July 2017

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The Lord’s Slave
by Rev. David T. Myers

Were you, dear reader, aware that the man of the hour in Scotland, John Knox, once rowed a galley ship? No, it wasn’t for exercise. No, it wasn’t for some national pride of the fastest galley ship in a sailing contest. Simply put, John Knox was enslaved on that ship.

Some years earlier, Knox had entered St. Andrews Castle with three young children in tow. Their parents had entrusted him as a tutor. When events following the murder of a Roman Catholic cardinal went badly for anyone even remotely suspected of being part of that deed, Knox was urged to flee to that Protestant bastion for safety purposes. He was not one of the individuals who had killed the cardinal, but he did go there for safety. While residing at the castle, the chaplain to the soldiers at the chapel was urged by the congregation to extend a pastoral call to Knox, recognizing his spiritual gifts. At first, Knox resisted, but finally gave in to the invitation. He began to preach boldly on themes familiar to the Protestant reformation then beginning in the land of Scotland.

At the end of June in 1547, the French fleet besieged St Andrews Castle. On this day, July 31, 1547, the French gained victory over the defenders inside the castle walls. Promises were given to spare their lives, and an offer made to enter the service of the French king, but if declined, then they were to be conveyed to any country they wished, provided it was not Scotland. Upon arrival in France, immediately the terms of surrender were annulled, and they became prisoners of war. John Knox became a galley slave for nineteen months.

While there were months in which the slave ship did not sail due to weather and cold conditions, in warmer months Knox labored under cruel conditions, of which he writes in many a book and sermon afterwards. He was loaded with chains.  He spoke of the sobs of his heart during the imprisonment, in great anguish of mind and vehement affliction. These were the torments he sustained in the galley ship.

Amidst all of the physical mistreatment, there came also attacks upon their faith. Daily, the Romanist mass was offered, with expected reverence by the prisoners.  As soon as it began however, the galley slaves would cover their heads so they wouldn’t hear the words of the service.  Daily, there were efforts to get the prisoners to confess the Romanist faith. Once, a figure representing the Virgin Mary, was pressed between the chained hands of a slave, with a command to kiss the figure. The slave, who many believer to be John Knox himself, threw the figure overboard into the sea, loudly proclaiming the Virgin to save herself by swimming! After this, there were no more attempts to convert the prisoners.

John Knox gradually wore down physically from this experience, with a fever near the end of it.  Rowing close to the Scottish coast, they raised the feverish Reformer up when the spires of St. Andrews came into view, asking him if he recognized it. He answered, “I know it well; for I see the steeple of that place where God first opened my mouth in public to  his glory; and I am fully persuaded, now weak I now appear, that I shall not depart this life, til my tongue shall glorify His godly name in that same place.”

Whatever means was used (and even Thomas M’Crie was not sure what it was),  after 19 months in harsh conditions, John Knox was freed and he returned to continue his ministry in England and Scotland.

Words to Live By: 
It wasn’t God’s will that Knox should be kept forever as a galley slave. It was God’s will to free him so as to allow him to continue his ministry in the Reformation. All of us ever live within the scope of God’s will throughout all our lives. Let us submit to that will, in large areas as well as small areas.

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

Q. 20. — Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. — God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into the estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.

Scripture References: Eph. 1:4-7; Titus 3:4-7; Titus 1:2; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-22.

Questions:

1. Whom does God bring into a state of salvation?

God brings all his elect people into an estate of salvation to which he has chosen them.

2. Who are the elect people of God?

The elect people of God are those whom He has chosen to eternal life, chosen from all eternity out of His good pleasure.

3. What do we mean when we use the term “out of His good pleasure?”

We mean that even though man is lost and fallen, deserving nothing from God, it was God’s good pleasure to make provision for some men in what is called the covenant of grace.

4. How does God bring His elect into an estate of salvation?

God brings His elect to salvation by a Redeemer, (Act. 4:12)

5. What is the covenant of grace?

It is a covenant of eternal life and salvation to sinners, to be given them in a way of free grace and mercy. It is an arrangement between God and his elect.

6. Are there conditions to the covenant of grace?

Yes, there is a condition. The condition is faith, by which the elect have an active interest in Jesus Christ, (John 3:16. Act. 16:31)

7. What is the promise inferred in the covenant of Grace?

The promise is that God will cause His Holy Spirit to dwell in the elect and to work in them, creating the faith and virtue that He desires. In other words, what God requires, He gives. (J. B. Green)

A COVENANT WITH A CONDITION

The covenant of grace is that which heals and comforts a wounded soul, it is a covenant that shows an open door of escape to the sinner. The promises of this covenant are absolutely free as they concern us. And yet the covenant of grace is a covenant with a condition.

