May 2015

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard Van Horn

Q. 21. — Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. — The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

Scripture References: I Tim. 2:5; John 1:1,14; John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11.

Questions:

1.
Why is the Redeemer of God’s elect called the Lord Jesus Christ?

He is called the Lord because of His sovereignty and dominion (Acts 10:36). He is called Jesus because He is the Saviour of His people (Matt. 1:21). He is called Christ because He is anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost which was given to Him without measure (Acts 10:38). He is fully qualified by God.

2. How does the Lord Jesus Christ redeem the elect of God?

He purchases them by His blood and rescues them by His conquest by spoiling principalities and powers. (I Peter 1:18,19. Col. 2:15)

3. What did the Lord Jesus Christ become in order to redeem God’s elect?

He became man but did not cease to be God. He became Immanuel, God with us.

4. Why was it necessary that He become man?

It was necessary in order that He might be capable of suffering death for man and that He might become their High Priest that could reconcile them to God (Heb. 8:16,17).

5. How could Christ be both God and man?

Christ is God and man by a personal union. Both His natures are distinct, the divine nature is not subject to change and the human o nature is not omnipotent.

6. Could some compact statements be given regarding the constitution of the Redeemer’s person?

J. B. Green has probably put it in the most concise way:
“1. The reality of the two natures.
2. The integrity of the new natures.
3. The distinctness of the two natures after the union.
4. The oneness of the personality.”

BE VERY SURE

The fact that Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer of God’s elect is one for which we should ever thank God. Though it is difficult for us to understand the intricacies of how He could be both God and man; of how the two natures are distinct and yet He is one; we can certainly thank and praise God He that did purchase us by His own blood and thus become the only Redeemer of God’s elect.

The fact is a wondrous fact and yet the question must be asked and answered by all: Are we certain that we are among those He purchased and saved? The hymn writer puts it very well when he says, “Be very sure, Be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One, This Rock is Jesus, The only One.” (Mrs. Ruth Caye Jones). For indeed, as the title of the hymn so aptly puts it, “In Times Like These” we need a Saviour.

To be able to discuss, and have an understanding of, theology is a good and healthy thing. The church needs this discipline, the church needs to have a better understanding of what the Standards teach. It is a sad fact that many Presbyterians could not even name what makes up the Standards. We repeat, it is good to have theological knowledge. But as we approach in this Catechism Question another theological fact, that of the Redeemer of God’s elect, it is even more important to have a personal knowledge of the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ.

As you read this short article, two questions are in order. First, Do you know Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Joseph Alleine puts it very plain when he says, “Though of yourselves you can do nothing, yet you may do all through His Spirit enabling you, and He offers assistance to you. God bids you ‘wash and make you clean.’ God invites you to be made clean and entreats you to yield to Him. O accept His offers, and let Him do for you, and in you, what you cannot do for yourselves.” (Prov. 1:24, Rev. 3:20). Second, If you believe Christ has saved you, are you acting as if He has saved you? Has your life changed, are old things passing away, are all things becoming new?
To have the theological knowledge that He is the Redeemer of God’s elect is good. Do you have the Heart knowledge? Isa.47:4.

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This is one of those days where few Presbyterian events seem to have happened. In a previous year we wrote of how John and Louisa Lowrie set sail for the mission field in India on this date. This year, we wanted to discuss something more of Rev. Lowrie’s wife, Louisa. The following brief account is drawn from the Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent (1876), p. 194:—

Louisa A. Lowrie, wife of the Rev. John C. Lowrie, D.D. was a daughter of Thomas and Mary Wilson, of Morgantown, Virginia [later of West Virginia, which became a state in 1863], and sister of the late Hon. Edgar C. Wilson, of the same place. She belonged to the first band of missionaries sent by the Pittsburgh Society to India, and sailed from Philadelphia on May 30, 1833. She died in Calcutta, November 21, of the same year, in the twenty-fourth year of her age.

The annual report of 1834 says of her : “Her desires to devote herself to the spiritual good of the heathen were fervent, and her qualifications for the work were, to human view, uncommon; but He for whose glory she left her native land and bore her feeble exhausted frame half round the globe, was pleased, doubtless for wise reasons, to disappoint her earthly hopes, and require her associates, a few short weeks after their arrival, to consign her to the dust, there to proclaim, as she sleeps in Jesus on India’s distant shores, the compassion of American Christians for its millions of degraded idolators, and to invite others from her native land to come and prosecute the noble undertaking in which she fell.”

