September 2018

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The Solemn League and Covenant Ascribed
by Rev. David T. Myers

Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 22:1 that “a good name is to be more desired that great wealth.” Our names are important because they are part of our identity. These posts go out to those whose convictions identify them as belonging to the name “Presbyterian.”  As part of their name, there are various events which took place in the past which help identify us. They educate us, inspire us, and challenge us to live our own Christian lives more fully and completely. Our topic this day in Presbyterian history is one of those events, namely, the Solemn League and Covenant.

The Solemn League and Covenant was written by the Rev. Alexander Henderson, a minister in the Church of Scotland. That Church approved this document on August 17, 1643.  It then was received by both the Englishh Parliament and the Westminster Assembly on this day, September 25, 1643. Why was it important that the English Parliament approved it? The answer is that looming in the background was an English Civil War between King Charles I and the English Parliament. The Parliament realized that unless they had help from the Scottish church and nation, they would not be victorious in this war. So they signed it as well.

We reproduce it here, in a paraphrased edition, copied from the book “Our Covenant Heritage,” written by T.E. Edwin Nisbet Moore (and used by permission).  With uplifted hand, the two nations pledged that they would endeavor:—

(1) . . . the preservation of the Reformed religion in the Church of England . . . [and} the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland . .  according to the Word of God and the example of the best Reformed churches: And shall endeavor to bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and  uniformity of religion . . . .

(2) . . . the extirpation of popery, prelacy, . . . superstition, heresy, schism, Profanity, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness . . .

(3) . . . [the] preservation and defense of the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, . . . the king’s majesty’s persons and authority, .  . . the true religions and liberties of the kingdoms. . .

(4) . . . this discovery of all such as have been, or shall be incendiaries, malignants, or evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, dividing the king from his people, or one of the kingdoms from another, or making any fashion, or parties amongst the people contrary to this league and covenant . . .

(5) . . . [the conjoining] in a firm peace and union to all posterity . . .

(6) . . . [the assistance and defense of] all those that enter into this league and covenant . . . And [we] shall not suffer ourselves . . . to be divided and withdrawn from this blessed union. . .

And because these kingdoms are guilty of many sins, and provocations against God, and his Son Jesus Christ . . . we profess and declare before God, and the world, our unfeigned desires to be humbled for our sins . . . to amend our lives, and each to go before another in the example of a real reformation, that the Lord may turn away his wrath . . . . Most  humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit . . . to the glory of God, the enlargement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the peace and tranquility of the Christian kingdoms and commonwealths.”

How this covenant was put into practice however was less than desirable. Rather than allowing the Christian citizens of the kingdom voluntarily to sign it, as had been done with previous covenants, they required the ministers to report anyone who either disapproved or would not swear to the covenantal words.  The late J.G. Vos points out that this compulsory requirement ended up debasing the covenant.  Many, like Charles II, signed it for reasons other than genuine acceptance. It should have been left to a voluntary response by the people.

Words to Live By:
Moses in Deuteronomy 5:29 writes, “Oh  that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commands always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!”  This is a worthy prayer to be prayed by all of God’s people in any age.  It is to be prayed for our families, our church families, and the citizens of our nation. Will you pray it today, this week, this month, and this year?

The judicatories of the church shall ordinarily sit with open doors. In every case involving a charge of heresy the judicatory shall be without power to sit with closed doors. In other cases, where the ends of the discipline seem to require it, the trial judicatory at any stage of the trial may determine by a vote of three-fourths of the members present to sit with closed doors.”
—Chapter IV, The Trial of Judicial Cases, The Book of Church Order of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 2011 edition, Section A.1.b., page 102.

As it turns out, the OPC has had this provision in their Book of Church Order ever since that document was first approved in 1938. Three denominations in fact, the OPC, the BPC and the RPCES—each looking back in common heritage to the modernist controversy of the 1930s—retain or retained virtually identical wording in their respective Books of Discipline. 

