September 2015

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A Heart Firmly Attached in the Interest of His Country.

Abraham Keteltas was born in New York City on December 26, 1732. His father, Abraham Keteltas, Sr., was a merchant who had immigrated to the American colonies in 1720. The family had settled in New Rochelle, New York, which was at the time heavily populated with Huguenots. Young Abraham’s friendships among the Huguenots allowed him to become fluent in French. He later studied theology at Yale, graduating there in 1752, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1756.

Installed as pastor in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1757, he remained there but a year. Rev. Keteltas married about this time and resided at Jamaica, Long Island, yet without pastoral charge. Still, as he was fluent in the three languages dominant in the region and was a masterful preacher, he frequently was called to the pulpits of the Dutch and French churches, as well as the Presbyterian, and during this time his reputation grew among that population.

His reputation and stature apparently extended well beyond the Long Island community, for it is recorded that his advice was held in high esteem by many, George Washington being among that number and known to have frequently consulted him on various matters. Rev. Keteltas readily became a strong advocate in the struggle for independence, so public in his declarations that his personal safety required him to flee Long Island for the relative safety of New England. He was elected in 1777 to serve as a delegate to the New York State constitutional convention, though he did not attend.

Four of Rev. Keteltas’s sermons are extant, preserved in a small number of libraries. These are:

The Religious Soldier: or, The Military Character of King David, display’d and enforced in a sermon, preached March 8, 1759, to the regular officers and soldiers in Elizabeth-Town.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in becoming poor for men displayed and enforced in a charity sermon preached in the French Protestant Church, in New-York, December 27, 1773.

Reflections on Extortion shewing the Nature, Malignity, and Fatal Tendency of that Sin to Individuals and Communities, displayed and enforced in a sermon preached at Newbury-port, on Lord’s Day February 15th, 1778.

and

God Arising and Pleading His People’s Cause: or, The American War in Favor of Liberty, Against the Measures and Arms of Great Britain, Shewn to Be the Cause of God.

The last mentioned of these, delivered in 1777, is perhaps the best known of his sermons. It is a bold and patriotic record of his support for the American cause. Reiner Smolinki, of George State University, has skillfully made this sermon available in digital edition (see the above link). Of this sermon, Mr. Smolinski states:

In the former sermon . . . Keteltas enlists Jehovah of Armies in defense of America’s rights. Drawing on typological parallels from both Testaments, Keteltas demonstrates that God always supports the cause of righteousness, liberty, and self-government, especially where His people are concerned. If God is on the side of His American Israel, Kelteltas prophecies, the British enemy cannot succeed for long. Religion and politics are joined in a bed of patriotism.

During the war years, Rev. Keteltas supplied the pulpits of many churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, continuing in that capacity until declining health forced his retirement in 1782. He died while residing in Jamaica, Queens County, New York, on this day, September 30, in 1798, at the age of 65 years, 9 months and 4 days. The New York Historical Society has preserved a portrait of Rev. Keteltas, which can be viewed hereHis gravestone, which can be viewed herereads as follows:

“He possessed unusual talents which were improved by profound erudition & a heart firmly attached in the interest of his Country. His mind was early impressed with a sense of religion, which fully manifested itself by his choice of the sacred office, in which he shone as the able & faithful Divine. It may not perhaps be unworthy of record in this inscription, that he had frequently officiated in three different languages, having preached in the Dutch & French Churches in his native City of New York.”

Something to Consider:
The question is still with us to this day, whether Christians,
as Christians, should be involved in politics. Without voting here on the matter, we only make an historical observation of the strong involvement of the clergy in favor of the American Revolution, so much so that the War was sometimes called the Presbyterian Rebellion. To discover how these pastors came to their convictions, it is necessary to take into account the wider context of, first, the English Civil War (1642-51), and second, the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary (1688). The American Revolutionary War was very clearly at the time seen as a continuation of these earlier conflicts. For a Presbyterian defense of the struggle for liberty, see particularly Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex: The Law and the Prince, A Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People (1644).

