January 2016

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

Q. 62.
What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES: Exodus 31:15-16; Leviticus 23:3; Exodus 31:17; Genesis 2:3.

QUESTIONS:

1. How many reasons are there annexed to this commandment?

There are four reasons annexed to this commandment and this is more than for any of the other commandments. God knew men would be prone to break this commandment.

2.
What is the first reason?

The first reason is, God’s allowing us six days for our own employment. God has been very liberal with us in this area and we should certainly grant Him one day out of the seven. In addition, in modern times very few people work on Saturday afternoon, which is another reason for giving Him one day.

3.
What is the second reason?

The second reason is, God’s challenging a special propriety in the seventh day. This is God’s claiming the day as His own. He does not claim it as His own without granting us anything from it, for as we use it in the right way He will grant us the greatest joy in communion with Him.

4.
What is the third reason?

The third reason is, God’s own example in resting Himself from His works of creation on the seventh day. Here there is a spiritual blessing from resting one day by His command. In addition, there is a physical motivation in that He knew it would be good for our bodies for us to rest one day. His example should be followed, all to His glory.

5.
What is the fourth reason?

The fourth reason is, God’s blessing of the Sabbath. Our Lord consecrates the day to His holy use. The right use of the day will result in blessings for us, “showers of blessings” will fall upon us. The wrong use of the day will result in miseries and woes. (Nehemiah 13:18).

MAN’S NEED OF THE SABBATH

It is hard for us today, in the midst of the blatant desecration of the Sabbath, to hold to the authority of God and the commands we find in the Decalogue. On every hand we find that the opposition is strong. The day starts with the weighty Sunday newspaper. Sporting events are the order of the day. The armed services have decided that the Lord’s Day is a day of training. Wherever we turn we are faced with the pressures of the world to deny what many of us have been told from childhood, that the holy calm of a Sabbath morn should be kept throughout the day.

Certainly as believers in Christ, we know what we should do. The commands in the Scripture are plain. Six questions in our Shorter Catechism are given to this important question of Christian living. But when we attempt to meet our adversaries with these arguments it means nothing to them. They care not for Holy Writ and win not listen. But there are arguments that they might listen to, and these same arguments would be good for us to take into our hearts and ponder them, all to the glory of God. Mark 2:27 indeed teaches us: “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our Lord knew that we need this Day.

We need it because of our physical nature. He made us in such a way that we need to rest one day out of the seven. It is interesting to note that the Deists in France long ago, those who had left Roman Catholicism but had not become Protestants, admitted that they could not get along without the Sabbath. Their bodies craved it.

We need it as a day when the family can be together. God put a great emphasis on the family, and the Scripture is filled with admonitions that should be followed by the family. When are they going to be followed? Could not the Sabbath be used in this important area? Prayer, teaching of the Word, communication—these are all important in the family unit.

We need it for the teaching we can obtain from the House of God. The preaching of the Word is the primary means of Grace, and we should use every opportunity we have to fill our minds with those things that will keep us from sinning against Him. He knew that a day must be set aside for instruction in righteousness, and we must make use of it.

Let us be faithful to Him, and to ourselves in this matter. Let us once again return to the “old fashioned” Sabbath before it is too late. We are in danger of losing what we have in our freedom of worship unless we have some convictions about it.

Published By: The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 4 No. 57, September, 1965.

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hallDWWe continue today with our Election Day Sermon Series, authored by the Rev. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, Georgia. The relevance of this series should be obvious in this election year, and Dr. Hall knows his subject well, having studied these election day sermons and even published a volume of them in 1985. I should note that not every sermon reviewed by Dr. Hall will have been by a Presbyterian, while at the same time his review will most certainly be from the perspective of a convinced, orthodox Presbyterian. We are grateful to Dr. Hall for his willingness to prepare these reviews, and consider this an excellent opportunity for our readers to think through questions of what the Scriptures teach regarding the relation of Church and State, as well as how Christians should view matters of secular governance.

