June 2019

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THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 29 & 30

Q. 29.
How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

EXPLICATION.

Partakers. –Sharers.

Redemption. –Deliverance from sin and misery, and the possession of holiness and everlasting happiness in the heavenly world.

Purchased by Christ. –Our redemption, or salvation, is said to be purchased or bought by Christ, because he gave his life for it, that he might secure it for his people.

Effectual application of it to us. –The making of this redemption and all its blessings really ours, as much as any possession or inheritance can be.

ANALYSIS.

The doctrines contained in this answer, are three in number :

  1. That redemption is purchased by Christ, for his people. –Eph. i. 7. We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
  2. That we are made sharers of this redemption by application. –John i. 12. As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.
  3. That this redemption can only be effectually applied to us by the Holy Spirit. –Titus iii. 5,6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Q.30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ ?

A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ, in our effectual calling.

EXPLICATION.

Working faith in us. –Causing us to believe in Christ, to the saving of our souls.

Uniting us to Christ. –Joining us to Christ, or making us one with him, in the like manner as the different members are joined to the same body, and with it make one person.

ANALYSIS.

We have here three doctrines:

  1. That the Holy Spirit, in applying redemption, works faith in us. –Eph. ii. 8. By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
  2. That by faith, thus wrought in us, we are united to Christ. –Eph. iii. 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.
  3. That this union takes place in our effectual calling. –1 Cor. i. 9. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his son Jesus Christ.

With some slight editing, we present today a portion of the text from George P. Hays’s 1892 work, PRESBYTERIANS.

Each in Turn, Briefly Center-stage

By act of Parliament, Presbyterianism was legally established as the state religion of England on this day, June 29, 1647. But before it could be further set up, proceedings in that direction were halted by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. In 1649, King Charles I. was beheaded by the authority of the Rump Parliament, and finally all parliamentary government was destroyed. The tidal wave toward Independency, which rose at the time of Cromwell, began to get ready for its return as the English people saw the Lord Protector’s soldiers dispersing Parliament.

Cromwell was as much opposed to Presbyterianism as he was to Episcopacy. His Latin secretary, the poet John Milton, had quite famously and precisely expressed Cromwell’s sentiments when he said that, “Presbyter was only Priest writ large.” The English nation, however, soon found out that Cromwell, while he was pious and honest, was also a dictator, and had at his back a thoroughly disciplined army. Under him the nation was quiet and orderly and voiceless at home and powerful abroad. The navy swept the seas clear of competitors; and a shake of the head by Cromwell, concerning the persecution of the Waldensians, as expressed in that magnificient poem of his secretary Milton, “Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints,” made even the Duke of Savoy and France’s king Louis XIV. call home from the Alps their relentless bloodhounds, and the Pope to cringe in his palace.

Oliver Cromwell, the absolutist, died in 1658 and he left no viable successor. Social chaos rolled over the kingdom when his son Richard tried to fill his father’s chair. In 1660 General Monk forestalled the movement for a parliamentary contract with royalty by calling Charles II. back to England and by the army putting him on the throne. Charles came, a thorough-going Stuart, without having learned any wisdom from the experience of his father. His return sent the Puritans into retirement and brought the rollicking Cavalliers all to the front. Amusement ran riot over England.

The Episcopal bishops immediately found that their success needed that they should keep still and flatter Charles. The Presbyterians yielded in quiet, in the hope that that the Savoy Conference to adjust religious matters, held in 1661, would secure religious toleration. Instead of that the Act of Uniformity came in 1662, and two thousand non-conformist ministers were forced to leave their pulpits and their worldly support, rather than violate their consciences. In the providence of God, all of this tended to increase emigration out of England and into America.

Words to Live By:
Nothing in the political and social machinations of man ever surprises the Lord of all creation. Jesus Christ remains King of Kings and Lord of lords, sovereign over all the nations of this earth. Great hope was perhaps raised on this day, June 29, 1647, but within a short span of years that hope seemingly came to naught. Then what seemed a great defeat in 1662 was used of God to bring a greater triumph as the Church was established for the next several centuries in a more prosperous and strategic place across the ocean. We may not understand—in fact, in this life we most likely never will understand—but God’s purposes and plan are sure. Surely the Lord God oversees all of human history, and will bring it to His intended conclusion.

