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“A nail driven in a sure place.” 

William Miller Paxton is another of those names that seems now forgotten to the modern ear. He was notably a pastor in Pittsburgh, then a professor of homiletics (preaching), first at Western Theological Seminary, also in Pittsburgh, and later at the Princeton Theological Seminary, with a pastorate in New York City falling between those two appointments. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, was also a noted pastor, who was born on April 1, 1760 and who died on April 16, 1845. But in researching the extended family, I was intrigued by this account and so am posting here today an account of the grandson, rather than the grandfather. The full account, and more, can be read here, but in abbreviated form and touching on just a few of the significant events in Dr. Paxton’s life, here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield for his friend and colleague:—

paxtonWmMWilliam Miller Paxton was descended from a godly ancestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions…The earliest of his paternal ancestors who has been certainly traced—the fourth in ascent from him—is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth century living in Bart township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshiped at Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of the family served as an elder in that church; and out of it came his son, Dr. Paxton’s grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who, after having like his father before him fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceasing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna, he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek church, in what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania, and there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century’s duration.

Dr. Paxton’s father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton, was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence and large influence in the community, engaged in the manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, and later near Gettysburg and Chambersburg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Paxton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth was passed mostly at Gettysburg…his collegiate training at Pennsylvania College. He began the study of law, [but] united on profession of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, in March, 1845, …[and] Not more than a month after uniting with the church, on April 9th, 1845, he was received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a candidate for the ministry, and in the ensuing autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological training.

…”I well remember,” he has told us himself, “that when I was a student, no young man could pass through his first year without being constrained to reexamine his personal hope and motives for seeking the sacred office.” No doubt this is primarily an encomium upon the pungency of the religious training of those four great men under whose instruction he sat—Drs. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge and Addison Alexander….One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated himself upon was that he had had a double training in theology. “The class to which I belonged,” he tells us, “heard” Dr. Archibald Alexander’s “lectures upon Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its logical development, in its beautiful balance and connection with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words ringing through my mind, “A nail driven in a sure place.” [Dr. Warfield here employs a reference drawn from Isaiah 22:23]

…The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during Dr. Paxton’s New York ministry was, of course, the reunion of the Old and New School branches of the Church. He was of the number of those who did not look with satisfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough, however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when corresponding delegates to the New School body were for the first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consummated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor in both the beginning and end of the movement…When once the union was accomplished, he became one of the chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long separated bodies.

…In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his hands from 257 members to 409 in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown with the years, was loath to give him up.

Words to Live By:
Dr. Warfield continued in his eulogy for Paxton, with a message that was close to Warfield’s own heart:—

…what he took his real stand upon was the perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warning those who were charged with the administration of these institutions against permitting them to degenerate into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-long friend, Dr. A.A. Hodge—whom he loved as a brother and admired as a saint of God—when Dr. Hodge was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permitting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations of a scholastic conception of theological training, and insistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the seminary buildings—he was speaking in the First Church—he exclaimed: “There stands that venerable institution. What does it mean? What is the idea it expresses? . . . Is it a place where young men get a profession by which they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a company of educated young men are gathered to grind out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic literature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialects, to master the mystic techniques of the schoolmen, and to debate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees? If this is its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch and burn it! . . . We do not in any way deprecate a learned ministry. We must have learning . . . .But whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men. . . .No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological seminary . . .It is a school of learning, but it is also a cradle of piety!”

For a fuller biography of Dr. William Miller Paxton, click here [Presbyterians of the Past blog]

For access to works by Dr. Paxton, click here [Log College Press]

“A nail driven in a sure place.”

William Miller Paxton is another of those names that seems now forgotten to the modern ear. He was notably a pastor in Pittsburgh, then a professor of homiletics (preaching), first at Western Theological Seminary, also in Pittsburgh, and later at the Princeton Theological Seminary, with a pastorate in New York City falling between those two appointments. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, was also a noted pastor, who was born on April 1, 1760 and who died on April 16, 1845. But in researching the extended family, I was intrigued by this account and so am posting here today an account of the grandson, rather than the grandfather. The full account, and more, can be read here, but in abbreviated form and touching on just a few of the significant events in Dr. Paxton’s life, here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield for his friend and colleague:—

paxtonWmMWilliam Miller Paxton was descended from a godly ancestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions…The earliest of his paternal ancestors who has been certainly traced—the fourth in ascent from him—is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth century living in Bart township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshiped at Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of the family served as an elder in that church; and out of it came his son, Dr. Paxton’s grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who, after having like his father before him fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceasing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna, he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek church, in what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania, and there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century’s duration.

