One More Presbyterian Minister Stands for Liberty by David T. Myers.
“Men of America,” the Presbyterian minister in Massachusetts preached, “citizens of this great country hanging upon the precipice of war, loyalty to England lies behind you, broken by the acts of the mother country – a cruel mother, deaf to the voice of liberty and right; duty to freedom, duty to your country, duty to God is before you; your patriotism is brought to the test; I call upon those ready to volunteer for the defense of the provinces against British tyranny to step into the ‘broad aisle.’” Those who did step into that church aisle became the first volunteers to join the Continental Army and fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill. A political liberty became his emphasis in those days.
Such rhetoric was more commonly found among Presbyterian pastors than any other denomination in the days and years of the American Revolution. It was no wonder that the Revolutionary War was characterized in England as the Presbyterian Rebellion. And one of those Presbyterian ministers leading the charge was Jonathan Parsons.
Born November 30, 1705, he was the youngest son of church deacon Ebenezer Parsons and his wife Margaret Marshfield of Springfield, Massachusetts. This line of Parsons could be traced back hundreds of years in England and later, equally forward for a long time in America. Jonathan Parsons was influenced by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards to enter Yale, which he did at age twenty. Edwards, along with others, taught him theology as he prepared for the ministry.
Graduating in 1729, Parsons entered first into the pulpit of the Congregational Church of Lyme, Connecticut in 1731. Married to Phebe Griswold, the oldest daughter of the town’s leading family, Jonathan gained much in the material realm in the first decade of his ministry. And he lived that advantage to the fullest. It was said that “he had a passion for fine clothes, for gold and silver, and for lacy ruffled shirt fronts.”
All this came into direct confrontation with the effects of the Great Awakening in America. Suffering doubts regarding the reality of his own personal conversion, he struggled long and hard in his own mind until “the doctrine of salvation by faith burst on his mind.” The result was that his pulpit preaching became marked by greater earnestness and simplicity as he expounded the sufferings of Christ and His undying love for sinners. Rev. Parson’s ministry was now characterized by a spiritual vigor and a renewed freedom in preaching the Gospel of grace.
This embrace of the Great Awakening was enhanced by his meeting and subsequent cooperation with George Whitefield in the 1740’s. The latter entered his pulpit in Lyme twice. While reviving many with the doctrines of grace proclaimed without reservation, eventually the congregation suffered a schism. And so it was that Parsons was dismissed from the Congregational pulpit in 1745.
With help from Whitefield, Jonathan Parsons became the pastor of the Old South Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He would serve the Lord for thirty years, in which time the congregation became one of the largest churches in New England. It was to this congregation that George Whitefield would visit in 1770, and indeed Whitefield breathed his last and was translated to heaven there in the parsonage of Jonathan Parsons. His body was laid beneath the pulpit of that church, and though later moved a short distance, Whitefield’s remains are still there. Yet a few more years and Whitefield was joined on July 19, 1776 with the passing of his friend Jonathan Parsons.
Words to Live By: Jonathan Parsons is a good example of what happens when the Gospel of the Lord Jesus fills our hearts and minds by the power of the Holy Spirit. Strive to so live and breathe that you always remain close to your Lord and Savior. Then watch to see how the Lord will indeed use you to His glory, in His kingdom.
Many of the PCA’s founding fathers have already passed on to their reward. One such was the Rev. Thomas Edward Lacey, who spent the larger portion of his ministerial career as a missionary in Belize. Our text today is taken first from the memorial posted at the Find-a-Grave website, and secondly from the Minutes of the Presbytery of Mississippi Valley. The first account tells a more vibrant story of this brother’s life and ministry, while the second is more formal. Together, I think they speak eloquently to our purpose.
“Thomas Edward Lacey was the son of Edward Alexander and Ava McGee Lacey. He was Born on February 21, 1934 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. As a young man, he traveled to the Northwest coast of Canada where he served as the pilot of a missionary ship, the Willis Shank, for the Inland Indian Missions. There he met his bride, Helen Loewen, who was a missionary teacher to the island tribes of the area. They married on Thetus Island [British Columbia] on May 4, 1958. After the birth of a daughter, Susan Joy, they returned to Kosciusko where Tom served as the youth pastor for First Presbyterian and attended Jackson Theological Seminary. A son, David Edward, was born before they were commissioned as missionaries with the South American Indian Mission in Bolivia for the purpose of reaching the Ayora tribe. During that time, a son, Mark Thomas, was born. Eventually, the Lacey family moved to Cristo Rey, Belize to serve the Mayan Indians under the Mexican Presbytery. They established numerous village churches, a school, and a medical clinic. They remained in Belize until Tom’s death in Houston, Texas from cancer on November 29, 1994.”