Her pastor at Morgantown, Rev. Ashbel G. Fairchild, D.D., prepared a memoir, soon after her death; and few who have seen in it the excellent likeness of that lovely face will ever forget it. Her memory was still affectionately cherished in Western Pennsylvania for many years after. The Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyteries of Pittsburgh and Allegheny eventually built a house at Mynpurie, India, naming it her memory, “The Louisa Lowrie Home.” It’s purpose was to serve as a dwelling for unmarried women laboring as missionaries at that particular station.

A few years before her death, Louisa Lowrie wrote the following in her journal:—

Saturday, June 11th. (1831).—In reviewing my life for a year past, I find so much for which to praise the Lord, that I feel oppressed with a sense of my ingratitude. Mercies unnumbered have crowned this year, the most blessed of my life. In it, the Lord has changed my heart; and given me to feel that Jesus is my friend; and, as often as I have wandered from Him, He has drawn me back by mercies or chastisements. During the last autumn my way was so clear, the current of my life so smooth, and my path so strewed with flowers, that I almost feared I was not one of those who should “come out of great tribulation.”

In examining my views and feelings, I find that I am very much changed. I can scarcely recognize my former self. Added to a disposition naturally cheerful, I possessed an intense desire for happiness; and perhaps enjoyed as much as was ever felt by an unregenerate heart. But, in the midst of all, I found there was something wanting, without which I could not rest. The Lord gave me to see that this was religion. I sought religion–I tasted of his love; and found that all I had hitherto enjoyed was nothing;—mere negative happiness. I desired to love the Lord with my whole soul. I cared not what should befall me; I only asked holiness of heart. Oh, my God! thou knowest I was sincere; and if I have since murmured against thee, on account of the means thou hast employed to subdue me, forgive I beseech thee—pity my feeble frame! I do not ask theee to lessen my sufferings; I only ask suffering grace.

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An excerpt from a brief article by Samuel Brown Wylie, titled “Prayer, A Reasonable Duty,” as found in the March 1821 issue of The Presbyterian Magazine. Dr. Wylie was the first Reformed Presbyterian to be ordained in the United States, in 1799, by the Reformed Presbytery as it met in Ryegate, Vermont. Born on May 21, 1773, Wylie was installed as pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian church of Philadelphia in 1803, and served there until his death on October 13, 1852. Dr. Wylie was also Professor of Ancient Languages in University of Pennsylvania, 1828-45, and Emeritus Professor, 1838-45. 

wylieSB

“Although God could accomplish all His purposes instantaneously by a word of power, He chooses to work by means, and has made it our duty to be diligent in their observance. We are so prone to dwell on the visible surface of the effect, that we are in danger of ascribing to the mere machinery in the hand of the Deity, that agency which ought to be referred to the efficiency of an omnipresent Spirit. While, therefore, Christianity inculcates the diligent use of the means of grace generally, and of prayer particularly, it at the same time cautions against resting in them. We must look through them and beyond them to their divine Author, who alone can render them efficacious for the purposes for which they were intended.

“There is no feature more characteristic of the Christian than a disposition to pray, and a delight  in the duty. These are an immediate result of the new birth, “Behold he prayeth.” Where this disposition does not exist, there is no evidence of spiritual life. We do not deny, that in spiritual as well as natural life, there may be temporary swoons and occasions of suspended animation : but we do aver, that a continued habitual neglect of this medium of holy intercommunion with God, is as decisive evidence of a state of spiritual death, as a continued cessation of breathing would be, of the soul’s departure from it’s clay tenement. The true Christian, therefore, will be diligent and careful in the performance of this duty. He will endeavour to be careful for nothing, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, make his requests known unto God, who will abundantly supply all his wants, according to His riches in glory  which is by Christ Jesus.”

[If you would like to see the full article transcribed in PDF format, please send an email to wsparkman {AT} pcanet /DOT/ org].


Chronological bibliography—
1803
The Obligation of Covenants : A Discourse delivered, Monday, June 27, 1803, after the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, The Reformed Presbyterian Congregation, Glasgow (Paisley : Printed by Stephen Young, 1816), 36 p. [Reprinted in 1804 and 1816].