Dr. Paxton’s father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton, was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence and large influence in the community, engaged in the manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, and later near Gettysburg and Chambersburg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Paxton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth was passed mostly at Gettysburg…his collegiate training at Pennsylvania College. He began the study of law, [but] united on profession of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, in March, 1845, …[and] Not more than a month after uniting with the church, on April 9th, 1845, he was received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a candidate for the ministry, and in the ensuing autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological training.

…”I well remember,” he has told us himself, “that when I was a student, no young man could pass through his first year without being constrained to reexamine his personal hope and motives for seeking the sacred office.” No doubt this is primarily an encomium upon the pungency of the religious training of those four great men under whose instruction he sat—Drs. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge and Addison Alexander….One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated himself upon was that he had had a double training in theology. “The class to which I belonged,” he tells us, “heard” Dr. Archibald Alexander’s “lectures upon Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its logical development, in its beautiful balance and connection with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words ringing through my mind, “A nail driven in a sure place.”

…The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during Dr. Paxton’s New York ministry was, of course, the reunion of the Old and New School branches of the Church. He was of the number of those who did not look with satisfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough, however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when corresponding delegates to the New School body were for the first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consummated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor in both the beginning and end of the movement…When once the union was accomplished, he became one of the chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long separated bodies.

…In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his hands from 257 members to 409 in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown with the years, was loath to give him up.

Words to Live By:
Dr. Warfield continued in his eulogy for Paxton, with a message that was close to Warfield’s own heart:—

…what he took his real stand upon was the perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warning those who were charged with the administration of these institutions against permitting them to degenerate into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-long friend, Dr. A.A. Hodge—whom he loved as a brother and admired as a saint of God—when Dr. Hodge was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permitting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations of a scholastic conception of theological training, and insistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the seminary buildings—he was speaking in the First Church—he exclaimed: “There stands that venerable institution. What does it mean? What is the idea it expresses? . . . Is it a place where young men get a profession by which they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a company of educated young men are gathered to grind out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic literature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialects, to master the mystic techniques of the schoolmen, and to debate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees? If this is its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch and burn it! . . . We do not in any way deprecate a learned ministry. We must have learning . . . .But whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men. . . .No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological seminary . . .It is a school of learning, but it is also a cradle of piety!”

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“A nail driven in a sure place.”

William Miller Paxton is another of those names that seems now forgotten to the modern ear. He was notably a pastor in Pittsburgh, then a professor of homiletics (preaching), first at Western Theological Seminary, also in Pittsburgh, and later at the Princeton Theological Seminary, with a pastorate in New York City falling between those two appointments. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, was also a noted pastor, who was born on April 1, 1760 and who died on April 16, 1845. But in researching the extended family, I was intrigued by this account and so am posting here today an account of the grandson, rather than the grandfather. The full account, and more, can be read here, but in abbreviated form and touching on just a few of the significant events in Dr. Paxton’s life, here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield for his friend and colleague:—

paxtonWmMWilliam Miller Paxton was descended from a godly ancestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions…The earliest of his paternal ancestors who has been certainly traced—the fourth in ascent from him—is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth century living in Bart township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshiped at Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of the family served as an elder in that church; and out of it came his son, Dr. Paxton’s grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who, after having like his father before him fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceasing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna, he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek church, in what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania, and there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century’s duration.

Dr. Paxton’s father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton, was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence and large influence in the community, engaged in the manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, and later near Gettysburg and Chambersburg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Paxton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth was passed mostly at Gettysburg…his collegiate training at Pennsylvania College. He began the study of law, [but] united on profession of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at Chambersburg, in March, 1845, …[and] Not more than a month after uniting with the church, on April 9th, 1845, he was received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a candidate for the ministry, and in the ensuing autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological training.

