Book. . . . .

Page 96


[Debate—Continued from first page]

Mr. Plumer. He differed from Mr. Jessup on the extent of authority vested in the General Assembly.  The 5th sub. sec. of 1st sec. chap. vii. in the Book of Discipline, gives the Assembly ample control over Synods which fail to perform their duty, and the interference is not only justified by the case of the Synod of Kentucky already quoted, but by the settled practices of the Scottish Church, to which we are so greatly indebted for our present Constitution.  [Mr. Plumer here quoted largely from Steuart’s Collections in proof, that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, directly and through their commissions, exercised authority in the suppression of error, by the citation of refractory Presbyteries and Ministers.]  This he deemed very high authority.  He was amused and surprised to hear one gentleman (Dr. Beman) so eloquently contend for the eternal rights of Presbyteries, and he was led to think what could be the meaning of the gentleman.  Were the rights of which he spoke eternal a parte ante, or a parte post?  If it was the former, then the Presbyterian form of government was much more ancient than he had ever imagined, for he had never dreamed of tracing it further back than to the time that Ezra arranged the Synagogue worship ; if it were the latter, that Presbyterianism was to be perpetuated in heaven, then it was singular enough considering the quarter from which it came that we should have the eternally divine right of Presbyterianism so strongly maintained—it was high-churchism of a truth. The gentleman’s metaphors were also remarkable ; first we had a big trumpet emptying its sounds into another trumpet, and it in its turn emptying itself into a dish, and then the dish filled with northern gales and southern breezes, presented to regale the General Assembly.  Such a dish reminded him of an anecdote of a Minister’s servant who was very clever in making inferences ; on one occasion he was asked what inference he would draw from this text, “a wild Ass that snuffeth up the wind at pleasure,” and his answer was, that he would infer that he might snuff a good while before he would grow fat on it.  So he would say of this dish which the gentleman had prepared for the Assembly, in all likelihood they would never grow fat on it.  Having thus disposed of the salmagundi dishes, he would turn to other matters.  It was indeed pleasant to hear it acknowledged by gentlemen on the other side, that there were in the Church two systems of theological views, [Mr. Dickinson explained that he meant two systems of explaining doctrines.]  Well, that is even plainer ; there are two distinct and different systems of explaining the doctrines of religion ; that point is now settled, and it is fully conceded.  Then again he was surprised that the same gentleman from Lane Seminary, should undertake to compare the differences which existed in the Presbyterian Church in 1820, with those now existing.  The subjects of difference were totally different as he should have known, and the points now in dispute were not agitated then.  It was laid down as a principle by all writers on the laws of nations, that when a privilege was granted by one nation to another, every thing was included, which was necessary to the enjoyment of the privilege.  Thus, if an army had permission to pass through a certain territory, it was certainly implied that they might cut down trees to make bridges, if it should be necessary on their march.  So, if the right of citation is given to the Assembly, it includes the right of calling for persons and papers.  They may appoint a commission to carry their citation into effect, and this commission may send for men and papers ; they may require the records of Presbyteries and Sessions.  Mr. Jessup had said, that no power of the Assembly could reach the records of his Presbytery ; but if refused, it would be under the penalty of contumacy, and if this were not so, the whole thing would be no better than a consummate farce ; if testimony could not be demanded, then we might as well go home at once.  It had been acknowledged, that we had the power to reprove, but how could this be done, unless there was some way of getting at the proof?  The changes had been rung on “trampling the constitution under our feet ;” but there were two senses in which the constitution might be brought under our feet.  We might place our feet on it as we would on the rock of Gilbraltar, as a secure foundation, and in this way the brethren who acted with him had it under their feet ; and in another sense, it might be trampled under foot with scorn, the way in which it was treated by some others.  One gentleman had solemnly averred, that the constitution had provided only for process against an individual, and yet there was the Book expressly providing for the citation of judicatories!  It was rendered incumbent on the superior judicatory to take this course, and if it had power to call for records.  He was glad to hear the gentleman from Lane Seminary acknowledge, that reform was necessary, but the remedy he proposed was inefficient : mere advice and exhortation would not do ; the stronger measure which was now proposed, was the only one that was adequate.  Two things he would now state as a tribute to charity; and the first was, that there was no contention between old-school men and Congregationalists as such.  There was no war on New England and its old theology.  When the late Dr. Porter was spending a winter to the south, he was invited to deliver a course of lectures in an old-school Theological Seminary : that was no proof of hostility to New England; and the name of Nettleton and others of similar stamp, was held in reverence by old-school men.  It should be known then, that we wage no war against the Congregationalism of New England or the theology of Edwards. And again, he would say, that we have no contest with other denominations ; we cherish for them the most fraternal feelings, and extend to them our Christian regards.  On the contrary, it is for the orer, the constitution, the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church, that we contend.

