January 2019

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On the Death of a Christian.

Jacob Jones Janeway was a noted Philadelphia pastor in the first half of the nineteenth century, an author, and a close friend of the early Princeton Theological Seminary faculty (Alexander, Miller and Hodge). Here, from the closing pages of his biography, is an account of how he himself faced death, early in 1858:—

J.J. JanewayOn Sabbath, January 31, [1858] he was confined to that bed, from which he never arose. Five months of wearying sickness passed away till all was over. He never complained—always said he did not suffer, though it seemed to his attendants almost impossible that he did not. The coloured man who had long lived in his house nursed him faithfully. His children were much with him. At times his disease appeared so violent that it seemed impossible that he could survive. But he rallied again. He insisted that morning and evening worship should be performed in his chamber, and readily detected the absence of any of his servants. Worship was ordinarily performed by one of his sons. If at any time their own duties compelled them to be absent, he would be propped up in his bed, and utter his usual fervent prayers.

Disease obscured his mind, and caused confusion and wandering. But on the subject of religion, or any exposition of the Scripture, he was clear as ever. Not one syllable is he remembered to have uttered which betrayed confusion, where the interests of Christ’s kingdom were concerned. When any of his grandchildren approached him who were not in communion with the church, he faithfully conversed with them—bade them meet him at the judgment-seat, on the right hand. He was remarkably earnest in his appeals, and enforced them with urgency. The ruling passion was strong in death.

When he was told of the occurent revivals of the noon-day meetings for prayer, and of the general interest manifested everywhere in religion, his countenance beamed, and he said there were more glorious days at hand, and that the Redeemer’s kingdom would be ushered in by such displays of grace. Towards the close, he said to his eldest son : ” I am tired of eating—I want to go home!” But still the strong man of his constitution struggled with disease; pin after pin seemed loosening in the tabernacle; symptom after symptom developed unfavourably, but his frame did not succumb. The nature of his disease was such as to prevent such exhibitions as are often seen in God’s dying children. This was the appointment of God, and a life of such eminent holiness did not require any other illustration of the grace of God. At the close of June, he became unconscious, and lay for two or three days without any communion with the outer world. His children were with him, hourly waiting for his departure, and at last, on Sabbath, June 27th, just before the setting of the sun, he entered on his eternal Sabbath, and doubtless, as a good and faithful servant, was received by his Lord, whom he had served earnestly, in as far as the imperfection which cleaves to our nature permitted.

His funeral was attended in the First Presbyterian church, when the Rev. Dr. Hodge, who had been received by him, in the dew of his own youth, into the communion of the church, preached his funeral sermon, full of affection, and replete with memorials of his deceased  and venerable friend. Devout men carried him to his tomb—Christian ministers who had come at the summons, from their homes, to see the last of one whom they venerated when living, and mourned when removed. After the death of his wife, he had built for himself a family tomb, and was anxious that it should be of capacity sufficient to accommodate the remains of his family, and of his children to the fourth generation. He seemed to take pleasure in the thought that their dust should repose together till the morning of the resurrection, and rise, he trusted, an unbroken family, to the right hand of his Saviour.

[Excerpted from The Life of Dr. J. J. Janeway, pp. 260-261.]

Words to Live By:
May we all die well; which is to say, may we all die in Christ, our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; may we all, in this life and while there is life, seek Christ as our only Savior and Lord, for none of us know when we must answer that call to go Home.

A Presbyterian Woman of Uncommon Courage
by David T. Myers

Lady Anna (some say Anne) Cunningham was a Scottish woman of Christian conviction and courage. Born into a family of distinguished Scotch Reformers and yes, Presbyterians, she was reared with biblical principles and Presbyterian doctrine in the days of John Knox. The fact that she was in economic wealth only added to the influence of her important place in the history of Scotland.

Of her early life, we possess no information, except a cherished commitment to Presbyterianism. We do know that in 1603, she married on January 30 the heir of the Marquis of Hamilton. That meant in those days and years an opposition to the crown of England and Scotland who actively fought for the establishment of Anglicanism in the realm. This was a spiritual battle, and at times a military one.

