Presbyterian Pastor, First Theological Professor at Yale, and . . . Sniper by David T Myers
Surely, your author has made an error, our faithful subscribers might suggest, over the title of this post? Presbyterian pastor, divinity professor at Yale, we all might receive those descriptive words, but sniper? What is going on? Yet the facts tell that our title is correct.
First, the person of our post today of Naphtali (what a unusual first name!) Daggett is striking in itself. He was born on September 9, 1727. Little is known of his early life, but our first recorded information on him is his graduation from Yale College in 1748. His choice of denomination was that of Presbyterian, and he was ordained by the Presbytery of Suffolk, Long Island, New York on August 19, 1749. Ordained two years later on September 18, 1751, he was directed to preach at Smithtown Presbyterian Church in Long Island, New York. Several years afterwards, in 1755, he requested that the Presbytery approve his intention to return to Yale to assist the President, Thomas Clapp, in the pulpit of the College Church. This move was somewhat easy in that the change of calling included his induction as the first professor of Divinity as well as the realization that his present place of ministry was bereft of adequate income, a frequent malady of early American pastors.
When President Clapp left the college of Yale, Rev. Daggett become the college’s president pro tempore for the next eleven years, until 1777. It was within this period that the last word of our title became reality. The American revolution had begun, including an invasion of New Haven, Connecticut on July 5, 1779. Three thousand British troops on forty-eight ships appeared off the coast. Advancing on the town and college, Naphtali Daggert led half of the students – approximately one hundred – to delay their advance so that the wives and children could escape to the north. It was said of this Presbyterian president and professor that he took his position to snipe at the numerous enemy troops before him with his musket.
A British officer lead a squad of men to capture him, which they did. This author will not record the words of that officer upon finding this man protesting their advance, but they gave him a beating, took off his shoes, tortured him by many thrusts of their bayonets on his lower extremities, and forced him to walk with them as a guide for over five miles. The effects of this treatment was to stay with him until his death, even though he continued to serve as Yale president. It was on November 25, this day, in 1780 that he died of complications from internal hemorrhage.
Words of Live By:
There is no doubt that Napthali Daggett was one of those Black Robed Presbyterian ministers whom the British named as complicit in their participation of resisting the mother country’s rule over the American colonies. Desperate times called for desperate actions, so this Presbyterian minister was not absent in the roll call of Americans, and especially Presbyterian pastors, resisting England. Certainly, there are plenty of reasons today for modern Presbyterian ministers and people to stand up for righteousness, and resist the spiritual enemy’s encroachments of secular humanism, which has all but captured the populace. Let us pray much for our blessed land, and as providence provides opportunities, of which there are countless, stand for Biblical truths and practices.
Our post today is by the Rev. Dr. Ligon Duncan and is a sermon he delivered at the First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, in 2001. Dr. Duncan was at that time the senior pastor of that church, serving in that capacity from 1996 until 2013, when he accepted a post as Chancellor for the Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Duncan prepared for the ministry at Covenant Theological Seminary and earned his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of a long list of works, too numerous to mention here. We are pleased to have been granted permission to reproduce this sermon today for our readers.
In Everything Give Thanks :
A Thanksgiving Day Sermon (2001),
by the Rev. Dr. Ligon Duncan.
Text : 1 Thessalonians 5:18
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5. Since we’re worshiping together on Thanksgiving morning, it seems appropriate that we think for a few moments about the distinctive nature of Christian thanksgiving. We know friends who perhaps have no saving faith in Jesus Christ that we might characterize as thankful people. They are not people that are ungrateful in general about life, and they show an appreciation to us, perhaps in our friendship and for many blessings that they enjoy in this life we might even characterize them as cheerful people, even cheerful people in many different circumstances. But what is distinctive about Christian thanksgiving? What is distinctive about this joyful and thankful attitude of heart that the Scriptures exhort us to have and which the Scriptures explain how we are able to have and evidence? What is distinctive about it? That’s what I want us to think about with you for a few moments this morning.