Friday Morning, May 26.

Dr. Peters. Tlie first resolution under consideration, proposes the citation of inferior judicatories ; and the proceeding is extraordinary ; it should not be entered on, unless the common fame is definite and attaches to persons.  If the individuals were named who are charge, then we would go the work.  It is most extraordinary that this great court of errors, should lay aside its regular judicial business, to hunt after a criminal ; there is no provision in the book for this.  He would again call attention to the powers of the Assembly as laid down in the form of Government, Chap. XII. sec. 5. and here there was not a word said as to the mode of exercising the power.  Mr. Plumer goes for authority to the Scotch Church, but he would go to the book of Discipline, Chap. VII, 1,2, for the mode.  There it is provided that cases must go from lower to higher judicatories, and the process must be against individuals.  The power of citation is admitted, but it is not for trial, as as you do not know that there will be ground for trial, but merely that the matter may be remitted.  It is for a mere inquiry, to know what they have done or left undone ; then you may issue an order, and if they refuse obedience, then you may cite again for trial, and although the old Book does not exactly specify what is to be done, yet you unquestionably have the right of trial.  There is another way of testifying against errors, if we could only get them within the rules of this house.  He could not consent to cite, because he did not know what judicatories were to be cited, and it was to him an unparalled departure from dignity in this house to go out to hunt for criminals.—As to excluding members from their seats, he thought we were legislating beyond our bounds, when we legislated for another Assembly.  Dr. Baxter has taken the position that the ministers of Congregational churches have no right to seats in this house, and that the measures now before you are a continuation of the work already accomplished ; but he would reply, that the churches formed under the union were lawfully formed agreeably to the stipulations between the Presbyterian Church and the association of Connecticut.  Can we now say that the union was unconstitutional? One half hour before its abrogation, these churches were regular, but now it is said they are irregular ; if so, why not now discipline them and they may yet become regular.  He felt no alarm at the abrogation of the resolutions as they could not affect the churches, which had been formed under the Assembly’s rule.  Your abrogation is a nullity ; it only prevents other churches from being formed on this principle.  You are bound to protect these churches and not rashly and rudely to break up their foundations.  Are you going to exclude ministers because they are pastors of Congregational Churches?  Why a Presbytery consists of all the ministers within a certain district, with a ruling elder from each church, and although one may be a tobacconist, another a book merchant, and a third a seller of cotton and purple, yet you do not interfere or vitiate their standing.  To cut off immediately has been the doctrine avowed on this floor and in the Convention, and it is certainly very convenient to say that because there is a common fame against them, they should be excluded ; this is the shortest way, and therefore, said to be the best.  Mr. Plumer quotes Scotch authority for this, although he has no idea of the rule applying to the South.  We were told yesterday, very logically, that as no system provides for its own dissolution, that therefore, we must adopt unconstitutional measures, lest the Assembly should stultify itself.  He had pleasure in referring to the mere pacific remarks of Dr. Baxter, who supposed that two families under the same roof would come into collision, and that peace would be promoted by a separation.  But divisions cannot be ; the constitution binds us together ; and if any are dissatisfied, they can retire and plant their flag outside.  If, however, a proposition to this effect were kindly made, it would be received in the same spirit ; an amicable division might take place, but we are not to be driven from this blessed constitution.  We have no proposition for division to make, but if it should come from another quarter, he would promote it by any proper means ; for he was persuaded, that the sooner the parties were apart, the sooner the atmosphere between them would be clarified, and they be prepared to unite on higher grounds.

Dr. McAuley, would not commence by stating, as many had, that he had but “a word” to say, and then speak half an hour, which time, however he certainly would not speak.  He was unwell ; and desired only to administer a corrective to some of his friends who quoted authorities from the church of Scotland.  He would read from the “Compend” of the Laws of that Church, to show what was the power of the commissions which are integral parts of the constitution of the Scotch Church.

[Dr. McAuley then read, and commented on various parts of the book for the space of half an hour, to show that the Church of Scotland was in union with the state, and of course, that the acts of that Church were of no authority in interpreting our constitution.]

Dr. McAuley then alluded to the constitution of the Church which, he contended, did not authorize the General Assembly to institute these proceedings.  He went on further to argue, that if this Assembly could exclude members from the next house by these resolutions, the Presbyteries to which they belonged could not even elect Commissioners to the Assembly,—nor perform any of the acts appropriate to the offices of the ministry and eldership.  He hoped there was good sense and loyalty enough to prevent the passages of these resolutions ; which, while he would condemn heresy, he considered an unlawful method of attaining a right end.  That end would be obtained at the proper time, if we adhered to the constitution.  God is long suffering to usward, and he would be so to erring brethren.  Bear with them, and you may reclaim them.