Then, from the memorial which was spread upon the minutes of the Presbytery of Mississippi, where Rev. Lacey was a member:
WHEREAS, our Sovereign God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, saw fit to call our friend, brother, and co-laborer, Thomas Edward Lacey, home to heaven on November 29, 1994, and WHEREAS, Thomas Edward Lacey, having been raised, nurtured, catechized, ordained, and having served the Lord in this church as a faithful member and Youth Director, and WHEREAS, Thomas Edward Lacey’s Christian character, love, and service made him a valued friend and respected minister in the community of Kosciusko, Mississippi, and WHEREAS, Thomas Edward Lacey was used greatly by the Lord in bringing sinners to Christ, establishing churches, a Presbytery, a Presbyterian Day School and a Medical-Dental clinic, throughout five years of ministry in the villages of Bolivia and twenty-five years of ministry in the villages of Northern Belize, during which time the Lord graciously called His appointed ones in the family of God’s children and established a portion of His church to His own glory; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Session of First Presbyterian Church, representing its membership, expresses its deeply felt sense of loss in the passing of our brother, Thomas Edward Lacey, our appreciation for his untiring service and exemplary life, and our gratitude to Almighty God for allowing us the joy and blessing of having known, loved and labored with this servant of the Lord. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution be made a permanent record on the minutes of the Session of the First Presbyterian Church, Kosciusko, Mississippi, and that a copy be sent to the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley so that Thomas Edward Lacey might be memorialized at the June 6, 1995 meeting of the Presbytery, and that a copy be presented to his family. Adopted by the Session, May 14, 1995.
Words to Live By: Psalm 116:15 declares, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Have you ever wondered at this truth? For one, it must be a sure truth, because what awaits us, in Christ, is so far above what we have known in this life that it cannot compare. It is a deep truth and one worth pondering. Matthew Henry comments: “God has a people, even in this world, that are his saints, his merciful ones, or men of mercy, that have received mercy from him and show mercy for his sake. The saints of God are mortal and dying; nay, there are those that desire their death, and labour all they can to hasten it, and sometimes prevail to be the death of them; but it is precious in the sight of the Lord; their life is so (2 Ki. 1:13 ); their blood is so, Ps. 72:14 . God often wonderfully prevents the death of his saints when there is but a step between them and it; he takes special care about their death, to order it for the best in all the circumstances of it;”
An “Old Side” Presbyterian Who Accomplished Much for Christ
by Rev David T Myers
Educational opportunities in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition were alive and well in the American colonies in the early days of her existence. Schools like the Log College under William Tennant, Faggs Manor Presbyterian Academy under Samuel Blair, West Nottingham Academy under Samuel Finley were all in operation in the 1740’s. We can add to these posts that of New London Academy under the tutelage of the Rev. Francis Alison (sometimes spelled with two “l”s).
Francis Alison was born in the parish of Leck, County Donegal, in what we know as North Ireland or Ulster, today. The son of a weaver, he had received education in a Presbyterian school which prepared him well to enter the schools of the British Isles. A Master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1733 added to his education. Some surmise that he also studied at the University of Glasgow for further theological study, since later on, he was awarded an honorary divinity degree, given only to alumni. All this enabled him to be licensed by Letterkenny Presbytery, after which he left for America.
In America, Alison was first hired as a tutor in the family of John Dickinson. Ordained as a minister in 1737 by an American Presbytery, he was called to New London, Pennsylvania as the Presbyterian pastor in the church there. It was in this call that he founded the New London Academy, a classical school which is still in operation today. Students, which were all male in its early days, were trained in math, sciences, Latin, philosophy, and yes the Bible. Among the graduates were three signers of the Declaration of Independence, namely, Thomas McKean, George Read, and James Smith. Charles Thompson, who was the secretary of the Continental Congress, was also his pupil.