Before we read our text, I want you to note that verse 18 is in a set of three directions that Paul is giving to the Thessalonian church, and indeed, to you and me. He has first said to “rejoice always,” and then he has said, “pray without ceasing,” and to it he adds, “in everything give thanks.” Clearly, in the context he’s thinking about prayer in general, but he’s also talking about prayer in general reflecting a general attitude toward life that the believer ought to have. He’s to be prayerful, but in his praying he’s to be joyful and rejoicing, he’s to be thankful and giving thanks. And so a general attitude of life, Paul says, is to reflect itself, Christian, in your prayers. Now, by focusing on only one of these specific directions, I do not mean to separate Paul’s direction about thanksgiving from this general exhortation about prayer or about life, but it is, after all, Thanksgiving Day, and we are focusing on what it means distinctively as Christians to give thanks. So, let’s hear God’s holy and inspired word in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Amen. This is God’s holy word, may He write it’s eternal truth upon our hearts. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we bow before You and we ask that by Your grace You would enable us to see and do Your will, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When you hear those words of the Apostle Paul, they sound good, and they sound right, and they sound biblical, and they sound Christian, and they sound beautiful, and they are. But you may be tempted to tack a “but” onto the end of that sentence. It does sound beautiful, and it does sound good, and it does sound right, and it does sound Christian, and it does sound spiritual, but, it just isn’t practical! We tend to dismiss hard things that way, don’t we? The theory sounds good, but it just won’t work.
I remember Gordon Reed telling me a story of sitting in on one of Steve Brown’s Doctor of Ministry classes at the seminary in which Steve was expounding a particular theory about how congregational life ought to be conducted, and all of the students were rapidly writing down every word which fell from his lips, and learning this great wisdom; and at the end of this particular section Steve turned to Gordon, and said, “Well, Dr. Reed, what do you think?” And Gordon said, “Well, that’s real nice, Steve, but it won’t work north of Tampa.” And suddenly the bubble was burst in the minds of all the students who listened to this great theory, and we’re tempted to do that with this kind of a phrase. Well, that sounds nice, Ligon, to say that we ought to give thanks in everything, but it just won’t work.
But Paul is serious about this direction and I think by even raising that issue of the difficulty of obeying, and the seeming impracticality of obeying this direction, we see that this direction is far more than a sentimental expression of some sort of moralism that Paul wants us to inculcate in life. This is a profoundly difficult thing that Paul is asking us to do. Thanksgiving in a certain way is easy to do when the blessings are falling around your ears, but it can be very difficult to do when it seems that the trials are falling down around your ears, and still in those things, Paul wants us to give thanks. So I want you to see three things that Paul is particularly saying to us in this one little verse–this tiny, but difficult and beautiful directive that he’s giving.
The first thing I want you to see is that Paul is telling us what we need to do. “In everything give thanks.” Then he’s telling us why we need to do it. “For this is the will of God for you.” And then, having given us a direction that no one can keep in his own strength, he says how to do it–“In Christ Jesus.” Those three things I’d like to meditate with you about this morning.
I. In everything give thanks. First of all, this direction, “In everything give thanks.” Paul is telling you there what you are to do. He’s telling you that in every circumstance of life we are to be thankful. He is saying globally our thanksgiving, though it may be prompted time to time, by the sheer goodness of our circumstances, is not to be circumscribed by the goodness of our circumstances. That thanksgiving is to be derived from some other source, and therefore, in every circumstance, be that circumstance good or bad, be that circumstance delightful or even positively evil, we are to give thanks.
Now, I want to pause right there and say, notice what Paul does not say here. He does not say, “for” everything give thanks. He says “in” everything give thanks. There are some circumstances in our lives, there are some circumstances in your lives this morning which it would be improper to give thanks for. You may have found yourself on the receiving end of some evil, some personal evil, some impersonal evil, for which God is not asking you to give thanks. Paul is not saying to the people who have lost loved ones, for instance, at the World Trade Center or at the Pentagon, “Thank God that your loved one was murdered.” That’s not what Paul is asking you to think or to do or to pray.
But Paul is saying that in every circumstance, no matter how catastrophic, you are to give thanks. Many of you know the story of Helen Keller. She was born in 1882. I didn’t know until this morning that she didn’t die until 1968. Helen Keller was born in 1882, and when she was 19 months old, a beautiful, precocious little girl, she caught a fever that so ravaged her and that left her without sight and without the ability to hear. She was locked into a world of darkness and silence; but she was determined and she was extremely smart. Now, I want to pause right now. Fathers of daughters, can you feel the intensity of what is going on here? Can you imagine that precious little girl that you hold in your arms and you delight in, and suddenly, she is locked away from you in darkness and silence. And she was determined to be able to communicate with the outside world, and she began to be able to imitate to her family things that she wanted. When she wanted a piece of bread she would make a hand motion as if she were cutting a piece of bread to let her family know. When she wanted ice cream, she would wrap her arms around herself and she would shiver. And she developed about sixty different motions that she could do in order to communicate with her family, but it frustrated her as she understood that people communicated with their lips and she couldn’t communicate with her lips to her family. And as she grew, she became more and more frustrated and more and more violent because of her frustration. She would smash things; she would throw objects. She was out of control. At age seven, her parents got her a tutor to help her learn to communicate. And very instrumental in Helen Keller’s ability to cope with this was her trust in the living God.