In allusion to Presbyterian Ministers preaching to Congregational Churches, he contended, that this was as proper, as for such ministers to abandon the preaching of the Gospel, to engage in merchandise, or edit mis-called religious newspapers—but who were nevertheless allowed to sit in our judicatories.  Every minister who has taken our Book,—not “for substance of doctrine,” but sincerely and fully, is a duly qualified minister, and may sit in the General Assembly.  I believe, that we may reach errorists another way than by these resolutions.  Every man, who is not a sound Presbyterian, ought to go out from us, or to be turned out.

He did not know, that any of the doctrines specified in the list presented by the Committee on the Memorial, existed in the Church ; and until it was proved, that the ministers who were to be excluded really did hold these or similar errors, they must be allowed all their constitutional rights.

A few words as to common fame.  I am incredulous as to the existence of any common fame.  But, I am asked, “What, have you not read the religious newspapers?”, I look at my book, which defines common fame, and it says, that rashness, censoriousness or malice, in the individual raising a general rumour invalidates it.  It is not common fame at all.  A man may get the control of a religious paper, and use it for the purpose of attacking the character of ministers, and then call this common fame.  But this is nothing but common fame against the propagator.  Such men ought to be censured for publishing such a dreadful common fame.  Before we go forward in this business let us see who common fame is, and what it says.

There is but a paltry gain, as three years will show, to be made by pursuing the plan of these resolutions.  Let us not, for such an end, incur the great expense, which it involves.

There was then a call for the previous question, which was agreed to ; the main question was then put, and the ayes and noes being called, the question was carried in the affirmative, as follows :

Yeas—Platt, Leggett, J.R. Johnson, R. J. Crawford, Wilkin, Frame, Owen, Edwards, Sturges, Goldsmith, Potts, S. Boyd, Lenox, Murray, McDowell, Ogilvie, Dr. A. Alexander, Yeomans, W. Wilson, Woodhull, Junkin, Lowe, King, J. Wilson, Dorrance, Harris, Green, Latta, Fahnestock, Symington, Cuyler, Darrach, Davie, Hamilton, Penny, Breckinridge, Hickson, M.B. Patterson, Creigh, McKeenan, Fullerton, Williamson, Long, J.H. Crier, J.B. Boyd, Hughes, Cook, Annan, Ewing, Slagle, Baird,, Kiddoo, Gladden, J.W. Johnston, Lowrie, Mitchel, Hannah, Stratton, Adair, Tait, McCrackin, Van Deman, W. Patterson, S. Wilson, R. Miller, Beer, McCombs, Torrance, Turner, Crane, Osburn, Golladay, James Coe, Marquis, H. Patton, M.J. Smith, Blythe, Marshal, McKennan, Stafford, J.H. Rice, W.K. Stewart, Bailey, Hopkins, C.S. Todd, C. Stuart, Irwin, A. Todd, Hendren, Morrison, Moore, J. Alexander, W.H. Foote, Baxter, Hart, Anderson, Plumer, Dunn, Graham, Caruthers, McQueen, Potter, Pharr, Andrews, Watts, Dr. Brown, Conkey, Galbraith, Patton, Sloss, Leatch, Hodge, J. Greer, Ross, Simpson, J. Witherspoon, Coit, Leland, Pratt, Howard, Goulding, J.S. Witherspoon, Morgan, D. Johnson, Van Court, Banks, J. Smylie, N. Smylie—128.

Nays—C. Cutler, Southworth, Holt, Burnap, Beman, Hayden, Wickware, Rand, Wood, Griswold, Macgoffin, Porter, Cone, etc.—122.

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My Life is in the Custody of Him Whose Glory I Seek

The great Reformer, John Knox, had been  in the land of Scotland for a mere six weeks, arriving on May 2, 1559.  He had been preaching continuously along the coast of the kingdom when there came to him an invitation from the Protestant Lords of the congregation.

The invitation took place in a historical context.  On May 31 of that year, the Second Covenant had been signed by these very same Lords which pledged them to mutual support and defense in the cause of religion, and by that, they meant the Protestant religion.  There were also certain promises made by the Queen Regent with respect to the town of Perth and its people, who had demonstrated against the Roman Catholic faith and life.  As soon as she took possession of the town with the help of French troops, she began to violate every promise she  had made, excusing her actions by stating that she was not bound to keep promises made to heretics.

In reaction to that, the Protestant Lords invited John Knox to come to St. Andrews to preach the Word in the Abbey Church there.  The Reformed accepted the invitation.  When the Archbishop heard of this invitation and its acceptance, he informed John Knox that his military forces would seek to stop him by force should he appear in the pulpit.  Further, the Queen regent herself was but a dozen miles away with French troops who were hostile to the Reformation cause.

