Let This Be Our Reminder to Pray for the Church in China!
On the Spirituality of the Church—A Real-Life Example.
In his History of Columbia Theological Seminary, William Childs Robinson wrote:
Among the sons of Columbia sent out by the Southern Presbyterian Church, perhaps none has a deeper hold on the affectionate memory of the church than Hampden C. DuBose—the biographer of Dr. J. L. Wilson. Dr. DuBose was a South Carolinian, a Confederate Soldier—and for almost fifty years a soldier of the Cross, claiming for his King the city of Soochow, China (1872-1910). He preached indefatigably in the market and the street. He used his pen in translating and in writing a religious literature for the Chinese. Among these works he translated a book by his old Seminary professor, Dr. Wm. S. Plumer The Rock of Our Salvation. He was made President of the Chinese Anti-Opium League, and wrought so effectively in that endeavor that the movement to suppress the opium traffic became “the strongest movement in China.” Rev. DuBose died on September 30, 1910.
The Minutes of the China Mission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), provide many interesting insights into that work and time. We find one particularly noteworthy feature in their Minutes for 1899, when a stand was taken by the Mission in regard to the Mission’s relationship with the Chinese government. This would just prior to the time of the Boxer Rebellion, perhaps even only in the months prior.
The paper adopted by the PCUS China Mission, while a response to the pending crisis that faced them, also provides a good insight in the practical outworking of the doctrine of the spirituality of the Church, at least as held by Southern Presbyterians:
“This Mission overtures other Presbyterian bodies laboring in China to meet in conference the day previous to the General Missionary Conference, in 1901 [I presume here they were looking ahead two years to this then future meeting], to discuss the following questions: (1) Presbyterial union. (2) The establishment of a Presbyterian theological seminary. (3) The establishment of a weekly Presbyterian newspaper in Chinese. (4) The observance of the Sabbath.”
But, next to the division of the Mission, perhaps the most important action taken by the Mission was that defining the political status of missionaries. This paper is as follows:
“With regard to the political status of missionaries in China, and the regulations which should control their intercourse with Chinese officials,
Resolved, That the members of the Southern Presbyterian Mission ask nothing more than the rights of private citizens of the United States. “This resolution is based upon the following considerations:
“1. That functions of a missionary are spiritual. His great work is to care for souls. To assume political power in reality, or even in appearance, is inconsistent with the nature of his office.
“2. Right relations between church and State forbid missionaries to claim ‘equal rank with viceroys and governors,’ ‘demand interviews,’ with them, and with them ‘negotiate and conclude affairs.’ The missionary is not an officer of the State. The United States’ Minister and the Consuls are in China to protect, and do protect, all their fellow-citizens, and the missionary must not usurp or disregard their authority. For a missionary to interfere int he government of China is wrong in principle and pernicious in practice.
“3. Whatever rights of appeal to local officials, or to officers of high rank, may be secured for all citizens of the United Stats, may, with propriety, be used by missionaries, who should, in exercising their rights, be on an equality with other private citizens, and in no way claim to be officers of the United States, or to be equal in rank with any Chinese officials.
Source: The Missionary, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1900): 81-82.
Words to Live By: “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ ”—John 18:36, ESV.
THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 47-48
Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God ; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other which is due to him alone.
Denying God. –Doubting if there be, and desiring that there were no God ; neglecting to improve our minds by obtaining a proper knowledge of the character and perfections of God, as made known in his word ; and committing sin as if there were no God to see and punish us for it.
Not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God and our God. –This means both a total neglect of prayer to God, and also the pretending to honor and serve him with our lips in public, while our hearts are far away from him.
Due to him alone. –Which ought to be paid to God, and to none else.
From this answer, we learn that the sins forbidden in the first commandment, are of four sorts :
The denying of the true God –Psalm xiv. 1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
2. The not worshipping and glorifying of him “as God.” –Rom. i. 20, 21. So that they are without excuse, because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.
3. Neglecting to honor him as “our God.” –Psalm lxxxi. 11. But my people would not hearken unto my voice, Israel would none of me.
