The subject of today’s historical devotional was not a Presbyterian, but in the closing days of his life and ministry on earth, he was the president of the foremost Presbyterian college in America. Jonathan Edwards was born into a ministerial families in 1703. Trained in the home, he entered into scholarly pursuits by attending Yale College at age 13. In the latter portion of his collegiate training, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and convinced him of his need of Jesus Christ. He received Jesus as Lord and Savior at that pivotal time. Graduating from Yale in 1720, he continued his studies for the gospel ministry. When a congregation in what is now the New England area of our country became vacant, he went as the pastor in 1729, following his father-in-law as the minister. It was there under the preaching of the Word, including the famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God,” that the Great Awakening movement came to the church and area. Over three hundred souls were awakened to their sinfulness and brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Jonathan Edwards was not only effective as an awakening pastor, but through his writings, the then known world of Christendom was challenged as to the authority of God’s Word in the life of the church and the sphere of culture. He was America’s foremost apologist, or defender of the faith. Even in the midst of church controversy, such as developed in that Northampton congregation over the issue of qualified participants of the Lord’s Supper, he did not allow his departure to stop him in his ministry. He evangelized among the native Americans for six years in the Stockton, Massachusetts area.
It was in 1758, that a delegation came from the College of New Jersey, with an offer to become the president of that Presbyterian school of the prophets. After some objections were answered satisfactorily, he did accept the offer in January of 1758 and became associated with what would later become Princeton University. As smallpox was present in the area, a noted physician came down from Philadelphia on February 23, 1758 to inoculate President Edwards and two of his daughters. Edwards had never been in the best of health and as the effects of the inoculation were subsiding, a secondary fever took hold and Jonathan Edwards died of small pox approximately one month later, March 22, 1758.
Just before his death, some people were attending him on his death-bed, and remarked about the approaching effect of this certain demise on the Christian church. Jonathan Edwards, hearing those remarks, spoke to those attending him with his dying words “Trust in God, and ye need not fear.”
Words to Live By: Let us ever and always trust in God, indeed the God of providence, with whom there is no mistake in life or death.
The last numbered meeting of the Westminster Assembly, marked as “Session 1163”, met on this day, February 22d, 1649. The Assembly was never officially dissolved. Finally the last pretense of a meeting occurred on March 25, 1652.
In his History of the Westminster Assembly, (1856), William Hetherington writes of those final days:—
“The business of the Assembly was now virtually at an end. The subjects brought before them by Parliament had been all fully discussed, and the result of their long and well-matured deliberations presented to both Houses, to be approved or rejected by the supreme civil power on its own responsibility. But the Parliament neither fully approved nor rejected the Assembly’s productions, nor yet issued an ordinance for a formal dissolution of that venerable body. Negotiations were still going on with the king; and in one of the papers which passed between his majesty and the Parliament, he signified his willingness to sanction the continuation of Presbyterian Church government for three years; and also, that the Assembly should continue to sit and deliberate, his majesty being allowed to nominate twenty Episcopalian divines to be added to it, for the purpose of having the whole subject of religion again formally debated. To this proposal the Parliament refused to consent; but it probably tended to prevent them from formally dissolving the Assembly, so long as there remained any shadow of hope that a pacific arrangement might be effected with his majesty.
In the meantime many members of the Assembly, especially those from the country, returned to their own homes and ordinary duties; and those who remained in London were chiefly engaged in the examination of such ministers as presented themselves for ordination, or induction into vacant charges. They continued to maintain their formal existence till the 22d of February 1649, about three weeks after the king’s decapitation, having sat five years, six months, and twenty-two days; in which time they had held one thousand one hundred and sixty-three sessions. They were then changed into a committee for conducting the trial and examination of ministers, and continued to hold meetings for this purpose every Thursday morning till the 25th of March 1652, when Oliver Cromwell having forcible dissolved the Long Parliament, by whose authority the Assembly had been at first called together, that committee also broke up, and separated without any formal dissolution, and as a matter of necessity.
Words to Live By:
Having served its purpose, the Westminster Assembly at last closed its sessions. All good things must eventually come to an end. Ministries wax and wane. Lives come to an end. It is part of the human condition, given our fallen, sinful nature. It is part of the curse of sin. But it will not be so in heaven, when we are changed from corruptible to incorruptible. Then not just our existence, but our very reason for existence and our purpose in life will be eternal, for we will, without sin, perfectly worship and serve the one eternal Lord God.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV)
From the Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, Vol. 4, pp. 799-800, the recorded content of that last numbered session of the Westminster Assembly:—
Sess. 1163. Feb. 22, 1649. Thursday morning.