Today, Dr. Hall looks at a sermon by the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew [1720-1766], who served as pastor of the Old West Church in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the Rev. Mayhew who coined the phrase “No taxation without representation.”

  1. mayhewJ“Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers” by Jonathan Mayhew

Colonial thinkers Samuel Adams and Rev. Jonathan Mayhew argued against the innate goodness of man with implicit reference to King George III: “Ambition and lust for power,” they claimed, “are predominant passions in the breasts of most men. . . . power is of a grasping, encroaching nature . . . [it] aims at extending itself and operating according to mere will, whenever it meets with no balance, check, constraint, or opposition of any kind.”[1] That conclusion seemed more and more obvious to many American colonists.

Notwithstanding, that had not always been the case. Previously in 1521, William Tyndale had written characteristically: “[G]overnment per se is divinely ordained by God in the Scriptures; bad rulers were sent by God to chastise the nation for their sins; rebellion causes more harm to innocents than to the guilty.” William Tyndale also exhibited the received Christian consensus: “God hath made the king in every realm judge over all, and over him there is no judge. He that judgeth the king judgeth God, and he that layeth hand on the king layeth hand on God…. If the subjects sin, they must be brought to the king’s judgement. If the king sins, he must be reserved unto the judgement, wrath and vengeance of God.” By 1750, however, that view was roundly challenged.

On January 30, 1750, Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766), a Unitarian-leaning minister of Boston’s West Church, preached a sermon entitled “Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers.” This sermon by a 29-year old pastor set out to interpret Romans 13 correctly, while reflecting on the anniversary of a king’s death (then nostalgically memorialize by some) a century earlier. Although Mayhew was a minister who paddled against the Calvinistic currents of his day, his views still resonated with Geneva’s distinct political tones. This influential sermon has been called the morning gun of the Revolution[2] and could have been preached by a French Huguenot resister.[3] Mayhew, a graduate of Harvard (1744) was considered by many to be the leading preacher in his day. Mayhew claimed that, “It is the duty of Christian magistrates to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning the na­ture and design of their office. And it is equally the duty of all Christian people to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning that subjection which they owe to the higher powers.”

Since magistracy was an ordinance of God, Mayhew warned believers to avoid embracing anarchy. Disobedience to those rulers who properly exercised authority remained a heinous political sin. But after noting cases in which resistance against tyrants was justified, Mayhew stated this principle: “there does not seem to be any necessity of suppos­ing, that an absolute, unlimited obedience, whether active or passive, is here enjoined, merely for this reason—that the precept is delivered in absolute terms, without any excep­tion or limitation expressly mentioned.”

His distinction between active and passive obedience was almost identical to the earlier though of Beza and others associated with the Swiss Reformation. Like Calvin before him, Mayhew argued that obedience to any authority, whether family, church, or civil, was conditioned on that authority’s ruling according to God’s standards. The duty of universal obedience and non‑resistance to the higher powers “cannot be argued from the absolute, unlimited ex­pressions which the apostle here uses, so neither can it be argued from the scope and drift of his reasoning, considered with relation to the persons he was here opposing.” While a limited duty could be inferred from scriptural teaching, “the duty of unlimited obedience, whether active or passive, can be argued neither from the manner of ex­pression here used, nor from the general scope and design of the passage.”

The duty of submission was not “to all who bear the title of rulers in common, but only to those who actually perform the duty of rulers by exercising a reasonable and just authority for the good of human society.” Once rulers begin to act contrary to their mandates and rule in their own interests—when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare,” Mayhew preached (virtually as Augustine taught earlier), “they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve glorious character than common pirates and highway men.” Those who “use all their power to hurt and injure the public” were “not God’s ministers, but Satan’s . . . such as do not take care of and attend upon the public interest, but their own, to the ruin of the public.” As such, they did not deserve honor or submission, nor the more practical obligation of tribute or taxes.