4. The giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. –Rom. i. 25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.
Q. 48. What are we especially taught by these words “before me,” in the first commandment?
A. These words, “before me,” in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.
Much displeased. –Highly offended, or very angry.
The sin of having any other God. –Having any other object which we prefer to God, and love better than him.
In this answer we are informed of three things :
That God sees all things. –Heb. iv. 13. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
That he takes notice of the sin of having any other God. –Psalm xliv. 20, 21. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out?
That he is much displeased with this sin. –Deut. xxxii. 16. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods.
FAREWELL LETTER OF REV. WM. S. PLUMER, D. D.TO THE CENTRAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ALLEGHENY, PA.
Read September 28, 1862.
FAREWELL LETTER. _______
The following Farewell Letter of Rev. Dr. Plumer, to the Central Presbyterian Church of Allegheny, Penna., having been read from the Pulpit on Sabbath, September 28th, 1862, is printed for the use of the congregation, at their special request, by
BURLINGTON, N. J., September 24, 1862.
To the Central Presbyterian Church, Allegheny, Pa.
DEAR, DEAR FRIENDS AND BRETHREN: Many among you have expressed a desire to hear from me. I do not regard such wish as unreasonable. Oh, that I could say something that would edify and comfort you all. God is my record how I long for you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. I often, in the dead hours of the night, carry your case to a throne of grace. I never loved any charge more than I have loved you. I could have freely laid down my life for you, if it would have done you any good. I know you love me and confide in me. As it may be some time before I shall see many of you, I venture, with the approval of the Session of your Church, to address to you some friendly, farewell counsels and salutations. I do this specially because I had no opportunity of doing so before leaving you.
PRINTED BY BARR & MYERS, CORNER OF FIFTH AND WOOD STREETS. 1862.
1. I beseech you to see to it that ye be real, genuine Christians. Dig deep, and lay your sure foundations on the Rock, Christ. Make Him all in all. The longer I live the more I marvel at the greatness of Christ’s love to us and the feebleness of our love to him. Without Christ you can do nothing.
2. Try to be not only real but eminent Christians.“Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my Disciples.” In order to enjoy religion, we must be truly engaged and zealous. God can cause you to abound more and more in all that is lovely and gracious. Look to Him. Walk with Him. Trust Him in the darkest hour. Obey Him in all things.
3. I specially urge you to guard against all malicious feelings. Bear no grudges. Indulge no hatred. Be truly kind and pitiful. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Bless and curse not. Let all men see that you have a Christ-like temper. Try to be more and more gentle.“The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Malevolent feelings are a great torment. They are a great hindrance to a close and comfortable walking with God. They are a great sin.
4. I earnestly advise you to cling together. Be united. Be of one mind. Let no root of bitterness spring up among you and trouble you. Do not forsake the dear Church, where we have so happily worshiped God. The Lord will bless you richly, I doubt not. You must not be discouraged by any thing. Faithful is He that has promised a rich blessing to all that call upon Him.
5. I wish to thank you for all the love and confidence you have shown me. I beg a continued remembrance in your prayers. But I request that you do not allow your hearts to be crushed with care for me. I am indeed desolate, distressed, perplexed. I am without home or field of labor, or usual means of comfort. But I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be therewith content. I am happy, very happy, in Jesus. My cup overflows. All is well. Jesus reigns. I fare better than my Master did when on earth. True, I have no certain dwelling-place, but neither had thousands of primitive Christians and preachers. Do not brood over my trials. I have not yet resisted unto blood.
6. I beg you to love and care for all the little children of the congregation. I love them. I know they love me. Ask them sometimes to pray for me. Do not let them forget me. But, above all, teach them to love the Saviour. He is the friend, the best friend, the almighty friend, the unchanging friend, of all little boys and girls who put their trust in Him. He says, “I love them that love me, and those that seek me early will find me.”