Mr Johnson to pray.
Mr Craddock be approved.
R.: Mr Savory respited till this day forthnight.
Ord[ered]: Mr Dawson be approved upon his ordination.
Ord[ered]: Mr <Horson> be approved upon his former <approbation.>
Ord[ered]: Mr Ackworth be examined.
Ord[ered]: Mr Mason be approved.
R.: The hundred pounds now to be distributed shall be distributed according to the rule observed in the last distribution.
It was done accordingly, and approved off.
“From this point forward, there are no more numbered sessions, and many different hands appear, rather than noting hands other than those of the assembly scribes, the presence of the scribal hands is noted, This session is another hand.”
The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1652, Chad Van Dixhoorn, editor. Oxford University Press, 2012. Volume IV, pp. 799-800.
Another of the many tracts found as a collection among the papers of PCA pastor “Bud” Moginot was one titled “The Crime of the ‘Auburn Affirmation’ (A Sermon)”. This tract was authored by the Rev. Ira Miller, and is dated 4 February 1942. Miller had been a minister in the Presbyterian Church,U.S.A., from around 1906 until 1942, at which point he was entered on their rolls as honorably retired. He attended the Fifth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church in 1942 and in November of that year, transferred his credentials to the BPC. He was active in the BPC Presbytery of the Midwest, and served as the moderator of Session when the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis was without a pastor, up until that church called the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer. Rev. Miller even participated in Schaeffer’s installation as pastor, with Miller giving the Charge to the Congregation. By 1948 he was no longer on the roll of Presbytery and we think he may have moved to California.
THE CRIME OF THE
“But if any provideth not for his own, and
specially for his own household, he hath
denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Tim. 5:8, R.V.)
Let no one suppose that I am ignorant, or seeking to take advantage of your ignorance, in denying that Paul is here speaking of provision for the PHYSICAL and TEMPORAL needs, especially of a man’s parents, widow and children. He is exposing to well-deserved contempt the conduct of a man who would be indifferent to these while at the same time pretending to be devoted to the service of God. His faith, says Paul, is worse than NO faith ; his service worse than NO service ; his state worse than an unbeliever’s state. The condemnation is severe.
But let us suppose this same man, or the men of an entire Christian congregation, or the minister of that congregation, or the entire denomination to which that congregation belongs, is equally indifferent to proper provision for SOULS under their care? Is that not a greater fault? Consider that the soul, unlike the body, is not for a fleeting day, and then dissolves into dust. No, it is for ETERNITY, and must live eternally, or die eternally. Then consider that God has constituted each father a shepherd and provider for the souls of his household, each congregation for its people, each pastor for his flock. If they neglect this duty, would not the guilt be greater, seeing that eternal, and NOT temporal loss, would be the certain consequence? Then should not the condemnation be more severe even than this of Paul here?
Should any doubt concerning this remain in your minds, consider again the words of Jesus when tempted by the devil to satisfy the needs of the body in an act which might imperil the welfare of the soul. He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Two facts are plainly evident in this utterance. First: The needs of the soul are paramount, and take precedence over the needs of the body. Second: Those needs meet their provision in “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This “Word of God,” we now know, is contained in a volume which has long been known and revered under the honored name of “THE BIBLE.”
Now concerning this Book, Presbyterians have said, ever since their name, and the idea contained in their name, have been known upon earth, “IT IS THE WORD OF GOD.” But, about nineteen years ago, nearly thirteen hundred ministers of the “Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,” resenting the action of a General Assembly in witnessing to the Bible’s INERRANCY, signed a document which was known as an “AFFIRMATION,” but more properly should have been called a “DENIAL,” because it denied the traditional faith, not of Presbyterians only, but of the entire Church of all ages as well. This document actually taught, “It is not necessary for members, Elders or even Ministers of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to affirm their belief that the Bible is INERRANT.”
Now, these assailers of the Word of God numbered less than one-seventh of the ministers of the “Presbyterian Church in the United States of America” at that time. Being heretical, they should have been tried, disciplined, rebuked, or even expelled from the Church. And being only one-seventh in number, they should NOT have been permitted to take control of the doctrine, discipline, and donations of the Church. But they were NOT tried, disciplined, rebuked, and expelled. And they DID take control of the doctrine, discipline, and donations of the Church. As a result, any effective testimony within the Church has been almost completely hushed, lo, these nineteen years.
