July 2016

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duhs_robertC_1981_smGold Coast Presbytery (PCA), later renamed Southern Florida Presbytery, was organized on July 26, 1973, drawing churches primarily from the Everglades Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Upon organization, it was constituted of fourteen churches, with eleven minister and a communicant membership of over 5,600. Nine more pastors were added in 1974 and communicant membership rose to 6,000. With the addition in 1978 of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian church, the Presbytery of Southern Florida was for some time the largest Presbytery in the PCA. By 1998 there were a total of 29 churches in this presbytery and thirteen mission churches, shepherded by 109 ordained pastors, and a total communicant membership of 20,502.

One of the churches in the Southern Florida Presbytery was Le Jeune Presbyterian Church in Miami, was pastored by the Rev. Robert C. Duhs. He and his congregation came into the Presbytery in the year following the Presbytery’s organization, and Rev. Duhs pastored this church from October of 1974 to March of 1977. The church had first been organized on January 7, 1946 as a mission church of the Shenandoah Presbyterian church, with thirty-eight charter members drawn from Shenandoah’s membership. Church services were first held from May of 1945 to January of 1946, at the Kinlock Park Elementary School, conducted by the Reverend D. Clyde Bartges. By 1949, the church was self-supporting.  The cornerstone for the LeJeune congregation’s own home was laid and the building was occupied by late August of 1948. An education building was added in 1952 and a manse in 1954. Finally a new sanctuary was built and dedicated toward the end of 1965. Then in June of 1973, the congregation voted to leave the PCUS and so became one of the ten churches forming the Presbytery of Southern Florida within the Presbyterian Church in America. Le Jeune Presbyterian Church later merged with Grenada Presbyterian Church of Miami, on June 28th of 1984.

[pictured at right, the Rev. Robert C. Duhs, when serving as a commissioner to the Ninth General Assembly (1981) of the Presbyterian Church in America, as it met in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.]

Is God Your Father?

by Rev. Robert C. Duhs.

[as first published in The Presbyterian Journal, April 6, 1960, pages 7-8, 15.]

Is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man Biblical?

Is God a Father to me? This is a basic spiritual question for it has to do with my hope of eternal life. If I can be sure that God is a Father in the benevolent, hopeful sense of that word, then I can have assurance of eternal life, the most important possibility in all the world.

A minister was once talking to his doctor. In the course of the conversation, he asked him, “Doctor, do you ever have difficult and rebellious patients?” The doctor replied, “Indeed I do. They come to me for help and then criticize my treatment and refuse to take medicine I prescribe.” “What do you do in such cases?” “Well, if they become too rebellious, I tell them to get another doctor.”

That story has spiritual implications. We come to God for a prescription of eternal life. But too often we have our ideas about how and on what conditions the prescription shall be given; and what it shall contain. Like the man without a wedding garment : in our Lord’s parable, we may cut ourselves off by insisting on coming as we want to.

One of the prescriptions which men have devised for their own salvation is that of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” The doctrine expresses the theory that God is a loving, Heavenly Father to every man and that all men are equal, both socially and spiritually. Salvation belongs to the entire family of this loving, Heavenly Father, the human race, within which all members are brothers. Practically speaking there is no essential spiritual difference, in this scheme, between a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, for God is Father to all men.

Now imbedded in this theory there is a germ of truth for we all are indeed creatures of the one sovereign Creator. But let us pause for a moment and reflect on the spiritual implications of the theory as it is generally understood. Is the spiritual “Fatherhood” of God and the spiritual “Brotherhood” of man an evident truth? Is it a reasonable thought? Is it Biblical?

To answer these questions we must have a starting point. If we can agree on the Bible as a starting point then we can search the Scriptures to see what it says on this issue. But what if we cannot agree on the starting point? Then we will only have what we have now — confusion. There must be a source of authority! And since the Bible is generally recognized as a source of authority in such matters, let us start with it.