7. Among you are some who are peculiarly children of sorrow, and all of you are liable to become so at any time. To all such let me say, the promises of God are sure and ample. Never distrust God’s goodness. I will venture to ask you to read a little Tract of mine called “Comforts and counsels for the afflicted.” It may be had at the Presbyterian Book Rooms.
8. To such of the congregation as do not yet love the Lord Jesus Christ, I wish to say a few words: Dear friends, forgive me that I spoke to you so coldly of the love of Christ; so languidly of the bliss of Heaven; so tamely of the horrors of an undone eternity. I beg you now to give your hearts to Christ. Oh! that you would at once repent and believe the Gospel. With many tears falling, I beseech you to be reconciled to God. Oh! flee to Jesus.
9. As I had no opportunity of saying any parting words to the congregation, I say them now. I choose the words of Scripture. [Here read Psalm 37, 3-7.] The hardest word I ever said was Farewell. I never said it on a sadder occasion, or with a tenderer heart than I do now. Farewell, you dear little boys and girls. Farewell, you honored fathers and mothers in the congregation. Farewell, ye young men and maidens, who have been so pleasant to me. Farewell, ye honored elders and deacons. Farewell, my dear spiritual children, whom I have begotten in the Gospel. Farewell, old and young, rich and poor. I expect to pray for you with my dying breath. Once your pastor, I love you still.
Our post today consists of an excerpt from an address delivered on this day, September 27, in 1874, by the Rev. Dr. Charles Hodge, on the occasion of the re-opening of the chapel at the Princeton Theological Seminary. This discourse was delivered in the same year that saw the publication of Dr. Hodge’s brief work, What is Darwinism?, and just two years after the appearance of his monumental three-volume Systematic Theology. The occasion was also less than four years before his death in June of 1878. We note too that almost certainly among the gathered students that day in the chapel was the young Benjamin B. Warfield, who had entered the Seminary the year before. In his wonderful history of the Princeton Theological Seminary, my dear friend and esteemed professor Dr. David Calhoun sets the scene:
In 1874 the seminary chapel was remodeled—”Victorianized” with stained glass windows, carpeting, and upholstered pews—through the gift of trustee John C. Green, a generous benefactor of the seminary who died the following year. At the seminary’s opening in September Charles Hodge gave the sermon. Hodge noted that over 3,000 ministers of the gospel had been trained at Princeton. “With rare exceptions,” he said, “they have been faithful men. They have labored in every part of our own land and in almost every missionary field.” He told the present students that they had assumed “grave responsibilities in coming to this place,” “Your first duty,” he said, “is to make your calling and election sure.” It is important that you seek the ministry, he told them, with pure and honest motives—”love to Christ, zeal for his glory, and a desire to save your fellow men.” “Your second duty,” Hodge said, “is to throw your whole heart into the work and, while here, into the work of preparation and into the life of the Seminary, whether in the classroom, the chapel, the conference, or prayer meeting.” Finally, in the name of his colleagues Hodge made a request of everyone.
“It is a small matter to you, but a great matter to us. We beg that each of you, as long as he lives, would daily pray that the officers and students of this Seminary may be full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Let others believe and say what they please, we believe and know that God is the hearer of prayer. If each of the two thousand surviving alumni of this Institution would daily offer that prayer, what a place Princeton would be!” [Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. Banner of Truth, 1996, p. 42.]
What a place any seminary would be, if so invested before the throne of Glory with such prayer! Let this be your exhortation to so pray!
The full text of Hodge’s discourse can be viewed by clicking here, but for our purposes today, we will limit our excerpt to his opening words which form at once a brilliant summary of the core of Christian theology and a beautiful presentation of the Gospel of saving grace.
Princeton Theological Seminary. A Discourse delivered at the re-opening of the chapel, September 27, 1874, by Charles Hodge, the Senior Professor.
It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.—I Cor. 1:21.
The Bible assumes all primary truths—whether principles of reason or facts of consciousness—and by assuming, authenticates them.
It assumes 1. That man has a soul capable of conscious existence and activity without the body; and that the soul is the man—that in which his personality and identity reside. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, and are now the same persons as when they dwelt on earth.