In 1741, as our readers know from other posts, there was a schism in the infant Presbyterian church known as the New Side Old Side Split. This has been treated elsewhere in This Day. It may surprise many that Francis Alison took the Old Side position. At the close of this schism, Alison preached the opening sermon of the reunited denomination, entitled “Peace and Union” from Ephesians 4:4 – 7.
In 1751, Rev. Alison left the New London Church and Academy to take a administrator-teacher role in the Academy of Philadelphia. He also became a part time pastor of Philadelphia’s First Presbyterian Church. He helped develop the first insurance plan for Presbyterian ministers and set up a lending library for ministers. He was also involved in helping develop in 1767 another school down in Newark, Delaware which later on became the University of Delaware.
Francis Alison went to be with the Lord on November 28, 1779 after a life spent in God’s service.
Words to Live By:
Our teaching elders in the Presbyterian church government are often called pastors-teachers. And so they are in both name and ministry. Paul gives these men the following challenge in 2 Timothy 2:2 “and the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” How are you, the subscribers who occupy this high and holy calling, carrying out this mandate in the home, church, and school? Examine yourself!
[The following paper by Dr. J. Gresham Machen was read before a group of ministers in Philadelphia on November 27, 1933. It was subsequently published in Christianity Today (original series, August 1934) and later reprinted in a collection of Machen’s essays edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, published under the title What Is Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951). The address was again separately reprinted in 2002 by the Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and can also be found online at the OPC website : http://www.opc.org/machen/mountains.html. For an interesting exploration of the background of this work, as found among the Papers of Dr. Allan A. MacRae, click here.]
Mountains and Why We Love Them
by J. Gresham Machen
What right have I to speak about mountain-climbing? The answer is very simple. I have none whatever. I have, indeed, been in the Alps four times. The first time I got up Monte Rosa, the second highest of the Alps, and one or two others of the easier Zermatt peaks. On my second visit I had some glorious days in the Grossglockner group and on a few summits in the Zillerthal Alps and also made my first visit to that beautiful liberty-loving land of South Tirol, where, as a result of a war fought to “make the world safe for democracy,” Mussolini is now engaged in the systematic destruction of a language and civilization that has set its mark upon the very face of the landscape for many centuries. On my third visit, in 1913, I did my most ambitious climbing, all in the Eastern Alps, getting up the Kleine Zinne by the north face, certain of the sporty Cortina courses, and also the Campanile di Val Montanaia, which is not considered altogether easy. In 1932 I was on three of the first-class Zermatt peaks.
Why, then, have I no right to talk about mountain-climbing? For the simple reason that I did all of these climbs with good guides, safeguarded by perfectly good Alpine ropes. An Alpine guide is said to be able to get a sack of meal up the Matterhorn about as well as he can get some tourists up, and then those tourists go home and boast what great mountaineers they are. Well, I differed from the proverbial sack of meal in two particulars: (1) I am a little superior to the sack of meal in climbing ability; (2) the sack of meal is unaware of the fact that it is not a mountaineer, and I am fully aware of the fact that I am not. The man who leads on the rope is the man who has to be a real mountaineer, and I never did that. I am less than the least of the thousands of real climbers who go to the Alps every summer and climb without guides.
But although I am not a mountaineer, I do love the mountains and I have loved them ever since I can remember anything at all. It is about the love of the mountains, rather than about the mountains, that I am venturing to read this little paper today.
Can the love of the mountains be conveyed to those who have it not? I am not sure. Perhaps if a man is not born with that love it is almost as hopeless to try to bring it to him as it would be to explain what color is to a blind man or to try to make President Roosevelt understand the Constitution of the United States. But on the whole I do believe that the love of the mountains can at least be cultivated, and if I can do anything whatever toward getting you to cultivate it, the purpose of this little paper will be amply attained.
One thing is clear—if you are to learn to love the mountains you must go up them by your own power. There is more thrill in the smallest hill in Fairmount Park if you walk up it than there is in the grandest mountain on earth if you go up it in an automobile. There is one curious thing about means of locomotion—the slower and simpler and the closer to nature they are, the more real thrill they give. I have got far more enjoyment out of my two feet than I did out of my bicycle; and I got more enjoyment out of my bicycle than I ever have got out of my motor car; and as for airplanes—well, all I can say is that I wouldn’t lower myself by going up in one of the stupid, noisy things! The only way to have the slightest inkling of what a mountain is is to walk or climb up it.