I.  STARTING POINT: THE WORD OF GOD.

What does the Bible say about the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man? In Genesis 1:26, 27, we are told that man came into being by God’s direct act of creation: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in His own image . .

It is our conviction, therefore, that God created man. Does this make God man’s Father? It certainly makes God his Creator, but for the sake of argument let us say it also makes Him man’s Father. Does this mean that man can forever claim salvation on the mere basis that God is his Creator or even his Father? If God is mankind’s Father, does that not carry with it certain prerogatives? And is it not logical to believe that one of those prerogatives is what inheritance He shall leave the children? Does a father have the right to divide his inheritance as he sees fit? Indeed he does. And the Bible repeatedly speaks of God “dividing to every man severally as He will.”

In other words, the Bible teaches that God is the Creator of all men; in a sense the Father of all. Now this Fatherhood encompasses the privilege of granting or cutting off the inheritance of those whom He has created. This is important to keep in mind. The Father determines who shall receive what inheritance.

II.  THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN RACE

The idea of the unity of the human race lies imbedded in the Scriptures (our starting point). It is implied in man’s origin. Genesis 1:26-28 makes it clear that God created a single human pair, male and female, to become the embryo of humanity. We may conclude that all men have descended from this pair. At one time in history God divided mankind into different groups (Genesis 11) when He confounded their language and caused them to scatter, but men did not lose their identity, or their kinship to other men.

Therefore, we can say upon the authority of the Bible that all men are responsible to God. The true God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth by all men everywhere if they are to inherit eternal life. And please take note of that word “inherit” for it is a fact that men inherit eternal life; they do not earn it. God gives eternal life to those who meet His requirements.

III.  MAN SEPARATES HIMSELF FROM GOD

If God created man, and if God is man’s Father, then He has the privilege and responsibility of showing man what is best for him. This is expected of earthly fathers; surely it can be expected of God. Now God does not shun His responsibility; He reveals to man what He expects of him if he is to inherit eternal life. He expects obedience—just what any father expects. Inheritance, blessing and guidance all hinge on obedience. Once a father has prescribed the rules his children must follow, he is not to blame if the child is cut off for disobedience.

When man disobeyed God, he violated his Father’s rules for inheritance, blessing and guidance. Because he sinned, he was cut off from eternal life. In Genesis 2:17 we read, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” It is well known how man (the child) acted toward God’s (the Father) command. Paul sums it up in Romans 5:12-14, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (This takes care of the fellow who says, “Don’t blame me for what Adam did.” God doesn’t have to blame us for what Adam did. We are sinners too.)

Through the law of heredity, human depravity has passed from generation to generation and upon all men. In other words, the idea of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man” does just the opposite from what most men think in reality, by relating us inseparably to Adam, it condemns rather than saves.

IV. THOSE WHO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

According to the Bible (our starting point), only those who love God’s Son have the promise of eternal life. God the Father, who took away eternal life because of disobedience, now grants it back to those who, in obedience to His Word, are changed by the new life which is in Christ Jesus. In John 8:34, we read, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” He then adds in verse 36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” To deny the Son is to remain cut off from the Father. We are made children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. In John 8:42, Jesus said, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came from God.”

There is only one way for us to return under the Fatherhood of God and that is through our love for the Son of God, Jesus Christ. If a man does not receive Jesus Christ, God gives him up (a prerogative which is His as Father).

Jesus also declared in John 8:43, 44, that the man who will not hear His Word, is a member of the devil’s family — “Ye are of your father, the devil.” Jesus, in short, declared that some cannot call God, “Abba,” or Father.

One becomes a child of God, with restoration to the inheritance of eternal life, only by trusting in Jesus Christ (John 8:36); that is, by receiving and acting upon His Word (John 8:45-47).

Therefore, on the basis of Scripture we conclude that the doctrine of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man” points to our natural condemnation rather than our natural salvation outside of Christ. Only in Christ is the natural brotherhood of man, in the sense of humanity’s universal condemnation, mitigated by the adoption of some men as re-generated children of God. We truly become brothers only in Christ.

