July 2016

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2016.

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

Q. 94. What is baptism?

A. Baptism is a sacrament wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Scripture References: Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:25-26; Matthew 28:19.

Questions:

  1. What are the essential points of the definition of baptism as found in our Standards?

    The essential points of the definitions are:
    (1) It is a washing with water,
    (2) It is a washing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
    (3) It is done with the design to signify and seal us and make us a partaker.

  2. What is essential to baptism?

    Baptism is essentially a washing with water. No particular mode of washing is essential for there is no one mode specified in the com- mand. Water is commanded because it is a natural symbol of moral purification and it was established as such in the ritual of Moses. It is a symbol of Christ’s blood being poured out for us and our hearts being sprinkled from an evil conscience?

  3. Who is the author of baptism?

    The Lord Jesus Christ is the author of baptism and he instituted it just before His ascension into heaven (Matt. 28:19).

  4. In name are we baptized and what does this signify?

    We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and this signifies our baptism in the authority, and into the faith, profession and obedience of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

  5. What is meant by our engrafting into Christ?

    When we are engrafted into Christ we are cut off from our old na- ture and become joined to Christ and’ therefore we can grow up in Him and bring forth fruit to Him. His   righteousness is imputed to us (Galatians 3:27).

  6. What are the benefits of the covenant of grace we receive?

    We are admitted into the visible church, our sins are remitted we are regenerated, and adopted and are raised to everlasting life.

A RIGHTLY USED SACRAMENT

Too many times, in churches subscribing to Reformed doctrine, the sacrament of baptism is taken too lightly. Too many parents are guilty of the attitude of thinking their task is done when they have their child baptised. Two many churches give themselves a pious pat on the back when another child is baptised and feel that their task is completed. The sacrament of baptism is used in the wrong way so many times.

It is good for us once in a while to review our beliefs about a particular doctrine. In regard to baptism, we need to be reminded again and again that a person may be saved without it and a person may be lost with it! We do not believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation. We do believe it is a sin to neglect it. Here we need to review what our Confession states regarding it: “…it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance.” Again, “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost…”

I remember hearing one time a minister holding a “renewal of the vows of baptism” in his church. He had before him a group of some twenty or thirty parents. He asked them, “Have you, as parents, been impressing upon your children the fact that they need not be afraid to die because if they love the Lord Jesus and believe that Jesus shed His blood for them and they are trusting Him to wash away their sins, they will be saved?” It was a serious time and it was a serious question. It was certainly a making of a right use of this sacrament.

One of the troubles today in churches committed to the Reformed faith is that we forget our responsibility to teach our children (as part of our baptismal vows) that God does not show any mildness apart from the offer of His Son. The Bible says, “There is none other name under heaven whereby we must be saved.” We need to remember that there are two things that must be kept before our children, baptized in infancy, can be saved:
(1) The keeping of the covenant promises by the parents,
(2) Tne public profession of the child of Jesus Christ. And the last must be followed by fruit in the life.

John Murray put it well when he said, “To suppose that we may entertain any confidence respecting the covenant grace Signified and sealed by our baptism, if we are destitute of godly fear, if we break God’s covenant, and walk contrary to His commandments, would be contradiction.” May God help us to use this in a correct way!

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. 6, No. 11 (November 1967)
Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

Our guest author David Hall is taking a summer break from his Election Day series and will return with a new post on August 13th. So for today’s post, Rev. David Myers has this to share with us:—

Disabled in Body, But Not in Spirit

The teenager had gathered that Sunday, July 30, 1967 with some friends and sisters to swim in the Chesapeake Bay waters.  Diving into the bay seemed like a safe thing to do, but Joni Erickson was not aware of the shallowness of that water.  As she struggled to rise to the surface, her sister had to assist  her because she had no feeling in her arms.  Indeed, after an emergency vehicle had taken her to the emergency room was it discovered that she  had broken her neck.  She was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Understandably, she went through a horror of emotions in the first two years.  The “why” answers were not being given by God or anyone else.  She immersed herself in the Bible and there in that inspired book found both the strength to continue on  and a purpose to continue living.