Now, my friends, a person in Helen Keller’s situation would be very tempted to become bitter and angry, and the last thing that would be on the agenda for a person like that might well be gratefulness and thankfulness. But I want you to listen to what Helen Keller once said. She said, “For three things I thank God every day of my life. Thanks that He has vouchsafed me knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the light of faith; deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song. Helen Keller may not have been thankful for the circumstance that God had dealt to her, but she was thankful in that circumstance. And that is precisely what Paul is saying to us. In every circumstance, we are to give thanks.
II. Why we should give thanks. Now, why in every circumstance are we to give thanks? Well, Paul tells us here in verse 18. “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you.” You know, the Bible piles up reasons that we’re to be thankful to God. In the Psalms, we learn that we give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. We thank God because the sovereign God of the heaven and earth is not some sort of a tyrant with a bad sense of humor. He’s a loving God that is good and cares for us. The Psalms thank the Lord because He watches over us; He protects us; He spares us. The Psalms thank God because He redeems us, and because He loves us. The Psalms thank God because He gives us good gifts, and He establishes justice, and He shows mercy. The Bible has a whole catalog of things for which we ought to give thanks, and Paul doesn’t mean to exclude that from this direction. But here he says, “Give thanks because it is God’s will for you.” You hear that, friends? That’s a gospel command. Give thanks because it’s God’s will for you. And I think, my friends, that that means at least two things.
I think it means, first of all, that God wants you to give thanks in everything, and therefore, you ought to do it. It’s just like when your mother said, “Eat your broccoli, son.” And you said, “Why?” And she answered with that incredible metaphysical phrase, “Because I said so.” And Paul is saying, “God wants you to give thanks because it’s His will for you.”
But there’s something bigger and greater behind that, I suspect that Paul is saying. Paul is saying, “It is the will of God for you that you give thanks in everything,” because Paul is indicating to us that it is God’ grand design to create a joyful, rejoicing people. His purpose is not to create shriveled up, shrill, ungrateful, grudging, miserly people. His grand conspiracy, in the work of redemption, is to enlarge our hearts, and to show the world what humanity was intended to be in the first place. And the very first thing humanity ought to have been in the view of the greatness of the Creator’s gift to us, was thankful. And Paul is now saying that, even though you live in a fallen world in which there are many things not to be thankful for, that should not overshadow in your experience the things for which we ought to be profoundly thankful. And therefore, it is God’s will in His plan to create in you a heart large with thankfulness, and therefore, you ought to give thanks.
You know, it was said that the joy in the midst of pain and persecution that was displayed by the early Christians often caused heathens to say, “I don’t know what they have, but I want it.” Billy Joel said, about twenty years ago, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” And God is saying, “I am desirous of creating believers who portray in their thankfulness a joyfulness of a heart, in spite of circumstances, that causes unbelievers to say, ‘You know, I think I’d rather cry with those saints than laugh with my friends who are sinners, because they are joyful, thankful people.’” And the Apostle Paul says, “Give thanks in everything because it’s the will of God for you.”
III. How to give thanks. But you’re saying, “How in the world can I do that? You don’t understand my circumstances.” You’re right, my friends, I don’t understand your circumstances. I don’t have the slightest clue of the circumstances in which God has called you to give thanks. In some of your lives, I have a little tiny sliver of an inkling, but I have no idea how great a challenge it is to you to give thanks. You don’t have any idea how great a challenge it is to me to give thanks sometimes. But the apostle tells us how, and it’s here in just three words, “In Christ Jesus.” It is only possible to express thanks to God in everything if you have a faith relationship with Jesus Christ–if you are in Christ. It is only in and through Jesus Christ that we are able to give thanks in every circumstance.
I’ve had a friend look me in the eye when her 15 year-old granddaughter was killed in an automobile accident and say, “Ligon, the Lord is good in all He does.” And I’ve had a mother holding a two-year-old infant in her arms as he took his last breath look up at me and say, “Ligon, would you sing the doxology with me?” And I want to tell you that I’ve wondered how in the world can these people do this? And Paul is telling you the answer here. Because they have seen the face of God in Christ; they know the Lord. They’ve tasted and seen that He is good. They’ve rested in His grace, are able to give thanks in anything.
