April 2018

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A Short Life, by Modern Standards, But Well Used of the Lord

Edward Chaffin Davidson was born in Maury County, Tennessee, on February 17th, 1832, and died at Oxford, Mississippi, on April 25th, 1883, at the age of 51.

When he was only five or six years old, his father moved to LaFayette County, in Mississippi, and settled a few miles from Oxford. There he grew up, becoming a communicant of the College Hill church at an early age.

He was graduated at the University of Mississippi in 1854, entered Columbia Theological Seminary in 1857, and completed his course of study there in May, 1860, having taken the full three-year curriculum. He was received from the Chickasaw Presbytery as a licentiate in October of 1860 and ordained on April 19, 1861 by the Presbytery of North Mississippi. Rev. Davidson was the first pastor of the Sands Springs church, which had been organized by the Rev. Angus Johnson in the Fall of 1850 with 22 members. As was common in those days, Rev. Davidson served in what was termed a “yoked pastorate,” serving simultaneously as pastor of the larger Water Valley Presbyterian Church, 1861-1878. During this latter pastorate, he earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Mississippi, in 1866. As an aside, in the sermon log book maintained by the Rev. Thomas D. Witherspoon, there is a notation of his having exchanged pulpits with Rev. Davidson on July 15th, 1860.

For several years before his death he resided near Oxford, where he taught in the preparatory department of the University of Mississippi, and was the superintendent of the public schools of the county. During this time he supplied the neighboring churches, including the Byhalia and Wall Hill Presbyterian churches; in 1882 he supplied the College Hill and Hopewell churches.

“He was one of the best of men and a most excellent preacher. He was much loved in a wide circle. He twice represented his Presbytery in the General Assembly, in 1867 and 1873, and was Moderator of the Synod of Memphis in 1880. From 1871-1882, Rev. Davidson served as the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of North Mississippi. He does not appear to have authored any published works. He had been ill for over two months prior to his death, and at last fell asleep in Jesus. His end was peaceful.”

Rev. Davidson left a widow, one daughter recently married, and four young children (two sons and two daughters)” to mourn his departure.

Words to Live By:
To fall asleep in Jesus. Can any of us ask more?

Sources:
Graves, Fred R., North Mississippi Presbytery. Sardis, [MS]: Southern Reporter, 1942, pp. 21, 41, 45, 47.
Memorial Volume of the Semi-Centennial of the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia, SC: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1884, pp. 252-253.
Winter, Robert Milton, Shadow of a Mighty Rock. Franklin, TN: Providence House Publishers, 1997, pp. 237, 244-245.

Praising God for a Long and Fruitful Ministry

Excerpted from The Christian Observer 51.14 (3 April 1872): 4.3.

The Semi Centenary of Dr. Hodge.

hodgeCharles_grayThe completion of the fiftieth year of the professorship of Rev. Charles Hodge, D.D., will be celebrated in Princeton, N.J. on Wednesday, the 24th of April. All friends and former students of Princeton Theological Seminary, and the public generally are invited to be present. The exercises will begin at 11 A.M., with an address by the Rev. Joseph T. Dwyer, D.D., of Brooklyn, N.Y. This will be followed by a meeting of the alumni and the organization of an alumni association after which will be an alumni dinner. In the evening a public reception will be given at the house of Dr. Hodge, and the seminary buildings will be illuminated.

The following resolution in relation to this subject was adopted at a meeting of the alumni of the seminary last June:

Resolved, That the proposed celebration of the semi-centennial of Dr. Hodge meets our hearty concurrence, and we cordially unite with the Directors in inviting the friends and former students of the seminary to meet for this purpose in Princeton, on Wednesday, April 24, 1872; and that this invitation be very particularly extended to all our brethren in different Christian denominations, and in every section of our country, as well as in foreign lands, who have received their education where in whole or in part. And we express the earnest hope that the hallowed memories of the past, personal attachments, and local and literary associations with this cherished spot, may be permitted to overcome the long and wide separation of time and place,e and ecclesiastical organization, so that we may all upon this glad occasion gather around the instructor whom we all love and revere, a band of brethren, cemented in Christian love, renewing and pledging a mutual confidence and affection which nothing in the past shall be suffered to dim or to obliterate, and nothing in the future shall be permitted to disturb.