Now I want you to feel something of what I feel when I am with the mountains that I love. To that end I am not going to ask you to go with me to any out-of-the-way place, but I am just going to take you to one of the most familiar tourist’s objectives, one of the places to which one goes on every ordinary European tour—namely, to Zermatt—and in Zermatt I am not going to take you on any really difficult climbs but merely up one or two of the peaks by the ordinary routes which modern mountaineers despise. I want you to look at Zermatt for a few minutes not with the eyes of a tourist, and not with the eyes of a devotee of mountaineering in its ultra-modern aspects, but with the eyes of a man who, whatever his limitations, does truly love the mountains.
In Zermatt, after I arrived on July 15, 1932, I secured Alois Graven as my guide; and on a number of the more ambitious expeditions I had also Gottfried Perren, who also is a guide of the first class. What Ty Cobb was on a baseball diamond and Bill Tilden is on the courts, that such men are on a steep snow or ice slope, or negotiating a difficult rock, Ueberhang. It is a joy as I have done in Switzerland and in the Eastern Alps, to see really good climbers at work.
At this point I just want to say a word for Swiss and Austrian guides. Justice is not done to them, in my judgment, in many of the books on climbing. You see, it is not they who write the books. They rank as professionals, and the tourists who hire them as “gentleman”; but in many cases I am inclined to think that the truer gentleman is the guide. I am quite sure that that was the case when I went with Alois Graven.
In addition to climbing practice on the wrong side of the cocky little Riffelhorn and on the ridge of the Untergabelhorn—which climbing practice prevented me from buttoning my back collar button without agony for a week—and in addition to an interesting glacier expedition around the back side of the Breithorn and up Pollux (13,430 feet) and Caster (13,850) and down by the Fellikjoch through the ice fall of the Zwillingsgletscher, on which expedition I made my first acquaintance with really bad weather in the high Alps and the curious optical illusions which it causes—it was perfectly amazing to see the way in which near the summit of Caster the leading guide would feel with his ice-axe for the edge of the ridge in what I could have sworn to be a perfectly innocent expanse of easy snowfield right there in plain view before our feet, and it was also perfectly amazing to see the way in which little pieces of ice on the glacier were rolled by way of experimentation down what looked like perfectly innocent slopes, to see whether they would simply disappear in crevasses which I could have sworn not to be there (if they disappeared we didn’t because we took the hint and chose some other way through the labyrinth)—after these various preliminary expeditions and despite the agony of a deep sore on my right foot in view of which the Swiss doctor whom I consulted told me that as a physician he would tell me to quit but that as a man he knew I would not do so and that therefore he would patch me up as well as possible, and despite the even greater agony of a strained stomach muscle which I got when I extricated myself and was extricated one day from a miniature crevasse and which made me, the following night in the Theodul hut, feel as helpless as a turtle laid on its back, so that getting out of my bunk became a difficult mountaineering feat—after these preliminary expeditions and despite these and other agonies due to a man’s giving a fifty-year-old body twenty-year-old treatment, I got up three first-class Zermatt peaks; the Zinalrothorn, the Matterhorn, and the Dent Blanche. Of these three, I have not time—or rather you have not time (for I for my part should just love to go on talking about the mountains for hours and Niagara would have nothing on me for running on)—I say, of these you have not time for me to tell about more than one. It is very hard for me to choose among the three. The Zinalrothorn, I think, is the most varied and interesting as a climb; the Dent Blanche has always had the reputation of being the most difficult of all the Zermatt peaks, and it is a glorious mountain indeed, a mountain that does not intrude its splendors upon the mob but keeps them for those who will penetrate into the vastnesses or will mount to the heights whence true nobility appears in its real proportions. I should love to tell you of that crowning day of my month at Zermatt, when after leaving the Schönbühl Hut at about 2.30 A.M. (after a disappointment the previous night when my guides had assisted in a rescue expedition that took one injured climber and the body of one who was killed in an accident on the Zmutt Ridge of the Matterhorn, opposite the hut where we were staying, down to Zermatt so that we all arrived there about 2 A.M., about the time when it had been planned that we should leave the hut for our climb) we made our way by lantern light up into the strange upper recesses of the Schönbühl Glacier, then by the dawning light of the day across the glacier, across the bottom of a couloir safe in the morning but not a place where one lingers when the warmth of afternoon has affected the hanging glacier two thousand feet above, then to the top of the Wandfluh, the great south ridge, at first broad and easy but contracting above to its serrated knife-edge form, then around the “great gendarme” and around or over the others of the rock towers on the ridge, until at last that glorious and unbelievable moment came when the last few feet of the sharp snow ridge could be seen with nothing above but a vacancy of blue, and when I became conscious of the fact that I was actually standing on the summit of the Dent Blanche.
