August 2018

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

Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Scripture References: Psalm 19:7. Psalm 119:130. Thessalonians 1:6. Romans 1:16. Romans 16:25. Acts 20:32.

Questions:

1. What do we mean by the “word” in this question and how is it made effectual?

We mean by the “word” the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, that revelation of God. It is made effectual through its preaching but also its reading.

2. How is the word of God to be read?

Our Larger Catechism Question No. 157 tells us, “The Holy Scriptures are to be read with a high and reverend esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God; and that he only can enable us to understand them.”

3. Who has the right to preach the Word of God?

Those who are called of God to preach the Word (I Timothy 4:14) and who have been given gifts by God (Malachi 2:7).

4. How should the Word of God be preached?

Again our Larger Catechism tells us in Question 159, ” … to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom … faithfully, … wisely, …. zealously, …. sincerely …. “.

5. Why is the Word of God called the “Primary means of Grace” by the Reformed Faith?

It is so called because the Bible states it is. When the Word is preached, souls are saved and brought up in the faith, according to the Bible.

6. How are sinners converted and built up in the faith by the preaching of the Word?

Sinners are converted and built up in the faith by the Spirit as the Word is preached. He opens their eyes, turns them from darkness into light and then begins the work of sanctification in them.

THE EFFECTUAL WORD—TO BE HEARD!

The man who is called to preach the Word of God has at least one consolation in the midst of a difficult and trying life: the Word, the preaching of it, is effectual! God has so promised in His Word. Paul speaks in I Thessalonians 2:13 of ” … the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The Word of God is also effectual to men’s condemnation. It will either lead men to Christ or lead them to condemnation if they refuse to believe. One of the Puritans used to say, “Dreadful is their case who go loaded with sermons to hell.” The Word of God is “quick and’ powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” and we can praise Him for it.

There is going about in this world today a false belief. This belief, that seems to be propagated more by men than women, is that one can be just as good a Christian not going to church as one can be in the church. Time and time again we hear this statement made by those who profess to be Christians. The argument is that it is not really necessary to be in church every time the Word is preached. This is indeed one of the most subtle lies of the devil! “How shall they hear without a preacher” is still in the Bible and is just as true and important as any other verse. The exhortation to not forsake assembling ourselves together is still in the Bible. And yet men persist in thinking they can live a good Christian life apart from the preaching and teaching of the Word.

In addition to what the Bible states regarding this matter, there is still another proof that is very plain. Any minister of the Gospel will tell you which of his members, with few exceptions, will be the ones with the following characteristics:

(1) Willing workers in the Lord’s vineyard;
(2) Always willing to teach and witness;
(3) Able to handle problems that come to them in their lives.

The members with these characteristics are those who are faithful to attend upon the teaching and preaching of the Word. They are God’s faithful ones, they are those whom He calls on time and time again to do His work. They are the families. with few exceptions, whose children are truly brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The Word is effectual and all of us have the awesome responsibility to take heed to it, to always be present when it is taught or preached. God will do great and mighty things in us and through us when we are faithful in this regard.

Publicized by The SHIELD and SWORD. INC.
Dedicated to Instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 6, No.6 (June, 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

The Use of Communion Tokens
[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 11.2 (Sat., 14 Jan. 1837): 6, col. 2]

(To view a recent donation of communion tokens received at the PCA Historical Center, click here.)

The enquiry [sic] is often made whence originated the use of tokens at one period in this country, so extensively in the Presbyterian Church, but now almost obsolete? The following answer from the Rev. Dr. Miller of Princeton, to the Editor of the Southern Religious Telegraph, appears to us satisfactory. — Philadelphia Obs.