If the condition of authority was the good of the people, and the ruler or his designated officials did not fulfill that condition, removal was justified. Like the sixteenth-century Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, Mayhew’s argument legitimated resistance, at least to the king’s officers, as follows:

If any other powers oppress the people, it is generally allowed that the people may get redress by resistance, if other methods prove ineffectual. And if any officers in a kingly government go beyond the limits of that power which they have derived from the crown (the supposed original source of all power and authority in the state), and attempt illegally to take away the properties and lives of their fellow‑subjects, they may be forcibly resisted, at least till application can be made to the crown.

The king, as Samuel Rutherford, George Buchanan, and many others had argued earlier, did not have unlimited power. He could not take the lives or properties of subjects lawfully. Mayhew drew on the primary instance of open resistance within the British tradition, the overthrow of British King Charles I by Calvinists and Puritans a century earlier. Providing a catalogue of reasons for forfeiture similar to the grounds of the Declaration of Independence, Mayhew argued that citizens had been warranted in overthrowing Charles’ tyranny because he levied unjust taxes, cast courageous men in prison, and betrayed his pledged support of the Protestant faith. Mayhew recast Charles I as Nero when Charles “abetted the horrid massacre in Ireland, in which two hundred thousand Protestants were butchered by the Roman Catholics”—all the while taxing the citizens to pay for such murderous acts of government.

mayhewJ_title_pageThe first resistance to that tyranny originated with the king’s own lower magistrates. Mayhew emphasized that this resistance was “Not by a private junta, not by a small seditious party, not by a few desperadoes, who to mend their fortunes would embroil the state; but by the Lords and Commons of England.” These mid-level governors remained faithful to their covenant even if it drew the King’s ire. Resistance was first to arise from “the whole representative body,” not from citizens acting on their own initiative.

Nevertheless, Mayhew maintained, with a caustic irony, the propriety of commemorating the anniversary of the death of Charles I, who had become, after a century, a saint and martyr for freedom’s holy cause, albeit unintentionally. How could a ruler who opposed the rule of law and the good of the people be remembered positively? Mayhew answered: “He was a saint, not because he was in his life a good man, but a good Churchman; not because he was a lover of holiness, but the hierarchy; not because he was a friend to Christ, but the [priest]craft. And he was a martyr in his death, not because he bravely suffered . . . but because he died an enemy to liberty and the rights of conscience; i. e., not because he died an enemy to sin, but dissenters.”

For Mayhew, the anniversary would “prove a standing memento that Britons will not be slaves, and a warning to all corrupt counsellors and ministers not to go too far in advising arbitrary, despotic measures.” In conclusion, he urged: “Let us all learn to be free and to be loyal; let us not profess ourselves vassals to the lawless pleasure of any man on earth; but let us remember, at the same time, government is sacred, and not to be trifled with.” [4]

The loud crack of this fired homiletical shot still echoes through various hills, calling citizens to respect government when it governs properly. However, submission is limited to the government remaining on its chartered rails. An online version of this message is posted at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=etas. An abridged form (of the 18,000 word original is available at: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/discourse-concerning-unlimited-submission-and-non-resistance-to-the-higher-powers/

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church
Powder Springs, Georgia (USA)

[1] Cited in M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Liberty: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1994), 99.

[2] Jonathan C. D. Clark, The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 366. John Adams noted this sermon’s influence in Europe and in America. See his Works, X: 287-288.

[3] Bailyn notes that for his “full rationale for resistance,” Mayhew drew not so much on Locke “whose ideas would scarcely have supported what he was saying, but [on] a sermon of Benjamin Hoadly, from whom he borrowed” ideas and phrases. See Bernard Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets of the American Revolution, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), 36.

[4] In another election day sermon in 1754, Mayhew stated that all means proper were to be used by the government to “Christianize” native American Indians and to guarantee that they not become converts to the “wicked religion” of “Romish missionaries.” See A. W. Plumstead, ed., The Wall and the Garden: Selected Massachusetts Election Sermons, 1670-1775 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968), 307. Accordingly, he believed the state had a duty to “bring them if possible to embrace the Protestant faith.” Idem. On two other occasions in that same sermon before the Massachusetts House of Representatives, he indicated that governors should support the Protestant religion. Op. cit., 316, 318.

