March 2016

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hallDWContinuing on with our Saturday series of Election Day Sermons, our guest author, Dr. David W. Hall examines today a sermon by the Rev. Samuel Sherwood. I do appreciate Dr. Hall’s labors on our behalf, and these Saturday posts provide a great opportunity, all the more relevant in this current year, to learn much about how Christians moved about in the political waters of colonial and early U.S. history.

The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness” by Samuel Sherwood (Jan. 17, 1776)

An American sermon on a choice morsel from the book of Revelation . . . associating corruption with hierarchies . . . and warning the church to resist sycophantic governments in league with that . . . and, further, that sermon was not from a late 20th century evangelical pulpit but rather from a Connecticut Congregationalist minister almost a century before Republicans even existed as a permanent party.

Samuel Sherwood (1730-1783) was a graduate of Yale and Princeton (at the time under the leadership of his uncle Aaron Burr), who pastored in Weston (CT) from 1757 to his death in 1783. Next to this sermon, his other published sermon (also of political import) was his Aug. 31, 1774, sermon, “Containing, Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers, and all Free-born Subjects,” which was a clear apology for American autonomy.

The final straw for Sherwood’s excursus was the 1774 Quebec Act—legislation which sought to establish Catholicism for all territories west of the Appalachian mountain range by assigning the governance of that tract to Canadian authorities. Sherwood, in this sermon, identified Roman Catholicism as a tentacle of the apocalyptic antichrist (Rev. 12:14-17) that would destroy or corrupt the church. Instead, Protestantism was, he thought, both more biblical and more likely to ensure religious and civil liberties. He praised “the honorable congress” as having the right to trade with any nations, thinking also that “the spirit of liberty might spread and circulate with commerce.”

The first point of this sermon is to warn against the rise of the serpent, which Sherwood associates with Romanism in general and Anglican bishoprics in particular, which were captivated by that ideology. His second observation is that the American colonies were threatened by this ecclesiastical encroachment, warning against the “poisoned liquor” which would “intoxicate and inflame mankind to spiritual fornication.” These ecclesiastical low-lifes were “inferior kind of animals,” who were viewed by this preacher as “peeping and croaking in the dark holes and corners of the earth,” most likely representative of “popish, jesuitical missioners, or the tools and emissaries in general, of anti-christian, tyrannical power, who are the spirits of devils, and have free access to the kings of the earth.” Under this second heading, he takes a historical digression, accusing the Jesuits of persistent evil that was only stemmed in part by the Reformation.

Third, he concludes that biblical prophecies “may rationally” point to many fulfillments in “the state of Christ’s church, in this American quarter of the globe; and will sooner or later, have their fulfillment and accomplishment among us.” He specified:

THESE United Colonies have arisen to such a height as to become the object of public attention thro’ all Europe, and of envy to the mother from whence they derived; whose unprovoked attack upon them in such a furious hostile manner, threatening their entire ruin, is an event that will make such a black and dark period in history, and does so deeply affect, not only the liberty of the church here in the wilderness, but the protestant cause in general, thro’ the christian world, and is big with such consequences of glory or terror, that we may conjecture at least, without a spirit of vanity and enthusiasm, that some of those prophecies of St. John may, not unaptly, be applied to our case, and receive their fulfilment in such providences as are passing over us.

His thesis was a version of American exceptionalism, advocating that God raised up the colonies in order to protect the church. His glossary was:

The Serpent = British Parliament;

The Woman = The true church;

The Wilderness = The American colonies.

He employed coded terms like “despotism,” “tyranny,” and “arbitrary power” (staples from Calvinist political theory for the previous two centuries) to castigate the British crown and clergy. Moreover, he clearly believed that biblical passages could be applied to contemporary political matters. Not only did he dedicate this sermon to John Hancock and various aldermen but also to: “the brave GENERALS of our armies, and patriotic HEROES, who are spirited by Heaven to exert their superior abilities in the most noble and generous manner, for the defence of our distressed country, bleeding under the cruel and murderous hand of unexampled tyranny and oppression; whom God in his providence, has raised up to be his glorious instruments, to fulfil scripture-prophecies, in favour of this church, and American liberty, to the confusion of all her enemies; the ensuing discourse is most affectionately inscribed and dedicated.” How’s that for not taking a position!