2. It assumes that man is a free moral agent; dependent, responsible and immortal.
3. It assumes that the well-being of all creatures depends on their preserving their normal relation to God.
4. It assumes that man has by sin lost his normal relation to God, and that by no effort of his own, and by no aid from any creature, can he be restored to the divine fellowship and favor.
These are among the assumptions of the Bible; and they are all self-evident truths. They enter into the convictions of all men in all ages of the world.
The Bible teaches concerning fallen men : 1. That it pleased God, out of His mere good mercy, to determine not to leave them in their estate of sin and misery but to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
2. That the only Redeemer of men is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continues to be both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.
3. That Christ effects our redemption by exercising in our behalf the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He is Prophet or teacher, not only as He is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer, the effulgent image of God, but specially as He reveals to us the will of God for our salvation. He is our Priest in that He offered Himself unto God as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and in that He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is our King because He subdues us unto Himself, rules in, and reigns over us, and conquers all His and our enemies.
4. The Bible further teaches that the divinely appointed means for applying to men the benefits of Christ’s redemption is “the foolishness of preaching.” It is so called because, so far as the method of salvation is concerned, the wisdom of men is foolishness with God; and the wisdom of God is foolishness with man. In the beginning the gospel was a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek. We ought not, therefore, to be either surprised or concerned when, in our day, we hear the hierarchs of science proclaiming from their high places, that the supernatural is impossible, and that all faith is superstition. It has always been so and always will be so. Nevertheless in spite of the opposition of the Jews and of the contempt of the Greek, the gospel was, is, and will continue to be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.
To read the entire discourse, click here, It is well worth your time.
It was on this day, September 26th, in 1759, that the Rev. Samuel Davies was installed as President of the College of New Jersey. [It was upon the occasion of its sesquicentennial celebrations in 1896, that the school’s name was changed to Princeton University.] How did the Lord prepare Samuel Davies for such an important position? One part of that story is told on the early pages of his Memoir:—
During the first part of the eighteenth century, religion was, perhaps, in a lower state of declension, throughout the British dominions, than at any other period since the reformation. The concurrent testimony of churchmen and dissenters establishes this fact. Many clergymen of various denominations had become very lukewarm, and in many instances exceedingly corrupt; and the people were ready enough to follow the steps of their spiritual guides. It was in this season of darkness that several men were born, who, afterwards, were burning and shining lights in the world. The names of Tennent, Blair, Edwards, Davies, and Whitefield, may suffice to illustrate this remark. Since their day, vital piety has gradually increased, and the spiritual condition of the church of Christ has become more prosperous. The subject of this memoir was powerfully instrumental in producing the happy change.
Samuel Davies was born in the county of Newcastle, Delaware, November 3, 1724. The Christian names of his parents are unknown to us; nor can we say anything of the origin of the family, or trace it beyond the immediate progenitors. The father is represented to have been a plain farmer, in very moderate circumstances; the mother a very sensible and judicious woman; both were pious. Their son was a child of prayer; and was from the birth devoted to God by the name of Samuel.
It is known that the religious declension, of which mention was made above, extended to Virginia. About the year 1740, some individuals in the county of Hanover were awakened to a deep concern for their eternal interests in a very extraordinary manner. A few leaves of Boston’s Fourfold State fell into the hands of a wealthy planter, and made so deep an impression on his mind, that he never rested until he procured a copy of the work. This book it is believed, was instrumental in affording light to his mind, and peace to his heart. Another gentleman, Mr. Samuel Morris, derived similar advantages from Luther on the Galatians. The books that had been so useful to these persons were read to others, and produced very great and happy effects. So deep was the sensation, that multitudes were accustomed to assemble for the purpose of hearing Morris read. His house was in a short time too small to contain them; and a meeting-house was built for the purpose, long known by the name of Morris’s reading room. In this state of things, the Rev. William Robinson, a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, was sent on a mission to the frontier settlements. On his tour, he entered Virginia, and preached with great acceptance among the Scotch and Irish, who had made settlements in the counties of Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Campbell.