“The use of Tokens had its origin in the churches of Scotland. At the commencement of the Reformation in the country, the Lord’s Supper was administered four times in each year. Afterwards, for reasons altogether insufficient, as I suppose, that ordinance came to be administered less frequently ; in none more than twice. The consequence of this arrangement was, that, whenever the ordinance was dispensed in each church, it was made an ecclesiastical occasion. The pastors of three, four, or five neighboring churches left their own pulpits on that day, went to the aid of their brother, and took the mass of their congregations with them, to enjoy the privilege of communing with their sister church. The sacramental service was commonly preceded by preaching on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, one of which days was observed as a Sacramental Fast ; and the Monday following the Sabbath as a day of Thanksgiving. This, of course, gave rise to much preaching, which rendered the presence and aid of several ministers highly desirable, if not necessary. When the Sabbath came, the Ministers, Ruling Elders and Communicants of four or five different churches were all assembled, and gathered round the same sacramental table. In these circumstances, the question arose, How should those who were really communicants, in good standing, be distinguished from unworthy intruders, who belonged to no church, and were perhaps even profligate ; but who, from unworthy motives, might thrust themselves into the seats of worthy communicants, and thus produce disorder and scandal? To meet this difficulty, the plan was adopted, to deposite [sic]in the hands of each pastor and his elders, a parcel of cheap metallic pieces, called “Tokens,” which they were to dispense to all the known members of their own church, who were in attendance, and wished to commune. Thus, although not a quarter part of the communicants were personally known to the pastor or elders of the church in which the sacramental service occurred ; yet those cheap and convenient little certificates of church membership, (for such they were intended to be) being received by each communicant, from the minister and elder of his own church, prevented imposition and secured regularity and order.

Such was the origin of Tokens. They were then of solid use. And wherever similar circumstances and practices exist now, they or something equivalent, may be usefully emplayed [sic]. As in many other cases, however, they have been long used, both in this country and in Europe, where the circumstances which brought them into use no longer exist. But it does appear to me that the use of these passports to the communion table, in cases in which the members of a single church only (every one of whom is known to the minister and elders) are about to commune, is a strange, if not a ludicrous example of the pertinacity with which good people cleave to old habits, when the reasons for them have entirely ceased.

A word to the wise….

Five Things to Be Avoided When Called Upon to Preach in Strange Churches.
by Dr. Doddridge

I.  Do not chose texts which appear odd, the choice of which vanity may be supposed to dictate.

II.  Nor a text of censure. This is assuming.

III.  Nor a text leading to curious and knotty questions: then it would be said you preached yourself.

IV.  Do not aim to eclipse the minister of the place by an extraordinary display of talent. This is unkind. But,

V.  Chose a text of an ordinary, edifying nature, connecting doctrine and practice together, still not a doctrine in respect to which there may be at that time much division among the people ; this, I think, does not belong to a stranger.  Deliver the discourse with urbanity and Christian feeling ;  you will then be welcome a second time.

[The Charleston Observer 14.21 (11 July 1840): 1, col. 6.]

Words to Live By:
Certainly we’re not all pastors. So how might the rest of us profit from today’s post? How can you turn those admonitions to good advice for when we are visitors?
1. Bring your humility with you when wherever you go.
2. Keep your opinions to yourself, Don’t be condemning of others.
3. Keep your strange ideas and conspiracy theories to yourself as well.
4. Think better of others and don’t seek to show off in front of others.
5. Use your words to good effect. Seek to edify others, pointing them to Christ, whether directly or indirectly by your words.

“The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.”

 

The following short article appeared on the pages of The Charleston Observer in 1840, reprinted there from The Presbyterian, a Philadelphia paper.  The article was written in response to actions taken in the Presbyterian Church at that time, correcting the error of disuse into which the diaconal office had fallen

We are pleased to observe that the injunctions of the General Assembly, relative to the appointment of Deacons in our several Churches, has attracted attention, and in many instances, has led inferior judicatories to take immediate measures to supply the glaring defect which is so general, and has been so long continued.  The disuse into which the office has fallen, has arisen from a wrong impression, that it may properly be dispensed with in any Church which has no poor dependent on its charity, or where the Elders without inconvenience, can attend to the poor.  In reply to this, we refer to the requirements of the Church, which are imperative on the subject.  The Deacon is an officer who is spoken of as an indispensable part of a rightly organized Church, and if he may be set aside by such a plea, as the one above alluded to, with the same propriety may the Ruling Elder be dispensed with, on some similar plea.  The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.  Is he under no obligations to accompany these charities with kindly visits, religious conversation, and prayer?  Is he not to give counsel to the widow in her affliction, and instruction to the orphan? He may be a co-adjutor to the Elder, and aid the Pastor materially in the well-ordering of the Church.  The office of the Deacon was not designed to be a temporary one ; there is not one intimation in Scripture to this effect ; and although it originated in the peculiar wants of the Church at the time, yet those wants will always exist in a degree sufficient to justify its continuance. The duty of the Churches, therefore, is clear: they should forthwith chosed out suitable men to fill this office.—The Presbyterian.