…”I well remember,” he has told us himself, “that when I was a student, no young man could pass through his first year without being constrained to reexamine his personal hope and motives for seeking the sacred office.” No doubt this is primarily an encomium upon the pungency of the religious training of those four great men under whose instruction he sat—Drs. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge and Addison Alexander….One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated himself upon was that he had had a double training in theology. “The class to which I belonged,” he tells us, “heard” Dr. Archibald Alexander’s “lectures upon Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr. Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its logical development, in its beautiful balance and connection with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words ringing through my mind, “A nail driven in a sure place.”

…The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during Dr. Paxton’s New York ministry was, of course, the reunion of the Old and New School branches of the Church. He was of the number of those who did not look with satisfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough, however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when corresponding delegates to the New School body were for the first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consummated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor in both the beginning and end of the movement…When once the union was accomplished, he became one of the chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long separated bodies.

…In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr. McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his hands from 257 members to 409 in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown with the years, was loath to give him up.

Words to Live By:
Dr. Warfield continued in his eulogy for Paxton, with a message that was close to Warfield’s own heart:—

…what he took his real stand upon was the perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warning those who were charged with the administration of these institutions against permitting them to degenerate into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-long friend, Dr. A.A. Hodge—whom he loved as a brother and admired as a saint of God—when Dr. Hodge was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permitting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations of a scholastic conception of theological training, and insistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the seminary buildings—he was speaking in the First Church—he exclaimed: “There stands that venerable institution. What does it mean? What is the idea it expresses? . . . Is it a place where young men get a profession by which they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a company of educated young men are gathered to grind out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic literature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialects, to master the mystic techniques of the schoolmen, and to debate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees? If this is its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch and burn it! . . . We do not in any way deprecate a learned ministry. We must have learning . . . .But whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men. . . .No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological seminary . . .It is a school of learning, but it is also a cradle of piety!”

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For all the discussion of “safe places,” in recent years, it was an amusing surprise to find Wm. Childs Robinson making reference to “Luther’s Safe Place” at the end of this article.

Has “Unreserved Dedication” Taken The Place of Creedal Subscription?
by Rev. Wm. C. Robinson, D.D., Decatur, Ga.
[The Southern Presbyterian Journal, 8.17 (2 January 1950): 5-6.]

This question is raised by a paragraph in a recent book review carried in The Presbyterian Outlook of November 7. Reviewing Professor Cooper’s Southwestern At Memphis, Dr. Warner L. Hall writes the following paragraph:

“One of the sidelights of the book is the struggle which Dr. Diehl had with heresy hunters. His victory was, by no means a personal one, for it, in some sense, assured to many others the right of an intellectual freedom within the limits of an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause.”

We have no desire to reopen any struggle with reference to Dr. Diehl, but the inference which Dr. Hall draws gives us grave concern. The reviewer’s words imply that many Presbyterian educators and Presbyterian ministers—Dr. Diehl is both—have either (or both) been relieved of all creedal obligations or else have agreed among themselves that those creedal obligations to which they have subscribed are only indicative of their dedication to the Christian cause.

Now it is not difficult to show that “an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause,” indispensable as that is, is not a sufficient safeguard for the Church or her teachers. Certainly, there have been Jesuit missionaries unreservedly dedicated to the Christian cause, and Armenian ministers, and perhaps Unitarian scholars. The other day I was told about a very devout Mormon. Apparently, this Latter Day Saint could offer “an unreserved dedication to the Christ cause” as he saw it … and yet I cannot believe that Dr. Hall would favor him for a Chair of Religion in Southwestern or for his associate pastor in Charlotte, N. C.

We feel obligated, therefore, to ask the questions which Dr. Hall’s review has raised. First, have the professors in our Presbyterian educational institutions been relieved of all creedal obligations, vows or doctrinal conditions as requirements for the presidential or professional positions they hold? We invite the several educational institutions connected with our Church to let the Church know just what, if any, obligations are now required. If the institution in particular has abrogated such requirements in the last two decades, the reasons for such change would also interest the Church. We can conceive of an occasion in which a college might have a man of known evangelical piety and Bible belief from another denomination that they wished installed as professor in some chair in which he would not teach church doctrine and might properly make an exception in his case to a rule requiring subscription to Calvinism. But we could only question the propriety of a Board using such an occasion as an excuse for abrogating all requirements.

