March 2020

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Who Was That Man?

A graduate of the school, he later served for twenty-four years as a director of the Princeton Theological Seminary. But history remembers the man primarily for a series of letters that he wrote under a pseudonym. Indeed, a fair amount of his published work dealt with the Roman Catholic Church, in which he had been raised in Ireland.

Nicholas Murray was born on Christmas day in 1802, in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland. He emigrated to the United States in 1818, at the age of 16, serving as a apprentice printer at Harpers in New York City, to support himself. It was during this time that he came under conviction of his sins, responded to the Gospel, and left the Roman Catholic Church. In particular, it was a sermon delivered by the Rev. John Mitchell Mason that the Lord used to bring young Murray to saving faith. Subsequently he sat under the preaching of the Rev. Gardiner Spring for a year and a half. In time he was able to graduate from college and then at Princeton prepared for the ministry. As pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he became a prominent figure in the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., even serving as Moderator of the Sixty-first General Assembly, in 1849.

For several years Rev. Murray had considered a project of writing a series of letters, presenting his own experience in the Roman Catholic Church and how he was led to leave it. Friends encouraged him in this effort, and eventually the letters began to be published on the pages of The New York Observer, under the pseudonym of Kirwan. The actual Kirwan had been an Anglican Dean and like Rev. Murray, had himself once been a Roman Catholic. Murray probably took up the pseudonym out of respect for this Anglican preacher.

The first series consisted of twelve letters, published in serial fashion between February and May of 1847. These were quickly gathered up as a book and published, with more than ten thousand copies sold in the first edition. Another edition soon followed, then the work was translated into German, and eventually there were more than a hundred thousand copies in circulation. Few publications of that day exceeded these numbers. As Murray’s biographer stated, “It is certainly safe and just to say that no writings on the Roman Catholic question have excited so much attention since the Reformation, or have been so widely read by the masses of the people.”

A second series of letters began to appear in newspapers in October of 1847. This second series, less popular among Protestants, was actually more effective among Roman Catholics. Both series had been addressed to the Roman Catholic bishop of New York, the Rev. John Hughes, though Hughes ignored the appearance of the first series, and only upon publication of the second series did Bishop Hughes compose any response. Rev. Murray continued to write on this subject until about 1852. The Rev. Nicholas Murray died on February 4, 1861, and it was on March 31, 1861 that the Rev. James Baird brought a memorial address in his memory. A large biographical memoir was issued the following year by the Rev. Samuel Irenaeus Prime.

Words to Live By:
The Lord brought this young man across an ocean in order to save him. No obstacle is too great for our God. The Lord works sovereignly, where and when He will, extending His grace and mercy to the least of men and to the greatest of sinners. He raises up the most unassumingly and unlikely, to do great works for His glory. Only in eternity will it be revealed the extent to which the Lord has used each of His children in extending His kingdom.

For Further Study:
Murray, Rev. Nicholas, Letters to the Rt. Rev. John Hughes, Roman Catholic bishop of New York (1851).

Baird, Rev. James, A Discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Carleton, City of St. John, N.B., on Sabbath, 31st March, 1861: In Memory of the late Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D., author of the “Kirwan Letters” &c., who opened the above church nearly four years ago.

Prime, Samuel Irenaeus, Memoirs of the Rev. Nicholas Murray, D.D. (“Kirwan”).

An Early Tract of Francis Schaeffer


Baptism

Pictured at right is an early tract, or rather, a printed sermon by the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer. This sermon was part of a series titled “What We Believe,” a series preached in the early months of 1947. In fact, this sermon can be dated exactly, as there is a statement on the inside front cover of the publication, stating that it was a message preached in St. Louis on 30 March 1947.  Given the length of the tract, it must have been a long sermon, or perhaps more likely, it may have been revised for publication.