It’s just like what Augustine said many years ago. He said, “Lord, command what You will, but give what You command.” He’s saying, “Lord, I can’t do the things that you tell me to do, but You can command them and then You can give me the ability to do what You command.” And the Apostle Paul is saying, “You want to give thanks in everything? You want to foil your foes with joy?” Then you trust in Jesus Christ; you rest in Him. And when you find that when you are connected to the One who is the spiritual source of the capacity to be thankful in every circumstance, then you’ll be able to give thanks in everything. May God grant that we would be a thankful people this year. Let’s pray.
Our Lord and our God, we praise You for the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we are able to give thanks in everything. Amen.
December’s coming up fast, then the new year and the inevitable and many plans and approaches for reading through the Bible. And so it seems appropriate to lay a good foundation with this brief article by Dr. Oswald T. Allis, written in 1926 while he was still on the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary, though he was soon to become one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, in 1929.
THE SCRIPTURAL METHOD OF BIBLE STUDY by PROFESSOR O. T. ALLIS, PH.D.
There are certain things essential to the truly scriptural study of the Bible which need to be emphasized today in view of the insistent claims which are so often made by the advocates of the so-called “modern” or “critical” method of Bible study.
The first of these is the unity and harmony of the Bible. This characteristic has impressed believing scholars in all ages as a signal proof of its divine origin. The fact that so many different writers, so widely separated in time, wrote a collection of many books which are in the truest sense one book, the Bible, is a strong evidence of its unique inspiration. Yet one of the outstanding characteristics of the “modern” method is the way in which it exhibits, and the importance which it attaches to, the alleged disharmonies of the Bible. We cannot read beyond the first chapter of Genesis without being confronted with this cardinal doctrine of the critics; for the “second” account of creation (Gen. ii) contradicts, we are told, the “first.” And this is but a sample. We have, they tell us, two accounts of the Creation and the Flood; three accounts of the Plagues and of the Crossing of the Red Sea; four of the Crossing of the Jordan. Furthermore, these accounts disagree and contradict one another. The theoretical Jehovist differs from the hypothetical Elohist; and the alleged Priestly writer contradicts them both. Judges discredits the account of the Conquest given in Joshua; Chronicles is proved unreliable by Samuel-Kings. The “great” prophets are represented as the opponents of the priests and as the more or less uncompromising foes of the ritual sacrifice. Micah and Zechariah are divided between at least two authors, Isaiah is given to three; and many of these documents are declared to be composite and to have been edited, or revised, by a later compiler or “redactor.” All this partitioning and analyzing is made necessary, it is argued, by differences in language, style, ideas and manner of presentation, differences which not seldom amount to contradictions. The result is that for the “modern” student the Bible, especially the O.T., is characterized not by harmony and unity, but by discord and contradiction. How disastrous this is should be apparent to everyone, for nothing is more certain to discredit a book and destroy its influence with thinking people than to find that it does not contain a consistent and harmonious presentation of the matters which it aims to set forth.HERE are certain things essential to the truly scriptural study of the Bible which need to be emphasized today in view of the insistent claims which are so often made by the advocates of the so-called “modern” or “critical” method of Bible study.
Consequently the reverent Bible student will be very slow to accept these alleged contradictions. He will scrutinize them with the utmost care. If he does so, he will find that many of them are purely imaginary. There is nothing inconsistent about the statement in Num. xvi. that (i) a Levite and (2) three Reubenites were leaders in a rebellion against Moses, nothing to indicate that we have here two conflicting accounts of the same event The mention of two parties simply shows that the revolt was widespread and serious enough to require drastic measures. There is nothing contradictory about the statement that (1) the Lord told Moses to lift up his rod and (2) to stretch forth his hand and that then (3) the Lord caused a strong east wind to blow, in order that the Red Sea might be divided before Israel (Ex. xiv. 16, 21). Such statements are different only in the sense that they record distinct features of the story, all of which are needed to complete the record. They become contradictory only when each statement is treated as complete in itself and placed in opposition to others which are designated to supplement it. Most events, especially if they be great ones, are complex; there are many factors which enter into them. Were the modern method of source analysis applied to almost any historical narrative which dealt at all adequately with an intricate situation it could easily be reduced to a mass of contradictions.
There are other alleged contradictions which are due either to a failure to recognize, or to ignorance of, all necessary facts. Thus, Hosea in pronouncing vengeance on the House of Jehu (i. 4), is not denouncing Jehu for obeying the command of Elijah as conveyed by Elisha. The explanation is given in 2 Kgs. x. 30 f. where the wilfulness of Jehu is exposed. And it is made still clearer by the prophetic denunciation of Baasha who provoked the Lord “in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he slew him.” By following in the sins of the House of Omri, Jehu’s House merited the same punishment. Yet Hosea is cited as an instance of a later prophet denouncing what an earlier prophet had expressly commanded!
The second essential of which we would speak, is that the Bible student should understand and accept the viewpoint of the Bible. Many of the difficulties which the “modern” student finds with the Bible are the direct result of failure to do this, or, to put it more strongly, of the determination to judge and interpret the Bible by standards which are contrary to its whole teaching.
The oft-repeated reference in the first chapter of Genesis to God and to His sovereign acts is tremendously impressive: He spake and it was done. The Bible is a record of God’s wonderful works for the children of men. No one can understand it who does not accept its great major premise— God—or who seeks to set limits to His power. The O.T. purports to be primarily the record of God’s special dealings with a peculiar people to the end that through that people all the nations might be blessed. The uniqueness of the religion of Israel, of the Covenant with Abraham, of the Law given through Moses, is affirmed again and again: “God hath not dealt so with any nation.” To study the religion of Israel in the light of comparative religion as though it were similar in kind to the ethnic faiths, is to reject its most insistent claim—“All the gods of the nations are idols (worthless things), but the Lord made the heavens.”
The religion of Israel is represented as the religion of revelation. God has revealed Himself in word and in deed. He has made known what man could not discover; He has wrought wonders beyond the power of man. Miracle and prophecy are, according to the Bible, signal proofs that God has manifested Himself. The supernatural is of its very essence. A student who rejects the supernaturalism of the Bible, treats its miracles as legend, and post-dates its prophecies or reduces them to shrewd conjecture, is taking offence at what the Bible declares to be, and what the Church in all ages has regarded as, a unique and convincing proof that God has indeed revealed Himself.
Finally the Bible is the story of redemption, of salvation from sin. John the Baptist sums up the Gospel and also shows it to be the fulfilment of O.T. religion with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The Old Testament plainly teaches that the priestly sacrifices of the Law were divinely ordained; and the New Testament as plainly interprets them as prophetic of and fulfilled in the Cross of Calvary. To treat the priestly ritual as a survival of paganism and to affirm that it was repudiated by the “great” prophets of Israel leads logically to the rejection of the Cross which is the central fact of Christianity, God’s sovereign remedy for sin.
In one of our great historic creeds the statement is made: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.” We need to remember this. “God is His own interpreter.” If the Bible is the Word of God, it must be our final authority; it cannot be correctly interpreted by any standards but its own. If its human authors were inspired of God, God’s Spirit will enable us to understand it aright, if we seek His guidance. To the wise of this world the Bible is a book of riddles, sealed with seven seals. It tells of a divine revelation, miraculously conveyed; they would have it speak of man’s eager quest of truth and of his wonderful discoveries. It tells of God’s great salvation for lost sinners; they would have it describe the development of man’s religious nature and its limitless possibilities. In short the “modern” student is trying to restate in terms of a more or less frankly naturalistic evolution what the Bible states in terms of supernatural redemption. No wonder the “modern” student finds contradictions in the Bible and has to tear it chapter from chapter, verse from verse, and line from line, since he would so completely change its message. But those who study it reverently as the Word of God and seek the guidance of His Spirit will be more and more impressed with the harmony and the heavenliness of its glorious message of redeeming love in Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
This day, November 22, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. John H. Gerstner – 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
On 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.”
Principles of the Second Reformation of Scotland (1638)
by Rev. David T. Myers
The readers of these posts should be familiar with the first Reformation in Scotland, featuring John Knox and others who raised the bar of God’s truth to the people and basically led the entire nation out of Romanism. The second Reformation, which began at a General Assembly meeting on November 21, 1638 in Glasgow, Scotland, and continued for ten tumultuous years afterward, was in essence a reformation from Prelacy. [Prelacy is defined as the government of the Christian Church by “clerics of high social rank and power.”]
We have an excellent presentation of the Principles of the Second Reformation presented in a lecture by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Symington, a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Delivered in 1841 in Glasgow under the auspices of the Society for Promoting the Scriptural Principles of the Second Reformation, he gave a long lecture of the six principles of that reformation. The whole address is much too long for our purposes here, but this writer will give them in succinct form for your reading pleasure. Click here if you wish to read the full lecture.