For what were the teachings of the Bible in respect to which these men demanded liberty to teach that “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT?” Were they troubled, as is common among blasphemers of the ignorant sort, because the Bible does not explain where Cain got his wife? Were they shocked, as Bob Ingersoll claimed to be, at being asked to believe that good men go to hell for not believing “that rib story” of the creation of woman? Did they wish to be permitted to smile at the ludicrousness while, as intelligent men, they, of course, deny the historicity, of Balaam’s ass speaking? Did their astronomy contradict the fantastic tale in Joshua of the sun and moon standing still? Were they unwilling to be sponsors of the world’s greatest “fish story” of a whale swallowing Jonah without Jonah dying? Or did they think, as I once heard a certain minister explain, that, although the Book of Daniel is unhistoric, and its miracles fabricated, yet in the days of Antiochus,—and no doubt often since—true religion, and many souls, were saved through believing them? Not these speaks on the marble, but THE ETERNAL FOUNDATIONS UNDER THE WHOLE STRUCTURE OF GOD’S SAVING TRUTH were the matters concerning which they wished to be permitted to believe that “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT.” This the remaining five points of their infamous “AFFIRMATION” prove.
That God actually became incarnate, taking upon Himself human nature through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary ; that Jesus actually performed many miracles, which were signs of His Deity and proofs of His saving power ; that God actually laid my sins on Jesus, who bore the penalty for them on the Cross, thus satisfying completely the righteous demands of a just and holy God ; that the same body in which He suffered actually lived again on the third day, a proof that the sacrifice has been accepted, and both my body and my soul redeemed ; that He will actually and personally return to earth some day, to raise, glorify, and reward His saints, to judge the world, and to usher in His Kingdom which men have failed to build ; there are the teachings of the Bible concerning which these men demand the rights to differ, and to assert, if they wish, “THE BIBLE IS NOT INERRANT.” To these teachings the official testimony of the Church has been completely silenced. Those who still insist upon proclaiming them are forced to do so on the outside.
Now consider the enormity of the CRIME of these men, and especially against the two-millions of souls who comprise the present membership of a great historic Church. Consider that they have taken away, not the SHELL of the NUT of God’s grace, but it’s KERNEL ; not the CRUMBS which fall from the table, but the children’s very BREAD. For they have thrown doubt upon EVERY ONE of the mighty acts of God for man’s redemption. And the testimony of this entire Holy Book, of every truly Christian sermon and hymn, of every saint of God who has gone shouting home to glory, has been that we are saved, not by what WE have done, but BY BELIEVING IN what GOD has done for my poor soul. But now come these BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they say, “Forget all that.” It is not at all certain that Christ was born of a virgin, that His blood cleanses from sin, that His body lived again the third day, or that He is coming back to earth again. Besides, to believe all this is not necessary. It is better to say, ‘I am against war,’ ‘I am for social justice,’ ‘I believe in the brotherhood of man,’ ‘I choose the Jesus way of life.’—than to say, ‘I BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED FOR ME.’ ” Do these men know that the Cross on which Jesus died for sinners is all that stands between your soul and Hell? It seems not. But I know it ; and I now solemnly declare to such of you as have been repeating their vain shibboleths exalting human works, that unless YOU REPENT and look to the Cross and believe in it as your only hope, YOU WILL GO TO HELL! I hope you understand me.
Now, I said, “Repent.” But these men too say, “Repent.” Yes, now that they have led us into the world’s greatest horror, now that our feet are sunken deep into the mire in the horrible pit of hopelessness, they cry, “You men had better pull yourselves out of the mire—by your bootstraps!” For they have taken away the motive for repentance—the wonderful love of God in Christ. They have robbed us of the power for repentance—the blessed renewing of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. They have denied us the only hope of deliverance in repentance—the coming of the Lord. So they have failed to provide for the deep and dire needs of the souls of those in their own households. They are like a householder who, having starved slaves and children all winter, at the coming of spring thrusts them forth into his fields, saying, “Now go work! Repent!” “The bread of God,” Jesus said, “is he who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” This bread they have failed to provide. They did not provide for their own. They have denied the faith. They are “Unbelievers—and worse!”
But I too, shall say, “Repent.” I shall do more, I shall tell you where to begin. Repent first of all of listening to a hireling who is not the shepherd. Repent of following the deceiver and follow the true. “The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America” is now in control of unbelievers. I know this, and therefore have no choice but to leave it and to seek other fellowship. I advise all truly Bible-believing ministers and congregations to do the same. I reason thus : “Should the darkness control the light? Should unbelievers govern believers? Should the people of God be taught by the ministers of unrighteousness? And what repentance, what penitence, what remorse, can avail those who insist upon following blind guides? Shall they not surely fall into the ditch?