Words to Live By:
What made Charles Hodge great? Why is he so well remembered by Presbyterian historians and others? Certainly he was not without his flaws. But what made him great? Was it native intelligence? Was he simply smarter than most others? Or was it his steadfast adherence to the orthodox tenets of the Reformed faith? Clearly that was in his favor. But in the end, it is the Lord who gifts, empowers and uses men and women as He sovereignly moves history ahead according to His great plan. Time and again the Lord raises up the right people at the right time and in the right place to accomplish His will. Our place is to be faithful, doing the will of God as discovered in His Word. If we are to be greatly used in the Lord’s kingdom, He will bring that to pass in His time. We praise God for how He used Hodge, but the glory for all that Hodge accomplished belongs to the Lord and not to Hodge.

Addendum:
In recent Hodge scholarship, we note the publication of Dr. Alan D. Strange’s work, The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge. (P&R, 2017), which looks to be well worth the reading.

A SMALL FUNERAL

On April 23, I attended a funeral of a member of my local congregation. She had been a founding member, attending a Bible study before a pastor even showed up to start a church. Virginia Tidball was a lifelong resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She was among the very last of an old tradition: a staunch Southern Presbyterian of the old school. By that, I mean the Old School. That was what her wing was called. It was the Scottish Calvinist wing of the American church. Its last institutional traces disappeared in the 1940’s in the South. In the North, the last of the Old School ministers had been forced out in 1936. On June 15, for the last time, an article on the Presbyterian theological conflict appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The headline announced: “Barring of 3 Philadelphia Pastors Brings Walkout by Presbyterians.” The same page announced: “G. K. Chesterton, Noted Author, Dies.”

When I say she was the last, I mean it. She was like a thread across time to an ancient past. Her father had been a Southern Presbyterian minister. He in turn had studied theology under Robert L. Dabney. For most people, the name “Dabney” does not ring a bell. The textbook writers have done their work well. Robert L. Dabney was the South’s most respected Protestant theologian and the co-founder of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1861. (The founding meeting took place in the home of Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, who oversaw the Southern Presbyterian Church, 1865-98, as Stated Clerk, and whose son Woodrow went first into the field of higher education, then politics.) During the war, Dabney served as both chaplain and aide de camp for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He later wrote a biography of Jackson. He was so completely unreconstructed that in 1867, he allowed to be published his book, written during the war, A Defence of Virginia [And Through Her, of the South]. It included a vigorous defense of slavery, which by 1867 was politically incorrect in the South. He ended his career on the original faculty of the University of Texas, teaching free market economics (still called political economy), blind when he retired in 1894, and also teaching at a Presbyterian seminary in Austin. He died in 1898.

Virginia Tidball was born in 1904, the same year that the last major party candidate for President openly supported the gold standard, the long-forgotten Alton B. Parker, whose defeat by Teddy Roosevelt ended the Old Democracy, seemingly forever. But there were remnants, and Virginia Tidball was one of them.

They still tell the story of the time that John Duncan, the mathematics teacher from Scotland, ended the music portion of the worship service by having the congregation sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After the service, Miss Tidball told him: “I forgive you, for you are not a native of this country.” Whether or not she was speaking of the United States, no one had the courage to ask.

The world she left behind is a very different world from the one she was born into. In the South, Dabney’s name is forgotten. The textbook story of the late unpleasantness, 1861-65, is the victors’ story. The South adopted tax-funded education with a vengeance, thereby turning the region’s children over to the New York textbook publishers long before World War I. A New York-published and edited U.S. history textbook provides a view of Southern history that is as faithful to the facts as Joseph Ruggles’ son was faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which he swore before God that he believed when he became a ruling elder in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Biographical Sketch, by Gary North [online at http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north100.html; used by permission]

The Papers of Virginia Tidball have been preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

Q. 65  What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to everyone in their several places and relations.

Scripture References: Romans 13:7-8.

Questions:

1. What are the sins of the superiors?

The sins of the superiors include the following: the neglect of those who are under their authority; the seeking of their own glory in the midst of their responsibility; the encouraging of inferiors into things that are wrong; the wrong use of authority toward inferiors, thus provoking them to wrath; the exposing of inferiors to wrong or temptation to wrong; the subjecting of the inferiors to a bad example because of wrong conduct.

2. What are the sins of inferiors?

The sins of the inferiors include the following: the neglect of obeying their superiors; the sin of envy toward their superiors; the act of rebellion toward those who are their superiors; the sin of wrong conduct against those in command; the showing of dishonor toward their superiors and the government they represent.