The date of the sermon is also interesting, in that it would be one of the last sermons preached there in St. Louis by Rev. Schaeffer, for he very soon began began a tour of Europe, in preparation for his later move to Switzerland. The original purpose in moving there was to plant churches and to establish chapters of Children For Christ, a ministry which Schaeffer had begun in St. Louis just a few years earlier.

The outline of Dr. Schaeffer’s argument for infant baptism is as follows:


INTRODUCTION
IMMERSION
• Baptistic Arguments
INFANT BAPTISM
• Salvation by Faith Alone
• Covenant Is Immutable
• Covenant Is Primarily Spiritual
• The Outward Sign
• Sign Applied to Infants
• New Testament Practice
• Church History
• Baptistic Arguments
CONCLUSION
Questions Asked Publicly of Parents Before Infant Is Baptized

While this message was not included in the five volume Works of Dr. Schaeffer, still this title has remained in print and is currently available in a nicely reformatted edition from the PCA Bookstore. The content of that edition remains the same, but for the deletion of an opening statement by Dr. Schaeffer, and that statement provides the historical context of the sermon as originally delivered:

In the almost three and a half years that I have been your Pastor, I have not preached on the subject of Baptism, but now we come to this subject in our series of sermons on “What We Believe.”


Words to Live By:

Faithful pastors seek to equip their congregations with what they need to live the Christian life in an humble, yet purposeful way, always seeking to honor our Savior, living lives that are a reflection of the holiness of God. Sound doctrine, which is simply the teaching of Scripture, is an integral and necessary part of that equipping that we so clearly need.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
–Ephesians 6:13-18

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)


Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

EXPLICATION.

The sacraments. –See Explic. Q. 88.

Virtue in them. –Sufficient power in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper themselves.

Him that doth administer them. –The person who officiates, or the minister who baptizes, or distributes the bread and wine at the time of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.

The blessing of Christ. –Christ’s powerful influence accompanying the sacraments for our good.

The working of his Spirit. –The power of the Holy Spirit exerted, not only in planting good and holy dispositions in the soul at first, but also in drawing them forth into exercise on sacramental occasions.

ANALYSIS.

In this answer we are taught two things :

1.  That the sacraments become effectual means of salvation, neither by any power in themselves, nor by any virtue derived from the piety or intention of the person who administers them. -1 Cor. iii. 7. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither is he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.

2. That the power or efficacy of the sacraments, as means of salvation, proceeds entirely from the blessing of Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those who by faith receive them. ­-1 Cor. vi. 11. But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?

A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance, instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

EXPLICATION.

Ordinance. –See Explic. Q. 54.

Holy ordinance. –A sacrament is so called, because it is designed, by Christ, for pious or holy persons, for the purposes of rendering them still more holy.

Instituted. –Established, appointed, or commanded to be observed.

Sensible signs. Something that can be seen, and felt, such as washing with water, eating bread, drinking wine, &c.

Benefits of the new covenant. –The blessings of the covenant of grace, or the Gospel. See Explic. Q. 20, 31, 32, 36 & 37.

Represented. –Set forth in a sensible or lively manner, as a picture is a representation or resemblance of the original, or person, or thing signified by it.

Sealed. –Made sure to us, in the same manner as a possession of houses or lands is confirmed to the owner, by a seal fixed to a writing.

Applied. –Given or bestowed.

Believers. ­–Those who trust in Christ, or who believe in his name as the only Saviour of sinners.

ANALYSIS.

We are here taught three things respecting the nature of a sacrament :

1. That a sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ himself. –Matt. xxvi. 26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples. (See also Q. 94, Analysis 2)

2. That in the sacraments, Christ, and the benefits of the near covenant, are represented by sensible signs. –Gen. xvii. 10. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee; Every manchild among you shall be circumcised. 3. That in them, by the same means, these benefits are also sealed and applied to believers. –Rom. iv. 11, 16. And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by Grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham.
Here’s a great sermon illustration, free for the taking.

WITHOUT POSITION
by C. Laing Herald, Ph.D.
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 6-7.]