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You Have This Day Promised to Starve.

Yesterday’s post relied in large part on an account found in a classic work on the history of Presbyterianism in South Carolina, written by Dr. George Howe. Lingering a bit longer on the pages of that classic, we find this story of the ministry of the Rev. David Humphreys, who died on this day, September 29th, in 1869.

Howe’s account reads in part:

The Rev. David Humphreys visited the Roberts Church for the first time in the latter part of the year 1820. A regular call was given him by the churches of Roberts and Good Hope in the spring of 1821, in which $300 was promised him for three-fourths of his time; he signified his acceptance of the call, and during the meeting of Presbytery one of the ministers who was receiving a better salary than was promised to the younger brother, jocosely remarked to him, “Well David you have this day solemnly promised to starve.”

He was ordained and installed pastor in the same year, at Good Hope, by an adjourned meeting of Presbytery. It was considered a very great effort on the part of these feeble churches, which for years had only received preaching once a month and for which they had paid a very small amount to undertake to support a pastor. The subscription list at Roberts for the Rev. John Simpson was still preserved and it was not likely to be much improved on. Five dollars was the highest subscription and from that amount others came down to fifty and even twelve-and-a-half cents, while some subscribed a bushel of wheat or corn, or a gallon of whiskey. Both congregations were much reduced by emigrants who had left to seek homes in some other section of our wide country, and especially was this the case with Good Hope.

When Rev. Humphreys first took charge of these churches there were, perhaps, in each some twenty or thirty families and thirty or forty members. He had a young family and no resources. He purchased a small farm with the hope that he could make a support upon it, while his small salary would go to pay for it, but to his great mortification, the salary was irregularly and but partially paid, and he was reduced to the necessity of borrowing money at fourteen per cent interest to pay for his lands, and in order to pay the borrowed funds, he was driven to the necessity of teaching school, which he said was a “herculean task for him, as all his sermons had to be written out in full and committed to memory.” He kept up this practice of committing to memory for nearly twenty years, when he gradually adopted the habit of using short notes or preaching extempore.

He taught school with some intervals, for several years and never contracted a debt without some good prospect of paying it. He had but a small library which needed a few additional volumes year by year, and a rising family, which increased his expenses. It was then a rare thing for a present of any kind to be made to the pastor. If any article of food or clothing was obtained from any of the church members, the amount was deducted from the subscription, and if it exceeded the subscription, the balance was paid back or credited to the next year. There were no deacons in these churches and no systematic plan adopted for the collection of the small amount subscribed. Some paid a part in provisions and the balance remained unpaid; others paid if they happened to think of it, while the amount promised by those who removed from the bounds was never made up. The consequence was in a few years that they were in arrears to the amount of about $1000. Thus writes the Rev. John McLees, himself reared in the midst of these congregations. It is a sad story of violated vows, of broken promises, of the life of the ministry crushed out by a narrowness of spirit and a want of commercial integrity which one could not expect in that region of country whose people have prided themselves on generosity and nobleness of spirit. The story is written not by an enemy but by a friend, not by a stranger to this people, but by one of themselves, and one who wishes them well.

Words To Live By:
Such were the times in that day and era when answering a call to enter the Gospel ministry was a thing to seriously consider before stepping forward. It could indeed mean a life of poverty. It was wrong that vows should be violated and promises broken, but men truly called to the ministry will always rise to meet the challenges they face.

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labour in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”—I Timothy 5:17-18, KJV.

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A Sad Story Told Time and Again

The old Catholic Presbyterian Church in Chester county, South Carolina, was founded in 1759. Sixty-two men from the congregation served in the Revolutionary War. The church was so named because the congregation was originally made up of emigrant families primarily from Ireland, who came from a number of different Presbyterian denominations. Uniting as one congregation, they agreed that the church would become aligned with whichever group should succeed in obtaining the first settled pastor. And so it was that the congregation came to be aligned with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., when Robert McCulloch answered a call to serve this church and the nearby Purity Church, under what was often termed a “yoked” pastorate.