Alarmed at the circumstances which had arisen from their invitation to the Reformer, and unwilling to have his life in imminent peril, they communicated with Knox their concern for his life if he agreed to their invitation.  His answer to them was typical of the great Reformed and should serve as an example to all entrusted with the gospel.  He replied:

“As for the fear of danger that may come to me, let no man be solicitous; for my life is in the custody of Him whose glory I seek.   I  desire   the  hand and weapon of no man to defend me.  I only crave audience; which, if it be denied here unto me at this time, I  must  seek farther where I may have it.”

This was clearly the man who never feared the fact of man.  Knox preached at St. Andrews on June 16, 1559.   His audience not only included the town people, but also the arch bishop, and “scowling bands of armed retainers prepared for the assassination of the fearless preacher.” (Rev. W. M. Hetherington, “History of the Church of Scotland” (p. 45)

His theme was that of the Lord Jesus ejecting the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem, which he applied as a necessity of the true church in removing the corruptions of the Roman Catholic church, and purifying the church.  Such was the effect of this sermon, and three like it in the same pulpit, was that the inhabitants of the area set up Reformed worship in the town.

Words to Live By:

When Scotland was on Fire

In this dear land in days of yore,
God moved in mighty power;
His Word He blessed and souls found rest,
When Scotland was on fire.
And in those days of yesteryear,
Men loved the Word of God;
They preached it true and lived it too,
When Scotland was on fire.

Once more Lord, once more Lord;
As in the days of yore;
On this dear land, Thy Spirit pour,
Set Scotland now on fire.

There were Welsh and Peden, Craig and Knox;
McCheyne and Rutherford;
Bonar and Wishart, Livingston,
These loved the Word of God,
And many others of renown,
For Christ their lives laid down;
When Scotland was on fire for God,
When Scotland was on fire.

In this dear land in days of yore,
Men honoured Christ the Lord;
They followed him, come loss or gain,
When Scotland was on fire.
In castle grand and but’n ben,
God had the chiefest place,
Nor stake nor rack could hold them back,
When Scotland was on fire.

Once more, once more, once more Oh Lord,
On this dear land of heather and glens
And lochs and hills,
Set Scotland now on fire.

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Ask God to Use His Rod
By Max Belz

belzmax03aIt is a blessed experience, at least after the initial shock, to know the chastening stroke of God’s rod. In Psalm 23:4 David says to his Lord, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Many pastors and members of modernist controlled churches who yearn to be separate from the apostate bodies are still struggling as captives in the ecclesiastical web, being forced constantly into compromising positions, yet never making the final, important decision to separate. Any true Bible-believer who contends for the faith within a modernist controlled church body soon finds that real comfort of conscience is impossible.

I believe that the first step for many such troubled brethren is simply this: “Ask God to use His rod.”

Three years ago I asked God to remove me from the ownership and management of a prosperous grain business if it was in any way a hindrance to my Christian witness in His sight. I did not really want to leave the business, because it was profitable, I enjoyed the work, and 60 years of family tradition were back of it. But I did open the question with the Lord. He took care of the rest. He used His rod, rapping my financial knuckles just hard enough to make me willingly let go of the big warehouses and 60 years of family tradition in the grain business. I started training for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

But that was not enough. I still needed more rod treatment. Against the pleadings of many friends I stubbornly determined to get my training from the nearest Presbyterian university, even though modernistic teachers and speakers were openly tolerated and honored there. At the same institution were instructors and speakers who held earnestly to the “faith once delivered,” and I assured my protesting fundamentalist friends outside that they did not need to worry about my spiritual welfare. Then, about two years later, a doctrinal dispute arose in the school, and it became apparent that fundamentalist forces were not in control of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It seemed impossible that I could avoid the issue further, and, finally, on my knees I asked God to use His rod again if I needed it. He did not long delay in making a vigorous answer. This time He rapped my ecclesiastical knuckles, removing me from a thriving Presbyterian student pastorate and my faithful wife and four children from a comfortable Presbyterian manse at Rowley, Iowa. These rapid removals came fast on the heels of my utterance of the following words at a Presbytery meeting:

“I am persuaded that the executive committee and the administration of the University of Dubuque have now openly committed themselves by their actions to a ‘middle-of-the-road,’ lukewarm theological policy. I fear the consequences both for them and myself it it continues thus. I cannot return (as a student) unless there is a sharp turn toward a true Calvinistic position.”

Although the battle thus precipitated still rages, God’s rod and staff have led us into the happy fellowship of the Bible Presbyterian fold, and graciously led the little Cono Center Presbyterian Church congregation along with us. I an joyfully testify today to the riches of God’s grace in Christ to me as a sinner and to the fact that His rod has comforted me.