With her loving husband, Ken Tada by her side, whom she married in 1982, they began a ministry for the disabled called Joni and Friends.  It is a world-wide organization which seeks to minister to those  disabled to conquer life’s challenges, and especially to find the love of God through Christ.

Joni has had an autobiography in her book (“Joni”) , then in movie form, several musical albums, books galore, etchings — all to show that disabled people can have a ministry  in the church and in the world.  And as a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, she has had extraordinary opportunities to share her saving faith in all sorts of forums.

Even in her recent challenge of breast cancer, which she successfully endured, she is hopeful of a positive prognosis.  God has not abandoned those with disabilities.  All kinds of sufferings will “work together and  will fit into a plan for good and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.” (Amplified, Romans 8:28)

Words to Live By: Jesus, in one of the dinners he had been invited to while on earth, gave some instructions to his host.  He, in Luke 14, told him “to invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind.” (v. 13)  We have a ministry to these ones who are in desperate need of acceptance by the believers of today.  Let’s plan on ways we can minister in word and deed to these ones, especially the disabled in our churches and neighborhoods.  What can you do to show them hospitality?

Excerpts from “History of FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Hazlehurst, Mississippi”
by John T. Armstrong, Jr.

In 1832 evangelists organized a Presbyterian Church in Gallatin, a community located four miles west of what is now Hazlehurst. The Gallatin Church prospered until 1858, when the railroad was constructed to the east, and Hazlehurst was settled and later incorporated. On July 29, 1860, Reverend D. A. Campbell of the Presbytery of Clinton (Mississippi) founded the Hazlehurst Presbyterian Church. With the advent of the railroad Gallatin declined, and by order of Presbytery the Gallatin Presbyterian Church was dissolved on March 11, 1866; the congregation of approximately twenty-five adults joined the Hazlehurst Church.

fpcHazlehurstMS_1860-1985_coverThe initial entry in the Session Book of the Hazlehurst Church is as follows: “At a congregational meeting held on the fourth Sabbath of July, A.D. 1860 in the town of Hazlehurst, Reverend D. A. Campbell of the Presbytery of Clinton, of the Synod of Mississippi, proceeded to organize a church, to be received under the care of said Presbytery. The following persons were enrolled as members: M.W.Trawick, Elijah Peyton, A. W. Griffing, Mrs. Elizabeth Griffing, Mrs. Phebe I. Griffing, Mrs. Lucy M. Campbell, Mrs. Matilda Peyton.”

The house of worship was completed in 1867. Although the structure has been enlarged and remodeled several times, the original building remains almost intact. The first building consisted of what is now solely the sanctuary. Exterior brick were added in 1941, and the educational annex, to the rear of the Church, was dedicated in 1959.

The steeple bell was cast especially for the Church in 1867, a gift from Miss Isabella Faler. In 1901, the Ladies Aid Society purchased the sanctuary chandelier. The fixture originally burned acetylene gas, but in 1920 was wired for electricity. The pulpit furniture was donated to the Church in the early 1870s by the A. Mangold family.

When the Church was remodeled in 1941, the present sanctuary pews were installed. They are of walnut and are the third set of pews to be used in the Church. At the end of each pew is a small plate bearing the name of the donor.

The sanctuary windows were presented to the Church in 1964 as a memorial to the ministry of Samuel Craighead Caldwell, D.D., long time minister of this Church. The three stained glass windows in the Fellowship Hall today were in the sanctuary behind the pulpit from 1901 until 1964.

A memorial tablet in the vestibule was dedicated to the memory of Reverend Martin W. Trawick, the first minister of the Church, 1864-1874. A second memorial tablet was placed in remembrance of Samuel Craighead Caldwell, D.D., who served as minister for forty-two years, 1888-1930.

Sixteen regularly installed ministers have nurtured the spiritual growth of the congregation over these one hundred and fifty-five years since 1860. Our current Interim Pastor, the Rev. Larry C. Mills, has ministered to the flock for six years, and counting. This Church has been blessed with ministers who have faithfully preached the Word of God from the pulpit.