Of the Purity church, it has been recorded that

“Communicants who did not live by the strict moral code of the church were brought before the congregation for chastisement. At a Sessions meeting in 1792, Purity Church brought a query to that larger governing body.

“What shall be done in the case of John Weir and his wife who apply for baptism to their child born within the time limited after marriage?” It was judged that “they be suspended until they make public acknowledgements and be publicly rebuked.”

And so we understand in that context just how injurious and painful it must have been when the pastor himself was charged with the sin of adultery. He was tried and found guilty by the Presbytery and barred from the ministry on November 13, 1800.

Of this sad occasion, George Howe writes in his famous work, Presbyterianism in South Carolina,

These things are proofs of human imperfection; and yet religion has its place in the world, and the Church still stands; nor were such instances of defection, even of renowned servants of God, wanting in Scripture times. It was probably in view of this, and moved by the evidences of his repentance, that his church petitioned for his restoration to the ministry on September 28, 1801. This the Presbytery did not then grant, first, because it would be improper to return him to the ministry before he was received into the communion of the Church, and secondly, there should be very satisfactory evidence of repentance, reformation and aptness to teach. But after he should give satisfaction to the Church, Presbytery had no objection that he should use his talents among them in their religious meetings for their instruction, yet in such a way as was consistent with the dtuies of a private Christian only. In those unofficial labors he engaged, holding prayer meetings, accompanied with exhortation, through the congregation, and drawing back to him the affection of his people.

Dr. Howe continues in his account:

On the 17th of March, 1802, the congregation renewed their petition, being satisfied of his repentance and that he would be as useful as ever in the ministry, if not more so, if restored. Presbytery, after careful enquiry and full communication with the offender absolved him from the sentence of deposition and appointed him to preach in their vacant churches. This he did both to his own church and to others. For several years he was reported as a minister without charge, and Catholic Church as vacant.

Sin has its cost, as Howe notes:

The defection of Mr. McCulloch was followed by a great decline in Catholic congregation just when the interests of religion were advancing rapidly elsewhere. Many withdrew from the communion of the Church, some of whom joined the Covenanters, sole the Old Associate, and some the Associate Reformed, and some remained out of the communion of any Church. . . Mr. McCulloch continued to preach at Catholic, later dividing his time with the church at Rocky Mount, and again later preaching one-fourth of his time at Bethlehem church in Beckhamville.

Words to Live By:
Sin always has a cost, sometimes more evident and devastating than others. The pastor’s sin drove people from the church. But how much worse could the situation have been, had the Presbytery not been there to exercise discipline? From Howe’s account it seems that some in the congregation were pushing the Presbytery to reinstate the pastor sooner than the Presbytery thought wise. Perhaps that in turn is what caused some to leave the congregation for other churches. God’s grace, extended through Christ’s death and resurrection, can always overcome our sin. Grievous sin can be forgiven and we can be restored to useful service. But take time to wait upon the Lord and pay attention to the wisdom of godly pastors whom the Lord has established as servant-leaders in His Church. Godly discipline always bears a good fruit.

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

Q. 39. — What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. — The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.

Scripture References: Deut. 29:29. Micah 6:8. I Sam. 15:22.

Questions:

1. Why do believers have duties toward God?

(1) God is the Creator and Preserver of all men, but believers belong to Him also by right of redemption and have added reason for obedience.
(2) God has made it very plain in His Word that the duties of the believers are the responsibilities that go with the privileges. In our catechism we have studied the privileges, now we o come to the responsibilities.

2. What is the revealed will of God?

The revealed will of God is found in the scripture of the Old and New Testaments.