We also conclude from Scripture that God becomes our spiritual Father only as we love Jesus Christ Who came from God to save us from our sins.

V. THE NEIGHBOR – RELATIONSHIP

Now in addition to the selective relationship of brother, there is another, truly universal relationship, that of neighbor. Once we have become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we see all men — even those who are not our brothers in Christ — in a different light. For by nature all men are neighbors and towards our neighbors we owe an obedience. In the parable of the “Good Samaritan”, found in Luke 10:25-37, we are told what it means to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” according to the Levitical commandment.

Who is my neighbor? It is any man who stands in need. Our neighbor is not our blood relation only, not just the circle of our acquaintances, not just our countrymen, not just our brethren in Christ, but every human being whom we can help. And what greater help does any man outside of Jesus Christ need than to be introduced to the only One who can save his soul!

This is the commandment of love, but although it recognizes that we are all neighbors, it does not make us all brothers. However, it does make us aware of our neighbors and of their need for salvation. How can a man be a member of the Kingdom of God and not be interested in the souls of men? Just because lost men are not our brothers in Christ does not mean that we must not be interested in them — we are to love them, for they are our neighbors. How can a man love God with all his heart, and with all his strength, and with all his mind, and have no concern for his neighbor who knows not God? He cannot, and that is why Jesus gave us this parable — that we might see the need of our fellowmen and be inspired to help them.

Once we become Christians, we become partners in the Divine interest God has in mankind. We want our neighbor to know the Christ who alone can save, and to do that we must love him as we love ourselves. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” are very searching words, for few, if any, ever have a real falling out with themselves.

We love our neighbor, not only because it is the Christian thing to do but because it may lead to his conversion. When we speak the Truth to him in this love, the occasion is provided for the Holy Spirit to enter in and regenerate him. Then he be-comes more than a neighbor, he becomes a brother.

The theory of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of all men” is false. But the doctrine of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of new men in Christ,” by Grace is true!

Meanwhile, brothers in Christ are to love their neighbors as themselves. In so doing they seek to reach the lost with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

*     *     *     *     *

At the time when this was published, the Rev. Mr. Duhs was pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Vicksburg, Miss.

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hallDWOur Saturday series of Election Day Sermons is in hiatus until August 13th. However, as with last Monday and the start of the Republican National Convention, so too today we thought it appropriate to revisit one of this year’s contributions from guest author Dr. David W. Hall.  Our selection for today is Dr. Hall’s review of a sermon by the Rev. Charles Chauncy:—

“Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God”
by Charles Chauncy (May 27, 1747)

Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) was one of the most influential pastors in Boston during his life. He received his theological training at Harvard and served as pastor of First Church for nearly 60 years. He wrote numerous pamphlets between 1762-1771 against the British proposal to impose a Bishop in America. This sermon preached in 1747, addressed to rulers (the Governor, the council, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives), called them to be just and frequently to recall their subordination to God. Original punctuation has been preserved. He drew upon an often used text from 2 Samuel 23—a passage that was a slam dunk for pastors comparing candidates to unchanging norms. He began: “there are none in all the Bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their public capacity, of more solemn importance.”

Viewing these as the last sentiments of David, Chauncy’s outline was:

  1. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.
  2. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
  3. The whole will then be applied to the occasions of the day.

In his first section, an apology for government in general, Chauncy observed: “Order and rule in society, or, what means the same thing, civil government, is not a contrivance of arbitrary and tyrannical men, but a regular state of things, naturally resulting from the make of man, and his circumstances in the world.” Human sin necessitated this. As both Calvin and Madison had noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” While government in general was ordained by God, the particulars could and did vary.

Government was “not a matter of mere human prudence, but of moral necessity. It does not lie with men to determine at pleasure, whether it shall or shall not take place; but, considering their present weak, exposed and dependent condition, it is unalterably right and just there should be rule and superiority in some, and subjection and inferiority in others: And this therefore is invariably the will of God; his will manifested by the moral fitness and reason of things.”