[The Charleston Observer, 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 6]

Words to Live By:

“‘But, it may be asked, of what use are deacons to take care of the poor in churches where there are no poor, or but two or three ? That, indeed, is a sadly defective state of the church where there are no poor ; there must be something very de- ficient in its zeal and aggressiveness, if amidst the multitudes of poor around us, and mingling with us, there are none in the church itself. When we remember that Christ in his message, sent to John the Baptist, declares it to be a proof of his Divine mission, worthy to stand at the close of the brief summary of his most striking miracles, as of equal or even greater convincing power; and that the adaptedness of the Gospel to come down to the most despised and degraded of our wretched race—to seize and elevate the vast masses of humanity from their down-trodden condition—is one of its most distinguishing characteristics, and one of the most striking proofs of its Divine origin—Is it not evident that any church that fails to gather in the poor, fails in accomplishing one great design of the Gospel, and in presenting to the world one of the most convincing proofs of the truth and power of Christianity ?”—James Beverlin Ramsay, “The Deaconship,” p. 15.

 

Laboring in the Ministry and the Military
by Rev. David T Myers

Not many of our pastors today have a calling in both the ministry and the military, but James Hall served in both callings during his life. Born August 22, 1744 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to Scot-Irish parents James and Prudence Roddy Hall, they migrated to North Carolina via the Great Wagon Road. Settling among other Presbyterians near what is now Statesville, North Carolina, young James received a local education. Influenced by his many Scottish Presbyterian neighbors, the young man received a call to God’s service. But home duties, specifically having to take over home duties due to the bad health of his father, delayed that calling, as this oldest son became the “father provider” to the family until his brothers would come of age.

Later then in his life, he entered the College of New Jersey in Princeton, New Jersey where he studied theology under John Witherspoon, graduating in 1774. He even continued after graduation at the school under the same tutorship of this most famous theologian. Returning to North Carolina in the 1775 – 1776 period, James Hall began his life time ministry at Fourth Creek Presbyterian Church, after being licensed to preach by the Orange Presbytery.

In those days, one’s calling included being physically enabled to fight various enemies who would remove your influence. And so, shortly after his licensing to the Lord’s work, he and his congregation went to war against hostile Cherokee natives who were killing and threatening the life styles of these early Americans. Rev. Hall served as chaplain of the military unit, ministering to the spiritual needs of these frontier soldiers. After successfully removing the danger, James Hall returned to his spiritual charge and was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1778.

However peace was not soon to occur, for this was in the midst of the American Revolution. British forces under Lord Cornwallis moved into the area, ready to do battle against these upstart Scot-Irish immigrants. James Hall became the commander-chaplain to his congregation’s military wing. He fought at Cowans Ford, North Carolina, exacting many losses on the British troops before being forced to retreat.

After the Revolutionary war was over, Rev. Hall continued to minister the Word of God, overseeing a two-year spiritual revival in his charge. One hundred and forty people joined the congregations of his three charge calling.

Fourteen trips of missionary work in 1793 among the lower Mississippi valley extended the gospel to that area. James Hall died in 1826.

Words to Live By: James Hall was a Christian man and minister who believed a life in service to the Lord Jesus was not wasted work in life. Look to your own spiritual life, dear subscriber. How much are you accomplishing for your Lord and Savior where you are right now? Prayerfully meditate on that question, and resolve to work for Christ and His kingdom anew, via your family life, your church life, and your work life where God has placed you. Only one life will soon be past; only what is done for Christ will last.

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