“Without position” is a nautical term ; it savors of the sea. Years ago, if one sailed the seas on a sailing ship, or wind-jammer, as such vessels were rudely called, one would have become familiar, more or less, with this term. Two vessels at sea, while passing each other within signaling distance, always exchanged the courtesies of the sea by giving their respective nautical positions. Each ship ran her colors to the masthead, thus displaying her nationality; then a board, painted black, was lashed to the shrouds of the mizzen rigging; and on this board was written in large letters, with chalk, the latitude and the longitude each captain thought his ship was in, according to his latest observations. In this way, for the sake of safety, the two captains compared positions. Sometimes, however, especially after a period of heavy or foggy weather, the words written on the board were, “without position.” In other words, the captain of the ship who wrote these words admitted that he did not know where his ship was nautically; that he was really without position; having failed to obtain observations of sun, or the moon, or the stars, so that he might learn from them his latitude and longitude, and being in doubt as to the accuracy of his “dead reckoning,” he was all “at sea” as to his position. Therefore, the words “without position” are significant. 

The science of navigating consists in the knowledge necessary to conduct a ship safely across the ocean, enabling the mariner to determine, from the position of the celestial bodies, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the position of his vessel at any given time. And while navigation is a science to itself, yet, in a practical sense, it must, of course, be supplemented by seamanship.

There are three ways of determining the position of a ship at sea; namely, by piloting or bearings, by dead reckoning, and by observation of the celestial bodies, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The first is simple, primitive, and answered so long as a ship remained in sight of land. In this way the position of the ship is determined from the visible objects along the shore, and from soundings. Dead reckoning consists in keeping an hourly and careful record of the course the ship is steering from a known point of departure, the rate of speed she is making, with due allowance for leeway, caused by drift, ocean currents and tides. This method of navigation is largely guess-work, and is, therefore, far from being accurate and trustworthy. The science of navigation really consists in the observation of the celestial bodies and the consequent calculations of the ship’s latitude and longitude from these observations.

But even this science is subject to interruption, and, therefore, subject to error and consequent danger and loss. Suppose, for example, that a captain, because of cloudy or foggy weather, cannot obtain an observation of any of these bodies for several days; suppose that tides and ocean currents, unknown or misunderstood by the navigator, carry the ship out of her course; and suppose that magnetic influences due to atmospheric conditions, or particular latitudes, or induced by the nature of the ship’s cargo, affect the ship’s compass, even her chronometer; under these conditions what is to be done? The most careful calculations of the navigator will of necessity be affected by one or by all of these conditions, and, as a result, his calculations will be erroneous. Thus the ship may be entirely out of position.

But when I think of a ship at sea without position, my thoughts turn in particular to that large, important and necessary institution, the Christian church. Now be careful, you say. Yes; I shall be careful. Do not lay profane hands on the Ark of the Lord, you warn. No; I shall not, for I have in mind the fate of Urriah, who forgot himself and profaned the Ark. Notwithstanding, the church of to-day reminds me so forcibly of a ship without position that I cannot refrain from the reference and its necessary implications. Although I shall speak as one outside of the church, yet I shall speak with reverence, for I regard the church as the most necessary institution to our existence as a nation and to our well-being as individuals. And although, in my criticism, I may be severe, yet I shall try to be just.

It is to be admitted, gladly and gratefully, that the church is the largest, the wealthiest, the most intellectual, and the most necessary organization in American life. And this being true, it is only honorable, on the part of the church, that she stand true in her obligations to the people she professes to serve and to save. Malfeasance in office is one thing the American people will not stand for—not on the part of church officials. No later than yesterday, one of the professors in the university was in my home, and when asked his opinion of a certain minister, replied at once, “Oh, he is not reliable.” This unreliability was not applicable to the morals of the minister, but to his theology, his teachings; or, in nautical words, to his science of soul navigation. How long would the owners of a valuable ship tolerate a captain who was unreliable in his knowledge of navigation and seamanship, and who would, consequently, run their ship upon the rocks? No, no, it will not do. Then what is one to think of these unreliable ministers, these “sky-pilots,” as they are called, in navigating our souls to the next world?