One of her grown children, James, sided with the king against the Presbyterians. He joined the English army as they attempted to militarily conquer the kingdom of Scotland by force in 1639. His mother, the Lady of this post, appeared on horseback with a troop of cavalry, wearing two pistols, with home made silver bullets, which she said would take care of these invaders, including her wayward son! The king’s army and navy did not land on Scotland’s shore, considering that they were outnumbered by these fierce Scottish forces. Eventually, a pacification was concluded between the king and the Presbyterians after the Battle of Berwick.

Lady Cunningham died in 1647 in Scotland.

Words to Live By: Our faithful subscribers may conclude that she had all of the advantages that a wealthy and influential woman could have in her upbringing and sub sequential life. But there are some historical figures which had those and out of fear of losing them, compromised their testimony of faith. This Christian woman did not do so, but out of a living faith and hope, threw herself and all her wealth and position into the fray of supporting Christian Presbyterian doctrine and life in difficult times. Wherever God has placed you, Christian women, use your circumstances to stand strong for the Lord Jesus in your home, church, and society.

The following account has been freely edited from Fowler’s History of the Synod of Central New York (1877) and from the funeral discourse delivered by J. Trumbull Backus.

At Home in the Joy of the Lord

Union College in Schenectady, New York, was chartered in 1795 and held its first commencement in 1797, with Dr. John Blair Smith serving as the school’s first president, 1795-99. The younger Jonathan Edwards followed as president of the school, but only lived a dozen months or so after taking the helm [1799-1801]. Dr. Jonathan Maxey followed him [1802-04], but retired in 1804, and then came Dr. Eliphalet Nott, who still holds the record as having served Union College longest in the post of President [1804-66]. Fifty years following his inauguration, he remarked, “Some forty students scattered over the then village of Schenectady, meeting for educational purposes in what was then a cabinet-maker’s shop, with a single Professor, was the whole of Union College,” and it may be added, only sixty-three had graduated from it at that time.

He addressed himself to the raising of needed funds and the erection of needed buildings, as well as the establishment and filling of new departments, and he wonderfully succeeded in this part of his work, while as President he attracted crowds of young men, four thousand of whom were graduated during his presidency.

nott_eliphaltet_graveThough incessantly occupied by his duties to the college, Dr. Nott was much engaged in outside preaching, and considerably in ecclesiastical affairs, and in 1811 was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly. He entered cordially into the temperance reform, and was the constant dependence and counsellor of Mr. Edward C. Delavan in his large and liberal enterprises for this cause. He published occasional addresses and sermons, and in 1810 his “Counsel to Young Men,” which passed through numerous editions, and in 1847, “Lectures on Temperance.” In 1860 he went for the last time to his lecture room, and presided at Commencement for the last time in 1862. Infirmities were gathering upon him for many years previously, and his decline ended in fatal paralysis, January 29, 1866. “His dying counsel to his nearest friend was, ‘Fear God and keep His commandments,’ and his last words were, ‘Jesus Christ, my covenant God.’ “

The immediate expectation of death is usually a severe test of man; and Dr. Nott had been conscious of that condition for years. Since 1860 he felt that he was within a momentary summons to go home to his Lord. During much of this protracted period of awaiting and expecting, he was enough of himself to discriminate clearly, and cautiously consider his prospects. Clouds and apprehensions would sometimes intervene; but always there was reverent, cordial submission to the Divine will, and for the most part a sweet, humble, child-like fearlessness of trust and hope. It was the manifestation of a true, soul-sustaining Christianity; and a demonstration of his sincerity, an interpretation of his life beyond all scope for cavil or doubt–a priceless testimony to the covenant faithfulness of God. . . He was ever to the end a little child before God, most pleased to sit at Jesus’ feet, and confiding firmly, gratefully, in the sovereignty and loving-kindness of his gracious Lord. He is now at home in the joy of his Lord.

Words to Live By:
We sometimes use that phrase, “at home in the joy of the Lord,” as a euphemism of death, though it does indeed express a reality for the departed Christian. But think about it—shouldn’t that be our goal even here and now, to be “at home in the joy of the Lord”? We can and should strive to be so daily conversant with our covenant God, in His Word and in prayer, that we can truly say that we are at home in the joy of the Lord, even now, and well before death’s inevitable call.