But the Matterhorn is a symbol as well as a mountain, and so I am going to spend the few minutes that remain in telling you about that.
There is a curious thing when you first see the Matterhorn on a fresh arrival at Zermatt. You think your memory has preserved for you an adequate picture of what it is like. But you see that you were wrong. The reality is far more unbelievable than any memory of it can be. A man who sees the Matterhorn standing at that amazing angle above the Zermatt street can believe that such a thing exists only when he keeps his eyes actually fastened upon it.
When I arrived on July 15, 1932, the great mountain had not yet been ascended that summer. The masses of fresh snow were too great; the weather had not been right. That is one way in which this mountain retains its dignity even in the evil days upon which it has fallen when duffers such as I can stand upon its summit. In storm, it can be almost as perilous as ever even to those who follow the despised easiest route.
It was that despised easiest route, of course, which I followed—though my guide led me to have hopes of doing the Zmutt Ridge before I got through. On Monday, August 1st, we went up to the “Belvedere,” the tiny little hotel (if you can call it such) that stands right next to the old Matterhorn Hut at 10,700 feet. We went up there intending to ascend the Matterhorn the next day. But alas for human hopes. Nobody ascended the Matterhorn the next day, nor the day after that, nor that whole week. On Wednesday we with several other parties went a little way, but high wind and cold and snow soon drove us back. The Matterhorn may be sadly tamed, but you cannot play with it when the weather is not right. That applies to experts as well as to novices like me. I waited at the Belvedere all that week until Friday. It is not the most comfortable of summer resorts, and I really think that the stay that I made in it was one of the longest that any guest had ever made. Its little cubby-holes of rooms are admirable as Frigidaires, but as living quarters they are “not so hot.” People came and people went; very polyglot was the conversation: but I remained. I told them that I was the hermit or the Einsiedler of the Belvedere. At last, however, even I gave it up. On Friday I returned to Zermatt, in plenty of time for the Saturday night bath!
The next Monday we toiled again up that five thousand feet to the Belvedere, and this time all went well. On Tuesday, August 9th, I stood on what I suppose is, next to Mt. Everest, the most famous mountain in the world.
From the Belvedere to the summit is about four thousand feet. The Matterhorn differs from every other great Alpine peak that I know anything about in that when you ascend it by the usual route you do not once set foot on a glacier. You climb near the northeast ridge—for the most part not on the actual ridge itself but on the east face near the ridge. In some places in the lower part there is some danger from falling stones, especially if other parties are climbing above. There is scarcely anything that the blasé modern mountaineer calls rock climbing of even respectable difficulty; but it is practically all rock climbing or clambering of a sort, and it seems quite interesting enough to the novice. The most precipitous part is above what is called “the shoulder,” and it was from near this part that the four members of Whymper’s party fell 4,000 feet to their death when they were descending after the first ascent in 1865. There are now fixed ropes at places in this part. You grasp the hanging rope with one hand and find the holds in the rock with the other. It took me five hours and forty minutes to make the ascent from the Belvedere. It would certainly have been no great achievement for an athlete; but I am not an athlete and never was one, and I was then fifty-one years of age and have an elevator in the building where I live. The rarefied air affected me more than it used to do in my earlier years, and the mountain is about 14,700 feet high. I shall never forget those last few breathless steps when I realized that only a few feet of easy snow separated me from the summit of the Matterhorn. When I stood there at last—the place where more than any other place on earth I had hoped all my life that I might stand—I was afraid I was going to break down and weep for joy.