Standing Against Conformity to the World

FRANCIS HERRON:
Born, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1774.
Graduated, at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, May 5, 1794.
LIcensed to Preach, by the Presbytery of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, October 4, 1797.
Ordained to the ministry and Installed as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Rocky Spring, Franklin County, PA, April 9, 1809.
Removed to Pittsburgh, and Settled as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, May, 1811.
Resigned his Pastoral Charge, December 1850.
Died, December 6, 1860.

So in short compass the life of a venerable Presbyterian divine, as it is summarized at the head of a slim volume issued in his memory. Rev. Herron’s life, it was said, was “a life of more than usual historic importance.”

herronFrancis_portrait1862Francis Herron was born near Shippensburg, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1774. He belonged to that honored and honorable race, the Scotch-Irish, memorable in the history of the world, but especially in our country, for a thorough devotion to evangelical truth and constitutional liberty. The training of his early years bore rich fruit at a subsequent period of his life, making him so eminent among his brethren as an effective preacher and an orthodox divine.

Receiving the careful training indicative of his parents high regard for knowledge, he entered Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, then under the care of that distinguished Presbyterian, Rev. Dr. Nesbitt. Here he completed his classical course, and graduated May 5, 1794. The prayers of his pious parents were answered by the influence of grace upon his heart, and he was led to study for the ministry of reconciliation. He studied Theology under Robert Cooper, D.D., his pastor, and was licensed by Carlisle Presbytery, October 4, 1797.

He entered upon his Lord’s service as a missionary, going out into the backwoods, as it was then called, passing through Pittsburgh, Pa., then a small village, and extending his tour as far west as Chillicothe, Ohio. Stopping for the night at a tavern at Six Mile Run, near Wilkinsburg, Pa., the people prevailed upon him to stay till the following Sabbath, which he did, and under the shade of an apple tree this young disciple broke the bread of life to the people.

His journey resumed the next day, and with a frontier settler for his guide, he pushed on to his destination through an almost unbroken wilderness, his course often guided by the “blazes” upon the trees. Two nights he encamped with the Indians, who were quite numerous near what is now the town of Marietta, Ohio.

On his return from Chillicothe, Ohio, he visited Pittsburgh. The keeper of the tavern where he lodged, proved to be an old acquaintance, and at his request, he consented to preach. Notice was sent, and in the evening a small congregation of about eighteen persons assembled. The house he preached in was a rude structure, built of logs, occupying the site of the present First Presbyterian church. And such was the primitive style of that day, that during the services the swallows, who had their nests in the eaves, flew among the congregation.

At this time the churches in that portion of our country were visited with a season of refreshing grace, and Mr. Herron entered into the revival with all the ardor of youth filled with hopefulness and zeal. He preached for Rev. Dr. John McMillan at the Chartiers church, during a revival season. He also preached at the Buffalo church, where his fervid eloquence made a deep impression and the people presented him a call, and strongly urged it upon his attention. He however concluded to return to the vicinity of his home, especially, as a call from Rocky Spring church was awaiting him. This call he accepted, and he was ordained and installed as pastor of that church, by Carlisle Presbytery, April 9, 1800.

Some ten years later, he was invited to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian church, then vacant by the recent death of Rev. Robert Steele.

The people were charmed with his discourse, his ripening intellect modified by that refined spirituality, which was a prominent element in his ministrations, had a powerful effect upon his audience. They urged him to preach for them a second time, which he did, the result was a unanimous call was made out and presented to him in the usual manner.

The Presbytery of Carlisle dissolved the relation that existed between Rocky Spring church and Mr. Herron, and he was dismissed to Redstone Presbytery, April 3, 1811, and he was installed pastor of the First Presbyterian church, Pittsburgh, PA, the following June. In a few weeks he removed with his family to his new home, travelling in a large wagon, with his wife, children, and all his household goods.

He joined Redstone Presbytery June 18, 1811. The importance of his new position was fully and truly felt, the commercial importance of Pittsburgh had given all kinds of business an impetus, and prosperity was advancing rapidly; but this outward show referred only to worldly affairs, the religious condition of the people was cold and almost lifeless. The church to which he was called was embarrassed with debt, and the piety of the people manifested a degree of conformity to the world, which nearly appalled the preacher’s heart. But the experience of his ten years pastorate was to him invaluable, and girding himself, he entered upon his duties with a true heart and an earnest purpose. His preaching was the simple exposition of the truth as it is in Jesus, pointed, clear, and unwavering, revealing the enormity of sin and pleading with the fidelity of one who loved their souls. This style of preaching was sustained by his efforts to establish the prayer-meeting, which, strange as it now appears, met with much opposition, even among professors of religion; but this young pastor knew the holy influence of communion with God, and that God favored a praying people, he therefore went forward, and, in connexion with Rev. Thomas Hunt, who was pastor of the Second church, they persisted, and though to avoid a collision with the people the meetings were not held in the church, a small room was used for that purpose, in which Mr. Hunt taught a day-school. The first meeting consisted of the two pastors, one man, and six women, and thus for eighteen months did this meeting continue without adding a single person to their number.