Historical Note: It was mildly interesting to note that there is some discrepancy regarding the death date for Dr. Nott. Some sources give January 25th as the date of his demise. Others state that he died on January 29th. Finally, a photograph of his gravestone was located and while grave markers have on occasion been chiseled with error, we will in this instance go with the date set down in stone.

In Flanders Fields
by Rev. David T. Myers

Few, if any of our subscribers, were alive during the closing days of World War One. Yet some of them would still recognize, if only from history books, the defining poem which summed up the horrors of that war to end all wars, namely, “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If you break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”

The author of this poem, John MaCrae, a medical doctor on the battlefield that day, had just experienced the death of a beloved friend in a battle. He sat down in the back of a ambulance to pen these words in grief over the loss of his friend. After writing it, he threw it away as unimportant. An officer friend retrieved it and sent it to an English newspaper publisher who printed it. It went on to become the famous poem describing all wars. And the “poppy” flower was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Canada, Britain, the United States, and other Commonwealth countries.

John McCrae would not make it home to Canada however. He became ill with pneumonia which was soon complicated by meningitis. He died on this day, January 28, 1918 and buried with military honors in France.

What many of our readers may not know, however, is that John MaCrae was by both sides of his ancestry a Scotch Presbyterian. He was reared in a home where the Bible was read and studied ever day. He was taught to obey its every precept by his godly parents. He attended St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Montreal, Canada. A statue can be found there as well on the field in France, which reminds everyone who sees it as the extraordinary life of a soldier-physician who made the extreme sacrifice.

Words to Live By: In this series of biographies on This Day in Presbyterian History, we try as your editors to bring you characters of Presbyterian conviction and conduct who made the world, even the war world, brighter by their self-denying life and yes, their death. We shall behold them again at the resurrection of the dead in glory. For now, we can remember their life and yes, their demise, and behold their place in Presbyterian history. We can thank God as the giver of both life and death that it was not lived in vain, but accomplished what the Sovereign God decreed was their place in history. And we can give thanks to that God of the Bible for His leading in our lives. Take time today to thank God for that very fact.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST.

Q.4. What is God?

  1. A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

EXPLICATION.

A Spirit. —A living, thinking substance, without bodily parts, and which cannot be seen with the eyes.

Infinite. —Without bounds or limits.

Eternal.—Without beginning and without end.

Unchangeable. —Always the same, without any alteration.

ANALYSIS.

The knowledge which we here receive, concerning God, consists of ten particulars:

  1. 1. That God is a Spirit.—John iv. 24. God is a Spirit.—John i. 18. No man hath seen God at any time.
  2. That he is infinite.—Job. xi. 7. Canst thou by searching find out God?
  3. That he is eternal. —Psal. xc. 1, 2. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.
  4. That he is unchangeable.—Mal. iii. 6. I am the Lord, I change not. Psal. xxxiii. 11. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
  5. That he is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his BEING or ESSENCE.Exod. iii. 14. God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM
  6. That he is so likewise in his WISDOM, or that attribute of his nature by which he knows and directs all things. — Ps. cxlvii. 5. His understanding is infinite.
  7. That he is the same also in his POWER, or that attribute of his nature, by which he can do everything, that is no sinful or dishonorable. —Jer. xxxii. 27. Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?Mark x. 27. With God all things are possible.
  8. That the same perfections extend also to the HOLINESS of God, or that attribute of his nature, which shows him to be perfectly free from all sin. Rev. xv. 4. O Lord— thou only art holy.—Psal. cxlv. 17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
  9. That he is equally perfect in his JUSTICE, or that attribute of his nature, which he renders to every creature his due.—Psal. lxxxix. 14. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.— Rev. xv. 3. Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints!
  10. That this is also the case with his GOODNESS, and TRUTH, or those attributes of his nature, by which he is kind to his creatures, and by which he abhors everything like deceit and falsehood.— Exod. xxxiv. 6. The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.—1 John iv. 8. God is love.

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