3. Could not the Holy Spirit lead a believer to act apart from the Scriptures ?

Any leading by the Holy Spirit will be consistent with the Word of God. A Bible teacher put it this way: There are three main characteristics of the leading of the Holy Spirit:
(1) It is controlling, not compelling.
(2) It is continuous, it always “Puts to death”.
(3) It is mediate, always by and with the Word, “Into the truth”.

4. Should believers obey God rather men?

There is a responsibility on the part of believers to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake”, (I Pet. 2: 13) but if the duty required of us by man would cause us to disobey God (according to His revealed will) we must obey God. (Acts 5:29).

5. Does God require of the believer what is impossible for the individual believer?

No, God only requires of the believer what he will give the believer the strength, wisdom, courage and power to perform. (Ezekiel 36:27. I Cor. 10:13).

HOLINESS AND TRUTH

We learn in this question that our duty is obedience to the revealed will of God. This brings forth the teaching that we as believers need to be reminded of again and again: to simply know the truth is not enough, there must be a working out of the truth in our lives every day. This teaching is vital, for the real test of Christian discipleship is continuance in Christ and in His Word. (John 8:31, 32).

In this day and age, among conservative circles, there is much teaching about the Truth. Well should there be for the battleground today is over the Truth, whether it is verbally inspired or not, whether or not it is the authority for the believer. We recognize the importance of the Word and are always ready to do battle for it. But are we: ready, always ready, to live it day by day? Possibly our trouble is that of making the process too difficult. We feel it is too hard to do and so end up doing little or nothing. Would it not be good for us·to get back to the simple principles of obedience to the revealed will of God? Let us check a few of them again, all to the glory of God.

First, remember that we are God’s children. Since we have been born into His family we should no longer seek to do our will but His will. If we will but settle right now, once and for all, the important principle that we are to do all to the glory of God we will avoid many difficulties. Remember that doing His will in no sense depends on feeling, it is simply a self-discipline.

Second we should be steadfast Christians. We can do this by always abiding in the vine. The Spirit of Christ dwells in the true believer and is ready every moment to impart wisdom, courage, patience and give victory over sins from within and without. Keeping close to. Him will help us to be steadfast.

Third, honor God’s Word. It would be better to give up one meal a day than to miss one day without reading the Word. Remember ever to turn to the authoritative Word of the sovereign God, remember it is our objective authority and from it we learn how to live.

Fourth, pray without ceasing. Prayer can . lay hold of the throne and spiritual forces are set into motion far beyond the understanding of man. It is an offensive weapon.

Fifth, be faithful in the little things. Faithfulness is the great test of true discipleship. He that is faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in much.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 3 No. 39 (March, 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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CHAPTER III.

CALVINISM AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.

The Roman Catholic Church is Arminian; the Episcopal Church is Calvinistic in its creed and Arminian in its clergy; the Methodist Church is Arminian in its clergy and creed. The Episcopal Church has a formula, called the “Thirty-nine Articles,” which is Calvinistic, but the greater part of the Church has grown away from it, and Arminianism is preached from nearly all its pulpits. In churches organized on the monarchical or oligarchical principle the doctrines of Calvinism cannot live. In proportion as the rulers absorb power into themselves the Church becomes Arminian. The greater the authority of the clergy, the deeper the shade of this doctrine. Consequently, the Roman Catholic Church is the most Arminian of all, because it is the most thoroughly monarchical. Albert Barnes, a great American writer, says, “There are no permanent Arminian Presbyteries, Synods, General Assemblies, on earth. There ii< no instance where this belief takes on the Presbyterian form. There are no Presbyterian forms of ecclesiastical administration where it would be long retained.”   On the other hand, it is a conspicuous fact that the Churches in which the principle of self-government is maintained are all Calvinistic. It is also to be noted that those Churches which are most nearly approximating toward ecclesiastical republicanism are becoming more Calvinistic in their theology. The two great distinctive features of the Presbyterian or Reformed Church are Calvinism, and self-government. Wherever the Church is established, these are its peculiarities.