The chilling indifference of the people soon grew into downright hostility, and husbands and fathers prohibited their wives and daughters from attending, and, finally, when the continued efforts of these pious people could be no longer borne, they waited upon Mr. Herron and told him that it must be stopped, his reply was the turning point in the spiritual condition of that people. He said, “Gentlemen, these meetings will not stop, you are at liberty to do as you please; but I also have the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of my conscience, none daring to molest or make me afraid.” From that time a spirit of piety manifested itself among the members of the church, several gay and fashionable persons were hopefully converted, and an impression was made upon the whole community, at once hopeful and healthful.

Words to Live By:
Do not expect courage of conviction from men who have no convictions, from those who have no anchor in the Word of God. The Scriptures must be drilled down deep into our souls if we are to stand against temptations and testings. May God give us pastors who will set an example, who will faithfully stand against the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil.

For more on the life of the Rev. Francis Herron, see the post by our friend Barry Waugh, here.

A helpful reminder, from the Rev. Robert Pollock Kerr, a prominent Southern Presbyterian pastor and author in the late 19th-century. This comes from his book, PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, a wonderful little volume written in non-technical language. Please note that there may be some understandable quibbles regarding some of Rev. Kerr’s points. For instance, he states that the courts of the church (other than the Session) are composed of equal numbers of ruling and teaching elders.  That may have been the case in his denomination and time, but it has not been the practice in all other Presbyterian denominations.

CHAPTER II. — WHAT IS PRESBYTERIANISM?

The invisible Church consists of all God’s true people in heaven and on earth, and the visible Church of all who profess the essential doctrines of Christianity and who are organized for work and for worship, together with their children.

This great visible Church is made up of several denominations holding various views of doctrine, government and worship, having separate organizations and distinguished by many different names, but all professing the essential truth that we are saved by faith in a divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, whose atoning grace is applied to our souls by the Holy Ghost, who renews us, sanctifies us, and prepares us for heaven.

The various denominations have grown out of different crises of Church history, and, whereas many of them started in dissention, God has overruled their existence to the glory of His name and the good of the world; so that, as they stand today, they are unquestionably an advantage, ensuring a continued study of doctrine and the maintenance of purity, and furnishing an incentive to aggressive effort in the redemption of mankind by the preaching of Jesus Christ.

But, whilst we work in separate organizations, we should love one another, and should let charity so conspicuously crown our efforts as to show in spirit a fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that we “might be one.” Thus shall we silence the sneers of the world at our lack of love.

There are two great questions which every denomination must answer: What to do? and How to do it? “What to do?” refers to the preaching of the gospel; “How to do it?” refers to Church government. This second question some answer by saying, “Do it by episcopal modes;” others, “By congregational;” others still, “By presbyterian.” So Church government is simply “how to do it.” “What to do?” is a question upon which we are all substantially agreed—”to preach Christ and Him crucified.” As to “How to do it?” we say, “Do it by presbyterian modes.”

There are only three great principles of Church government: (1) Episcopal, a government by bishops, including Protestant Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Catholic Churches; (2) Congregational, a government by congregations, including the Congregational, Independent and Baptist Churches; and (3) Presbyterian, a government by Presbyteries, including all Presbyterian and Reformed Churches throughout the world. In civil government there are two great systems, the monarchical, or oligarchical, and the republican; these correspond substantially with Episcopalian and Presbyterian. There is and can be, no such thing as a congregational or purely democratic government in the State if it include a large number of citizens. It is a government by the people without any rulers. Monarchy and republicanism, or self-government, have contended together from the beginning, with a gradual advance among the nations toward the latter; and the highest privilege claimed for the people under a republican government is to elect their own rulers. They are therefore called “representative.” Such is the case in the American republic and in others.