But where did this otherwise unique stipulation come from? It appears to have been a response to an ecclesiastical trial, one in which two lay people, Mary W. Steward and Murray Forst Thompson, were tried in secret, behind closed doors, for their refusal to step away from their participation in the ministry of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. This event led Dr. J. Gresham Machen to write at some length opposing secrecy in the courts of the church. To my knowledge, this particular work by Dr. Machen has never before been reprinted.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT
By J. GRESHAM MACHEN

machen03The Bible bids us walk honestly as in the day; it bids us commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

These commands are very broad in their application, but whatever else they require, they certainly require great openness in our relationship with one another and in the conduct of the affairs of the Church.

The Discouragement of Public Discussion

In marked contradiction to these Biblical commands, the ecclesiastical bureaucracy in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. discourages open discussion and seeks to withhold from the laity and the public what is really going on in the Church.

“If you do not like what the General Assembly does,” we are told in one form or another again and again, “use the ‘constitutional’ means of redress, but do not use the pulpit and the radio and the public press to air your criticisms; do not in that fashion disturb the peace of the Church.”

I think the appeal by the advocates of this policy of secrecy and bureaucratic tyranny to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. is one of the strangest things among all the strange things that are happening just at the present time. As a matter of fact, such a policy is abhorrent to the very heart and core of that Constitution.

There are many reasons why that is so. But one reason has sometimes escaped notice. It is the reason found in the democratic character of the government of our Church.

The Standards of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. require absolute subjection of all to God; but, so far as the human instruments of church government are concerned, they place the power and the responsibility—always subject in all things to the Word of God—in the hands of the rank and file.

The commissioners to the General Assembly are elected by the Presbyteries; the elders in the Presbyteries are elected by the sessions of the several churches; and the sessions of the several churches are elected by the rank and file. Even in the case of the ministers, a little reflection will show that the rank and file of the Church, so far as the human instruments in the choice of them are concerned, has a decisive voice.

Suppose, then, the General Assembly does wrong. How can that wrong be righted? Merely by an appeal in private to the commissioners to the next General Assembly? Not at all. But by the election of a different sort of commissioners.

But who chooses the commissioners? As we have just observed, the rank and file of the Church chooses them. Very well then; the reasons for choosing a different sort of commissioners must be presented to the rank and file.

How must they be presented? Obviously by the only means in which the rank and file can be reached—by the pulpit, the press, and every other means that may be used in communication among men.

Let it never be forgotten. The government of our Church is, on the human side, a government by the people. For that reason, therefore, if for no other and still more important reasons, the people should not be kept in ignorance. If the General Assembly does something that is wrong—if, for example, it establishes a Modernist board of foreign missions—that is not the business merely of committees or boards, but it is the business of every man, woman and child in the Church.

In asking us to keep the facts from the laity, and to reserve our criticisms of the General Assembly or the Boards for the privacy of committee rooms, the present ecclesiastical bureaucracy is asking us to do something that is against the inmost heart of the Constitution of our Church and is profoundly contrary to the Word of God.

The Disgrace of Secret Courts

At one point the policy of secrecy in ecclesiastical affairs becomes an offence to all fair-minded people whether in the Church or outside of it.

That point is found in the secrecy of church courts. In several of the “trials” of members of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, the first decision of the court—reversed only after the appearance of a rising tide of public disapproval—was to close the doors; and this policy of secrecy has again been decided upon by a vote of the session of the Hollond Memorial Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia in the trial of Murray Forst Thompson, Esq., and Miss Mary W. Stewart.

The session seemed to lay great stress upon that vote. It was put through, by an alleged majority of 6 to 3, in the most hasty and illegal manner. Apparently great stress was laid upon keeping the public in ignorance of what was going on.

What will be the result? The result will be that the findings of such a court will utterly fail to win the respect of fair-minded people either within the Church or outside of it. Court proceedings certainly ought to be open and above-board; and the general public has a pretty shrewd notion that a thing which is not open is not very apt to be above-board.

That notion may be right or it may be wrong; but at any rate people generally will hold to it. Our Form of Government says that one of the things that give ecclesiastical discipline its force is “the approval of an impartial public.” Well, it is perfectly clear that no impartial public is going to have much respect for courts that deprive an accused person of the right of an open hearing.

That right is accorded the most degraded criminal under our civil laws. If men are deprived of it in church courts, that means that the Church is standing on a lower moral plane than the world at large. Religion will seem to many people to be little more than a delusion and a sham when it is made a cloak for tyranny such as that.