However, under the second head, the manner of rulers was prescribed. The first quality (and the one with the most discussion in this sermon) was for ruler to be just. One of Chauncy’s full elaborations of justice was:

They should do it by appearing in defense of their liberties, if called in question, and making use of all wise and suitable methods to prevent the loss of them: Nor can they be too active, diligent or laborious in their endeavors upon this head: Provided always, the privileges in danger are worth contending for, and such as the people have a just right and legal claim to. Otherwise, there may be hazard of losing real liberties, in the strife for those that are imaginary; or valuable ones, for such as are of trifling consideration.

They should also express this care, by seasonably and faithfully placing a proper guard against the designs of those, who would rule in a despotic manner, to the subversion of the rights naturally or legally vested in the people.

They were to be just in their use of power (not encroaching due liberties) and also just in regard to “the laws by which they govern.” He articulated this second rung of justice as “They should not, when upon the business of framing and passing acts, suffer themselves to be swayed by any wrong bias, either from self-will, or self-interest; the smiles or frowns of men greater than themselves; or the humor of the populace: But should bring the proposed laws to a fair and impartial examination.” He warned against “framing mischief by a law.” Just rulers would also punish evildoers and maintain honest economic standards.

Surely with the book of Proverbs’ admonition toward just weights and measures in mind, Chauncy also applied:

And if justice in rulers should show itself by reducing the things that are bought and sold to weight and measure, much more ought it to be seen in ascertaining the medium of trade, as nearly as may be, to some determinate value. For this, whether it be money, or something substituted to pass in lieu of it, is that for which all things are exchanged in commerce. And if this, which is of such universal use in the affair of traffic, be a thing variable and uncertain, of one value this week, and another the next, it is difficult to conceive, how justice should take place between man and man, in their dealings with one another.

Justice also called for right execution of laws and for the appointment of just persons to carry out those just laws. Justice was called for in terms of debt—not a light matter; and justice was to be a guarantor of liberties. Not only could liberties be threatened by those of high office, but Chauncy also warned about excessive populism: “The men who strike in with the popular cry of liberty and privilege, working themselves, by an artful application to the fears and jealousies of the people, into their good opinion of them as lovers of their country, if not the only stanch friends to its interests, may, all the while, be only aiming at power to carry every thing according to their own sovereign pleasure: And they are, in this case, most dangerous enemies to the community.”

A ruler could, thus, err in many ways. The standards for office were high, according to the Hebrew standards and to those of early America. Chauncy put it this way:

If it is their business to act as executioners of justice, they must faithfully inflict the adjudged sentence: In doing of which, though there may be room for the exercise of compassion, especially in the case of some sort of debtors; yet the righteousness of the law may not be eluded by needless, much less fraudulent delays, to the injury of the creditor.

In fine, whatever their trust is, whether of less or greater importance, they must exercise it with care, fidelity, resolution, steadiness, diligence, and an entire freedom from a corrupt respect to men’s persons, as those who are concerned for the honor of government, and that its laws may take effect for the general good of the community.

He charged the General Court to apply themselves to these standards of justice. He further reminded his listeners that they were responsible to God, specifically telling them “that they are accountable to that Jesus, whom God hath ordained to be the judge of the world, for the use of that power he has put into their hands.” The latter part of this sermon provides a discussion of the fear of the Lord, with the injunction that rulers were to keep that in mind in their activities and decisions. This aspect was salutary as follows: “But no restraints are like those, which the true fear of God lays upon men’s lusts. This habitually prevailing in the hearts of rulers, will happily prevent the out-breaking of their pride, and envy, and avarice, and self-love, and other lusts, to the damage of society; and not only so, but it will weaken, and gradually destroy, the very inward propensities themselves to the various acts of vice. It naturally, and powerfully, tends to this: And this is the effect it will produce, in a less or greater degree, according to the strength of the religious principle, in those who are the subjects of it.”