1806
The Two Sons of Oil, or, The Faithful Witness for Magistracy & Ministry upon a Scriptural Basis.Also, A Sermon on Covenanting. Being the substance of two discourses.  (Greensburg [Pa.] From the press of Snowden & M’Corkle, 803), 117 p., 1 l.  [Reprinted in 1806; 1832; 1850; 1977; and 1995].

1811
Wylie, Samuel Brown and Alexander M’Leod, The Constitution of the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church : with an address, &c. (New-York : S. Whiting & Co., 1811), 12 p.

1817
The first Annual Address read before the Religious Historical Society : May 20th, 1817 (Philadelphia : Printed at the Office of Religious Remembrancer, by John W. Scott, 1818), 22 pp.; 23 cm.  Includes the Constitution of the Religious Historical Society of Philadelphia, pp. 17-18.  Note: Dr. Wylie’s presentation is his statement of the value of historical studies and collections, stating that absolute truth may be discovered through such studies.

1821
“Prayer, A Reasonable Duty,” in The Presbyterian Magazine (March 1821): 97-101.


1832
Sentiments of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, A.M. in 1803, respecting civil magistracy and the government of the United States : contrasted with sentiments of the Rev. Samuel B. Wylie, D.D. in 1832, on the same subjects.(Montgomery, N.Y. : Thomas & Edwards, 1832), 12 p.

1838
An Introduction to the Knowledge of Greek Grammar (Philadelphia : J. Whetham, 1838), 149 p.

1855
Wylie, Samuel Brown and John Niel McLeod, Memoir of Alexander McLeod (New York : C. Scribner, 1855), xv, 535 p.

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Our post today comes from a biographical sketch written for the PCA Historical Center by Barry Waugh. Our thanks to him for permission to use this portion for today’s blog post. Click here to read the full article.

He Sold the Books!

smythT_150As 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:
Suffering a similar affliction (though my own library paled in comparison), I found some years ago that the best way to temper the disease was to realize that I was responsible before the Lord for each volume I purchased. Was it a truly necessary purchase? Would I in fact read it, or at least use it in a way that would justify the expense? Pastors typically need the resources of a good many books and so it is never a foolish expenditure when they are first wisely chosen and then wisely and well-used. Software programs for the study of the Bible add new abilities for search and access, and even make it possible to carry an entire library on a single laptop, tablet, or even a phone.

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First Schism in American Presbyterianism

You have already read a couple of days ago about the reunion between the Old Side and New Side Presbyterians on May 25.  We will now turn to the actual schism which took place on May 27, 1741. 

One of the early students of the Log College in New Jersey was Gilbert Tennent. As a graduate of Yale, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1725 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick,  New Jersey.

As Tennent saw other churches experiencing revival, he saw the barrenness of his own pastoral work. Afflicted with serious illness at the same time, he begged God in prayer to give him just six months more of life on this earth that he might promote God’s kingdom with all his mind. God answered his prayer, and by the Word and Spirit, revival came to his congregation.

The problem with this season of converting grace in countless churches was that the revivalists then went to other parishes within the Presbyterian church to hold meetings, without getting permission from the Presbyterian pastors in those areas.  At one point, the Synod of Philadelphia tried to stop this by passing a resolution to prohibit it. It was repealed the following year, but the resolution showed the problem of the movement.

The other issue was that of education. The Old Side Presbyterians wished to limit the education of the new ministers to just immigrants  with European training, especially from Great Britain. Gilbert Tennent saw that as an attack upon his father’s log college.

When the Synod met on May 27, 1741, all was set up for a final confrontation. A protest sought to expel the Log College ministers as schismatics.  The Log College men clamored in response for all the anti-Log College ministers to be expelled. At this moment, the moderator, who was caught off guard by the whole affair, left the moderator’s chair. The Log College men were found to be in the minority, so they left. Dr. Charles Hodge about a century later said of this meeting “it was a disorderly rupture.”

The revivalist or Log College ministers were called New Side Presbyterians. The anti-revivalist ministers were known as the Old Side Presbyterians. The former group grew, as the revival continued, with the latter group decreasing, as the immigration of ministers from the Old World decreased greatly.  By 1758, the membership of the Old Side Presbyterians  was only 22 ministers, while the New Side Presbyterian numbered 70 ministers.

Words to Live By: Someone once said that the seven last words of the church is too often “we haven’t done it that way before.”  Tradition often is the cause of many a church schism.  And the tragedy is that a watching world sees it all, and as a result, wants nothing to do with Christianity.  Let us guard our thoughts, words, and works with each other of like precious faith

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