Three centuries ago Harvard was training men for the Calyinistic ministry in Puritan New England — teaching the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek and the Shorter Catechism in Latin . . . but somebody slept at the switch . . . and Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked. When I studied at Harvard they were inculcating almost everything, except the doctrine for which that institution was established.

A few years ago a prominent U.S.A. Presbyterian College was teaching a volume on evolution edited by Professor H. H. Newman for “the superior students” of Chicago University, entitled The Nature Of The World And Of Man. Now if a Presbyterian College is only going to teach the naturalism which allows of no direct intervention of God in special creations, in miracles, in the Incarnation, in answers to petitionary prayers for physical things — why endow and support such colleges? Why not send the men on to Chicago in the first place? Incidentally, Lecomte de Nouy, Human Destiny, has at least pointed out how tenuous is the thread of evolution which Newman said was “proved or established as firmly as the law of gravitation.” (Op. cit. 193 of 194, 381).

Last summer I met a graduate of another U.S.A. College — Wooster to be exact—who told me how the Bible course in that Northern Presbyterian institution had upset his faith in the Bible as the Word of God and as the guide for life. In the last issue The Journal had a review of the Bible Syllabus used at Wooster in 1947.

Without requiring at least the acceptance of the Divine-human Christ, of the miracles of His Person and His works by each professor, an institution might find its whole Christian position undermined by an academically competent but unbelieving teacher. And the institution might be afraid to remove such a man because of the support he would receive from his professional union and from the academic accrediting agency.

Secondly, do those who take definite professional or ordination vows- regard them as merely an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause? Our ministerial vows still obligate us to accept the Holy Scriptures as being the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practise and of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms as being the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. If there are those in our Church who feel that the full and fair meaning of these vows is “an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause” we invite such brethren to reconsider their positions in the light of history.

In his able discussion of the meaning of our Presbyterian ordination vows Dr. Charles Hodge, Church Polity, Pages 317-4S2, shows that the meaning of the vow is not determined by the man taking it but by the natural, historical force of the words and by the body imposing the vow. There was a wave of rationalism in eighteenth century England and Ireland which substituted sincerity for creedal subscription. Even James Moffatt says that “this mistaken aversion to creedal subscription” killed English Presbyterianism; and only the entrance of the Erskinites or Seceders saved Presbyterianism in eighteenth century Ireland. Against the loose views of Presbyterianism then coming over from Ireland the American Presbyterian Church passed the adopting act of 1729 in which every minister subscribed to the Westminster Standards as being in all essential and necessary articles good forms of sound words and accepted said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of his faith. This act has governed our American Presbyterian thinking these 220 years. Under its aegis our Southern Assembly in the last decade has declared certain things such as the infallible truth of Scripture, Christ as true and eternal God, His becoming our brother man by His virgin birth, to be involved in the vows to which we subscribe.

Again, if there are ministers or professors who regard these creedal vows as merely an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause we invite them to reconsider their positions before the judgment bar of truth. Speaking on this theme from the standpoint of the Scottish Churches, Principal John Macleod says:

“We should not fail to observe the moral issues that are raised in regard to the loyal maintenance of pledges given to be faithful to Creeds and Confessions. They call for very deliberate study and consideration before they are adopted. They call equally for honorable treatment on the part of men who have avowed them as their own.”

“Yet if men change their views on what they had confessed as the truth of God they should have the manliness to acknowledge that such a change has taken place and to refuse to stay in what is to them a false position.”

“We should not forget that the fundamental obligation lies upon every teacher in the Church of God to be true to the full circle of truth as the Apostolic and Prophetic Revelation has brought it before us. This truth has been entrusted to the Church to be held fast in its integrity, and it is no bondage to be laid under the obligation to honour such a trust; and this is what is meant by the exaction of a strict pledge of loyalty to the Confession of Faith. Nor can it well be spoken of as an advance in Christian freedom for the Church to loosen the bond that binds her rulers to hold fast the whole truth of God as His Word sets it forth.” Scottish Theology, Pages 254-241-254.