The Remedy for Secrecy

What is the remedy for the bureaucratic secrecy that now prevails so widely in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A.? What is the remedy for this vicious notion that “constitutional” means of purifying the Church do not include the public denunciation of ecclesiastical unbelief and sin? What is the reason for the abomination of secret ecclesiastical courts?

The answer is very simple. The remedy for darkness is light.

It is the duty of every man in the Church to let the light of day into the dark places of ecclesiastical bureaucracy. It is the duty of every man to present the facts as he knows them.

Specious arguments are sometimes used to commend a contrary policy. The Church, it is said, ought to discuss her affairs quietly and not make a spectacle of her quarrels in the presence of a hostile world.

But such arguments are miserable half-truths. The Church cannot conceal her faults, even if she should desire to do so. The very attempt at concealment will make her seem all the more contemptible to those who are without.

Instead, she ought to stand forth openly in the light of day. She has never claimed to be perfect. God knows, and the world knows, that she has sin within her walls. But at least she ought not to claim to be better than she is. Light is sometimes very painful when it shines into dark places, but it is beneficent in the end.

So the long policy of concealment ought now to cease. We ought to break away from it resolutely and radically. We ought to present the full facts about the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., so that they may be known to all.

But how may the facts be made known?

There are many ways of making them known—the pulpit, the public press, the spread of information from man to man.

But the best way of all to make them known is to have a journal that shall present them fully and fearlessly and connectedly to all who will read. There is now great need of such a journal, but we are soon to have the need supplied by the appearance of THE PRESBYTERIAN GUARDIAN. AS is announced elsewhere in this issue of THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the new paper is to be the organ of The Presbyterian Constitutional Covenant Union. It is to be under the editorship of the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths. It will satisfy many needs of Christian people. It will appeal to young and old. But a very important part of its function will be the presentation of the facts about the condition of the Church.

The time has gone by, if there ever was such a time, when Christian people, particularly in the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., could afford to be in ignorance of the facts. We must know the facts in order that we may lay them before our God in prayer and ask Him to give us courage to act in view of them as Christian men and women ought to act.

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


Q. 98
What is prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.

Scripture References: Ps.62:8; I John 5:14; Matt. 26:39; John 16:23; Daniel 9:4; Phil. 4:6.

Questions:

1. Some feel that prayer is simply petitions of God. Is this the only part of prayer?

No, petitions are certainly not the only part of prayer though they are basic to prayer as we offer up our desires to Him.

2. What other kinds of prayer are legitimate?

We can confess in prayer and we can give our thanksgivings to God.

However, the matter of our supplications to God are important in His sight.

3. When we say we are to offer up our desires to God do we simply mean the Father?

Certainly we do not mean simply God the Father though most prayers are offered in that way, in the name of Jesus Christ. How- ever, when we pray to God it is understood that all members of the Trinity are being addressed.

4. Could you list some of the things that would be agreeable to His will in our prayers?

As we pray we can ask Him for spiritual grace and strength for each day, for deliverance from temptations, for the pardon of our sins, for the vision of that wonderful day we will be with Him, for our brethren in the Lord.

5. Why is it necessary that we pray in the name of Jesus Christ?

We must pray in the name of Christ because our sinfulness is 80 great that we have no ability to reach God without the Mediator that has been supplied for us.

6. Why is it necessary to confess our sins in our prayers?

It is necessary for us to confess our sins for He will not hear us if there is inlqulty in our hearts. (Ps. 66:18)

7. What are the mercies for which we should be thankful?

These mercies are His free gifts to us, both spiritual and temporal. His mercy is great and free and we could not live without it.

PRAYER IS VITAL

In the year 1898 two members of the Presbytery of New York returned to their work from a Bible conference. A called meeting of Presbytery was held. One asked a question concerning the prayer life of the brethren. “Brethren, let us today make confession before God and each other. It will do us good. Will everyone who spends half an hour every day with God in prayer regarding His work hold up his hand? Fifteen minutes?” Not a hand went up. The minister then said, “Prayer, the working power of the Church of Christ, and not one person spends fifteen minutes a day!”

We all know that our Bible reading and our Bible study is important to us. But supremely important is our regular, earnest, daily prayer. There is a parallel here between the spiritual and the physical. So far as our bodies are concerned we must have air to breathe. The spiritual air we have to breathe is our prayer life. When prayer dies out spiritual life dies out and becomes feeble.