The summit looks the part. It is not indeed a peak, as you would think it was from looking at the pictures which are taken from Zermatt, but a ridge—a ridge with the so-called Italian summit at one end and the so-called Swiss summit three feet higher at the other. Yes, it is a ridge. But what a ridge! On the south you look directly over the stupendous precipice of the south face to the green fields of Valtournanche. On the north you look down an immensely steep snow slope—with a vacancy beyond that is even more impressive than an actual view over the great north precipice would be. As for the distant prospect, I shall not try to describe it, for the simple reason that it is indescribable. Southward you look out over the mysterious infinity of the Italian plain with the snows of Monte Viso one hundred miles away. To the west, the great snow dome of Mont Blanc stands over a jumble of snow peaks; and it looks the monarch that it is. To the north the near peaks of the Weisshorn and the Dent Blanche, and on the horizon beyond the Rhone Valley a marvelous glittering galaxy of the Jungfrau and the Finsteraarhorn and the other mountains of the Benese Oberland. To the east, between the Strahlhorn and Monte Rosa, the snows of the Weissthorn are like a great sheet let down from heaven, exceeding white and glistering, so as no fuller on earth can white them; and beyond, fold on fold, soft in the dim distance, the ranges of the Eastern Alps.
Then there is something else about that view from the Matterhorn. I felt it partly at least as I stood there, and I wonder whether you can feel it with me. It is this. You are standing there not in any ordinary country, but in the very midst of Europe, looking out from its very centre. Germany just beyond where you can see to the northeast, Italy to the south, France beyond those snows of Mont Blanc. There, in that glorious round spread out before you, that land of Europe, humanity has put forth its best. There it has struggled; there it has fallen; there it has looked upward to God. The history of the race seems to pass before you in an instant of time, concentrated in that fairest of all the lands of the earth. You think of the great men whose memories you love, the men who have struggled there in those countries below you, who have struggled for light and freedom, struggled for beauty, struggled above all for God’s Word. And then you think of the present and its decadence and its slavery, and you desire to weep. It is a pathetic thing to contemplate the history of mankind.
What will be the end of that European civilization, of which I had a survey from my mountain vantage ground—of that European civilization and its daughter in America? What does the future hold in store? Will Luther prove to have lived in vain? Will all the dreams of liberty issue into some vast industrial machine? Will even nature be reduced to standard, as in our country the sweetness of the woods and hills is being destroyed, as I have seen them destroyed in Maine, by the uniformities and artificialities and officialdom of our national parks? Will the so-called “Child Labor Amendment” and other similar measures be adopted, to the destruction of all the decencies and privacies of the home? Will some dreadful second law of thermodynamics apply in the spiritual as in the material realm? Will all things in church and state be reduced to one dead level, coming at last to an equilibrium in which all liberty and all high aspirations will be gone? Will that be the end of all humanity’s hopes? I can see no escape from that conclusion in the signs of the times; too inexorable seems to me to be the march of events. No, I can see only one alternative. The alternative is that there is a God—a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men.I know that there are people who tell us contemptuously that always there are croakers who look always to the past, croakers who think that the good old times are the best. But I for my part refuse to acquiesce in this relativism which refuses to take stock of the times in which we are living. It does seem to me that there can never be any true advance, and above all there can never be any true prayer, unless a man does pause occasionally, as on some mountain vantage ground, to try, at least, to evaluate the age in which he is living. And when I do that, I cannot for the life of me see how any man with even the slightest knowledge of history can help recognizing the fact that we are living in a time of sad decadence—a decadence only thinly disguised by the material achievements of our age, which already are beginning to pall on us like a new toy. When Mussolini makes war deliberately and openly upon democracy and freedom, and is much admired for doing so even in countries like ours; when an ignorant ruffian is dictator of Germany, until recently the most highly educated country in the world—when we contemplate these things I do not see how we can possibly help seeing that something is radically wrong. Just read the latest utterances of our own General Johnson, his cheap and vulgar abuse of a recent appointee of our President, the cheap tirades in which he develops his view that economics are bunk—and then compare that kind of thing with the state papers of a Jefferson or a Washington—and you will inevitably come to the conclusion that we are living in a time when decadence has set in on a gigantic scale.
What have I from my visits to the mountains, not only from those in the Alps, but also, for example, from that delightful twenty-four-mile walk which I took one day last summer in the White Mountains over the whole Twin Mountain range? The answer is that I have memories. Memory, in some respects, is a very terrible thing. Who has not experienced how, after we have forgotten some recent hurt in the hours of sleep, the memory of it comes back to us on our awaking as though it were some dreadful physical blow. Happy is the man who can in such moments repeat the words of the Psalmist and who in doing so regards them not merely as the words of the Psalmist but as the Word of God. But memory is also given us for our comfort; and so in hours of darkness and discouragement I love to think of that sharp summit ridge of the Matterhorn piercing the blue or the majesty and the beauty of that world spread out at my feet when I stood on the summit of the Dent Blanche.