Just a few hours before writing this I accompanied Jim Andrew, Iowa Choirtet second tenor, in a visit at about a dozen homes in our Cono neighborhood. Most of these folks have been through the thick of the battle which arose from our renunciation of the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and I never talked with people more radiant and happy in their daily Christian testimony. Jim Andrew made the same observation several times between visits. These Cono people have been deprived of their little church building and denied the use of their church treasury by virtue of a court order instituted by the Presbytery of Dubuque in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Yet in the midst of this apparent confusion they have seen God answer their prayers, leading them into the pleasant pastures of a marked spiritual revival. Souls are being saved in the Cono neighborhood, and attendance at the Sunday morning, evening, and midweek services is better than for many years.

Has God’s rod been on this little flock? We believe it has. But it has brought comfort – a living, happy and real comfort – a dynamic, militant and moving comfort. God’s rod has driven us graciously to the table prepared in the presence of our enemies. Our cup at Cono is running over, and, though the Presbytery of Dubuque has forced us from the little church built by our fathers, we believe surely that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and we look forward to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.

Many dear brethren in the modernist controlled churches today can be led out into real comfort if they will open the question earnestly with their Lord. The first step for many may simply be to “Ask God to use His rod.” The next step will surely be a definite step of separation from apostasy, and the results will be a happy and blessed surprise.

“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

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smythT_150Bring the Books!

Thomas Smyth was born on June 14, 1808 in Belfast, Ireland, the sixth son of Samuel and Ann Magee Smith.  Thomas’s father was English, a prosperous grocer and tobacco distributor, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church.  Samuel had changed the spelling of his surname to “Smith,” but in 1837, Thomas would return to the traditional “Smyth” at the General Assembly in order to avoid confusion with another Thomas Smith.  His mother, of Scottish ancestry, exercised a great influence on Thomas by encouraging his love of reading and instructing him in the Christian faith.  Thomas’s education began at the Academic Institution of Belfast, and then he went on to study at Belfast College where in 1829 he graduated with honors.  It was at the age of twenty-one that Thomas made his profession of faith in Christ while living in Belfast.  He then moved to London to attend Highbury College, but he was not able to complete his program there because he moved with his parents to the United States in 1830 where he lived with his brother in Patterson, New Jersey.  His brother, Joseph, had done well in his new homeland and earned his living in manufacturing.  Joseph was a member of the Presbyterian Church and Thomas attended services with him.  To complete his ministerial training he enrolled in the senior class at Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated in 1831.  It was in 1843 that Princeton Seminary, at the recommendation of Dr. Samuel Miller, conferred the Doctor of Divinity upon Thomas.  Dr. Miller thought that Rev. Smyth’s considerable academic pursuits and many publications justified his being awarded the D.D. despite his not having met all the jots-and-tittles normally required for the degree.

As with many ministers and theologians, Thomas Smyth was afflicted with bibliomania.  His symptoms appeared early in his life.  As a young child, he was a voracious reader and while at Belfast College he worked as the librarian.  Reading and cataloging were not sufficient to alleviate his love for books; he had to own them as well.  He wrote in 1829, “My thirst for books, in London became rapacious.  I overspent my supplies in procuring them, at the cheap repositories and left myself in the cold winter for two or three months without a cent …” (Autobiography, 39).  Dr. Smyth’s comments on his developing bibliomania are reminiscent of Erasmus and his practice of buying books first, and then, if any money was left, he bought food.  A few years later as he entered his ministerial service in Charleston, he specifically purposed to develop a theological and literary library similar to Dr. Williams’s Library in London.  Over the years, he accumulated about 20,000 volumes.  One unusual book in his possession was a Hebrew Psalter with the autographs of Jonathan Edwards, Edwards’s son, and Rev. Tryan Edwards, who gave it to Dr. Smyth.  The Grand Debate and other original documents of the Westminster Assembly were procured at great cost, as well as forty works by members of the Assembly along with ten quarto volumes of their discourses.  Dr. Smyth’s compulsive, though purposeful, book buying may have been a point of tension for he and his wife.  In a letter written by Margaret to him in the summer of 1846 she informed him of the expenses they were incurring due to the addition of three rooms to their home:

I tell you all this now as a preface to a caution, not to involve yourself too deeply or inextricably in debt by the purchase of books & pictures; of the last, with the maps, we have enough now to cover all the walls, even of the new rooms; & the books are already too numerous for comfort in the Study & Library.  …  But I would enter a protest not only against books & pictures, but all other things not necessary & which can come under the charge of extravagance.  Do be admonished & study to be economical (Autobiography, 384f).