I believe that God is now punishing our Church for the manner in which we have mistreated His true servants in the past. But God has promised to send His people a true shepherd if they ask Him. So repent—I do not know that it is too late,—although it may be. But I do know this : The Church of God must shake herself free from Modernism and Modernists—or perish. And may God save our souls from the infidelity and tyranny of shepherds who are UNBELIEVERS AND WORSE.
Today’s uncovered jewel, something I came across while working on an unrelated project. This short article reminds me that the works of the Rev. John Witherspoon really do need to be dusted off and brought to greater public attention. Sprinkle Publications did recently reprint Witherspoon’s Works, but I think those volumes haven’t gathered too much attention. We’re the poorer for that neglect.
THE DOWNWARD COURSE OF SIN.
1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by smaller sins. Heinous sins are too alarming for the conscience of a young sinner; and therefore he only ventures upon such as are smaller, at first. Every particular kind of vice creeps in this gradual manner.
2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something greater and more daring. His courage grows with his experience. Now, sins of a deeper die do not look so frightful as before. Custom makes everything familiar. No person who once breaks over the limits of a clear conscience knows where he shall stop.
3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions. Open sins determine his character, and give him a place with the ungodly. He shuns the society of good men, because their presence is a restraint, and their example a reproof to him. There are none with whom he can associate but the ungodly.
4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom; he becomes rooted and settled in an evil way.—Those who have been long habituated to any sin, how hopeless is their reform! One single act of sin seems nothing; but one after another imperceptibly strengthens the disposition, and enslaves the unhappy criminal beyond the hope of recovery.
5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame, and sin boldly and openly. So long as shame remains, it is a great drawback. But it is an evidence of an uncommon height of impiety, when natural shame is gone.
6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far as to sin without remorse of conscience. The frequent repetition of sins stupefies the conscience. They, as it were, weary it out, and drive it to despair. It ceases all its reproofs, and, like a frequently discouraged friend, suffers the infatuated sinner to take his course. And hence,
7. Hardened sinners often come to boast and glory in their wickedness. It is something to be beyond shame; but it is still more to glory in wickedness, and esteem it honorable. Glorious ambition indeed!
8. Not content with being wicked themselves, they use all their arts and influence to make others wicked also. They are zealous in sinning, and industrious in the promotion of the infernal cause.—They extinguish the fear of God in others, and laugh down their own conscientious scruples. And now,
9. To close the scene, those who have thus far hardened themselves, are given up by God to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. They are marked out as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. This is the consequence of their obstinacy. They are devoted the judgment they deserve.
Reader! view it with terror. — Dr. Witherspoon.
[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 461-462.]
“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn
THE SUBJECT : Our Intercessor
THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Isa. 53:12; John 17:9; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25.
REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession : Chap. VIII.1 and 4; Larger Catechism : Q. 39; 42; and 44; Shorter Catechism : Q. 25.
The Word of God tells us, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” (I John 5:14). A wonderful secret of our confidence, our peace, is our ability to be heard by our Heavenly Father. That we have access to the Father in prayer is a promise from Holy Writ.
This informs us that all prayer made in the will of God, prayer dictated by the Holy Spirit—in that it is consistent with the Word of God—reaches the ear of our Sovereign God. What a glorious promise! It is almost too much to imagine that our Lord Jesus Christ is pleading on our behalf.
Our Intercessor, Jesus Christ, sits on the right hand of God the Father, ever making intercession for us. This is an important source of our confidence as we live the Christian life day by day. We need never worry about whether or not He hears us. We need never think we are alone. We need never be concerned that because of our inability to put things into words He will not hear us. We can put the finger of faith on I John 5:14 and KNOW that He hears us. What a wonderful privilege!
When our Lord uttered the words, “It is finished” on the Cross of Calvary, He was speaking of His atoning sacrifice. His work was not finished. His work of reconciliation continued for His children. His work on our behalf in heaven is summarized by the use of the word “intercession.”
We are told that our Lord is well suited for this work. “We have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15). He has experienced everything we experience. He knows of all the temptations that come upon us.