He preached:

Whenever a spirit of despotism has run high, and a lusting ambition after arbitrary power and lawless dominion has prevailed; when the dragon dare venture to put on and wear his long horns; the woman in the wilderness has felt the grievous distressing effects. At such seasons, jesuitical emissaries, the tools of tyrannical power, have been employed to corrupt her doctrines, and lead her into the belief of the darling doctrines of arbitrary power, passive obedience and nonresistance; who, like the frogs that issued out of the mouth of the false prophet, who are said to have the spirit of devils, have been slyly creeping into all the holes and corners of the land, and using their enchanting art and bewitching policy, to lead aside, the simple and unwary, from the truth, . . .

One may not agree with all his interpretations of the Revelation, nor with each of his applications, but Sherwood clearly saw the scriptures as living and as applicable to his day. And his sermon was neither viewed as establishing a religion nor as running afoul of the rights of the church to freely express her opinion on a current matter. Furthermore, he heralded the call for the church to resist tyranny.

The final section of this sermon is “improvement” or specific applications. Among these, he moves from Rev. 12 to his own day, perorating the government which was “claiming an absolute power and authority to make laws, binding in all cases whatever, without check or controul from any; which has proceeded in the exercise of this despotic, arbitrary power, to deprive one of them, of their most essential and chartered privileges; sent over fleets and armies to enforce their cruel, tyrannical edicts . . .”

He concludes: “Liberty has been planted here; and the more it is attacked, the more it grows and flourishes. The time is coming and hastening on, when Babylon the great shall fall to rise no more; when all wicked tyrants and oppressors shall be destroyed for ever. These violent attacks upon the woman in the wilderness, may possible be some of the last efforts, and dying struggles of the man of sin.”

Reiner Smolinski comments on this January 1776 classic, “The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness,” preached with Gov. John Hancock in attendance: “Sherwood freely mixes millenarian metaphors and political ideology to incite his listeners to action. Like many of his predecessors, Sherwood readily adapts the mythology of New England’s Puritan past to fit the new situation. The apocalyptic flight of the Woman into the howling wilderness of America a century and a half earlier was now reaching its climax in the cosmic battle against the British Antichrist. In this final stand against the English Gog of Magog, Sherwood invokes the Spirit of his Puritan ancestors and calls on all Protestants, all true Americans, to rise in defense of the Church: their sacred rights of religious freedom, political liberty, and the pursuit of property.” [http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1021&context=etas]

This sermon, which is worth accessing for reflections in the coming year, is available online at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/21/. A published paper copy is available in the excellent anthology by Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

 

Our thanks to guest author Dr. Nick Willborn, pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for permission to post a portion of an article which he wrote regarding the ministry of the Rev. John L. Girardeau.

 

Girardeau, John Lafayette [14/11/1825-23/06/1898]From the time Girardeau returned to Charleston until he was able to reoccupy the Zion pulpit, fifteen months had elapsed.[1] Finally, “on Sabbath, December 23rd, 1866, the Rev. John L. Girardeau re-commenced services in the building.” Girardeau’s text for the occasion was “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servant for Jesus’ sake,” (2 Corinthians 4:5). While no manuscript exists of this sermon there are a few points that appear obvious. First, he preached Christ. There can be little doubt that Girardeau reminded his listeners that he had always been faithful in preaching Jesus to them. He was no moralizer or politician in the pulpit. Indeed, he may have reminded his black brothers that his catechism[2] was replete with the gospel, without mention of master-slave relations. Second, in preaching Christ, Girardeau was also sending a message to the Northern detractors that their harassment over the past fifteen months or so was unjust. That Jonathan Gibbs[3] (the Northern missionary) would choose the property of Zion Presbyterian Church to occupy was a clear indication that he, and by association, the Committee that sent him, did not believe the South had been adequately preaching the gospel to the African-Americans. Girardeau’s first sermon in the Zion pulpit issued a resounding “Not true!” to such an implication. Third, it would not be far-fetched to assume that Girardeau reminded his hearers that, while they were no longer slaves, he would continue to be their slave for Christ’s sake. He was not free to do otherwise.