Chauncy’s sermon wraps up with specific charges to the rulers to apply these standards. Somehow, I doubt that the need for fear of God as discussed above, or the requirement to be just, has been altered by time or circumstance.

A printed copy of this sermon is available in my 1996 Election Day Sermons and is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era(Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). The sermon is online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N04742.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

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

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

Q. 93. What are the sacraments of the New Testament?

A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, baptism and the Lord’s supper.

Scripture References: Matt. 28:19; Matt. 26:26-28; Gen. 17:24-27; Ex. 12:22-27.

Questions:

1. What were the sacraments of the Old Testament?

There were two sacraments under the Old Testament: circumcision and the passover.

2. When was circumcision instituted and what was the spiritual meaning?

It was instituted in the ninety-ninth year of Abraham’s life. At that time he, and all the men of his house were circumcised. The spiritual meaning of circumcision is that it signified the impurity and corruption of nature, the necessity of regeneration; and of being implanted in Christ in order to partake of the benefits of His mediation, together with a solemn engagement to be the Lord’s.

3. What was the passover and when was it instituted?

The passover was instituted at the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt. It was called the passover because the angel passed over the houses of the Israelites on whose houses the blood of the passover-lamb was stricken upon the lintels and side posts of their doors.

4. What are the sacraments of the New Testament?

The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

5. How do the sacraments of the New Testament take the place of those of the Old Testament?

Baptism takes the place of circumcision and the Lord’s Supper takes the place of the passover.

6. What are the sacraments according to the Roman Catholic church? The Roman Catholic church states there are seven sacraments. In addition to baptism and the Lord’s supper they add confirmation, penance, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction.

BADGES OF MEMBERSHIP

There are many in the church of today who can not understand why certain believers insist on putting emphasis on Baptism and the Lord’s supper. You can hear the cry of the critics over and over again: “We don’t like to hear the term ‘sacrament’ for it sounds too much like the Roman Catholic church.” Or, “We do not feel that we should attach any importance to the sacraments for Christ is the important one!” Needless to say, these critics of the sacraments are not too well advised in the Westminster Standards for the Standards put a great emphasis on the sacraments.

The true Church, which has been formed by God into outward visible communities, must have certain divinely-appointed badges of membership. These badges of membership are the sacraments. These badges serve to mark the true church, they distinguish the true church. This is one reason why we must emphasize the sacraments.

The second reason, in many ways, is more important than the one just mentioned. We are taught in the Westminster Standards that the Church and the kingdom of God rest upon a covenant (Chapter 7). We have learned that a covenant is simply a mutual understanding or agreement, and the covenant imposed by a superior upon an inferior is simply a conditional promise. This is God’s way of dealing with His people. He commands them, He promises them and He threatens them. This is all accomplished in the covenant. The sacraments play an important part in all this in that the sacraments are the visible seals by which the covenant is ratified end its benefits symbolized to all who accept its terms.

What does all this mean to the believer? It means that he must be faithful in his use of these sacraments. He must recognize that they are ordained of God to be means of grace—not the only means—but divinely-appointed means. He must know that his use of these means is an obligation placed on him oy God. He must perceive that the sacraments are effective testimonies of the central truths of the Gospel.

May God help us to make use of these “Badges of Membership” and wear them in a faithful way, all to the glory of God.

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.
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor
Vol. 6, No. 10 (October 1967)

“The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”—A.A. Hodge.

Our guest author for the Election Day Sermon series, Dr. David Hall, will return with his next post on August 13th. Today’s post comes from the pen of the Rev. Dr. W.W. (Walter William) Moore [1857-1926], who, after a few brief pastorates, served first as professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1886-1915 and then as president of that same institution from 1904 until his death in 1926. The following article comes from THE NORTH CAROLINA PRESBYTERIAN, vol. 40, no. 2 (13 January 1898): 2.