A. A. Hodge puts it very well when he states, “Here is a covenant with a condition—whosoever believes shall be saved, whosoever believeth not shall be damned. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to view and is represented as the Mediator of the covenant, because it all depends upon his mediatorial work, and, above all, he is represented as the Surety. You promise faith upon your knees, and the Lord Jesus Christ endorses for you.”

It is true that the covenant of grace, taken by itself, is pure grace and excludes all works. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is Good Tidings and it is simply a gift from God. But this Gospel comes to us within the framework of a condition, the condition being none other than that of our willingly accepting in faith what God wants to give us. The will of God in this regard realizes itself in no other way than through our reason and our will.

This all puts upon us as Christians a great responsibility to preach the Gospel to everyone with whom we come in contact. For indeed whosoever believes shall be saved and whosoever believeth not shall be damned, such is the condition involved with the covenant of grace. It can be rightly said, theologically speaking, “that a person, by the grace he receives, himself believes and him s elf turns from sin to God.” (Bavinck). This means that evangelism according to the Westminster Standards is something that should be carried out by every born again believer. There is no place in the Reformed Faith for the mistaken notion held by many that there is no place for personal work within the framework of the Westminster Standards.

It behooves all of us who hold to the Standards to remember our responsibility as so aptly stated by Paul, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Cor. 9:22). The Covenant of Grace, with its condition, should motivate us to personal evangelism.

Historical Prologue

Ascension Presbytery was chronologically the 19th presbytery formed within the PCA, being officially organized on July 29, 1975. Originally its encompassed a larger territory, but those borders were diminished with the formation of Pittsburgh Presbytery on 1 January 1993, and later on 1 January 2010, Ascension contributed churches to the formation of Ohio Presbytery. Presently its borders include all of Pennsylvania north and west of and including the counties of McLean, Elk, Clearfield, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, and Beaver counties. The following brief history of the Ascension Presbytery was composed by the Rev. Richard E. Knodel, Jr.:—

The Presbytery of the Ascension of the Presbyterian Church in America did not spring forth de novo. Among reasons for its formation were many that were not of the moment. The constituents of the Presbytery of the Ascension were almost exclusively members, in one way or another, of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (hereafter cited as the UPCUSA). In broadest terms, it could be shown that the continual turning of the majority of the UPCUSA toward a crass latitudinarianism was placing a greater and greater torque on firm evangelicals with that body. The attrition which had surfaced during the earlier portion of this century had, in many cases, reached an undesirable maturation of unbelief and corruption. No matter which field might be investigated, be it doctrine, missions, education, management, social concern or evangelism, the seeds of corruption could be seen reproducing themselves at an unnatural rate.

Yet while there were such cyclical crises, problems which for the Evangelical seemed to resurface with a foreboding rapidity, there was, for the most part, an inverse reaction of silence from the evangelical camp. Most evangelicals were hesitant to take precipitous action though they were in the midst of a self-admitted crisis. The proverbial “carrot”, representing possible changes and hope, was seen to be continually dangling before the conservative’s watch. Whether it was a humility which was deeply conscious of its own fallibility, or whether it was a hesitancy to become embroiled in an open hostility, the posture of most evangelicals was inert. And this was a position which was open and vulnerable to the disease of the greater portion of the body. Furthermore, it presented the evangelical involved, with the problem of “what degree” of liberalism there must be, before it would be morally advisable to either attempt discipline within the church, or to exercise reverse discipline by separating oneself from the church.x

But for the vast majority of the members of this new presbytery, such agonizing decisions were made unnecessary, by the direct action taken by the UPCUSA. Most felt that they were asked to leave their church, and that the most honorable way that this might be accomplished was to “peacefully withdraw.” This action was precipitated by the popularly known “Kenyon Case” which began in the late Spring and ended in the late Fall of 1974. The watershed of this case had taken, and is taking place in 1975, even as this account is presently being penned.

Mr. Walter Wynn Kenyon was an honors graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. in his trials for ordination, Mr. Kenyon, upon being asked his position on the ordination of women, stated that he could not in good conscience participate in the ordination of a woman. He said that it was his understanding of Scripture that prevented such involvement, but went on to say that he would not stand in the way of such an ordination, if such was the desire of a church which he would happen to serve. Immediately there arose much dissent, and such dissent grew until the overwhelming majority of the church endorsed the judicial verdict which banned Kenyon and all future Kenyons from the pulpits of the UPCUSA. Furthermore, there was both explicit and implicit action which was taken against those men already ordained.