Girardeau wasted no time rebuilding the walls of Zion. First, a meeting was held to determine the total black membership that wished to continue as Freedmen in the Zion Presbyterian Church. Much to Girardeau’s disappointment, only one hundred sixteen indicated their desire to remain in Zion. This reflected the influence of Reconstruction and the less than enthusiastic attitudes of many Southerners toward their black brothers.

Nevertheless, Girardeau proceeded with the one hundred sixteen faithful, and on March 25, 1867, the session nominated seven men to serve as “Superintendents” over the new congregation. The election of Superintendents, rather than elders as Girardeau desired, was in accordance with the resolution of the 1866 General Assembly. The men were all members of Zion before the war and some had served as Watchmen or Leaders of the Classes. “In 1867,” wrote Girardeau, “a fresh start in the teeth of many difficulties was made with 116 members of the 500.”[4]

zionPC_CharlestonSCLater in the year, with Joseph B. Mack at his side, Girardeau began rebuilding the infrastructure of old Zion. The 1867 records indicate a total membership—Zion Church, Calhoun Street and Glebe Street—of four hundred forty.[5] This included the one hundred sixteen freedmen. By March of 1868, the church had added sixty members. Fifty-one of the new additions came through profession of faith in Christ. There were nineteen infants baptized and seventeen adults. By March 1869 total communicants numbered five hundred sixty-one in Zion. Sabbath schools were once again instituted with two hundred enrolled. This number swelled to 750 scholars by1875. While other conditions were still chaotic throughout the city, the South, and the Southern Presbyterian Church, there were some hopeful signs as evidenced by Zion.[6]

In 1869, the General Assembly, following Girardeau’s lead, made it possible for freedmen to be ordained as elders. Just as Girardeau had quickly moved to install superintendents in the newly restored work in 1867, he wasted little time in organizing the black membership into a “branch congregation” of Zion, complete with ordained elders. On Tuesday, July 27, 1869, the Session of Zion Presbyterian Church dismissed three hundred forty-five members to form the Zion Presbyterian Church (Colored), Calhoun Street. From this we learn that in two years the black membership of Zion under the beloved white pastor had grown from one hundred sixteen to three hundred forty-five.[7] Thus, in 1869 the black membership constituted more than one-half the total membership of Girardeau’s flock. This example offers some evidence that the integration of whites and the newly freed blacks into one church could have worked if it had been zealously pursued along the lines Girardeau recommended.[8]

[1] When Girardeau returned to Charleston he found his home on Bull Street and Zion Church occupied by Federal troops. It took over 12 months for Girardeau, Adger and others to convince the Federal Government that the claims of the Presbyterian Church USA (Northern Church) was in error when it claimed ownership of the Zion property.

[2] John L. Girardeau, A Catechism For The Oral Instruction of Coloured Persons (Charleston: Evans and Cogswell, 1860). Girardeau’s catechism was one of several prepared and published by Southern ministers for their black and white parishioners.

[3] Gibbs briefly attended Princeton Seminary before being ordained by the Presbytery of New York. After a short ministry in New York he served as pastor of First African Presbyterian Church in his native Philadelphia before traveling to the South to labor amongst the freedmen. He later entered politics in Florida.

[4] Girardeau, “Prefatory Notes,” Thomas Smyth Papers, SCHS, 2.

[5] With Zion confiscated by the Federals in 1865, Girardeau was invited to the Glebe Street Presbyterian Church to hold services for all Charleston Presbyterians. In 1866 the memberships of Zion and Glebe Street merged. Upon recovery of the Calhoun Street property late in 1866, Girardeau began holding services at Zion Glebe Street and Zion Calhoun Street. After 1875 and organic separation of the white and black churches, the churches lost their formal relationship—Zion Presbyterian Church (White), Glebe Street and Zion Presbyterian Church (Colored), Calhoun Street. Black citizens of Charleston today refer to the two churches as Big Zion (Calhoun Street) and Little Zion (Glebe Street).