If we are faced with the temptations of pride, He has been there. If we are faced with the temptation of rebelling against God’s Law, He has been there. If we are faced with the temptations of feeling sorry for ourselves in the midst of loneliness, or sorrow, or trouble, He has been there. He has a perfect understanding of every human experience for He became truly man and now is our intercessor before God.
We need to be reminded that His intercessory work also includes our sanctification. He sanctifies our prayers and is ever present to separate us from evil unto holiness. He represents us before the Throne of God against Satan, and intercedes for our prayers.
However, we should remember that our access to God, through this Intercessor, puts upon us an awesome responsibility. This responsibility is to behave ourselves as the children of God. Too many times we seem to rely upon our theological position rather than on our attitude, our relationship to our Father through Jesus Christ. If we are indeed saved by God, and expect to enjoy the privileges that salvation gives to us, we must remember that responsibility always comes with privilege.
The next time we go to our God in prayer it would be good for us to ask ourselves a question. With what kind of spirit are we praying? Our approach to our Lord should always be that of recognizing certain Biblical truths about ourselves. Let us list a few to help us examine ourselves :
Many times we should have a chastened spirit because of our sin as we approach Him;
Our approach to Him should always be encompassed with obedience, for it is the obedient heart He desires to hear;
We must be willing to approach Him with an attitude of submission to His Word.
Our prayers must always be accompanied with the spirit of praise to our God who is so precious to us.
We need to remember our prayers should be constant, not just when we are in need of help.
One further word could be helpful as we think of the intercession of Christ for His saved ones. Thomas Watson says it clearly : “. . . a Christian when he prays must chiefly fix his eye on Christ’s intercession. We read in Lev. 16 that Aaron made atonement by the incense as well as by the blood. So we must look to the cloud of incense, viz., the intercession of Christ.” (A Body of Divinity, p. 183).
Let us praise God for our Intercessor, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember His intercession is not based on our worthiness, it is of His free grace. Let us make use of His intercession more and more!
THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHISTby Rev. William Smith (1834) The Westminster Shorter CatechismQ. 101. What do we pray for in the first petition? A. In the first petition, which is, “Hallowed be thy name,” we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known, and […]
This is one of those days where few Presbyterian events seem to have happened. In a previous year we wrote of how John and Louisa Lowrie set sail for the mission field in India on this date. This year, we wanted to discuss something more of Rev. Lowrie’s wife, Louisa. The following brief account is […]
An excerpt from a brief article by Samuel Brown Wylie, titled “Prayer, A Reasonable Duty,” as found in the March 1821 issue of The Presbyterian Magazine. Dr. Wylie was the first Reformed Presbyterian to be ordained in the United States, in 1799, by the Reformed Presbytery as it met in Ryegate, Vermont. Born on May […]
As with many ministers and theologians, Thomas Smyth was afflicted with bibliomania. His symptoms appeared early in his life. As a young child, he was a voracious reader and while at Belfast College he worked as the librarian. Reading and cataloging were not sufficient to alleviate his love for books; he had to own them […]
Today we are pleased to have as our guest author the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA. It was Dr. Hall who so competently headed up the Calvin 500 celebration just a few years back, a celebration which included the publication of almost a shelf of new […]
The “Preliminary Principles” form the introduction to the PCA’s Book of Church Order. The Principles have their origin with the PCUSA Constitution in 1789 and were also adopted into both the OPC and BPC Books of Church Order. The common opinion is that the Principles were authored by the Rev. John Witherspoon. What follows in […]
Unity Where There Was Disunityby Rev. David T. Myers This historical devotional and the May 27th devotional deal with the same topic, that of the Old Side – New Side schism in early Presbyterianism. On May 27, we will look at what caused the infant Presbyterian church to divide into two sides in 1741. On this […]
Today we conclude our series “Gilchrist in Chile” with a brief testimony and prayer by the Rev. George R.M. Gilchrist, and we also thank his son, Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist, for making all of this available to our readers. May our Lord and Savior be glorified. GEORGE R.M. GILCHRIST, MISSIONARY TO CHILE25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION — […]
GILCHRIST IN CHILE, Parts 6 & 7by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist. At a court hearing, the presbytery and the Union Evangelica packed the hearing with false witnesses who told the judge: “Chile Mission was just a circle of missionaries who met from time to time for mutual inspiration. The Presbytery of Chile was merely a […]
GILCHRIST IN CHILE, Part 5.by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist. But things were changing in the presbytery and in the mission. Modernism had crept in. One of the missionaries was Irwen Paul, whom the mission did not want because of his liberal stance. He had a lot of followers in Chile before the mission transferred him […]