The Rev. Arthur C. Broadwick (and the Union UPCUSA of Pittsburgh) and the Rev. Carl W. Bogue, Jr. (and the Allenside UPCUSA of Akron) were already involved in litigations which involved this issue. And, in an even more pervasive way, the Stated Clerk of the UPCUSA (Mr. William P. Thompson), acting as the official interpreter of th Constitution of the UPCUA, ruled that as one’s answering the ordination/installation questions affirmatively was involved in the final decision in the Kenyon Case, any presently ordained pastor or ruling elder who held to the Kenyon views, could likewise never be placed in another pulpit or office unless he changed his views. The constitution of the UPCUSA clearly stated that men should exercise “forebearance in love” in situations where non-essentials of the presbyterian system of doctrine and polity were at stake. when the Permanent Judicial Commission of th UPCUSA ruled that Mr. Kenyon could not be ordained (i.e., granted exception on this matter of conscience) it effectively elevated this doctrine concerning social relationships to the place of being a major doctrine of the church. Furthermore, by application, it appeared that this new essential would eclipse all others and become the sine qua non of “orthodoxy” test questions.

Such action by the Permanent Judicial Commission led to a crisis for all of those pastors and elders who held to the traditional views on this question and who were now considered heretics. Accordingly, to uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church, most of the men who made up the membership of the charter presbytery peaceably withdrew from the UPCUSA.

These decisions and their subsequent effects were aided by many informal gatherings of like-minded individuals, beginning with the Kenyon Case and continuing through 1975 to the official organization of the Presbytery of the Ascension on July 29, 1975. The three meetings immediately preceeding the organization were unofficially recorded under the title of “Pre-Presbytery Meeting” and shall be spread upon the minutes of the present presbytery as an appendix to this historical program.

A fitting conclusion to this description of the genesis of the Presbytery of the Ascension is the mention of the Presbytery’s new affiliation, the Presbyterian Church in America. In the Fall of 1974, men who were affected by the drift of the Kenyon Case, sent four representatives, from an informal committee which was considering alternatives to the UPCUSA (i.e., in case that body should make a ruling against Mr. Kenyon which would affect the church as a whole), to the second General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church (which became the Presbyterian Church in America). These four pastors (cf. the Rev. A.C. Broadwick, the Rev. K.E. Perrin, the Rev. R.E. Knodel, Jr., and the Rev. W.L. Thompson) were, on behalf of the larger concerned group, seeking a historically Reformed body which was also evangelical and mission minded. While this small entourage went to Macon, Georgia with many suspicions and questions, they returned overjoyed that there was an option such as the Presbyterian Church in America. When the Permanent Judicial Commission of the UPCUSA ruled as was feared, men who felt compelled to leave her bounds renounced the jurisdiction of that church and very happily were welcomed into a body of like mind. In the most concise manner possible, it would be said that it was the fervent balance of orthodoxy and spirit which led this group to finally align themselves with the Presbyterian Church in America. We pray that all of our actions might work to the praise and glory of our Sovereign God, our Victorious Christ, and The Spirit who continually sustains us.”

Respectfully and Humbly submitted,
/s/ Richard E. Knodel, Jr.

Postscript:
Dr. Wynn Kenyon went on to serve an illustrious career spanning thirty-one years as Professor of Philosophy and Biblical Studies at Belhaven University, and was also a founding member and ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He passed away quite unexpectedly on February 13, 2012, at the age of 64.

Three Hundred Years of Application . . . and Counting
Written by Rev. David T. Myers

This author still possesses all three volumes in his personal library. Bought while a Sophomore in college in 1960, the publishing date of their reprint, Thomas Watson’s one-hundred and seventy six sermons on the Westminster Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly are timeless in their assistance to every child of God who desires to know theology and have it applied to his or her spiritual life. I can testify to that, having underlined and proclaimed many truths from their pages for the edification of all Christians during my forty years in the pastorate.

The remarkable truth about their author is that we do not know either the time of his birth or the death of it either. They are missing from the history of the church, and known only by God. However, we do know that he was buried on this day in history, July 28, 1686, and so we write this brief biography on his life. Much of the latter is taken from a brief memoir written by none else than Charles Spurgeon.

Thomas Watson attended and graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge with a B.A. Degree in 1639 and a Master’s degree in 1642. It was said that he was a laborious student, prompting Spurgeon to quip “the conscientious student is the most likely man to become a successful pastor.” Watson went on to be just such a preacher at a Church of England parish and church called St. Stephen’s, Walbrook in London, England. But let there be no doubt here. Watson was a Presbyterian through and through. And to his congregation, many came, or as Spurgeon put it, the church was filled constantly with worshipers.