[6Minutes of Session of Zion Presbyterian Church, Glebe Street, October 3, 1867; April 1868; April 1869, The Presbyterian Historical Society Philadelphia (PHS); From the Minutes of Session of Zion Presbyterian Church, Glebe Street, March 6, 1870, PHS, we learn that the infrastructure included a Committee on Sick, Gentlemen’s Missionary Committee, Ladies’ Missionary Committee, Visiting Committee, and a Ladies’ Sewing Club.

[7Minutes of Session of Zion Presbyterian Church, July 27, 1869, PHS. The three hundred forty-five members dismissed to form the separate church, are listed by name in the said minutes. A good one third of the total were male with another large portion of the membership being youth and children.

[8] The organization of Zion Presbyterian Church (Colored) reveals that Girardeau was forced to work in a socially and politically forged “make-shift” manner. Even though the two bodies were “separated” they were still governed as one church and considered by members as parts of a single whole.

We are pleased and honored to have a guest post today from Dr. Carl W. Bogue, who served as pastor of the Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA), Akron, Ohio, 1975-2007. Dr. Bogue received his M.Div. from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1965), where he was mentored by Dr. John Gerstner, and he maintained a close friendship with Dr. Gerstner until the latter’s death in 1996. He has graciously allowed us to post here his recollections of the life and ministry of a dear saint greatly used by the Lord in the building of His kingdom.

Dr. John H. Gerstner was a pastor, professor, author, and friend of thousands to whom he ministered in so many ways throughout his life. I heard him preach at our church and at a youth conference as a teenager; in seminary he was an intellectual anchor as well as an inspiration; in grad school his love of Jonathan Edwards motivated me to do my doctoral dissertation on a central but much neglected theme in Edwards’s writing and preaching, and when I was ordained and installed at the beginning of my pastoral ministry, he graciously honored me by preaching the sermon for the occasion, challenging me “not to be ashamed of the Gospel.” Now that I am “officially retired,” one of my great encouragements is that a new generation is beginning to discover “the good doctor.” I hope it would not seem inappropriate for me to include here, an obituary I wrote in 1996 for my congregation, but which also appeared in a couple publications.

John H. Gerstner: Defender of the Faith

Gerstner01On Sabbath afternoon, March 24, 1996, Dr. John H. Gerstner went to be with the Lord. For most readers little more needs to be said. You know the man, and you know the respect and affection so many of us had for him. Nothing I can say here will adequately express what this man of God meant to me personally. But I also know that my loss is his gain, for all the glory of God and the beauty of the Savior which he so comprehensively taught to his students is now his to behold and enjoy without any of the limitations brought about by sin.

Dr. Gerstner’s life began in Tampa, Florida. His childhood years were spent in Philadelphia where he graduated from high school in 1932. It was that summer while visiting Philadelphia College of the Bible that he was wonderfully converted to the Gospel. That fall he began his studies at Westminster College. Gerstner next attended Westminster Theological Seminary at the time when many of its early giants were present. It was during the time at seminary that he met Edna Suckau, who was to become Mrs. Gerstner. They have three children.

After receiving a masters degree from Westminster Seminary, he pursued his doctoral studies at Harvard University where in 1945 he was awarded a Ph.D. Dr. Gerstner received further education at the Universities of Pittsburgh, Temple, Pennsylvania, Boston, Zurich, Barcelona, and Oxford. He served in the pastorate for a brief period prior to accepting a position as a professor at Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, later to become Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

It would be difficult to begin to sum up the academic activity of Dr. Gerstner, and even more difficult to express the thousands of lives he has touched through his preaching and teaching ministry. In a Festschrift published in 1976 to honor Dr. Gerstner, a bibliography compiling his writings takes up a full 16 pages. In the 20 years since many additions could be made, including the whole new medium of audio and video tapes. His three volume work on Jonathan Edwards is more than the culmination of a life-long project; it is a labor of love.

The volume written to honor Dr. Gerstner was appropriately entitled, Soli Deo Gloria. One of my happy privileges was to have been invited to be a contributor to that volume. The opening sentence of my article was: “The student of John H. Gerstner is never adequately designated as a ‘former student.’” I never stopped learning from this “teacher of Israel,” and he surely never ceased to be the consummate teacher. Only those who know this first hand can adequately comprehend the loss many of us feel with his passing.