PRESBYTERIANISM AND CIVIL LIBERTY.
by Rev. W.W. Moore, D.D. (Walter William Moore, 1857-1926)

Civil liberty and religious liberty go hand in hand. As men settle the question of church power, so they are likely to settle the question of civil power. If they rest church power in the clergy they are likely to rest civil power in kings and nobles. Hence the remark of Lord Bacon that “Discipline by bishops is fittest for monarchy of all others.” If, on the other hand, men rest church power in the people, in the church itself, as Presbyterians do, then they will hold that civil power also rests in the people, and that all civil rulers are the servants of the people. So Dr. Paxton has said, “If there is liberty in the church there will be liberty in the State; if there is no bishop in the church there will be no tyrant on the throne.”

Hence it is that modern tyrants have with one consent recognized that Presbyterianism was their natural enemy and have hated and feared it accordingly. Charles II. pronounced Calvinism a religion not fit for a gentleman. Charles I. said: “The doctrine (of the Presbyterians) is anti-monarchical,” and he added that “there was not a wiser man since Solomon than he who said, ‘No Bishop, no King.'” James I., born and reared a Scot, spake what he knew when he said at the Hampton Court Conference, “Ye are aiming at a Scots Presbytery, which agrees with monarchy as well as God and the devil.” History has demonstrated that the views thus expressed by the Stuart kings were absolutely correct. By its doctrine of personal liberty Presbyterianism has emphasized the worth of the individual. By its republican polity it has rested the power of government in the people, and administered it through representatives of the people chosen by the people. And, as a natural consequence, it has in every age been the chief educator of the people in the principles of civil liberty, and has in every land reared the noblest champions of human freedom. And so the Westminster Review, which is certainly no friend of our faith, says: “Calvin sowed the seeds of liberty in Europe,” and again, emphatically, “Calvinism saved Europe.” Castelar, the eloquent Spaniard, says: “The Anglo-Saxon democracy is the product of a severe theology,” learned in the cities of Switzerland and Holland, “and it remains serenely in its grandeur, forming the most dignified, most moral, most enlightened and richest portion of the human race.”

Macaulay has shown that the great revolution of 1688, which gave liberty to England, was in a great measure due to the heroism of the Presbyterians of Scotland, who at Drumclog contended for Christ’s Crown and Covenant against the dragoons of Claverhouse, whose blood crimsoned the heather at Bothwell Bridge and Ayrsmoss, and whose brethren in Ireland resisted to the death the army of King James at Derry. Ranke, the great historian of Germany, says: “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America.”

Bancroft, our own historian, says: “We are proud of the free States that fringe the Atlantic. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influence in South Carolina came from the Calvinists of France. William Penn was the disciple of the Huguenots; the ships from Holland that first brought colonists to Manhattan were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.” Rufus Choate says: “I ascribe to Geneva an influence that has changed the history of the world. I trace to it the opening of another era of liberty; the republican constitution framed in the cabin of the Mayflower, the divinity of Jonathan Edwards, the battle of Bunker Hill, and the independence of America.”

These, be it remembered, are all disinterested testimonies by men who are not themselves Presbyterians. One of them, Bancroft, adds this further statement of fact: “The first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came, not from the Puritans of New England, not from the Dutch of New York, not from the planters of Virginia, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina.” The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, in May 1775, was the work of Presbyterians exclusively, nine of its signers being Presbyterian elders and one a Presbyterian minister. Fourteen months after that memorable action, when, in Philadelphia, the Colonial Congress was hesitating to pass the Declaration of National Independence, it was the eloquence of an illustrious Presbyterian that swept the waverers to a decision, John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton, the only minister of any denomination who signed that immortal document.