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“I am killed; but don’t tell your mother.”

His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:

In memory of
THE REV. DR. JAMES LATTA,
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”

lattaJamesHaving read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.

Odd Now to Consider:
On the 28th day of May, 1762, the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia was set off by the Synod from the Presbytery of Philadelphia. This consisted of five ministers, of whom Mr. Latta was one; and they were all strenuous advocates of what was called the Old Side. It appears from certain dissents and protests, in 1766, when an ineffectual attempt was made in Synod to reunite the two Presbyteries, that this Second Presbytery had been formed on the elective affinity principle, as its members professed to be conscientiously opposed to the practice of examining candidates for the ministry on their experimental acquaintance with religion, which the Synod had approved of; and had declared that sooner than remain in a Presbytery which pursued that practice, they would break off from all connection with the Synod.

During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.

More on his Death:
Dr. Latta laboured on in the ministry, until very near the close of life. In December, a month before his decease, he attended a meeting of his Presbytery at New London, twenty miles from home. The circumstances of his death, as related by one of his daughters, were as follows:—Riding to church one Sabbath with his daughter Mary, he was thrown from the carriage, and falling on his head, he was somewhat stunned. He observed to her,—-“I am killed; but do not tell your mother.” He proceeded to church, preached with some difficulty, and returned home. He soon after fell into a sleepy, comatose state, until his daughter, the next day, alarmed, related to her mother what had happened. Help was immediately called in, but in vain. He continued a few days, almost insensible, and then died.

Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.”  God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.

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Death of Joseph A. Alexander

Joseph Addison Alexander, third son of the Rev. Archibald and Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, was born in Philadelphia on 24 April 1809. His early education was obtained under the immediate supervision of his parents, and owing to an intellectual vigor rare indeed, his powers of acquiring knowledge were amazing, especially in the department of languages. In 1825 he graduated at the College of New Jersey (since 1896, Princeton University), with the highest honors of his class. He was elected Tutor, but declined the appointment, and, with Mr. Patton, founded Edgehill School at Princeton. He studied theology at home and at the University of Halle and Berlin, in Europe. He was licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1832, and became assistant instructor of the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible, in the Princeton Theological Seminary; in 1835 he was appointed Associate Professor, and in 1840 sole Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature; in 1851 he was transferred to the chair of Biblical and Ecclesiastical History; and in 1859, at his own request, he was assigned the department of Hellenistic Greek and New Testament Literature. The main business of his life was with the Holy Bible, giving to theological research and instruction all the energies of his massive intellect.

[At right: The Edgehill School, Princeton, New Jersey, co-founded by J.A. Alexander & R.B. Patton]

Dr. Alexander’s gigantic mind was in full vigor until the day before his death. On the morning of that day he was occupied with his usual course of polyglot reading in the Bible, being accustomed to read the Scriptures in some six different languages, as part of his daily devotions. He seems also to have entertained himself, during some part of the day, with one of the Greek classics, Herodotus, as a pencil mark on the margin, “January 27th, 1860.” is said to show. In the afternoon of that day, he rode out in the open air for the first time since his attack of hemorrhage. During that ride, however, which was not continued more than forty-five minutes, a sudden sinking of life came on him, so much so that he was borne almost entirely by the help of others from the carriage. The sinking continued all Friday night, and on Saturday he was hardly conscious of anything until he died. His death was perfectly calm, without a struggle, without one heaving breath. His death occurred in his study, January 28th, 1860.

[Wilson’s Presbyterian Almanac for 1861 (p. 71) notes that his death, at the age of 51, was caused by diabetes. Alexander’s brother, James Waddel Alexander, had died of dysentery not six months earlier, in 1859, at the age of 55.]