Finally, we invite any brother if any there be who thinks that unreserved dedication is an adequate fulfillment of his ordination vows to reconsider the same before the judgment bar of God. For in the end we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account of the deeds done in the flesh. And even before that final day, God does execute judgment among the children of men and often His judgment begins at the house of God. Two hundred years ago the moderate machine tolerated lax doctrine on the Deity of Christ by Professor John Simson, of Glasgow, Scotland, while it cracked down on the marrow men because their evangelical fervour smelled of dispensationalism — their paradoxes sniffed of anti-nomianism. But read the two histories of Scottish Theology, by Walker and by Macleod, and history has vindicated the Evangelicals — Boston, Erskine, T. Gillespie, John Love, and John Witherspoon; while it has judged Hadow, Patrick Cumming, William Robertson and Principal Hill with their whole “moderate” program. Pick up second volume of The Life Of Alexander Duff, by George Smith, and get a real account of the miserable end to which this so-called moderatism—what God has called lukewarmness—actually led. God will judge . . . God does judge . . . God is judge.

As He does judge may He also speak in the mercy which every one of us needs. All of our obligations get their meaning from our loving Lord Jesus Christ who stands above and by His Spirit gives life to our system of doctrine. It was well said of Charles Hodge, the ablest expounder of our Presbyterian vows, that there was no point in his whole system of theology that did not derive its chief meaning from its relation to Christ. For him, “man is nothing, Christ is everything. We have no worthiness. Christ is altogether worthy … our acceptance with God from beginning to end is in the Beloved. He is the ground of our election, the foundation of our Justification, the fontal head of our Regeneration, the means and medium of our Sanctification, and the efficient cause and model of our glorification. He is all in all, and we are complete in Him.” “Jesus Christ is the God whom I worship.” —Dr. William Paxton on Hodge as a Teacher of Theology in The Life Of Charles Hodge, Pages 596-597.

Luther’s Safe Place

When Martin Luther was in the throes of the Reformation, and the Pope was trying to bring him back to the Catholic Church, he sent a cardinal to deal with Luther and buy him with gold. The cardinal wrote to the Pope: “The fool does not love gold.” The cardinal, when he could not convince Luther, said to him: “What do you think the Pope cares for the opinions of a German boor? The Pope’s little finger is stronger than all Germany. Do you expect your princes to take up arms to defend you — you, a wretched worm like you, I tell you no. And where will you be then?” Luther’s reply was simple: “Where I am now, in the hands of Almighty God.” — Pentecostal Herald.

“The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”—A.A. Hodge.

Today’s post comes from the pen of the Rev. Dr. W.W. (Walter William) Moore [June 14, 1857-June 14, 1926], who, after a few brief pastorates, served first as professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1886-1915 and then as president of that same institution from 1904 until his death in 1926. The following article comes from THE NORTH CAROLINA PRESBYTERIAN, vol. 40, no. 2 (13 January 1898): 2.

PRESBYTERIANISM AND CIVIL LIBERTY.
by Rev. W.W. Moore, D.D. (Walter William Moore, 1857-1926)

Civil liberty and religious liberty go hand in hand. As men settle the question of church power, so they are likely to settle the question of civil power. If they rest church power in the clergy they are likely to rest civil power in kings and nobles. Hence the remark of Lord Bacon that “Discipline by bishops is fittest for monarchy of all others.” If, on the other hand, men rest church power in the people, in the church itself, as Presbyterians do, then they will hold that civil power also rests in the people, and that all civil rulers are the servants of the people. So Dr. Paxton has said, “If there is liberty in the church there will be liberty in the State; if there is no bishop in the church there will be no tyrant on the throne.”