The connection of these two principles of government and theology is by no means accidental. There is a strong moral twinship between them. One cannot long exist without the other, and minds which are constructed to believe one almost uniformly accept both. After a man has contemplated the Calvinistic conception of God—a Being absolutely supreme over all creation, everywhere present and everywhere almighty, one who decrees alike the death of a sparrow and the downfall of an empire—he turns a wearied gaze on human grandeur. What are earthly potentates compared to his God! All human distinctions sink to a level before this awful majesty, and he feels “the rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the Maker of them all” (Prov. xxii. 2).

The history of Calvinism is the history of self- government. Beginning with Geneva in the sixteenth century, trace the progress of this great institution of human liberty through the changes of three hundred years. Says Renan, the unbelieving French author, “ Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” He meant it as sarcasm, but it is a splendid compliment to the last two names; and it is true. Calvin discovered in the Bible the great foundation of all theology—God’s absolute supremacy ; he found it where Augustine found it —where it had been since Paul by inspiration wrote it; and he built upon it the most powerful system of theology ever constructed. Froude, the historian, says, “Calvinism is the spirit which rises in revolt against all untruth. It is but the inflashing upon the conscience of the laws by which mankind are governed—laws which exist whether we acknowledge them or deny them, and will have their way to our own weal or woe according to the attitude in which we place ourselves toward them; inherent, like the laws of gravity, in the nature of things; not made by us, not to be altered by us, but to be discerned by us and obeyed by us at our everlasting peril.” Calvin felt the power of this colossal truth in his soul, and it became the inspiration of his life; he never flinched before tyranny, but continually waged war against it, and in Geneva developed a republic in Church and in State which has been the model of all similar institutions since.

Holland was liberated by Calvinism. Never until these doctrines took possession did that country prevail against Spain. William the Silent became a strong Calvinist. Then he conquered, because Calvinism allied him, as he believed, with the Almighty. “ If God be for us, who can be against us ?” Motley writes: “ It would certainly be unjust and futile to detract from the vast debt which the Dutch republic owed to the Genevan Church. The earliest and most eloquent preachers, the most impassioned converts, the sublimest martyrs, had lived, preached, fought, suffered and died with the precepts of Calvin in their hearts. The fire which had consumed the last vestige of royal and sacerdotal despotism throughout the independent republic had been lighted by the hands of Calvinists.

“Throughout the blood-stained soil of France, too,” writes this historian, “the men who were fighting the same great battles as were the Netherlanders against Philip II. and the Inquisition, the valiant cavaliers of Dauphiny and Provence, knelt on the ground before the battle, smote their iron breasts with mailed hands, uttered a Calvinistic prayer, sang a song of Marot, and then charged upon Guise and upon Joyeuse under the white plume of the Bearnese. And it was upon the Calvinistic weavers and clothiers of Rochelle the great prince relied in the hour of danger, as much as on his mounted chivalry.

“In England, too,” continues Motley, “ the seeds of liberty, wrapped up in Calvinism and hoarded through many trying years, were at last destined to float over land and sea, and to bear the largest harvests of temperate freedom for the great commonwealths that were still unborn.” Henry VIII. did not reform the English Church: he merely cut it off from Rome. The Reformation of that Church was done by Calvinists. “ The Lambeth Articles,” drawn up under the authority of Elizabeth, “ affirm the Calvinistic doctrines with a distinctness which would shock many in our age who are reputed Calvinists.” But England was still under a despotism. With difficulty, a body of Calvinists called Puritans were preparing, in the providence of God, for the liberation of the people. Cromwell with the Puritans destroyed the despotism of centuries. True, after Cromwell passed away, the horrid spectre again made its appearance; but it was too late: the people had seen liberty, and under the guiding genius of William III., the Calvinist, the “divine right of kings ” met its final overthrow, and the grand principle of self-government was for ever fixed in the British constitution.