Presbyterian Church government is not a form, but a principle; and whereas the applications of this principle will have a strong resemblance, still the exact forms of its development are determined by circumstances. This principle may be briefly stated as follows: PRESBYTERIANISM IS A CHURCH GOVERNMENT BY REPRESENTATIVES ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE AND ALL OF EQUAL AUTHORITY, WHICH IS EXERCISED BY THEM ONLY WHEN ORGANIZED INTO AN ASSEMBLY OR COURT. These representatives are called Elders, or Presbyters, and are of two classes—Ruling Elders, who only rule, and Teaching Elders (or preachers), who both rule and teach. The assemblies, or courts, of the Church are composed of equal numbers of Ruling and Teaching Elders, except in case of the lowest, called the Session, or Consistory, where all except the presiding officer, or Moderator, are Ruling Elders.

These assemblies are arranged in the scale of a regular gradation from the Session, through the Presbytery and Synod, to the General Assembly, which is the highest. These are all Presbyteries, because composed of Presbyters, and had originally the same functions; but for the sake of efficiency and order there has been a distribution of duties, each one having its own province strictly defined. It is the duty of each higher court to review the proceedings of the next lower, and cases are carried from the lowest to the highest. In some parts of the Church minor classes of cases are not allowed to come before the General Assembly, but receive their final decision in the Synod.

To read all of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, or to see other of his works, click here.

Sad Schism Among the Saints
by Rev. David T. Myers

They were united in their conviction over the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. A number of the teaching and ruling elders had suffered over expulsion from the rolls of the visible church. Others had lost church buildings, manses, and pensions. But in God’s providence, they had gathered in great rejoicing to begin a new church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were one in coming out of the apostasy, but it was not too long before the members of the Presbyterian Church of America were divided over other issues. It was at the third General Assembly of the P.C.A. in Philadelphia, as reported by the June 26th, 1937 Presbyterian Guardian, that these divisive issues came to the floor of the assembly.

The first one dealt with the issue of independency versus ecclesiastical Presbyterianism within the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  Obviously, since 1933 at its organization, this mission board had not been affiliated with any denomination. It was independent of it. Independent agencies had always had a place within the American Presbyterian Church. But now with the advent of the Presbyterian Church of America, the majority of the elders desired that a Presbyterian affiliation be adhered to again. When Dr. J. Gresham Machen was voted off as president of the Independent Board, his place was filled by an Independent Presbyterian, with no affiliation with the new Presbyterian Church of America.  Further, the vice-president’s position was also filled by an individual who was independent of any ecclesiastical relationship to Presbyterianism. Many members, including the General Secretary, Rev. Charles Woodbridge, resigned from the Independent Board.

The commissioners to the Third General Assembly, meeting in Philadelphia at the Spruce Street Baptist Church, overwhelmingly voted that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was no longer to be an agency for foreign missions by the Presbyterian Church of America. By that same margin, they voted to endorse a new Committee on Foreign Missions by the P.C. of A.

The second issue dealt with whether total abstinence from alcoholic beverages was to be the position of the church. While it was acknowledged that the greater number of delegates to the assembly abstained from alcohol, yet they were  hesitant to make it a rule for the church, but instead leave it as a matter of Christian liberty to its membership.  This position was especially difficult for pastors in the middle west of the country who were fighting the saloon trade in western towns.  Given the national issue then in the country over the temperance issue, it was thought that this would have been a wise decision. But again the Assembly refused by a wide margin to make total abstinence the only true principle of temperance.

It is interesting that Westminster Theological Seminary, soon after this assembly, stated to its students, that “to avoid any misconception by the public, a rule is established forbidding all beverage use of alcoholic liquors upon the grounds and in the buildings of the seminary.”

We mention in passing a third issue, “the millennial question,” which by many accounts was the major sticking point in this division. But this third issue is somewhat complicated and really deserves fuller treatment at another time. Hopefully we can return soon to discuss this further.

At the end of this assembly, those who had been in the minority on both of these issues, gathered to begin what became the Bible Presbyterian church. What had been a united front before the watching world became two smaller church bodies of Presbyterians.

Words to Live By:
It is easy to look back at a later date and see the “right thing” to do. But it is obvious that there were unfounded rumors of wild drinking parties on Westminster Seminary grounds as well as  a lack of understanding by some elders of the challenges facing pastors of western churches. To be sure, the guiding wisdom of a J. Gresham Machen was missing from the assembly with his entrance into the heavenly kingdom earlier that year. But all elders, both teaching and ruling elders, are to filled with the Spirit. And working within the framework of love, deal wisely with others who differ from them in points of contention. Let us learn to do this in our own circles.

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