E. M. Bounds, a great prayer warrior, once said, “Prayer is a privilege, a sacred, princely privilege. Prayer is a duty, an obligation most binding, and most imperative, which should hold us to it. But prayer is more than a privilege, more than a duty. It is a means, an instrument, a condition. Not to pray is to lose much more than to fail in the exercise and enjoyment of a high or sweet privilege. Not to pray is to fail among lines far more important than even the violation of an obligation.”

Time and time again in the history of the Christian Church it has been proven that the thing of supreme importance is the practice of daily, private prayer. God has used those who make use of this privilege before Him. We do not mean to intimate that Bible study is not important. But the more a believer knows of the Word of God the more he will know the important of his prayer life. J. Sidlow Baxter once said that the Christian service was the “Outer Court” of the Tabernacle. Bible study was the “Holy Place” of the Tabernacle. But prayer was the “Holy of Holies” and must be carried on without ceaSing.

How much time do we spend in prayer? Have we developed the sacred habit of daily prayer? May we read Rev. 5:8 and ask God to give us no rest until we are consistent in our prayer lives!

Published 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. 7 No. 5 (March 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

“Finally, we exhort the children of God to continue instant in prayer, that He, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, would grant us fresh, more plentiful and extensive effusions, that so this wilderness, in all the parts of it, may become a fruitful field; that the present appearances may be an earnest of the glorious things promised to the Church in the latter days; when she shall shine with the glory of the Lord arisen upon her, so as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, confound and put to shame all her enemies, rejoice the hearts of her solicitous and now saddened friends, and have a strong influence and resplendency throughout the earth. Amen!—Even so, come Lord Jesus; come quickly!”

Psalm 145:10-12
10.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.
11.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.
12.  To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

In the era of the First Great Awakening, Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors worked readily with one another in the proclamation of the Gospel, both groups being strongly Calvinistic in their theology. As you read through this document, you will see mentioned several of the concerns which figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church, 1741-1758. The issues prompting that split included itinerant preaching and ministerial authority, and both of these concerns are discussed in THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE.

[Originally published Boston : Printed, and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1743, and here excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 38 (22 September 1838): 149, columns 4-5.]

From the Pastor’s Journal.
ANCIENT REVIVALS.

After the remarkable work of God in New England in the beginning of the last century, it was suggested by a writer in the Boston Gazette of May 31st, 1743, that a Convention of Ministers should be held to “consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony, to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which through the permitted agency of Satan have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement.” Accordingly, on the 7th July of the same year, about ninety Ministers met at Boston for the above purposes. After a sermon, they proceeded to confer together, and to hear the letters of such as desired but were not able to attend the meeting. As the result of their deliberations they drew up and published the following document, which was signed by sixty-eight Ministers—the number of those who remained, the others having left.

THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE

Of an Assembly of Pastors of Churches in New England, at a meeting in Boston, July 7th, 1743, occasioned by the late happy Revival of Religion in many parts of the land.

If it is the duty of every one capable of observation and reflection, to take a constant religious notice of what occurs in the daily course of common providence; how much more is it expected that those events in the divine, wherein there is a signal display of the power, grace, and mercy of God in behalf of the Church, should be observed with sacred wonder, pleasure, and gratitude?—Nor should the people of God content themselves with a silent notice, but publish with the voice of thanks, and tell of all his wondrous works. More particularly, when Christ is pleased to come into his Church in a plentiful effusion of his Holy Spirit, by whose powerful influences the ministration of the word is attended with uncommon success, salvation-work carried in an eminent manner, and his kingdom which is within men, and consists in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, is notably advanced. This is an event which above all others invites the notice and bespeaks the praises of the Lord’s people, and should be declared abroad for a memorial of the divine grace; as it tends to confirm the divinity of a despised Gospel, and manifests the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption, which too many are ready to reproach; as it may have a happy effect, by the divine blessing, for the revival of religion in other places, and the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ in the world; and as it tends to enliven the prayers, strengthen the faith, and raise the hopes of such as are waiting for the kingdom of God, and the coming on of the glory of the latter days.—But if it is justly expected of all who profess themselves the disciples of Christ, that they should openly acknowledge and rejoice in a work of this nature, wherein the honor of their Divine Master is so much concerned; how much more is it to be looked for from those who are employed in the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and so stand in a special relation to him, as servants of his household and officers in his kingdom? These stand as watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem; and it is their business not only to give the alarm of war when the enemy is approaching, but to sound the trumpet of praise when the king of Zion cometh, in a meek triumph, having salvation.