Image: Front cover of The First Presbyterian Church, Hazlehurst, Mississippi, 1860-1985, by Allen Cabaniss, VDM.

Tags: ,

The Practical Use of the Shorter Catechism
by Rev. David T Myers

Having written on the Larger Catechism on July 20, we now turn your attention to the Shorter Catechism, as on this day, July 28, 1648,  the Church of Scotland’s  General Assembly approved it.

wsc_london_02There has always been a plurality of definitive books explaining its matchless answers for Presbyterians. The books this author has in his personal library on the Shorter Catechism are the following: Thomas Watson: A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer; Thomas Vincent: The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture; Alexander Whyte: The Shorter Catechism; John Whitecross: The Shorter Catechism Illustrated from Christian Biography and History; and a modern book, G.I. Williamson of The Shorter Catechism, Vol 1 & 2. These have all been effective in teaching and training both children and adults, especially the officers of the local church. I would like to commend to our readers the practical influences of this Shorter Catechism in this post.

First, whenever the good news of Jesus Christ is preached or shared by teaching elders from the pulpit, the answer of Shorter Catechism No. 31 regarding Effectual Calling is beneficial. It states, “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” Each one of these statements can be pleaded in quick petitions to the Holy Spirit that He will “convince (sinners) of (their) sin and misery,”  “enlighten (their) minds in  the knowledge of Christ,” and “renew (their)wills,” and “persuade and enable (them) to embrace Jesus Christ” as He is freely offered in the gospel.  We need both the elders and the deacons, to say nothing of the members, to apply this answer in their personal prayers during the preaching of the gospel.

Second, to the church member who wishes to find out his personal calling in life, there is no better description of purpose than the magnificent answer to Shorter Catechism no. 1. You should know the answer already, as it tells us that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” There you have it, reader, in a proverbial nutshell. In whatever field you pour out your life and time, keep this before you always.

Shorter Catechism No. 4 gives us a matchless description of God’s attributes, which can be repeated in our adoration in prayer. It says, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”  Take each attribute, and magnify it in your prayers.

Once this author’s wife was confronted by a visitor at the door who asked  about her definition of God.  Being a “Shorter Catechism woman,” she answered with this catechism.  The young man was so “blown away” with her answer that he could hardly contain himself, and literally ran from the door to tell his calling friends about the great definition of God which he had heard from her.

Justification, Adoption, and Sanctification each have their biblical definitions in answers 33, 34, and 35. Read them, indeed memorize them, so as not to be swayed from the Bible’s truth on them.

Nothing beats in this author’s mind and heart the section on the Law of God as exemplified in the Ten Commandments, in question and answers 39 – 81. A memorization of them, as this author has done, adequately helps out every Christian to stay true to Scripture in his faith and life.

I have written the words of Shorter Catechism answer 90 on the reading and hearing of the Word of God on the front flyleaf of my Bible many years ago. It reminds me of my proper worship in the house of God.

How many of our readers can adequately sum up the two sacraments. Shorter Catechisms 92 – 97 deal with their definitions?  They are there for your understanding.

Then the Shorter Catechism ends with the Lord’s Prayer, with explanations of each of the parts of that prayer which the Lord taught His followers to say, in 98 – 107. When it is prayed in our worship services, a review of these answers enable us to mean what we say and say what we mean.

Words to Live By:
In short, we need the Presbyterian and Reformed churches in which our readers attend, to press upon the spiritual leaders the necessity of featuring in some way the remarkable questions and answers of this Westminster Shorter Catechism in their worship and work.  It may be a bulletin insert, which this author once wrote for his members in his last church.  It may be a weekly emphasis in our youth and adult Sunday School classes. I once offered an Adult class entitled “Everything you wanted to know about theology, but was afraid to ask.”  It essentially was a summary of the Shorter Catechism.  It certainly needs to be the instruction for our church officers.  Above all,  do not let its questions and  answers  become foreign or strange to the members in our circles.   Let us become “Shorter Catechism people” in our faith and life.

