February 2020

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On the Value of History
stewartAM

At the time of his decease, the Rev. Alexander Morrison Stewart, D.D. was serving as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chico, Butte county, California. He died in that town on Wednesday morning, February 24, 1875. Dr. Stewart was born in Lawrence county, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1814. He graduated at Franklin College, in New Athens, Ohio at an early age, and immediately commenced the study of theology under the Pittsburgh Reformed Presbytery, and was licensed to preach in December, 1841, after which he traveled extensively in the interests of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, through the Middle, Southern and Western States.

The winter of 1844-45 he spent in attending divinity lectures under the late Dr. Samuel Brown Wylie, and medical lectures at Jefferson College, in Philadelphia.  In 1845 he became pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Chicago, which charge he resigned in 1855 on account of ill health.  His next charge was the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, which he left at the breaking out of the war, to enter the army as chaplain. He remained in active service in the army of the Potomac until the war was over.  After the close of the war, he accepted the united charge of East Whiteland and Reeseville Churches, in Chester county, Pennsylvania, and, in 1869, with a transfer of his ministerial credentials, went to the Pacific coast as district secretary of the Board of Home Missions for the PCUSA.  In 1870 he became pastor of the Gilroy Presbyterian Church [PCUSA], from which, in June of 1874, he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Chico, which charge he held up to the time of his death.

Dr. Stewart was an impressive preacher, a patriotic citizen, and an earnest worker in the cause of Christ.

[Adapted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 9.4 (April 1875): 141.]


Elsewhere, Joel Beeke has stressed the value of reading sermons. The text presented below is from the opening of Rev. Stewart’s sermon titled simply Historical Sermon. This sermon was delivered in 1850 while he was the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian church in Chicago, and his purpose in the sermon is to present a brief overview of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination. Perhaps we can present more of this sermon at another time; but for now, this is just the opening paragraph:

“Historical Sermon”

“History connects the present with the past, and enables us to profit by every advance man has made in his civil and ecclesiastical relations. No good accomplished has ever been finally lost. No right principle once developed has entirely disappeared. The province of history is to collect and arrange these; that, with the acquisitions of the past, joined to the energies of the present, civil society and especially the church of God may move confidently on to their high destiny. Nor is it without advantage to mark the errors and failures to which men have been subject, if by so doing we shall be better able to avoid the reefs on which they broke. Were history made more frequently the subject of pulpit exhibition, how different would be the interest and edification of the hearers to that produced by many of the shabby as well as tinselled modern productions.The most eloquent and instructive discourses on record consist of a simple narration of events. When Judah would interest the ruler of Egypt in behalf of the lad, his younger brother, his unvarnished rehearsal of facts has moved many an eye to tears. Paul’s masterly defence before Agrippa was a recital of God’s promises and dealings with His chosen Israel; and Stephen’s dying eloquence–an historical discourse–silenced every argument of his opponents save that of violence.”

[emphasis added]

Words to Live By:
It is a commonplace to acknowledge that Americans are a people with little regard or appreciation for history. I don’t think that was the case in the early years of this nation, and I wonder if the declining regard for history runs parallel with the declining influence of the Church in general. Rev. Stewart’s conclusion, shown above in bold, accords perfectly with the lesson of John Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, where he demonstrates how frequently the Scriptures call us to remember God’s works, both His work of redemption and His works of providence. Christians should be a history-minded people, and how different the Church would be, if only we made a practice of daily remembering what God has done for us in His Son.

Image source: Photo from A History of the Pittsburgh Washington Infantry,by John H. Niebaum. Pittsburgh: Burgum Printing Co., 1931, pg. 114.

A photo of the Rev. Stewart’s grave can be viewed here.
The School & Family Catechist
by Rev. William Smith (1834)




Q. 86.  What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A.  Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

EXPLICATION.

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace. –Faith, as here described, is called a grace, because it is a gift freely bestowed, by the favor of God, upon the sinner, who has no merit of his own, to give him any claim to it.  This faith is called a saving grace, because wherever it is, the work of salvation is begun, which God will assuredly complete in due time.  This saving grace is called faith in Christ, because he is the only object on which it rests.