For these and other reasons, we whose names are hereunto annexed, pastors of Churches in New England, met together in Boston, July 7th, 1743, think it our indispensable duty, (without judging or censuring such of our brethren as cannot at present see things in the same light with us) in this open and conjunct manner to declare, to the glory of sovereign grace, our full persuasion, either from what we have seen ourselves, or received upon credible testimony, that there has been a happy and remarkable revival of religion in many parts of this land, through an uncommon divine influence; after a long time of great decay and deadness, and a sensible and very awful withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from his sanctuary among us. Though the work of grace wrought on the hearts of men by the word and Spirit of God, and which has been more or less carried on in the Church from the beginning, is always the same for substance, and agrees, at one time and another, in one place or person and another, as to the main strokes and lineaments of it, yet the present work appears to be remarkable and extraordinary, on account of the numbers wrought upon. We never before saw so many brought under soul-concern, and with distress making the inquiry, “What must we do to be saved?” and these persons of all characters and ages. With regard to the suddenness and quick progress of it, many persons and places were surprised with the gracious visit together, or near about the same time; and the heavenly influence diffused itself far and wide like the light of the morning. Also in respect of the degree of operation, both in a way of terror and in a way of consolation; attended in many with unusually bodily effects. Not that all who are accounted the subjects of the present work, have had these extraordinary degrees of previous distress and subsequent joy.—But many, and we suppose the greater number have been wrought on in a more gentle and silent way, and without any other appearances than are common and usual at other times, when persons have been awakened to a solemn concern about salvation, and have been thought to have passed out of a state of nature into a state of grace. As to those whose inward concern has occasioned extraordinary outward distress, the most of them, when we came to converse with them, were able to give, what appeared to us a rational account of what so affected their minds, viz. a quick sense of their guilt, misery, and danger; and they would often mention the passages in the sermons they heard, or particular texts of Scripture, which were sent home upon them with such a powerful impression. And as to such whose joys have carried them in transports and ecstacies, [sic] they in like manner have accounted for them, from a lively sense of the danger they hoped they were freed from, and the happiness they were now possessed of; such clear views of divine and heavenly things, and particularly of the excellencies and loveliness of Jesus Christ, and such sweet tastes of redeeming love, as they never had before. The instances were very few in which we had reason to think these affections were produced by visionary or sensible representations, or by any other images than such as the Scripture itself presents unto us.

And here we think it not amiss to declare that in dealing with these persons, we have been careful to inform them, that the nature of conversion does not consist in these passionate feelings; and to warn them not to look upon their state as safe, because they have passed out of deep distress into high joys, unless they experience a renovation of nature, followed with a change of life, and a course of vital holiness. Nor have we gone into such an opinion of the bodily effects with which this work has been attended in some of its subjects, as to judge them any signs that persons who have been so affected, were then under a saving work of the Spirit of God. No; we never so much as called these bodily seizures, convictions; or spake of them as the immediate work of the Holy Spirit. Yet we do not think them inconsistent with a work of God upon the soul at that very time; but judge that those inward impressions which come from the Spirit of God, those terrors and consolations of which he is the author, may, according to the natural frame and constitution which some persons are of, occasion such bodily effects. And therefore that those extraordinary outward symptoms are not an argument that the work is delusive, or from the influence and agency of the evil spirit.

With respect to numbers of those who have been under the impressions of the present day, we must declare there is good ground to conclude they are become real Christians; the account they give of their consolation and conviction agreeing with the standard of the Holy Scriptures, corresponding with the experiences of the saints, and evidenced by the external fruits of holiness in their lives; so that they appear to those who have the nearest access to them, as so many epistles of Christ, written, not with ink, but by the spirit of the living God, attesting to the genuineness of the present operation, and representing the excellency of it. Indeed, many who appeared to be under convictions, and were much altered in their external behavior, when this work began, and while it was most flourishing, have lost their impressions, and are relapsing into their former manner of life; yet of those who were judged hopefully converted, and made a public profession of religion, there have been fewer instances of scandal and apostacy [sic] than might be expected. So that, as far as we are able to form a judgment, the face of religion is lately changed much for the better in many of our towns and congregations; and together with a reformation observable in divers instances, appears to be more experimental godliness, and lively Christianity, than the most of us can remember we have ever seen before.