Later still, in one of the darkest hours of the Revolution, Washington, himself connected with the Episcopal Church, said that should all his plans be crushed, he would plant his standard on the Blue Ridge, and rallying round him the Scotch-Irish of the Valley, make a final stand for freedom on the Virginia frontier. To this sterling strain, it has been said, belongs the unique distinction of being the only race in America that never produced a Tory. Calvinism, in fact, was the backbone of the Revolution. “While the Quakers were non-combatants, and stood aloof from the conflict; while the Episcopalians, as a rule, were against the Colonies and in favor of the crown; while the Methodists followed the mother Church and imitated John Wesley himself in their denunciation of the revolting Americans, the Congregational ministers of New England and the Presbyterian ministers from Long Island to Georgia gave to the cause of the Colonies all that they could give of the sanction of religion.”

As for Presbyterian elders and laymen, when we remember the remark of George Alfred Townsend, ‘When I want to find the grave of an officer in the Revolutionary Army, I go to a Presbyterian graveyard and there I find it;” when we remember that nearly all the officers in command at King’s Mountain, the most successful battle save one that was ever fought by American arms, were Presbyterian elders and that their troops were mustered from Presbyterian settlements; when we remember that General Morgan and General Pickens, who turned the whole tide of the war at the Cowpens, were Presbyterian elders; when we remember that after his surrender at Saratoga, Burgoyne said to Morgan concerning his Scotch-Irish riflemen, “Sir, you have the finest regiment in the world;” when we remember that Generals Moultrie, Sullivan, Sumter, Stark, Knox, Routledge, Wayne, and scores of other officers, as well as thousands of the Revolutionary rank and file, were of the same sturdy stock, it is hardly too much to say with Dr. Archibald Hodge that “The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”

A Pure Ministry was His Concern

Born in what is today Northern Ireland, or Ulster, in 1703, Gilbert Tennent, the oldest son of William Tennent, was the first of five sons of the Tennent family to train for, and minister in, the Presbyterian Church in America. Emigrating to the colonies in 1717 to Pennsylvania, he studied under his father William, the elements of  Scriptural languages and theology. His training must have been the equivalent of a bachelor of arts degree, because when he entered Yale College, he completed a masters of arts degree. He then helped his father build the Log College, as it was derisively known, which was the forerunner of the College of New Jersey, which turned into Princeton Seminary and University.

Licensed and ordained in the Presbyterian church, Gilbert Tennent, after a brief ministry in Newcastle, Delaware, moved in 1726 to New Brunswick Presbyterian Church, in New Jersey.  It was there that he came into contact with a Dutch Reformed pastor, Theodorus Frelinghausen, who regularly preached revivalist messages to his congregation and surrounding congregations. Tennent, whose ministry up to this point, was failing as far as converts were concerned, and deathly ill on top of it, made a pact with God.  Promising to press for the souls of his people, he asked God to give  him another six months of life.  God gave him that, and more. He began to preach evangelistically to his own people.

Heard one day by English evangelist George Whitefield, who described his sermon as “a searching sermon,” Tennent immediately began to feel the effects of criticism to his ministry as well as the educational quality of the teaching at his father’s Log College.  It was then in March 8, 1740 that he preached that stern message entitled “The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry,” comparing those who opposed the revival methods to Pharisees who were unsaved. (See March 8)  One year later, in 1741, the first schism occurred in the Presbyterian Church between the Old Side Presbyterians and the New Side Presbyterians. This schism was to last until 1758, when the reunion came with the aid of a now repentant Gilbert Tennent.  (See our blog entry for May 25 from several years back.)

Gilbert Tennent’s third congregation was at the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, in 1743. This congregation was a New Side Presbyterian congregation, formed exclusively of converts to the Whitefield’s strong preaching. He pastored that church until his death on July 22, 1764.

Gilbert Tennent had a decided care and concern for the purity of Christ’s church.

Words to Live By: Despite an unwise, harsh message at an earlier point in his ministry which brought a schism in the Presbyterian Church at large, his later ministry at Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was in the midst of a turn-around, or repentant spirit in him. We may not want to copy his methods to bring revival to God’s people and repentance to the lost, but the purity of Christ’s church is still an important care and concern for all ministers and members of His church.

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