On various occasions I have heard Dr. Gerstner express his indebtedness to his beloved mentor from college, Dr. John Orr. Perhaps more than any other human being, Dr. Orr shaped the thinking of my beloved professor. Early in my ministry, Dr. Gerstner invited me to attend a special celebration at Westminster College to honor Dr. John Orr. Apart from being honored that Dr. Gerstner would invite me to anything, I was also working with a very forceful self-imposed guide in such matters. When Gerstner requested or even suggested something, it had, for all practical purposes, the force of a command with me. But on this occasion it was more that just an invitation. His words were approximately these: “Carl, if I have been a significant influence in your life and vocation (and he knew this was the case), if you are indebted to me at all, then you need to be there to honor Dr. Orr.” I had never met Dr. Orr, but typical of Gerstner’s humility, he would pass along my praise of him to the one who helped shape him for his teaching ministry.

In announcing Gerstner’s death to my congregation, I made this comparison: “Many of you are often very kind in your praise of me. I feel very unworthy of such praise, and I thank God for our many years together. I am not trying to put myself in the similar position or stature as that of Dr. Gerstner. But I would humbly draw this parallel. If I have been, by God’s grace, permitted any usefulness in your life, if you see an approximation of faithfulness to the Word of God, a zeal for the purity of the Church, a desire to proclaim the whole counsel of God – if I have been of any value to you, it would not be inappropriate for you to be thanking God for the ministry of Dr. Gerstner which happens to be through me. Humanly speaking, my claim on you is for you to join with me in praise to God for giving us such a soldier of the cross.”

I never had a better teacher; I never heard a better preacher, and to the extent that we may tentatively judge such things, I never witnessed greater piety. And it is at this point that the good doctor would gently remind us, that all the praise is to be given for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, by which we are permitted to enter into glory.

Rev. 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
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Gerstner_at_Hanover_1955Let me share as well a picture of the young Gerstner speaking to boys’ vesper service at a United Presbyterian synod youth conference and one of my favorite pictures at the close of my seminary days in 1965.

AllenSamuelJSamuel James Allen was a big strapping kid, and a natural at sports.  Born on March 23 in 1899 to parents George and Margaret Allen, Sam grew to excel at football, as well as baseball and basketball. Sam’s parents were immigrants from Ireland, and getting started in America wasn’t easy. Life was tough and it got even harder when his mother died, when he was not yet five years old. World War I and service in the Marines delayed his education, but he managed to complete high school after the war, and by God’s grace was able to enter Princeton Seminary in 1927. Those were troubling years at Princeton, and Sam was one of a small group of Princeton students who followed Dr. J. Gresham Machen over to the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary in the fall of 1929.

Sam graduated from Westminster in 1930 and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. In his years at Princeton and Westminster, Sam had developed a good friendship with Dr. Machen, and so it was only natural that he would ask him to preach at his ordination service. The service took place at Sam’s home church, Hope Presbyterian, in South Philadelphia, on May 18th. Dr. Machen took 1 Peter 5:2-4 as his text, and began by reading the Scripture:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (KJV)

In a biography that Sam’s daughter has written [see details below], she relates that when Machen had read those verses, he looked at Sam and said, “Today, Samuel Allen is called to the holy office of the Ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us receive him in love as we present him before God in prayer.” After praying for how the Lord would use Sam in coming years, Dr. Machen preached on why every Christian must strive to live every day to the glory of God, and how God makes that goal possible, by His grace and through prayer.

Less than a month later, Sam was married to his sweetheart Mildred at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, and the young couple prepared to move to Sam’s first pastoral calling, in Jordan, Montana. Rev. Allen served there until late in 1931, when he answered another call to serve a yoked pastorate at the PCUSA churches in Carson, Leith, and Lark, North Dakota. Greater challenges lay ahead.

In the summer of 1936, Rev. Allen became one of the founding members of the Presbyterian Church of America. Taking a stand for the truths of Scripture meant sacrificing the earthly trappings of property in order to hold on to the spiritual legacy of orthodoxy. Rev. Allen led the majority of his congregations in forming new PCofA congregations.