Thus we have freely declared our thoughts as to the work of God so remarkably revived in many parts of this land. And now, we desire to bow the knee in thanksgiving to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our eyes have seen and our ears heard such things. And whilst these are our sentiments, we must necessarily be grieved at any accounts sent abroad, representing this work as all enthusiasm, delusion, and disorder.—Indeed it is not to be denied, that in some places many irregularities and extravagances have been permitted to accompany it, which we would deeply lament and bewail before God, and look upon ourselves obliged, for the honor of the Holy Spirit, and of his blessed operations on the souls of men, to bear a public and faithful testimony against; though at the same time it is to be acknowledged with much thankfulness, that in other places, where the work has greatly flourished, there have been few if any of these disorders and excesses. But who can wonder, if at such a time as this, Satan should intermingle himself, to hinder and blemish a work so directly contrary to the interests of his own kingdom? Or if, while so much good seed is sowing, the enemy should be busy to sow tares? We would, therefore, in the bowels of Jesus, beseech men as have been partakers of this work, or are zealous to promote it, that they be not ignorant of Satan’s devices; that they watch and pray against errors and misconduct of every kind, lest they blemish and hinder that which they desire to honor and advance. Particularly, that they do not make secret impulses on their minds, without a due regard to the written word, the rule of their duty; a very dangerous mistake which we apprehend some in these times have gone into. That laymen do not invade the ministerial office, and under a pretence [sic] of exhorting, set up preaching; which is very contrary to Gospel order, and tends to introduce errors and confusion into the Church. That Ministers do not invade the province of others, and in ordinary cases preach in another’s parish, without his knowledge, and against his consent; nor encourage raw and indiscreet young candidates, in rushing into particular places, and preaching publicly or privately, as some have done to the no small disrepute and damage of the work in places where it once promised to flourish. Though at the same time we would have Ministers show their regard to the spiritual welfare of their people, by suffering them to partake of the gifts and graces of able, sound, and zealous preachers of the word, as God in his providence may give opportunity therefore; being persuaded that God has in this day remarkably blest [sic] the labors of his servants who have travelled [sic] in preaching the Gospel of Christ. That people beware of entertaining prejudices against their own pastors, and do not run into unscriptural separations. That they do not indulge a disputatious spirit, which has been attended with mischievous effects; nor discover a spirit of censoriousness, uncharitableness, and rash judging the state of others; than which scarce any thing has more blemished the work of God amongst us. And while we would meekly exhort both Ministers and Christians, so far as is consistent with truth and holiness, to follow the things that make for peace; we would most earnestly warn all sorts of persons not to despise these outpourings of the Spirit, lest a holy God be provoked to withhold them, and instead thereof to pour out upon this people the vials of his wrath, in temporal judgments and spiritual plagues; and would call upon every one to improve the remarkable season of grace, and put in for a share of the heavenly blessings so liberally dispensed.

Finally, we exhort the children of God to continue instant in prayer, that He, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, would grant us fresh, more plentiful and extensive effusions, that so this wilderness, in all the parts of it, may become a fruitful field; that the present appearances may be an earnest of the glorious things promised to the Church in the latter days; when she shall shine with the glory of the Lord arisen upon her, so as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, confound and put to shame all her enemies, rejoice the hearts of her solicitous and now saddened friends, and have a strong influence and resplendency throughout the earth. Amen!—Even so, come Lord Jesus; come quickly!”

The above was signed by sixty-eight Ministers, fifteen of whom, however, added the following exception:

“We concur with the testimony, for the substance of it, excepting that article of itinerancy, or ministers and others intruding into other Minister’s parishes without their consent; which great disorder we apprehend not; sufficiently testified against therein.”