Account for it as one may, the feeling is abroad in the land that the church at the present time is without position. She does not have her headings; she is off in her dead reckoning; in other words, she is all at sea in her theology. Therefore, she is not capable of saving the souls of men.

What has caused the church to lose her position? Have murky skies, thick fogs, heavy storms, contrary winds, uncertain tides, treacherous currents, been the cause?

There are probably two principle reasons : First, certain men occupying the pulpits of the church, like some college professors, have become too brilliant intellectually; at least they think they have; second, sinful nature is essentially opposed to the fundamental teachings of the Bible; the devil hates the truth like the devil. As to the first reason, nearly all the ministers occupying our pulpits are college-bred. While in college, they were taught to believe that the Bible was such an old Book it was out of date, behind the times, and that modern philosophy and science were far in advance of what the Bible taught. These men, being weak mentally and morally, and without a deep religious experience, accepted the teachings of these professors, and have carried these superficial unreasonable, skeptical and dangerous notions into their pulpits; thus they have turned from the Old Book to their own superficial thinking and irrational conclusions.

In other words, they have become wiser than what is written. Accordingly, they have thrown the Compass overboard, and are navigating the ship in accordance with what they think is the right course to steer. I cannot imagine the captain of a ship being such a blockhead. When the captain of a ship does such an irrational thing as to throw the compass overboard, the ship is doomed and all hands with her. Second, inasmuch as this is a fast, wealthy, pleasure-loving, luxurious period in the history of the American people; and inasmuch as the Old Book calls for self-denial in the things which are harmful, and for simplicity in living, the pulpit has surrendered to this appeal of the age; the pulpit has conceded, yielded, compromised; and now it is deceiving. Ministers enjoy popularity; to many of them, life without this vanity is drab, colorless. Hence they are making the popular appeal by preaching a supposed new doctrine, a doctrine which never entered the divine mind, and which, therefore, is not found in the Book. They have given up the ship; they have struck their colors to the enemy. Nevertheless, they are deceived themselves; for, instead of their preaching being popular, common-sense, thinking men reject it, lose respect for the minister, ignore and neglect the church.

As an outsider, let me say there are men in our pulpits to-day I would not go to hear, neither would I commit the souls of my family to their guidance in spiritual matters. Moreover, there are millions of men who feel just as I do in this matter, for these ministers are just what the university professor said they were—unreliable. They are wreckers. I should hate to cross the ocean with the captain of a ship who did not understand the science of navigation, and shaped his course according to his notion of things. And how true it is that I will not attend a church the pastor of which does not understand the science of theology, and who is likely, therefore, to wreck my soul and the souls of my family. Enter the different churches to-day—there are noble exceptions, thank God!—and listen to the pseudo-sermons. From these sermons does one receive clear and definite directions of the way to glory? Exactly what course to steer in order to reach that Haven of Rest? Indeed not! Compass overboard, chart torn to pieces, the sky overcast, no observations, contrary winds, treacherous currents, uncertain tides, and the church without position!

As I have said, “without position” is a nautical question. In the sense in which I have tried to elucidate it, it may be a naughty question. Nevertheless, one must grant that it is a knotty question.

Wellston, Ohio.

[Robinson’s Ministerial Directory (1898, p. 306) indicates that Rev. Charles Laing Herald was born in Scotland and educated at Queen’s College, Ontario, B.A., 1884 and McCormick Theological Seminary, 1892. Rev. Herald was ordained May 1892 by the Presbytery of Bloomington and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Wenona, IL, where he served from 1892-94. He then answered a call to serve as pastor of the Tontogany, Ohio church, beginning in 1894. Apparently he remained in the general Ohio area throughout his ministry.]
Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.
—Dr. Archibald Alexander.

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