And aiding the effort, his friend Dr. J. Gresham Machen was glad to accept Sam’s invitation to come to the Dakotas to speak. Dr. Machen already was not well as he departed on the train for North Dakota late that December. He already evidenced a bad cough earlier in the month, something which Allan MacRae had noticed as Dr. Machen spoke on his radio program.

And so it wasn’t surprising then that Machen developed further problems with the stress of travel and the many speaking engagements. Machen’s illness progressed into lobar pneumonia and he died on January 1, 1937. His friend Sam Allen was there with him throughout the ordeal.

Rev. Allen left the Dakotas in 1940 to pastor the Gethsemane Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Then in 1948, he moved south and took a church in Port St. Joe, Florida, transferring his credentials to the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian). His last several churches were in Selma, Alabama, where he was pastor of Vine Hill, Memorial, and finally Woodland Heights, in 1954. The Rev. Samuel James Allen entered his eternal rest on November 30, 1954, at the age of 55, having suffered a heart attack the previous day.

Words to Live By:
One of the mottos that Sam Allen lived by was “One thing at a time.” In these days of multi-tasking, Sam’s rule is still a good one to practice, for I think it implies a trust in God’s sovereign control of all things. If we were to try to put that roughly in terms of Scripture, consider these several verses:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16, NASB).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NASB).

Trust in the LORD, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Ps. 37:3, KJV)

For Further Study:
One of the delights of preparing today’s post was the discovery of Becky Allen Martin’s biography of her father, titled A Promise Kept: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Sam Allen. You can find out more about the book and how to order it, here.

Among the many oral history interviews preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis, there is one interview with the Rev. Paul Settle, dated March 22, 1972, which stands out among the rest for several reasons. As I read through this interview, there were several portions which could have been used to comprise our post for today, portions which would have told something of what the PCA’s founding fathers were up against as they fought for years to turn the mother denomination away from error and back to faithfully preaching the Word of God. But it was the closing section of this interview that probably best conveys the heart of those men who became the founding fathers of the Presbyterian Church in America. In his closing summary, Rev. Settle reviews the Scripture text of his message and reinforces the powerful message that God’s truth, faithfully proclaimed, will prevail.

As we come to a close, let’s think again about Jehoshaphat. In the 15th chapter of II Chronicles, we’re told that people were having a time of adversity, that there was no peace in the land. We’re told in that first verse that there was no teaching priest in Israel; the people were without the law, without the book of the law of the Lord. And this is how we find ourselves pretty much today, isn’t it? For a long time in our denomination, we have had no teaching priests as such. Our official literature, our official programs and policies have not been through and through Biblical; they’ve become increasingly radical, socialistic, activistic, neo-orthodox. There’s no question about this. There is no peace in the land in our denomination; the people are vexed, and God is sending us strong adversity. Simply as already has been pointed out, many of us have actually abdicated our responsibility in leadership roles down through the years. But God, in the 20th chapter of II Chronicles, tells us that all of Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord. And that’s a fantastic difference between chapter 15 and chapter 20. What happened?

We’re told that God raised up Jehoshaphat, who did a number of things. First of all, we’re told that he sought to walk in the ways of the fathers. And that’s what we’re calling God’s people to do in these days. We’re calling them to walk in the ways of the fathers. We’re calling them to walk again in those ways that are the ways of our Lord Himself, and of the Apostle Paul, and of the early church fathers, and of Calvin and Luther and Knox and Edwards. We’re calling God’s people to walk again in the ways of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. But we’re not calling God’s people just to be conservative in that sense; we’re not calling them just to give their allegiance to a creed in that sense, for we have too many dead orthodox churches in our denomination today.

But Jehoshaphat did another thing; Jehoshaphat not only walked in the ways of his fathers and of David, but Jehoshaphat also sought the face of the Lord God, and that’s what we call God’s people to do. We call them not just to be conservative, but we call them to be conservative because they know the Lord, to be conservative because they believe that God is and that God has spoken, that God has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture, and that’s why they walk in those ways, because those are the ways of the Lord God Himself, who has spoken once and for all for all men of all ages. We’re calling God’s people to look to the Lord, person to person.