[Note: In his reprinting of this document, the editor of THE CHARLESTON OBSERVERdid not see fit to provide the names of those signing THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE, and so those names cannot be provided here.]

“The whole tribe of libertines are so many vultures upon the body politic. Religion, patriotism, domestic peace, and public tranquility, are strangers to their bosoms. There is nothing lovely, nothing valuable on earth with which they are not at war. Beauty, health, reputation. The marriage covenant—that strong defence and glory of society—and all the tender sympathies and relations of social life, wither and die under their blighting touch.”

 

Even Then, Steadfastly Remember: Our God Reigns

Samuel Clark Aiken (1791-1879) was born in Windham, Vermont on the 21st day of September, 1791. Educated at Middlebury College and Andover Theological Seminary, he served the First Presbyterian Church of Utica, New York for seventeen years before answering a call to serve the only Presbyterian church in Cleveland, Ohio. The remainder of his years were spent serving the Old Stone Church, from 1835 until his retirement in 1861. He died in the first hour of the first day of the first month of 1879, at the age of 88. While serving faithfully and efficiently as the pastor of the church, Rev. Aiken was also quite active in civic affairs, while also addressing a number of societal issues.

Here today we present the opening portion of one of Rev. Aiken’s sermons. In this sermon, he addresses the growing problem of prostitution in America in the 1830’s. As then, so today it seems we think that such things cannot be spoken of in polite society, and that in turns becomes a shielding cover for the problem. His description of Paris in the early nineteenth-century sounds all too familiar. Rev. Aiken’s sermon is wrapped in some of the typically elaborate nineteenth-century style, but cut past that to read the crux of what he is saying. That encumbrance aside, you don’t hear sermons on such subjects today. Why is that?


Moral Reform: A Sermon delivered at Utica, on Sabbath evening, February 16, 1834.

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” – Proverbs 7:27.

What a picture this book gives of the crime of lewdness! The painter threw upon canvas the reality as it existed three thousand years ago, and it is worthy of notice, that since that period it has undergone no essential change. I question, whether in the infancy of the world, and in the days of ignorance that followed, this vice was generally more prominent or prevalent, even among gentiles, than it is at present moment, in some towns and cities in these United States.

I make no apology for bringing this subject before a Christian congregation. I give no pledge to hold my peace, even after speaking once, unless the friends of virtue pledge themselves to act.

As one set for the defence of religion and public morals, I acknowledge my error in having remained silent so long. I am happy to make the confession; for, with my present convictions of duty, whatever may be the views of my respected fellow-laborers in the ministry, until I expose the nakedness of this vice, and sound a note of alarm in this community, I can never say with the apostle, that “I am pure from the blood of all men,” and, that “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

My office out of the question, I hold no parley with that morbid fastidiousness which trembles and shrinks from any open and manly effort to cure the evil. Nor have I the least regard or veneration for that artificial and sickly delicacy, which, for ages, has bound the friends of virtue in fetters of iron, and charmed them into a most fatal silence and apathy. I believe it to be in part the creature of a false education, and in part the wily policy of the devil, to maintain his empire of pollution, by assuming so great and over-weening a regard for purity, as to be unable to endure the disclosures of vice. To cover up, to cover up, is the master policy of the prince of darkness. “He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Well fitted to sustain and advance his nefarious purposes, is the doctrine, coolly and deliberately advocated by the friends of virtue, yes, and by the pimps of vice also, that here is an immorality not to be spoken of in public. We may contemplate it in pictures, in books, in caricatures, as drawn by the moralist, the satirist, and the artist; we may see innocence seduced and ruined, and the villain walking the street and receiving the courtesies of the virtuous; we may know that haunts of crime are standing by day and night under the shade of our church-steeples; we may see our sons and daughters entering them, never to return, and in secret lamentation spend the residue of life, and finally sink in sorrow to our graves; we may see that cloud of wrath gathering over our land, which overthrew Sodom, the nations of Canaan, Babylon, and Nineveh; we may hear the dark waters rumbling beneath our feet, and breaking up the foundations of personal, domestic, and civil happiness; in short, we may see the monster invade the sanctity of the church, and plant his foot upon the very altar of God; but we must say nothing; we must do nothing. The habits of society–the claims of modesty demand silence, forbid action. Our lips are hermetically sealed, while the heart is bursting with anguish! The principle is absurd and cruel; unnatural, irrational, and anti-Christian. True virtue spurns its aid. Unaffected, native, heaven-born delicacy contemns the simpering smiles of the serpent, which, under the pretence of great regard for virtue’s cause, allows the young and beautiful of our land to rush in untold numbers, unheeded and unwarned, down to the bottomless pit.