It should be noted that one of the reasons the three rooms were built was to accommodate Dr. Smyth’s ever-growing library; one of the new rooms was thirty feet long and intended for his use.  As Dr. Smyth’s health continued to deteriorate, he made the difficult decision to sell over half of the volumes of his library to Columbia Theological Seminary.  He was concerned that since he could not take full advantage of his magnificent library it would be best that ministerial students have access to the books.  The actual sale was dated May 28, 1856 and the seminary contracted to pay the Smyths $14,400 for the volumes.  The seminary organized the collection in a special area designated the Smyth Library.  Dr. Smyth continued to add to the collection by donating other books so that by May of 1863, the special collection contained 11,845 volumes, and by the time a posthumous inventory was taken in November of 1912, the number was over 15,000.  Even though he had sold and donated thousands of volumes to Columbia Seminary, his remaining library was still large, but it was reduced once again when a fire, in 1870, burned about 3,000 books.  Though the affliction of bibliomania can become all-consuming, it is certain that many Presbyterian ministers trained at Columbia Seminary benefited from the collection gathered by Thomas Smyth.

Words to Live By:
Certainly for the pastor as well as for the scholar, books can be tools. But like all other things in life, they can also become a hindrance, even an idol. Perhaps the best antidote to this problem is to maintain a close conscious sense of our responsibility before the Lord to use for His glory all that He has entrusted us with. 

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A Union of Scottish Presbyterians

A noted Reformed Presbyterian theologian was once asked in the early eighteen hundreds in this country to identify his branch of the Presbyterian Church.  He replied that he belonged to no branch of Presbyterians, only to the root of Presbyterianism.  This answer revealed the deep view of history which Covenanter Presbyterians have of their church.

Any article on Scottish Presbyterians must really have an understanding first of the religious  situation  in  Scotland,   to say nothing   of the   Church of Scotland coming out of Romanism in the Protestant Reformation under reformer John Knox.  We don’t have room enough to enter into that topic on this site, but a good perusal or even a scan of any of the books which deal with that history will bring you up to speed on this.   Suffice to say that the American colonies were the happy recipients of countless Scot-Irish immigrants from Scotland through Ireland to this land.  They brought with them their distinctives which were (1)  a perpetual obligation to the Scottish covenants which their spiritual forefathers had signed, many with their blood, (2)  the sole headship of Christ over all, and last, (3) the concept of Christian civil government, where the new nation would be recognized as a Christian nation under King Jesus.

In their Scottish history, there had been many breakaways from the Church of Scotland for alleged errors in doctrine and practice.  One was called the Associate Presbytery, while another breakaway was called the Reformed Presbytery.

The latter was organized in the American colonies on March 9, 1774 as the first Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of Pennsylvania.  In fact, there is a blue historical sign by the state of Pennsylvania which recognizes this religious event beside one of the roads in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It was composed of three ministers: John Cuthbertson, William Lind, and Alexander Dobbins.

The first, John Cuthbertson,  was a missionary who traveled all throughout Pennsylvania, visiting the scattered societies, as they were known, ministering to them by the Word and Sacrament.  Often, their place of worship was under the sky and known as a Tent, such as the Junkin Tent in New Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Rev.  William Lind ministered in Paxton, outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a church.  And  the third minister from Ireland, Rev, Alexander Dobbins, was ministering outside of Gettysburg, Pa.  Thousands eat today as the Dobbins House Restaurant near the 1863 Gettsyburg Battlefield, not realizing that Rev. Dobbins had a pivotal part in the establishment of Presbyterianism in Pennsylvania.

That union of three ministers in the Reformed Presbytery lasted about eight years as another union took place in Pequea, Pennsylvania, on June 13, 1782 between  the Associate Presbytery and the Reformed Presbytery.  Somehow the Scottish distinctions between the two presbyteries were not as relevant in this new land.  This produced the Associate Reformed Presbytery.

Words to Live By:  Their current membership in the various Scottish Presbyterian Covenanter churches might be small in comparison with other Presbyterian churches, but in their minds and hearts, they are the root of Presbyterianism, never just another branch.  It is good to have a clear sense of history of your church.  In fact, this yearly historical devotional has that as one of its purposes.  This contributor desires that you, the reader,  know from where you have come in the past, so you won’t make the mistakes of the past, but labor effectively in the presence and future for King Jesus.

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The Purity of Our Religion

“Whereas, amongst the infinite blessings of Almighty God upon this nation, none is nor can be more dear unto us than the purity of our re­ligion; … “. So begins the document which formally established the West­minster Assembly of Divines on June 12, 1643. It was concern for the “puri­ty of our religion” which lay at the foundation of our Westminster Confes­sion of Faith and Catechisms. This purity could not be maintained without protest against impurity. This same document specifies further that the Westminster Assembly was convened in protest against “… that present church-government by archbishops, their chancellors, commissars, deans … ” etc. because such a “hierarchy is evil, and justly offensive and burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion . . . “. In undertaking their work the members of the Assembly were “. . . resolved … that such a government be settled in the church as may be most agreeable to God’s holy Word, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the church. . . “.