You know, we talk a lot about a true church, and we realize that no church is ever perfectly true, for we’re all sinners. But you know, that true church we talk about and pray for is going to be true only to the extent that you and I are true. That true church is going to walk in the ways of the fathers and seek the face of the Lord God only to the extent that you and I walk in those ways and seek His face today. How many in this sanctuary tonight, for instance, every day, have a time on their knees with the Lord with the book open before them? How many in the sanctuary tonight have a close, intimate, thrilling, exciting walk with Jesus Christ moment by moment, day by day? How many here have known the thrill and know that thrill daily of sharing the good news with precious souls? It’s awfully easy for us at Granada and Trinity and Coral Ridge and in churches all across this land to stand up for the faith, but does it really get down into our lives? That true church is going to be true only to the extent that you and I are true today. We need to walk in the ways of the fathers because we have sought the face of the Lord God. These are times for prayer, on our knees, earnest prayer, fervent prayer, prayer with tears and weeping and contrition and broken hearts. This is a time not just for the reading, but for the meditation in the Word of God, a time for the living of the Word.

Jehoshaphat did something else; Jehoshaphat also went up on the hillside and tore down the groves and the idols, those groves under which people committed awful orgies in the names of their gods. And we’re doing that, too, these days, hopefully in love. We’re tearing down idols and groves. We’re not calling people apostate or heretics; we’re just saying a man is what he is. We’re not saying he is a heretic, but we’re saying that what he has written is false. It’s impossible to be positive without also being negative. It’s impossible to say “thus saith the Lord” without also saying “thou shalt not.” And so, as we exalt the Lord Jesus, we must also do battle with the devil.

And in these days, we seek to point out to God’s people that there’s much that’s wrong with our denomination. All of our leaders are not apostate; many of our leaders are men who love the Lord Jesus, but who have blind spots ecclesiastically and theologically in many places. Some of them are dear friends. But they’re wrong, and we would be unfaithful to the Lord if we refused to point out wherein they’re wrong and to take our stand for the truth.

And then Jehoshaphat sent out men, just with book of the law of the Lord in their hands, to teach in those days. That’s what we’re trying to do, just to get out to as many people as possible and to say “here are the issues as we see them.” Now the decision’s yours. If there is an escape clause [i.e, a way for churches to leave with their property], and that’s the only way that the congregations will have a chance to vote, then the decision’s going to be yours. I’ve already made mine. But you’re going to have to decide. And so we’re not saying sign anything; we’re not asking you to follow us. We’re just saying: “Here it is as we see it.” Now the decision’s yours. And we pray for that day, down the road, when we shall all be together before the Lord with our little ones, our wives and our children. That’s going to be a great day. But only if we walk in those ways and seek His face, only then will it be great. God help us all. God help us to be true to Him. Let us pray.

[Words to Live By:]
Dear Father in Heaven, we pray that Thou wouldst forgive us if tonight we have spoken in malice or with anger or with hatred. We pray that Thou wouldst forgive us even for frustration in the deepest sense, for we realize, Lord, that Thou art in control, that Thou art sovereign. And we trust Thee; we do trust Thee. And we trust Thee to bless Thy people in these days as they seek Thy truth, and as they prepare for that which is being done to them by men, who, for whatever reason, have departed from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Lord, we pray for those men—in a very real sense our enemies—but we pray for them. We pray Thy blessing upon them. We pray health and safety for them. But we pray that Thou wouldst dissemble them, that Thou wouldst frustrate their intentions, that Thou wouldst scatter them, that Thou wouldst not allow Thy church to be destroyed. Lord, bless us as we seek to preserve Thy church, a continuing church that is true to Thee and Thy word. May everything we do be done in love. May everything we do be done only that the Lord Jesus would be magnified. Bless this congregation, these faithful people; Lord, lead them in these days. May they walk in those ways of old, hand in hand with Thee. Do thou bless now, and grant us even tonight to behold Thy glory. For we pray in Jesus’ name, whom we would pray would come even quickly, Amen.

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