3. What are the sins of equals.

The sins of equals include the following: the neglect of Christian love toward one another; the despising of those that are good; the sin of envy because an equal has been blest by God with a gift greater than one’s own; the lack of rejoicing at the success of an equal; the usurping of pre-eminence over equals when such pre-eminence has not been granted by God.

4. Do these sins relate to all relationships of man?

Yes, these sins are applicable to the relationships of man whether they be parent-child, husband-wife, master-servant, ruler-subject, minister-congregation, older-younger relationships.

5. In what areas of our lives today does this commandment relate?

It is pertinent in the family relationships, in the church relationships, in employment relationships and in the civic relationships. Sin in any of the areas is sin in the sight of God.

RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY.

“As long as you think a law or a rule is wrong it is alright to disobey it.”—such is the reasoning being used today by children toward superiors, by the citizen toward the state, by the worker toward the boss, by the congregation toward the man called of God to preach The Word. It is a dangerous philosophy that is becoming very prevalent in our country and has even spread to conservative churches. This seems to be a day when everyone feels he has the perfect right to make his own rules and not be concerned about The Rulebook handed down by God. This fifth commandment speaks very clearly to the person following this false philosophy.

The Almighty, Sovereign God knew that respect for authority was very important in order that a family, a nation, an economy, a church might be able to carry on its duties in the world. Therefore He emphasized proper respect for authority in His Word time and time again. His words, “Obey them that have rule over you” are stated over and over again in different ways by different writers in The Word. he knew that a lawless society becomes a mob and a mob becomes a group of people out of hand.

What has caused the loss of respect for authority? What has caused this new philosophy to make inroads into our way of thinking? There is not space in this short devotion to answer the question for all of life but a suggestion could be offered as to why it is happening in conservative churches. It is simply another indication of a departing from what God hath said, a closing our eyes to certain portions of The Word because we find them too unpopular for the certain portion of society in which we find ourselves. Whenever a Christian or a Christian church breaks a principle of Scripture the result is always disaster. Disaster in this area not only comes to the person or the church but it also comes to the young people committed to the care of the person or the church.

Why are the young people of today showing such a disrespect for authority? Could it not be that they see such inconsistencies in their elders that they have no example to follow? Where is church discipline today? Where is Christian love toward all people today? Where is the unqualified stand against compromise today? Do our children see things in us? Might we read again Titus 2 – 3:3?

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 4, No. 59 (November 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

It seems that some were proposing a plan for a smaller General Assembly for the PCUSA back in the 1930’s. I had not previously paid attention to such efforts in any of the old line Presbyterian denominations. Compare this with some of the various plans for a delegated Assembly that have been put forward in the PCA.

HOW TO DRAW A SMALLER ASSEMBLY
[The Presbyterian 107.13 (22 April 1937): 6.]

A General Assembly of approximately 470 commissioners can be composed so as to equalize the membership as between elders and ministers and to present adequately the communicant strength of the various areas of the Church on the following basis :

(1) One commissioner from each presbytery each year, alternating minister and elder (presbyteries to be listed according to Roll of Assembly, first, third, fifth, etc., to send minister first year, second, fourth, sixth, etc., to send elder), and then alternate.

(2) One additional pair of commissioners from each presbytery having 10,000 to 19,999 communicants; two elder-minister units (i.e., four commissioners) from presbyteries having 20,000 to 29,999 communicants; three, etc., from presbyteries having 30,000 to 39,999 communicants, and so on.

Checking this by the 1936 Minutes, it is found that we have a basic delegation of 279 commissioners (the number of presbyteries); 42 presbyteries in the 10,000 class, i.e., 84 additional commissioners; 9 presbyteries in the 20,000 class, i.e., 36 additional commissioners; 6 presbyteries in the 30,000 class, i.e., 36 additional commissioners; no presbyteries in the 40,000 class; 2 presbyteries in the 50,000 class, i.e., 20 additional commissioners; and one in the 60,000 class, i.e., 12 additional commissioners. The additional commissioners total 188, which, with the basic group, make up 467 commissioners.

This is under 500 by 33 commissioners, but annual growth will soon begin to increase the delegations. This scheme is easy to figure, because the tabulation reveals the status of a presbytery by simply glancing at the digit in the 10,000 column. The elder-minister balance is maintained without elaborate explanation or computation.

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