It was on this day in 1857 that the Rev. Ebenezer Platt Rogers [1817-1881] delivered an historical discourse regarding the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Albany, New York, on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1857. But if like me you are still suffering from too much turkey and pecan pie, perhaps it will be best to skip over the heavier substance of the message from Rev. Rogers and simply to focus on his opening words. I pray you will find these words thought-provoking and something to take to heart.
We begin with the text chosen for his discourse.
Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.—Psalm xlviii: 12, 13.
“Thus does the pious psalmist exhort us to note with zealous care, the history and character of the Church of God. To trace out that history, to record her progress, to take note of God’s dealings with her from time to time, and testify to her advancement and triumph, is a grateful task, and a solemn duty. Especially when that history runs over the track of centuries, should this duty be discharged. For as the river widens its channel, and bears richer freight on its bosom, as it flows farther and faster from its source, so as we follow the history of the Church down the stream of time, we find it richer in interest, and more deeply laden with the treasures of the Divine presence and blessing.
“And what is true of the church at large, is no less true of individual churches and congregations. We regard it as the solemn duty of every church to keep a faithful record of its history, and to afford the opportunity to succeeding generations to know something of its origin, its progress, its vicissitudes, its foes, its struggles and its triumphs. The ancient Jews were required “to instruct their children that they might convey throughout all generations the history of those Divine interpositions and mercies with which they had been favored.” And the obligation is no less binding upon Christian churches, thus to keep in perpetual remembrance the dealings of God with them for the information and encouragement of succeeding generations.”
Words to Live By:
Time and again throughout the Scriptures, perhaps most notably in the Psalms, we are instructed to remember the Lord’s works. By God’s design, it is a means by which we can keep our hearts fresh before the Lord and our love for Him fueled anew.
Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart,
in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the Lord are great,
sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious:
and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered:
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
—Psalm 111:1-4, KJV (emphasis added)
Over at Presbyterians of the Past, my good friend Barry Waugh posts more or less weekly, and has graciously allowed me to present his latest blog here today. And as we try to tie things to the calendar date, I can’t pass up noting that Rev. Milledoler had the distinction of being born on September […]
The following brief account concerns the small controversy over the ecclesiastical views of Jonathan Edwards. There is a separate account, to the same conclusion, originally told by Dr. Archibald Alexander and then related by the Rev. R. J. Breckinridge on the pages of the Philadelphia magazine, The Presbyterian. [perhaps I can retrieve that article soon]. But […]
Dr. David Calhoun just a few years ago published a volume on the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, the Columbia Seminary professor who was such a powerful influence in the lives of many of the founding fathers of the PCA. [Pleading for a Reformation Vision. Banner of Truth, 2013]. Let’s let […]
The Westminster Standards are the Standards of the Presbyterian Church We have already considered the meeting which took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which stopped an impending schism in the infant Presbyterian Church by The Adopting Act of 1729, as was presented on September 17. But there was another important commitment made by the infant church as part of this multi-day […]
It was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking. This appears to be one […]
A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith. But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this. So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be […]
Excerpted from Volume III of The Presbyterian Magazine, September 1853, pp. 413-415.This recounting of the venerable Dr. Alexander’s farewell to his congregation bears the following footnote: THE PRESBYTERIAN says, that “A valued friend recently discovered in the possession of one of the Pine Street parishoners of Dr. Archibald Alexander, a manuscript copy of the remarks made […]
This is the concluding article in the series PRESBYTERIANS IN AMERICA. The author, Rev. Prof. Paul Woolley, was formerly the professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I do hope you have found Rev. Woolley’s articles both interesting and instructive, and I do trust that our readers are more familiar now than […]
Dr. Paul Woolley’s series of articles on Presbyterians in America continues today with a segment on churches of Covenanter ancestry. Please keep in mind that these articles were written in the early 1950s and so much has changed since that time. VI – The Churches of Covenanter Ancestry [Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 86.3 (March 1952): 25-26] […]
On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who […]