 

Rebuilding the Walls of Zion.

Our post today comes from the pen of guest author Dr. Nick Willborn, an excerpt from a longer article. Here Dr. Willborn tells of the return of the Rev. Dr. John L. Girardeau in 1865, to serve as pastor of the Zion Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carollina.  

girardeau05According to a longtime friend of the Rev. John L. Girardeau, it was about this time that “[Girardeau] began to receive overtures from the Presbyterian young [black] men in Charleston” to return to his pulpit. His sense of duty and love for “the holy city” hastened his return. As Girardeau disembarked the train in the Charleston depot the “colored members of the church” greeted their pastor with “superabounding enthusiasm.” While this does not agree with the banal image often portrayed of the Africans’ lackluster enthusiasm for white Southerners, it is no doubt true. Girardeau found a considerable number of black Carolinians anxiously awaiting his return to the pulpit.

They were awaiting his return for indeed they had summoned him in a letter dated July 27, 1865. This was shortly after his grueling return from war and imprisonment. The letter speaks of their concern for Girardeau’s well-being and their desire for his return to them. It reveals a love for the man and his family that few textbooks recognize as having existed between whites and blacks, masters and slaves.

Revd Sir & pastor

We the undersigned members of Zion Presbyterian Church embrace this opportunity, as one among the many good ones we have engaged in the past and in doing so you have our best wishes for your health & that of your loving family hoping all are engaging that blessing of good health and realizing that fulfillment of good words those that put their trust in Him shall never want.

This love for Girardeau is further expressed in their longing for him to return to them and resume his pastoral labors in their midst. “The past relations,” wrote the Zion members, “we have engaged together for many years as pastor and people are still in its bud in our every heart therefore we would well come you still as our pastor.”

From the time Girardeau returned to Charleston until he was able to reoccupy the Zion pulpit, fifteen months had elapsed. 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 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 (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.

zionPC_CharlestonSCGirardeau 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.

Later 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. 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 by 1875. 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.

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. 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.

Upon the recommendation of Girardeau and the Zion Session, the following Freedmen were nominated to serve in the office of Ruling Elder—Paul Trescot, William Price, Jacky Morrison, Samuel Robinson, William Spencer, and John Warren. On “Sabbath August 15, 1869, 8 ½ P.M.” the congregation of Zion Presbyterian Church (Colored) met for worship and the ordination and installation of their Ruling Elders. Girardeau chose for his text on this occasion Acts 14: 23“And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting…they commended them to the Lord.” The records tell us, “Session did then with prayer and the imposition of their hands ordain the persons… and install them in the same.” Thus, Zion became the first Southern church governed by black elders. Girardeau had done what Dabney and a host of other Southern churchmen would not consider doing. He had admitted that black men could be qualified to rule in the church. He had exhibited his approbation by participating in the holy service, even the laying on of hands. What Dabney and others doubted possible, Girardeau confirmed as real.

Sadly, Girardeau’s experiment did not gain prominence in the Southern Church. In 1874, the Presbyterian Church US, under political and social pressures from within and without, voted to segregate their communion into black and white churches. Girardeau opposed the move, lost the vote, and lost his beloved Zion. Within a few short years many black Presbyterians across the South affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, leaving the Presbyterian Church US.

Conclusion
All human weaknesses aside, the heritage of Davies, Jones, Adger, Smyth, and Girardeau is a good one. Their sacrificial labors could and should serve as a model for many today. Our elders and deacons should adopt a paternalistic model toward the precious sheep entrusted to them by our heavenly Father. A great sensitivity and shepherd like service would follow. The men we have considered loved their black brothers and gave themselves to the good work even in the face of social, political, and ecclesiastical difficulties. No doubt there are many rejoicing in the presence of our LORD today because of the loving ministries of these men and countless others like them.

ZionPC_CharlestonSC_02

[Note: Of our two photographs of the Zion edifice, it would appear that one of the two images is reversed and does not appear as it should.]

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: