December 2016

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“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

THE SUBJECT : Comfort in Our Lack of Perfection.

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : I Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; I John 1:8; James 3:2; Isa. 12:1; John 16:33.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession : IX; Larger Catechism : Q. 149; Shorter Catechism : Q. 82.

The Shorter Catechism, in Question 82, asks : “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” The answer, at first reading, could lead a soul into despair. For the answer states, “No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word and deed.”

I say, “at first reading,” because the answer sets for us a standard so high that it would seem there is very little hope for those of us who have been saved by His grace.

The doctrine of Perfectionism has never had much attraction for me. In the providence of God I learned early in life as a believer about the doctrine. I can remember the definition taught to me: “The doctrine that it is possible for a Christian, in this life, to reach a state where he no longer commits sin.”

No one had to persuade me that I did not reach perfection. It was obvious to me and probably far more obvious to others. The knowledge of my falling far short of perfection was a constant source of anxiety to me. Every time I sinned against the Holy God I knew once again the despair of grieving the Holy God.

I remember well, early in my Christian life, struggling with this problem. I finally went to an older Christian with my problem. He reminded me of two things that have been helpful to me for these many years. Both of them are comforts to my soul.

First, I was reminded that I must not make God a liar. He says in His Word, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Here is comfort offered to His children by the Sovereign God. He is a faithful and a just God and will forgive when the confession is one characterized by repentance. How could we go on without such comfort?

Second, I was reminded that I am not living under the Covenant of Works but rather the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Grace teaches me that God will indeed accept my striving with sin, my daily combat with it, even though I sometimes will fall. Thus, I was able to find real comfort from the Sovereign God in the midst of all of my sin.

However, there is a danger lurking here for believers. In the midst of the comfort the believer might make two mistakes :
(1) Fall into the age-old, false doctrine of sinning that grace may abound, and thus rationalizing himself into excusing himself. Paul answers this very plainly in Romans 6.
(2) Forgetting that though perfection is impossible, perfection means 100 percent and any fraction below that is not perfection! Most of us have a long way to go to reach that 99 percent!

The very Bible that tells us that perfection is impossible also tells us that we must strive daily, fight the good fight of faith, resist the devil, be overcomers. All of these mean that we must stay in the battle against sin with all that is within us, depending on the grace of God for help.

God, in His Word, does not give us any cause to relax in the warfare simply because He has told us we can’t be perfect. God is pleased with us not because of what we do but because of what Christ has done in the finished work of the cross. Yet, at the same time, He calls us to be holy, even as He is holy.

As believers in Jesus Christ we do have comfort in the midst of our failings. He has promised to forgive us if we come to Him in repentance, confessing our sins. But in the framework of that comfort is the teaching from the Word of God that as believers we will strive to the highest standard possible within us. We know we are not able to reach perfection, but sometimes we limit our standard by our lack of “working out” our salvation “in fear and trembling.” Our Lord is looking for us to press forward toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. When He sees us doing this, He will be willing to forgive us for the sins we are prone to commit. We dare not separate the comfort from the striving.

Our thanks to all who have joined us along the way this past year, and special thanks to those of you who have been with us through all or most of this journey. Our intention is to present bits and pieces of Presbyterian history in short, daily segments, and always as a testimony to what the Lord has done through His people. To God be all glory.

Along the way, we have seen accounts of sacrificial actions which men and churches have taken which didn’t improve their lot any better on earth, but did give them God’s blessing in heaven. And we have seen the wrong decisions reached by men and churches which have led to disastrous results in the testimony of the faith. But through it all, God always reigns supreme. He overcomes our sin, and triumphs in spite of it. Our prayer is that we would learn from church history, to avoid the errors, and to strive for similar victories. That is one of the purposes of this year-long study.

Second, we have always sought to encourage you in the regular reading of the Scriptures, and so we have a permanent page with several reading plans [see the link above in the masthead]. Just this past Monday we presented yet another possible approach to reading through the Bible. I believe it was Ruth Graham, a Presbyterian missionary daughter and the late wife of evangelist Billy Graham, who once suggested that Christians should use different colored pencils or pens in their reading of Scripture for each year. That way, they will be able to follow their thoughts and feelings year by year and profit from their reading the next time they go through the Word of God in a year. Try that as you read the Bible in the new year upon us.

We do hope that you will stay with us in the coming year. We plan to cover some new territory, with perhaps some greater attention to the home fires, so to speak. So come back tomorrow and in the days to come, and see what you think.

Words to live by: Look to the Lord every day, trusting Him for all that you are and all that you have, in testimony to His saving grace. Stand fast in the truth that is the Word of God, the Bible, and maintain a pure testimony, seeking always to point others to our only Savior, Jesus Christ. Lift up His holy Name in glorious praise!

The Minister with the Smiling Face
by Rev. David T. Myers

bonarHoratius

It was a little child who gave our subject today this title.  It accurately describes the ministry of the Rev. Andrew Bonar in the 1800’s in Scotland.  He was definitely a “people person” as he went among all ages with the life changing message of the gospel.

Born in 1810 in  Edinburgh, Scotland, Andrew was the youngest of three sons.  His minister father died when he was seven.  His older brother took on the responsibility of helping the mother feed all three sons.  She was a wonderful and spiritual mother, rearing his sons in the fear of the Lord.  Andrew did well in school, becoming one of the best Latin students of his day.  He was scheduled to follow his older brother Horatius to the  University of Edinburgh, but delayed his entrance for two years.  Refusing to study theology until he was assured of his own salvation, he spent the time in reading books, such as William Guthrie.  Satisfied that the Lord had saved him, he then entered the University and graduated with honors.

Licensed to preach in 1835, he spent some time assisting another minister in the Church of Scotland before being called to the Collace church in Perthshire, Scotland.  He was the pastor there from 1838 – 1856.  Those of our readers who know the history of the Church of Scotland know that an ecclesiastical separation came in 1843 when the Free Church of Scotland began.  He took a stand, along with his brother Horatius, when he separated from the liberalism of the Church of Scotland.  Evidently his church did as well, for he continued to pastor it.

His pastoral ministry continued in his second and last congregation in Glasgow, Scotland, at the Finnieston Free Church of Scotland.  That congregation grew to over 1000 members during his time there.  He was to stay there from 1857 until his death in 1892.

It was said that he experienced four distinct revivals during his life time in Scotland.  Many of our readers have not even experienced one revival in their churches or denominations.  It was said of him that each hour, no matter what he was doing in that hour, he would stop to pray for those things the Lord laid on his heart.  He was a man of prayer.

He went to be with the Lord on this day, December 30, 1892.  It was said that he called his loved ones to his bedside, read the Bible to them, and then prayed for each one of them.

Words to Live By:
Through any of our Christian book stores, get the Life and Diary of Andrew Bonar.  You will enjoy it immensely.  This author read it while he was in college.  One of the observations he made was that Jesus sang a hymn in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as he realized the future of his time on earth.  Let us, Andrew Bonar observes, keep our friends from sorrow as long as we can.  In the face of difficulties, sing to the Lord if you have a dread of what is coming. Don’t brood over it, but sing to the Lord.

With the settling of the American colonies, scattered congregations and groups of people ready to be gathered into churches, together with the small number of ministers anxious for mutual encouragement and guidance, inevitably brought about the need and occasion for the formation of the first Presbytery on these shores. The specific occasion came in due season, with the call for the ordination of Mr. John Boyd to become pastor of the church of Freehold, New Jersey.

John Boyd, a native of Scotland, came as a probationer [i.e., a man licensed to preach though not yet ordained], probably at the solicitation of his countrymen, who, fleeing from persecution, had settled in Monmouth between 1680 and 1690.

Boyd was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on this day, December 29, in 1706, at the public meeting-house, before a numerous assembly. The original minute book of the Presbytery is preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Regrettably though, the first leaf of that book, comprising the first two pages of the Minutes, was lost long ago. We can only speculate as to the content of those first two pages, but we can try to speculate intelligently. Page 3 of the Minutes begins with the end of a sentence which appears to be concerned with the subjects of Mr. Boyd’s trial for ordination. The last half of this broken sentence is as follows: “‘De regimine ecclesiae’ which being heard was approved of and sustained, and his ordination took place on the next Lord’s day, December 29, 1706.”

Of course, we will always wonder what else we could now know if we only had those first two pages. At whose call and by whose authority was this Presbytery convened? Did they consider and adopt the Westminster Standards as their system of faith and government? The best supported opinion is that by this time Francis Makemie’s leadership had become obvious. For one, his trip to the old country for the purpose of bringing additional ministers back to the colonial churches, and the success of that trip, was probably well known. So it seems likely that it was Makemie who convened the meeting.

The Freehold congregation had apparently written asking how Mr. Boyd should be ordained, and so it was Mr. Makemie who arranged for a meeting in the spring of 1706 for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements for his ordination, with Boyd’s ordination trials to take place at what became the inaugural meeting of the new Presbytery in December. The record is somewhat unclear, particularly as to why the delay in settling Rev. Boyd. That took place in May of 1708, with the presbytery requesting the congregation to consent to his preaching every third Sabbath at Woodbridge. But he died later in 1708, and while his tomb remains to this day, Makemie—who also died that same year—and other ministers, most of them, lie in unknown graves.

Of the new Presbytery, George Hays observed in his work Presbyterians (1892):

“Presbyterianism thus grew out of the soil and of the necessities of the case. It did not begin at the top as it had done in France and Scotland, but began at the bottom and by degrees rose to strength. Now Synods are constituted by the act of the General Assembly, and Presbyteries are organized by act of Synod. Then Presbyteries were by the necessity of the situation. In 1717, the Presbytery divided itself and constituted a Synod above it; and in 1788 the Synod divided itself into subordinate Synods and created itself a General Assembly. There is no good reason to believe that this first Presbytery adopted any standards for their own guidance. It looks as though they came together assuming the Westminster Standards as authoritative without any special adoption in this country. They adopted the ordinary parliamentary law as their method of action. They did not even adopt a name, as Presbyteries now have names. It was simply “The Presbytery”; not of Philadelphia, nor of New Jersey, nor of Maryland. There was no other, and when it was spoken of there was no ambiguity. When, in 1716, the Synod was constituted by dividing the General Presbytery into four, these were simply named First, Second, Third, and so on. It was a day of great demands for activity, and of small resources of men and means to meet the requirements. This first meeting at Freehold was the only meeting which was had outside of Philadelphia. That city was so central and so accessible that the early Presbyteries always met there. So, with three exceptions, did succeeding Synods and General Assemblies, all the way down to 1834. The three men who were present at this ordination of Mr. Boyd were Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, and John Hampton. The original members of the first Presbytery included these three, with George Macnish, John Wilson, and Nathaniel Taylor.”

Words to Live By:
Jesus promised that He will build His church. The promise is sure. And it is the Lord our God who sovereignly draws His people into the Kingdom as Christ is lifted up by the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.—Ps. 127:1, ESV.

Lardner Wilson Moore was born on May 20, 1898, in Osaka, Japan. His father was the Rev. John Wallace Moore and his mother, Kate (Boude) Moore. His parents were among the very first Protestant missionaries to serve in Japan.

Lardener received his collegiate education at Austin College, in Texas, earning his BA there in 1918 and an MA in 1919. He then pursued his preparation for ministry at Union Theological Seminary, in Richmond, Virginia, where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1922.

Upon graduation from Seminary, Lardner then married Grace Eagleton, in Sherman, Texas on July 6, 1922. To this marriage, three children were born, including George Eagleton, John Wallace and Robert Wilson.

Moore was licensed and ordained on September 15, 1921 under the authority of Durant Presbytery (PCUS), being installed as a pastor of the PCUS church in Caddo, Oklahoma. Additionally, he served as Stated Supply for a smaller Presbyterian church in Caney, Oklahoma. These posts he held from 1922-1924. [Returning to the States from Japan in 1942, Rev. Moore was able to return to Caddo to conduct the funeral of a member of his former church]

But his heart was set on foreign service and in 1924 he began his career as a foreign missionary to Japan, remaining there until 1968.  A term of service in the US Army, from 1943 – 1947 had interrupted his work in Japan. In that military service, he was commissioned to oversee the translation work of a core group of Japanese Americans. At the conclusion of the War, he also served as a language arbiter during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

In the years following the War, he became president of Shikoku Christian College in Zentsuji, Japan, serving in that post from 1950 – 1957.

In 1968, Rev. Moore was honorably retired, and returning the United States, went on to serve as Stated Supply at a Presbyterian church in Antlers, Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1972. It was in 1973 that he was received by the PCA’s Texas Presbytery. Later, on October 31, 1981 he transferred his credentials into the OPC.

Rev. Moore died peacefully in his sleep on December 28, 1987, within a few months of his 90th birthday.

Words to Live By:
The Lord gifts all of us differently. To some, He gives a great facility with languages, thus equipping them to be particularly useful in the work of missions. If you know someone with such gifting, do all you can to help them along their way in serving the Lord. More than anything, pray for them, even now, long before they ever reach the mission field. Pray that the Lord will prepare them and that He will use them to advance His kingdom. Pray that they will stand strong in the Lord, firmly anchored in Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

For Further Study:
For more insight into Major Lardner W. Moore’s work as language arbiter with the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, click here. [See under #8. Language Arbiter]

Image : Photograph of Lardner and Grace Moore in Takamotsu, Japan, in 1963.

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