As he is offered to us in the gospel. –That is we are to receive Christ in all his offices, as our prophet, our priest, and our king, and as an example, that we should follow his steps; in all of which, he is offered to us in the gospel.

ANALYSIS.

The information here received, respecting faith in Christ, may be divided into five parts:

1.  That it is a saving grace. –Heb. x. 39.  We are not of them that draw back to perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

2.  That it is by faith, that we receive Jesus Christ. –John i. 12.  As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.

3.  That by it we rest upon him. –Matt. xi. 28, 29. Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

4.  That by this faith, we are enabled to receive and rest upon CHRIST ALONE for salvation. –Acts.    iv. 12. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  Eph. ii. 8. By grace are ye saved, through faith. 5.   That it receives and rests upon Christ, as he is offered in the gospel. –Rom. x. 17. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (or the gospel).

Bethel’s Second Pastor, 1782 – 1789

Bethel Presbyterian Church, in Clover, South Carolina, ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA, having been founded in 1764. Francis D. Cummins was Bethel’s second pastor serving from 1782 – April 17, 1789 He was born in 1752 near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Charles Cummins and Rebecca McNickle Cummins who were from Northern Ireland. When Francis Cummins was in his 19th year, his family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The neighboring college, then Queens Museum, afforded him the opportunity for his higher education. It was there that he graduated about the year 1776.

Francis Cummins was an active and zealous Patriot in the Revolutionary War. He was present at the reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775. After leaving college he was engaged chiefly in the business of teaching. He was for several years a preceptor at Clio Academy, a respectable German Seminary in Rowan County (now Iredell County), North Carolina. While Mr. Cummins was engaged in teaching, he studied theology under the direction of Dr. James Hall. Francis Cummins was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Orange on December 15, 1780. During the year 1781 he preached at various places and in the spring of 1782 accepted a call from Bethel Church where he was ordained at the close of that year.

Rev. Cummins was one of the original members of South Carolina Presbytery when it was set off from Orange Presbytery in 1785. In the spring of 1788 while residing at Bethel and serving both as pastor and teacher of the youth, he was elected by the people of the York District as a member of the South Carolina Convention called to decide upon the Constitution of the United States. Although all his colleagues were for rejecting it, Rev. Cummins voted in its favor. Sometime between 1782 and 1789 Bethel Academy was organized by Rev. Cummins. The first school was built about one and a half miles north of the church. Education and religion were closely associated in the early days of the church. It was a common practice that the minister of the church also taught in the school. In 1788 the old Presbytery of South Carolina held its seventh session at Bethel. This was perhaps the first Presbytery meeting ever held at Bethel Church. Rev. Cummins was the Moderator.

Rev. Cummins was married to Sarah Davis. They were the parents of eight children. Mrs. Cummins died December 10, 1790. Rev. Cummins married the second time in October 1791 to Sarah Thompson.

After leaving Bethel Rev. Cummins was the pastor at several churches in the western part of South Carolina. In 1793 he was appointed by the Presbytery to collect facts in regard to the early history of all the churches at that time. These records were received and approved by the Presbytery.

In 1803 Rev. Cummins moved to the state of Georgia. He was the first minister to preach at Salem Presbyterian Church (formerly named Liberty Presbyterian Church), Philomath, Georgia in their new location.

Rev. Cummins was the first rector or principal of the Meson Academy, Lexington, Georgia. In 1920 Meson Academy became Oglethorpe County High School.

Rev. Cummins had a great vigor of constitution. He was an admirable scholar and a well-read theologian. He was uncommonly gifted in prayer, was vivid and clear in his conceptions, having great power of condensation in the use of language. In stature he was above the common size with broad shoulders, expanded frame, large limbs, a high forehead and a deep-toned, guttural voice.

In January 1832 he was attacked with influenza which terminated his life. He died on February 22, 1832, and is buried in the Greensboro City Cemetery, Greensboro, Georgia.