[excerpted from the RPCES report on “Apostasy as it relates to Ecclesiastical Separation.” (1978)]

The Man Whom God Prepares


mcleod01Alexander McLeod was born at Ardcrisinish, in the Isle of Mull, Scotland, June 12, 1774. His father was the Rev. Niel McLeod, who was connected with the Established Church of Scotland, and was Minister of the United Parishes of Kilfinichen and Kilvichewen. His mother was Margaret McLean, daughter of the Kev. Archibald McLean, who was the immediate predecessor of his son-in-law, Mr. McLeod, in the same charge. Both his parents were eminent for talents and piety. The great Dr. Johnson, in his tour through the “Western Islands, was a visitor at his father’s house, and, in referring to the circumstance, Johnson says,—” We were entertained by Mr. McLean,” (by mistake he used the name of the lady for that of her husband,) ” a minister that lives upon the coast, whose elegance of conversation and strength of judgment would make him conspicuous in places of greater celebrity.”

mcleod_gravesAt the age of five years, Alexander McLeod lost his father; but, even at that early period, his mind seems to have been alive to religious impressions; for when the tidings of his father’s death were announced to the family, the child was upon his knees in prayer. From that time for several years the general conduct of his education devolved upon his mother, than whom perhaps no mother could have contributed more effectually to the development and right direction of his faculties. His mother, however, employed a tutor in the house, who immediately superintended his studies; and his uncommon quickness of apprehension and facility at acquiring knowledge, were indicated by the fact that he had mastered his Latin Grammar before he had completed his sixth year. He subsequently attended the parish school of Braeadale, in the Island of Skye, for three or four years, and availed himself also of the advantages furnished by other schools, with reference to particular branches, which were understood to be taught in them with unusual efficiency. He lost his mother at the age of about fifteen, when he was absent from home at school. So deeply was he affected by the tidings of her death, that, for a time, there were serious apprehensions that it would be the occasion of depriving him of his reason. As he was consecrated to the ministry in the intention of his parents, he seems, before he was six years old, to have formed a distinct purpose of carrying out their intention; and of that purpose he never lost sight, amidst all the subsequent vicissitudes which he experienced. He was always remarkable for an intrepid and adventurous spirit, and was not infrequently confined by injuries which he received in consequence of too freely indulging it.

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William Andrew McIlwaine was born on April 24, 1893 in Kochi, Japan. He attended Davidson College, graduating with the AB in 1915 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1919 with the BD degree. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained in May of 1919 and from 1919 until 1942 served as a missionary to Japan, including six months in detention immediately following the outbreak of the war. He returned to the US on an exchange ship in the summer of 1942.

Rev. McIlwaine was then commissioned on June 11, 1943, attending US Army Chaplain School at Harvard University, graduating there in July, 1943. Duty assignments included Station Complement, Camp Ellis, IL, July 1943 to Feb. 1945; Percy Jones Hospital Center, Battle Creek, MI, Feb. to Aug. 1945; special Projects Division, Provost Marshall General’s Office, with duty in Washington, D.C. and Prisoner of War Camp, Huntsville, TX, August 1945 to April 1946. On May 14, 1946 he was separated from active service with the rank of Major.

Dr. McIlwaine then returned to service as a missionary in Japan from 1946 until 1963. He later served as Stated Supply for the McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church of Pensacola, Florida from 1969 to 1971. In 1976 he served as moderator of the 4th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He died on November 30, 1985, at the age of 92.

Aurine Wilkins McIlwaine was born on January 14, 1904 in Hopkinsville, KY; educated at Bethel Women’s Academy and College, obtaining her BS from Cumberland University in 1926. She then graduated from the PCUS Assembly Training School in 1929 and was appointed a missionary on Feb. 13, 1929. On September 3, 1931 she sailed for Korea and remained in faithful service there until 1939.

She married the Rev. William A. McIlwaine on December 28, 1939 in Kwangju, Korea and then went with him to Japan, where together they served as evangelistic missionaries. With only the war years of 1942-1946 interrupting, they served there until their retirement on December 31, 1963.

Mrs. McIlwaine died on December 20, 1982, at the age of 78, following a brief illness. She is buried in Bayview Memorial Park in Pensacola, FL.

What follows is a tribute paid to the McIlwaine’s, in light of their long lives of service to the glory of our Lord and Savior. Above, you have the basic facts of their lives. Below, the substance of their lives, lived out in the reality of redemption which comes through Jesus Christ alone.

by Benson Cain

June 11, 1963

Kobe Station with Osaka Station
at Mikage, Cain’s Residence

Tonight we are gathered together to say farewell to Will and Aurine. I dare not say farewell really because surely we shall be seeing each other on furlough, and perhaps even in Japan – and certainly in God’s good time, in Heaven. I dare not speak from a personal point of view because then I must expose to the rest of the Station some things that only the McIlwaines and I know. I dare not recall all the personal aspects of our friendship of over ten years lest I not finish here tonight. But I will point out some general facts which we all can recall and appreciate. No matter what I say, I’m sure I’ll have not said enough, and no matter how well I try to say it, the matter won’t really be touched upon at all.