First, the Second Reformation placed as foremost the universal supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Symington noted that the Lord Jesus “is given to be the head of all things to the church. The church is Christ’s. He has loved her, redeemed her, chartered her, and given her a constitution, immunities, and laws, and officers.”
Another leading principle is the spiritual independence of the church of Christ. Symington added that “the church receives the doctrines of her faith, the institutions of her worship, her polity, and her discipline from Jesus Christ, independently of all foreign authority.”
The third principle, the supreme and ultimate authority of the word of God in the church, was in effect a summary of the Second Reformation. Its people and adherents, said Dr. Symington, “brought every matter of faith, worship, discipline, and government, to the test of the divine word.”
Next, another principle of the Second Reformation was “the subjection of nations to God and to Christ.” Rev. Symington was clear that “civil authority should acknowledge Divine Revelation, bow at the footstool of Jesus’ throne, and erect its constitution, enact its laws, and conduct its administration, in subservience to the interests of the kingdom of Christ.”
Fifth, the duties of covenanting with God, and the obligation of religious covenants were important. Historically, that General Assembly meeting in Glasgow in 1638 began with a repetition of the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant. Such covenanting “united friends . . . in the bonds of truth.”
And last, these Presbyterians of centuries ago, acted upon the principle of holding fast past attainments, advancing in reformation, and extending its blessings to others.” We Presbyterians in the United States can be thankful that they “cast their eyes abroad, contemplating the enlargement of the Kingdom of the Savior.”
Words to Live By:
Rev. Symington stated the obvious when he said that the church of God, since it was first established in Eden, has never had a very lengthy period of prosperity. Yet it is also true that we can reflect on our Savior’s promise to the church in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of Hades will not overpower” the church. Let us be comforted in this promise even as we seek to extend her witness to the nations around us.
We are pleased to have Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, Georgia, back today as guest author for the following post, which originally appeared in the webzine PREMISE some many years ago now: One illustration of how religion and politics were interwoven, especially the religion and politics of strongly Scottish […]
REV. FRANCIS GRIMKE’ [1850-1937] Abolitionists Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Francis’ white half-sisters helped to secure Francis’ freedom and they gave the necessary funds for Francis to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Later, feeling drawn to the ministry, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary from which he graduated in 1878. On July 7, 1878, Francis was ordained […]
A Godly Witness to the Truth of the Gospel From the pages of the May 1853 issue of The Covenanter, a brief but useful piece by the Rev. Moses Roney, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor who himself lived a brief but useful life [1804-1854]. And it is with a shorter post today that we trust will allow […]
THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHISTby Rev. William Smith (1834) Westminster Shorter Catechism.Q. 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition? A. In the sixth petition, which is, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray, That God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support […]
What is the only remedy for the sins and miseries of our restless world? It is the gospel. The Rev. Daniel Dana labored as pastor in Newburyport, Massachusetts, serving two churches there, his tenure interrupted only by a brief year-long separation to serve as the president of Dartmouth College. Well-known in his day and well-spoken […]
Our post today comes courtesy of guest author Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia. Dr. Hall’s article originally appeared in the year 2000 in the online webzine PREMISE. While certainly Adams was no Presbyterian, the subject here has obvious relevance as our nation celebrates its independence tomorrow […]
It was on this day, July 2d, in 1824, that the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller delivered what was termed an Introductory Lecture, at the opening summer session of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The title and subject of his lecture was THE UTILITY AND IMPORTANCE OF CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS. Dr. Miller had by this time been serving as a Professor […]
Chaplain Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice The Union chaplain was assisting the medical staff in the sanctuary of College Lutheran church on that chaotic day of July 1, 1863. Hearing shots outside on Chambersburg Street, he said to the surgeon working on one of the 140 wounded Union men inside, “I will step outside for a moment […]
Standing Against Conformity to the World FRANCIS HERRON:Born, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1774.Graduated, at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, May 5, 1794.LIcensed to Preach, by the Presbytery of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, October 4, 1797.Ordained to the ministry and Installed as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Rocky Spring, Franklin County, PA, April 9, 1809.Removed to Pittsburgh, and Settled as Pastor of […]
Keeping in mind that newspapers were little different then than now, subject to the same human foibles*, nonetheless the following coverage of the modernist controversy and the resulting denominational split is interesting, as it offers some different perspectives on what a division means to those involved. [*There are two errors that appear in the text […]