Among his sermons during those sixteen years was, as mentioned above, a thorough proclamation of the principle themes of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This author has in his years of ministry in catechetical studies among the covenant children of the church, adult studies in the Sunday School and Bible studies, and yes, even sermons from the sacred desk, used Watson’s thorough grasp of biblical texts, clear expositions of Bible doctrine, and practical applications. It might be 300 years old, but biblical truths such as these do not ever pass away in teaching and application.

There is found in two of his three books on the title page this phrase “Ejected by the Act of Uniformity.” We have mentioned before about that terrible act which threw out the Puritan members of the Clergy in the Church of England, countless of whom were Presbyterian clergy. Yet in the next 20 years until his death and burial in 1686, Watson continued on in the proclamation of the Word of God wherever people would come to hear him. Due to a weakening in his health, he was praying in his closet when he departed from this earth.

Words to Live By:
I read on the web recently something which disheartened me. Among the characteristics of a church pulpit committee was that they were looking for a minister who had a well known name! The apostle Paul to the Corinthians would write in 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5, “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” The fault is ours, is it not, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we pay too much attention to the outward and external characteristics of those who minister to us the Word of God, and not enough attention to the plain and simple proclamation of the Word of God as empowered by the Spirit of God? If we want the spiritual power of the days of yesterday, we must set our hearts on men who are filled with the Spirit of God, who preach the whole counsel of God.

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The Lone Star of the Covenant
by Rev. David T. Myers

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Donald CargillChallenged by his land owner father to become a minister, Donald Cargill resisted the suggestion at the first. His inclination was not the gospel ministry. Finally, with what his father had put into his hand and heart, young Cargill at last set aside a day to prayerfully consider whether God was calling him to this ministry. It was said that a text from Ezekiel came into his mind, “Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak to the house of Israel.” Then when Presbytery chose the same text from Ezekiel during his trials, there was no doubt of his divine calling to the ministry.

His first charge was that of the Barony Church in Glasgow, Scotland, which charge would take his time and talents from 1655 until 1662. The church was divided in Covenanting groups and non-Covenanting groups of people. No one can abide long in such a divided congregation without receiving the wrath of one group or the praise of another. All this changed however in 1661, upon the restoration of Charles, when Donald Cargill delivered a sermon before a great crowd. He said in part, “the king will be the woefullest sight that ever the poor Church of Scotland saw. Woe! Woe! Woe! unto him, his name shall stink while the world’s stands, for treachery, tyranny and lechery.” Obviously, this was not a statement which would bring good relations between the Crown and his place as pastor in Scotland! And indeed, before a week went by, government soldiers were out looking for him, and he had gone into hiding.

His ministry from that point on until his capture by the Crown was that of witnessing before small groups of men and women. From 1668 on, he became a traveling evangelist for the Gospel, escaping death and destruction by many a close call. To be sure, he showed bravery and courage in many a situation. In other cases, he was weakened and oppressed by lack of assurance.

On one occasion, a great crowd was present to hear the word of grace from his lips. But in addition to that Word came words which amounted to a curse upon his persecutors. He said, “I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority and power from Him, do, in His name, and by His Spirit excommunicate, cast out of the true Church, and deliver to Satan, Charles the Second . . . The Duke of York, the Duke of Monmouth, the Duke of Lauderdale, the Duke of Rothes, General Dalziel, and Sir George MacKenzie. And as the causes are just so being done by a minister of the gospel, and in such a way as the present persecutions would admit of, the sentence is just. And there are no kings or ministers on earth who, without repentance of these persons can reverse these sentences. God, who is their author, is more engaged to the ratifying of them: and all that acknowledge the Scriptures ought to acknowledge them.” There is no doubt that such words were inflammatory and some even questioned and criticized such talk. Yet all those he mentioned here in his curse did die in strange ways. As Calvinists, we see no place for coincidence in the realm of persons, places, and events on this earth.

Finally caught by the authorities, he would be martyred on July 27, 1681. His last words were “farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell, acquaintances and earthly enjoyments; farewell, reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproach, and sufferings. Welcome, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Standing in the crowd of mourners was James Renwick, a future minister of the Covenanters and the last in Scotland to die by hanging for the cause of Christ. God is so gracious as to continue His witness in the land. Consider times when mere man thought that some event was the end of the matter. But God . . . But God . . . But God! To Him goes our prayers and praise for the truth that “He does according to His will in the hosts of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:35b)

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