Hence it is that modern tyrants have with one consent recognized that Presbyterianism was their natural enemy and have hated and feared it accordingly. Charles II. pronounced Calvinism a religion not fit for a gentleman. Charles I. said: “The doctrine (of the Presbyterians) is anti-monarchical,” and he added that “there was not a wiser man since Solomon than he who said, ‘No Bishop, no King.’” James I., born and reared a Scot, spake what he knew when he said at the Hampton Court Conference, “Ye are aiming at a Scots Presbytery, which agrees with monarchy as well as God and the devil.” History has demonstrated that the views thus expressed by the Stuart kings were absolutely correct. By its doctrine of personal liberty Presbyterianism has emphasized the worth of the individual. By its republican polity it has rested the power of government in the people, and administered it through representatives of the people chosen by the people. And, as a natural consequence, it has in every age been the chief educator of the people in the principles of civil liberty, and has in every land reared the noblest champions of human freedom. And so the Westminster Review, which is certainly no friend of our faith, says: “Calvin sowed the seeds of liberty in Europe,” and again, emphatically, “Calvinism saved Europe.” Castelar, the eloquent Spaniard, says: “The Anglo-Saxon democracy is the product of a severe theology,” learned in the cities of Switzerland and Holland, “and it remains serenely in its grandeur, forming the most dignified, most moral, most enlightened and richest portion of the human race.”

Macaulay has shown that the great revolution of 1688, which gave liberty to England, was in a great measure due to the heroism of the Presbyterians of Scotland, who at Drumclog contended for Christ’s Crown and Covenant against the dragoons of Claverhouse, whose blood crimsoned the heather at Bothwell Bridge and Ayrsmoss, and whose brethren in Ireland resisted to the death the army of King James at Derry. Ranke, the great historian of Germany, says: “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America.”

Bancroft, our own historian, says: “We are proud of the free States that fringe the Atlantic. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influence in South Carolina came from the Calvinists of France. William Penn was the disciple of the Huguenots; the ships from Holland that first brought colonists to Manhattan were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.” Rufus Choate says: “I ascribe to Geneva an influence that has changed the history of the world. I trace to it the opening of another era of liberty; the republican constitution framed in the cabin of the Mayflower, the divinity of Jonathan Edwards, the battle of Bunker Hill, and the independence of America.”

These, be it remembered, are all disinterested testimonies by men who are not themselves Presbyterians. One of them, Bancroft, adds this further statement of fact: “The first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came, not from the Puritans of New England, not from the Dutch of New York, not from the planters of Virginia, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina.” The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, in May 1775, was the work of Presbyterians exclusively, nine of its signers being Presbyterian elders and one a Presbyterian minister. Fourteen months after that memorable action, when, in Philadelphia, the Colonial Congress was hesitating to pass the Declaration of National Independence, it was the eloquence of an illustrious Presbyterian that swept the waverers to a decision, John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton, the only minister of any denomination who signed that immortal document.

Later still, in one of the darkest hours of the Revolution, Washington, himself connected with the Episcopal Church, said that should all his plans be crushed, he would plant his standard on the Blue Ridge, and rallying round him the Scotch-Irish of the Valley, make a final stand for freedom on the Virginia frontier. To this sterling strain, it has been said, belongs the unique distinction of being the only race in America that never produced a Tory. Calvinism, in fact, was the backbone of the Revolution. “While the Quakers were non-combatants, and stood aloof from the conflict; while the Episcopalians, as a rule, were against the Colonies and in favor of the crown; while the Methodists followed the mother Church and imitated John Wesley himself in their denunciation of the revolting Americans, the Congregational ministers of New England and the Presbyterian ministers from Long Island to Georgia gave to the cause of the Colonies all that they could give of the sanction of religion.”

As for Presbyterian elders and laymen, when we remember the remark of George Alfred Townsend, ‘When I want to find the grave of an officer in the Revolutionary Army, I go to a Presbyterian graveyard and there I find it;” when we remember that nearly all the officers in command at King’s Mountain, the most successful battle save one that was ever fought by American arms, were Presbyterian elders and that their troops were mustered from Presbyterian settlements; when we remember that General Morgan and General Pickens, who turned the whole tide of the war at the Cowpens, were Presbyterian elders; when we remember that after his surrender at Saratoga, Burgoyne said to Morgan concerning his Scotch-Irish riflemen, “Sir, you have the finest regiment in the world;” when we remember that Generals Moultrie, Sullivan, Sumter, Stark, Knox, Routledge, Wayne, and scores of other officers, as well as thousands of the Revolutionary rank and file, were of the same sturdy stock, it is hardly too much to say with Dr. Archibald Hodge that “The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”

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