Turning to Scotland, we discover a great personality towering above all others—John Knox, the greatest benefactor that country ever had. He had learned theology under Calvin in Geneva, and he had tasted Romanism as a galley-slave in France. Froude says of him, “No grander figure can be found in the entire history of the Reformation in this island than John Knox. The time has come when English history must do justice to one but for whom, the Reformation would have been overthrown among ourselves, for the spirit which Knox created 6aved Scotland; and if Scotland had been Catholic again, neither the wisdom of Elizabeth’s ministers, nor the teaching of her bishops, nor her own chicaneries, would have preserved England from revolution. lie was the voice which taught the peasant of the Lothians that he was a free man—the equal, in the sight of God, of the proudest peer or prelate that had trampled on his forefathers.”

Thomas Carlyle writes: “This that John Knox did for his nation, I say, we may really call a resurrection as from death. . . . He is the one Scotchman to whom, of all others, his country and the world owe a debt.”

Thus it is seen by the testimony of men who were not Presbyterians that those who fought the great battles of human liberty were inspired by the doctrines of Calvinism.

These principles of self-government having beer, worked out in Geneva, France, Holland, England and Scotland, the time came for their establishment in other lands. There was a new world in the West to be colonized and developed. The Catholics took the southern part, and the Calvinists the northern. South America, Central America and the West Indies have stagnated under Catholic influence, while the United States and Canada have continually gone forward in progress. The free institutions of this country have been an asylum for the oppressed of all nations. Coming to North America, they have found liberty to think and to act according to the dictates of their own consciences. Free from cramping influences, they have developed in all departments. No country on earth ever before made such progress as that which has been seen in the short history of the American republic. To what principles are we indebted for the conditions which made this wonderful advancement possible? To those of Calvinism.

The early settlers of North America were largely Calvinists. The Huguenots from France, the Dutch from Holland, the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish, the Puritans from England, were the real pioneers of Western civilization, and they were all disciples of Calvin. These distinguished colonists came to the New World because, being Calvinists, they were not tolerated at home. They sought for liberty to worship God. They had tasted the bitterness of royal and ecclesiastical tyranny in Europe, and the high Calvinism with which they were imbued inspired them with an unconquerable desire for self- government. When the great conflict arose between the colonies and England, the Episcopalians generally sided with the mother-country; the Calvinists were for independence. They had their Church established by law, and before the Revolution the Presbyterians were denied a charter in New York. They were not allowed “ a legal title to a spot to bury their dead.”

But this was not to continue. They had left Europe to escape tyranny, and were not willing to submit to it in America. The feelings which inspired the break with England were as much religious as political, though a political act was the occasion of the rupture. A historian quotes an article published in a weekly journal of that day: “ This country will shortly become a great and flourishing empire, independent of Great Britain, enjoying its civil and religious liberty uncontaminated, and deserted of all control of bishops, . . . and from the subjection of all earthly kings.” Monarchy and Episcopacy stood together. The clergymen of that faith belonged to a State-Church and had sworn to support the authority of England. The king was the head of the Church, and they were bound by their allegiance to him.

But the Puritans, the Scotch, the Scotch-Irish, the Huguenots and the Dutch rallied under the banner of revolution. They fought for the right of self-government in Church and in State; God was on their side, and they won it. They framed their government according to the principles for which they had so long contended. They were building for the future, and were divinely guided in laying the foundation of a structure which is still rising before the nations, the inspiration of freedom in other lands and the admiration of mankind. Who were the men that did this work ? Calvinists—men who derived their principles, strong as granite, from the quarries of God’s eternal decree, “ according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Ranke says, “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America,” and Renan said, “Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” But who, we ask, begat Paul ? Who was the author of that system of truth which has been the mainspring of civilization and the bulwark of human liberty? We answer, It was born in heaven, and claims paternity from God.

“ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage ” (Gal. v. 1).

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