I have not come here to portray the evils of lewdess as they exist in our cities. Were it proper or practicable, I have not the vanity to believe it to be within the compass of my talent to do it. Nor is the genius of Milton, or the pencil of Raphael competent to the task. It is a mystery of iniquity that must, to a great degree, remain hidden till the judgment, because it beggars description.

These remarks are not made on the strength of report. The Providence of God once placed me as a missionary in the city of New York. In company with the friends of humanity, I have visited the abodes of abandonment to attend upon the dead, and to preach the gospel to the living; and I should as soon think of drawing a picture of hell itself, as giving a complete view of one of its outer courts.

Were it my object to depict the demoralising influence of the crime of lewdness upon society, perhaps it could not be done better than by holding up the history of France, in the days of her pollution and blood. “In that reign of infidelity and terror,” says an eloquent writer, “it should never be forgotten, that contempt for the laws of chastity, and breaking loose from the legalized restraints of virtue, were the order of the day, and of the night. A republican or infidel marriage was in derision, and, by the vile themselves, denominated the sacrament of adultery! Prostitutes were enthroned–borne in triumph–and even worshipped as the goddesses of reason and the guardians of public morals and happiness. Lust and rapine, hand in hand, waded through clotted blood in the streets of Paris. Thus, when the ten commandments, and especially the fourth and seventh, were publicly abrogated in France, the mighty God stood aloof, and a scene of proscription, of assassination and woe ensued, unparalleled in the annals of the civilized world. In the city of Paris, there were, in 1803, eight hundred and seven suicides and murders. Among the criminals executed, there were seven fathers who had poisoned their children–ten husbands who had murdered their wives–six wives who had poisoned their husbands, and fifteen children who had assassinated their parents! Within eighteen months after the abrogation of the marriage covenant, in that reprobate kingdom, twenty thousand divorces were effected. In the space of ten years, three millions of human beings, as is computed, perished by violence, in that land of infidelity and lust.” [Waterman’s Address to the friends of moral reform in Providence.]

France discarded the Bible. The Almighty withdrew His restraining hand, and permitted a nation to try the experiment of living without religion. Human passions broke loose from moral responsibility, and flowed in torrents of pollution and blood. The world stood aghast, and trembled at the spectacle, and the result stands out in bold relief upon the records of that ill-fated kingdom. Let us mark it well, and remember the fearful denunciation of Jehovah: “Ye shall not commit any of these abominations, that the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations which were before you.”

The whole tribe of libertines are so many vultures upon the body politic. Religion, patriotism, domestic peace, and public tranquility, are strangers to their bosoms. There is nothing lovely, nothing valuable on earth with which they are not at war. Beauty, health, reputation. The marriage covenant—that strong defence and glory of society—and all the tender sympathies and relations of social life, wither and die under their blighting touch. One house of abandonment in a community, is worse than the cholera. The noxious miasma perpetually issuing from it, poisons all the fountains and streams of life. It is impossible to estimate its baneful influence upon private and public morals. If the fire consumes your dwelling or merchandise, it is a loss which industry and economy will restore. If the pestilence removes our friends to another world, it permits them to leave behind a good name. If the pirate seizes upon his victim, he either kills or sends him adrift upon the high seas. If the robber or assassin enters a shop or family, they can at the most only take a little property, or the lives of a few individuals; and when the deed is committed, public indignation stands ready to burst upon them, and to hand them over to justice. But the libertine—more horrible than the pestilence, the pirate, the robber, or the boa-constrictor—rushes from his ambush, throws his deadly coils around his victim, not to give repose in death, but to bury alive in the grave of infamy. In what a fearful condition must be that town or city, where such demons in human shape collect and roam at large! Where is safety or happiness in the midst of such prowling wolves, and especially, when the public mind is overawed by their number and reputed respectability, and no voice dares utter a complaint . . .?

To read the entire sermon, click here.

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