First, I’m going to say that we are saying goodby, for a time at least, to True Servants of God. I’m sure that not a day passes that the McIlwaines don’t serve the Lord in service to others. I can recall, as many of you can, the long nights spent in the office getting ready for the next day’s classes because during the day company had come;—a couple they had known before the war wanted to get started again in the Lord’s service. The sick were visited. Milk was distributed to the pastor’s emaciated children. The new language students had to be housed. As many as could stayed with the McIlwaines and then houses had to be rented. Rugs, desks, food, notebooks and many other little necessities had to be purchased. The thousand and one small services were all done as service unto God by servants of God. Therefore, these small services were always, as now, done cheerfully. They show as much zeal locating an old trunk that must be forwarded to someone as they do in the more spiritual aspects of the work.

Secondly, we are saying goodbye to Personal Friends of each of us regardless of other ties. These servants of God have the particular gift of being able to command the respect of all peoples and therefore all members of our Station and Mission have at one time or another confided in them. It may have been about where to work or the merits of a two-story or one-story house, the dangers of drinking well water or the problems of bachelors or single ladies, or the rigours of married life and rearing children. You can take your pick. They have counseled most of us on most of these problems.

Thirdly, we are saying goodbye to a couple who are Widely Loved beyond the narrow bounds of our Station and Mission. Recently near the Seminary about one-hundred twenty Christians from all over the General Assembly of the Reformed Church gathered to pay tribute to them for their years of faithful service among them. We also claim them, but not exclusively. The seventy graduates of the Kobe Reformed Seminary claim them. The four-hundred graduates of the Kobe School of the Japanese Language are proud to have known them. The Language School itself acknowledges Will as its founder. The Yodogawa Christian Hospital claims them both from the kitchen to the out-patient department, from the early days to today with its increased use­fulness. The Kobe Union Church claims them with many long years of faithful service there. The Motomachi Evangelistic Hall, the Chinese work, the other Reformed Churches in Kobe and some from other denominations all claim them for one reason or another. Many have expressed this gratitude in Kobe as well as in Kochi, Kagawa, Aichi, Gifu, Sendai, Tokyo, and other cities and prefectures where they have recently been honored. Then, there are the other institutions that claim them. Kinjoin Nagoya for many years had Will as a leading figure on the Board of Trustees. Seiwa in Kochi has had Will active in the life of the institution for all these years, not to mention Shikoku Christian College which Will, L.W. Moore, and Jim McAlpine were instrumental in starting in the early days after the war. I could go on and speak about the Inter-Varsity Movement in Japan of which Will is an advisor, the Japan Protestant Conference which elected him as its first president to celebrate the Protestant Centennial in Japan,—then the Japan Protestant Centennial. There must be a dozen more organizations that claim them, but let them do so. At least we are among them.

Fourthly, we are saying goodbye to Educators. I will not dwell on this. Many of you know of Japanese pastors who speak almost perfect English, taught by Aurine; and of Bible-believing and preaching pastors, taught by Will. Canadian Academy, the Kobe Reformed Seminary, and a half-dozen other schools in Japan are indebted to them for their educational services. I once heard someone say that she was never around Will that she didn’t learn something new.  He is not only an authority on the Bible but also on many other subjects.

Fifthly, we are saying goodbye to Evangelists. Lest I separate these two categories of Education and Evangelism too sharply and be criticized—I’ll pass on through this point saying—not separated by any facet of life—all of life is evangelism for them. Scarcely a prayer meeting passes that we don’t sense this by their prayer requests and prayers. I’ve worked some of the Nagoya area where Will was for fifteen years and have seen the fruit which lives on in the churches founded under his leadership. It doesn’t matter if it is the ex-soldier, scrap-dealer at Kaigan dori whose life Will saved after the war, or the shoe-repair man at Mikage—all have been touched by them and I’m sure even yet these too will believe. I’m sure many more will yet believe due to the seed sown by these faithful evangelists.

So tonight we say goodbye to faithful, true servants of Jesus Christ, to personal friends of each of us, to widely loved missionaries beyond our Mission and Station, to Educators among many institutions, to first and last and always evangelists to bring the glad tidings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to Japan.

Yet, in all of this we haven’t mentioned the wonderful sense of humor, the ability to listen with empathy, the doggedness to keep at something until it is accomplished, the wisdom to see God’s hand working in seeming adversity, and the grace to give the other man his way even if he is not due it—just BIGNESS and LOVE. We don’t touch all of this. In fact, all I say is so inadequate that the words of Paul speak best of them in Christ in this way:


“Love suffereth long, and is kind;
love envieth not;

Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth…”

                                                                  I Corinthians 13:4-8a.

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