A while back, when searching for an obituary (not found) in an old issue of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, I came across this interesting brief article concerning pastor, the congregation and the original edifice of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. My primary interest is in the first few paragraphs. After that, well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

THE OLD ARCH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The instrumentality of Whitfield in the erection of the ancient square edifice, that once stood on the north west corner of Arch and Third streets, is probably known to some of your readers, as well as the fact, that the people worshipping there, were styled “new lights,” and that sundry opprobrious epithets were applied to the memorable Gilbert Tennent, their pastor. I have sat in the old square house, more than once, and well remember when it was succeeded by the oblong building that occupied the site, until after the settlement of the late Dr. Cuyler, in the pastoral office.

There was no cellar under the original house, and the remains of the venerable and beloved Tennent were deposited beneath the brick floor, and so remained until the contemplated change in the place of worship was effected. The new edifice was furnished with a cellar; and being well suited to storage, was often perverted to the strange use of a place of deposit for the article that manufactures paupers so rapidly. In this cellar were deposited the remains of Tennent, a suitable brick enclosure having been made for the purpose.

The late Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was a warm personal friend and admirer of Mr. Tennent, was sorely grieved, that such a disposition had been made of the venerated dust of his favorite preacher. Horrified at what he deemed a kind of sacrilege, the following impromptu, pronounced while in conversation with a lady who was then a member of Arch street Church, gave vent to his feelings. The lady who is yet living, and who penned the memorable lines at the time of utterance, favored me with a copy, some months ago; and as they are well worth a place in your useful paper, they are forwarded for insertion. They represent the spirit of the departed saint, roused by the resurrection trump, as quitting his heavenly abode, to visit earth in search of his body, and run thus :

The trumpet sounds, the sleeping dead arise,
And Tennent’s spirit quits its nature skies;
To his dear church it wings its favor’d way
To seek reunion with its kindred clay,
Where is my body? cries the reverend saint,
“Lo here, good Sir, the Sexton, “no it ain’t,”
“My body rested under my church floor
That body rises from a liquor store!”

Your readers are aware, the Dr. Rush hated intemperance and all its relations.

PAUL.

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER31.6 (7 February 1852): 21, column 5.]
The Rev. John Witherspoon’s works really do need to be dusted off and brought to greater public attention. As one proof of the usefulness of his works, we present this short article today. Sprinkle Publications did reprint Witherspoon’s Works a few years ago, and copies are still available, though those volumes haven’t gathered too much attention and we’re the poorer for that neglect.

THE DOWNWARD COURSE OF SIN.


1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by smaller sins. Heinous sins are too alarming for the conscience of a young sinner; and therefore he only ventures upon such as are smaller, at first. Every particular kind of vice creeps in this gradual manner.

2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something greater and more daring. His courage grows with his experience. Now, sins of a deeper die do not look so frightful as before. Custom makes everything familiar. No person who once breaks over the limits of a clear conscience knows where he shall stop.

3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions. Open sins determine his character, and give him a place with the ungodly. He shuns the society of good men, because their presence is a restraint, and their example a reproof to him. There are none with whom he can associate but the ungodly.

4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom; he becomes rooted and settled in an evil way.—Those who have been long habituated to any sin, how hopeless is their reform! One single act of sin seems nothing; but one after another imperceptibly strengthens the disposition, and enslaves the unhappy criminal beyond the hope of recovery.

5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame, and sin boldly and openly. So long as shame remains, it is a great drawback. But it is an evidence of an uncommon height of impiety, when natural shame is gone.

6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far as to sin without remorse of conscience. The frequent repetition of sins stupefies the conscience. They, as it were, weary it out, and drive it to despair. It ceases all its reproofs, and, like a frequently discouraged friend, suffers the infatuated sinner to take his course. And hence,

7. Hardened sinners often come to boast and glory in their wickedness. It is something to be beyond shame; but it is still more to glory in wickedness, and esteem it honorable. Glorious ambition indeed!

8. Not content with being wicked themselves, they use all their arts and influence to make others wicked also. They are zealous in sinning, and industrious in the promotion of the infernal cause.—They extinguish the fear of God in others, and laugh down their own conscientious scruples. And now,

9. To close the scene, those who have thus far hardened themselves, are given up by God to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. They are marked out as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. This is the consequence of their obstinacy. They are devoted the judgment they deserve.

Reader! view it with terror. — Dr. Witherspoon.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 461-462.]

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