Dr. Alexander’s sermons were sure to be original, evangelical, forcible, elegant and tending to practical effect upon the conscience. He was a frequent contributor to The Princeton Review, and for a time served with Professor Dod as its editor. As an author he took high rank. A volume of his fragmentary “Notes on New Testament Literature and Ecclesiastical History” was posthumously published in 1861. In 1851 his “Psalms Translated and Explained” appeared in three volumes. In 1857 “The Acts of the Apostles Explained,” in two volumes. In 1858 “The Gospel, According to Mark, Explained,” in one volume. the Commentary on Matthew was unfinished at his death, but so much as he had prepared was published in 1861, as the last work on which his pen was engaged.

Words to Live By:  A man of great gifts, Dr. Alexander was well used of the Lord in the advancement of His kingdom. Yet for all this, we must not covet. The Lord has a place and a role for each of His children, and it is not unusual to find that “the least of these” are often enabled to bear great witness to the glory of God in the Gospel.

Biographical sketch and portrait image from Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (1884), pp. 21-22. Image of the Edgehill campus from The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church, for 1861 (Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson), page 341. All scans performed by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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The Fighting Parson and his Paxtang Boys
by Rev. David T. Myers

When calling a Presbyterian pastor, his qualifications are important. Does he preach the Word of God? Check! Does he evangelize the unconverted and make disciples? Check! Does he administer the sacraments? Check! Does he visit the people in their homes, especially the sick? Check! Does he lead military operations against marauding natives? Whoa! Wait a minute. What? That isn’t listed in the Book of Church Order! And yet, that was often the calling of the pastor in frontier churches. In this case, the Rev. John Elder was one of the Fighting Parsons of the Paxtang Boys in Pennsylvania.

John Elder was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on January 26, 1706. He attended the University of Edinburgh. In 1735, he traveled to America and into the Presbyterian church. Ordained on November 22, 1738, he was called to the Paxton Presbyterian Church, two miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Other than a brief separation from that congregation, he was to stay there as an under shepherd for 56 years.

Being a Presbyterian was no easy life in colonial America. Surrounded by hostile natives, each day was a challenge. Weapons were carried as they worked in the fields, or even as they gathered for worship. Pastor Elder himself would prop his rifle next to his pulpit! On the way home, members would scan the skies for any smoke, which would indicate a home burned by the natives. More than one member might be killed or captured during the week.

Finally, the men of the Presbyterian Church in Paxton realized that something more was needed. They were being picked off family by family. So Pastor Elder formed an association for defense which he named the Paxtang Boys. John Elder became the captain of the group. They were recognized by the provincial government and Captain Elder became Colonel Elder. As more and more members were killed, the fever for revenge broke out among the settlers.

Gathering in a group of fifty, the Paxtang Boys headed for the Indian village to find the murderers of their families. There is evidence that Pastor Elder tried to stop them, but they were too delirious for revenge. They arrived at the village and in the end, all the natives, those who were guilty and those who were innocent in the raids, were slaughtered. A further raid into another town brought more killing by the Boys. They even marched to Philadelphia, but were stopped finally by the militia.

On this day, January 27, 1764, Pastor John Elder wrote the following communication to the Provincial Governor: “The storm which has been so long gathering has at length exploded. Had the Governor removed the Indians, which had been frequently, but without success, urged, this painful catastrophe might have been avoided. What could I do with men heated to madness? All that I could do was done. I expostulated but life and reason were set at defiance. Yet these men in their private lives are virtuous and respectable; not cruel, but mild and merciful. This deed, magnified into the blackest of crimes, shall come to be considered as wrath caused by momentary excitement, to which human infirmity is subjected.”

Words to Live By:
Paul in Ephesians 4:26, 27 commands “Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger. And do not give the devil an opportunity.” When the Paxtang Boys degenerated into savages themselves, killing both those guilty and innocent natives in villages, it continues to be condemned in writings even today in Pennsylvania. Being out of control is not an option for the believer, ever. One trait of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. See Galatians 5:22, 23.

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