At Cub Creek, in the county of Charlotte, he was heard by some of the young people from Hanover who had gone to visit their friends, and who soon sent back word what manner of man was among them. On receiving this intelligence, two messengers were immediately dispatched from Hanover for Mr. Robinson. He had left the place, but they followed in his tract and at length overtook him. He was prevailed on to consent to visit Hanover, and at the appointed time he came. For four days he continued among them, preaching to the crowds that had assembled at the reading room. This is described as a very remarkable season.
On Mr. Robinson’s taking leave, some of the gentlemen presented him with a considerable sum of money, not merely as a compensation for his faithful labors among them, but principally as an expression of that gratitude they felt towards Mr. Robinson, as the honored instrument of so much good to them. But he modestly declined their liberality, assigning for the reason of his refusal, not only the delicacy of his and their situation–that the enemies of the cause of religion might, should he receive it, endeavor to represent him as a mere mercenary, and thus wound and injure the infant flock; but chiefly because he did not need it, the Lord having blessed him with independence as to fortune; and being thus able, he wished to labor without being burdensome to those among whom he went preaching the gospel. These reasons, though strong and unanswerable, could not silence the pleadings of their heart-felt gratitude–a gratitude which found no other way of exercising itself towards its object but by some offering of this kind. They therefore repeatedly urged its acceptance, but he constantly and firmly declined the offer.
Seeing no hope of his receding from the determination he had taken not to receive their money, the committee entrusted with it put it into the hands of the gentleman with whom he was to lodge the last night of his stay in the county, with directions to convey it privately into his saddle-bags, not doubting but when, after his departure, he should find himself in possession of the money, he would appropriate it to his own use. This was accordingly done. And in the morning Mr. Robinson, having taken an affectionate leave of his kind friends, took his saddle-bags to depart; but he found them much more ponderous than when he came there. Searching for the cause, like Joseph’s brethren of old, he found the money in the sack’s mouth. Pleased with the benevolent artifice, he smiling said, “I see you are resolved I shall have your money. I will take it. But, as I have before told you, I do not need it. I have enough. Nor will I appropriate it to my own use. But there is a young man of my acquaintance, of promising talents and piety, who is now studying with a view to the ministry; but his circumstances are embarrassing; he has not funds to support and carry him on without much difficulty. This money will relieve him from his pecuniary difficulties. I will take charge of it and appropriate it to his use. And so soon as he is licensed, we will send him to visit you. And if you should be pleased with him, and he should be pleased with you, it may be that you may now, by your liberality, be educating a minister for yourselves.” The proposition was immediately accepted, and the money faithfully appropriated to the benefit of young Davies while pursuing his theological studies.
“And that is the reason,” said a pious old lady who communicated this, “that Mr. Davies came to Hanover; for he often used to say that he was inclined to settle in another place; but that he felt under obligation to the people of Hanover.” — This anecdote is not only told by aged persons who were cotemporary with Davies, but is handed down by tradition, and related in terms of the same import with those used above, by the grandchildren of some of Mr. Davies’s people.
Words to Live By:
It is delightful, from the present time, to look back to an occurrence apparently so trivial as the discovery of a few leaves in an old book, and trace the many important events connected with it; to see the workings of Providence accomplishing his purposes, and carrying on his great designs of mercy in our favored land. It is delightful to think on the ways of the Almighty, and contemplate the dealings and dispensations of the God of our Fathers.
“Search backward into all the performances of Providence throughout your lives. So did Asaph: ‘I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings’ (Psalm 77:11, 12). He laboured to recover and revive the ancient providences of God’s mercies many years past, and suck a fresh sweetness out of them by new reviews of them. Ah, sirs, let me tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would but sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what signal manifestations and outbreakings of His mercy, faithfulness and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through. If your hearts do not melt before you have gone half through that history, they are hard hearts indeed. ‘My Father, thou art the guide of my youth’ (Jeremiah 3:4).”—excerpted from chapter nine of The Mystery of Providence, by John Flavel.
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 […]