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Parting Words from the Rev. John A. Van Lear

On a grassy knoll in Virginia, surrounded by scenes of surpassing beauty, stands the Mossy Creek Church. The first settled pastor in the region of the Triple Forks, which included Mossy Creek, was the Rev. John Craig, who was born in August of 1709, in Antrim, Ireland.

Some years later, when the church called the Rev. John A. Van Lear in 1837, the church had by that time grown to be an independent, self-sustaining church. Moreover, the Rev. Van Lear proved to be a faithful pastor, and the people grew under his preaching. He was active in the work of Presbytery as well, serving as Stated Clerk for fourteen years. He even oversaw the construction of a new house of worship for the church.

Born in 1797, by the time Rev. Van Lear reached his fifty-second year, his health began to decline. He had spent himself for the sake of the Gospel. On August 14, 1850, just four days before his death, the Rev. John A. Van Lear wrote the following letter to his brethren of Lexington Presbytery:

Dear Brethren:—I have indeed greatly desired that it might be permitted me to meet once more upon earth a body of which I have been for so many years a member, in whose society I have enjoyed so much happiness, and for which I cherish the strongest affection. But such is not the will of God, and I am content. My days are nearly numbered, and my last remove is directly before me. I record it to the praise of the glory of His grace that God ‘hath counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.’ I have loved the work. I have preached, as I believe, in sincerity and truth, His gospel of salvation. I have tried to bring others to a like precious faith. I rejoice that I have been enabled to do this. But this is not the foundation of my hope. I trust in no labor of my hands. I fly to the cross and the covenant. There is my only hope. There I rest my soul, and my heart has peace. This is my testimony.

“It would give me please to send kind messages to you all by name, but I have not strength. I have come down now quite to the banks of the Jordan of death; but He who has passed through it for sinners has met me on this side of its dark waves, and all is well. My flesh and my heart faileth me, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. I leave you, hoping for a happy and eternal reunion in that heaven to which we have pointed so many of our fellow men.

“It is my parting prayer, that our faithful, covenant-keeping God may ever be with you, bless you, keep you in peace and love among one another, and send down His Holy Spirit upon all our churches, and fill the earth with His glory.

“Accept, dear brethren, my final farewell.

“Yours in the gospel of Christ, our Saviour.”

John A. Van Lear.

He died on the 18th of August, four days after writing his farewell words, in great peace of mind. On the 22d of August, at Goshen Church, nestled away among the hills of Highland county, this letter was read. Many were the tears its sweet and loving words called forth. His memory was duly honored by Session and Presbytery, with resolutions of respect well befitting the memory of this good man, who was a model character in all the relations of life.

[Slightly edited from The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 553-554.]

Words to Live By:
There are perhaps no more challenging and appropriate words for pastors than what we find from the pen of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, withgreat patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:1-8, NASB)

Preaching upon that same text, the Rev. J. R. Miller observed, “Life is very serious. We are always standing before God who is our Judge. Our commonest days—are judgment days. We should learn to do everything ‘in the presence of God.’ This makes every word and act serious. If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity—we would live better!

Rev. Van Lear’s gravestone is pictured here.

Remembering Premise Magazine Online

In Periodicals on 13/08/2011 at 19:27

[Note: We seem to be running a day behind. Our software has a glitch and doesn’t post as scheduled. Our apologies for the delay.]

At my request, Dr. David W. Hall has very kindly provided a brief history of PREMISE, an exceptionally early web-based magazine which ran from 1994-1999.  Some exceptional content posted under the PREMISE banner, and the PCA Historical Center has providentially been able to preserve that content. Select portions will post either on this blog or elsewhere on the Historical Center’s web site in the future.  And now to Dr. Hall’s telling of the history of that effort.

The Short History of CAPO and Premise

by Dr. David W. Hall

August 13, 2011

In what seems like a land far away and in a time long ago, there once was publishing without the internet. Moreover, few reformed organizations seized that day. Thanks to a providential location for ministry and being surrounded by some very talented people, this pastor of a small church was able to participate in some of the unfolding of a new medium.

I was called to pastor the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the spring of 1984. Possessing only low-tech skills and a humanities orientation, ironically I went to this historically high-tech community, filled with scientists and world-class technical researchers. I was steeped in liberal arts courses but a technical illiterate. My elders dragged me onto the information highway in its infant days, and with their support, we were able to form the first Reformed online journal, Premise, in 1994 (and continued through 1999). The Kuyper Institute started publishing its online briefings and analysis in the late summer of 1994, just prior to a sweeping congressional sea change.

Premise, however, was but one feature of the work of the larger domain: The Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy (then www.capo.org). We chose the name to make two statements: first, we were not headed toward “neo”-anything. The content of our publishing was decidedly old school and traditionalist. In fact, anticipating our critics’ parries, our first banner logo featured a dinosaur. Our intent (and confession) was this: “Okay, yes, we’re old school. Got it. Now, what’s the rational argument after we’ve been pegged?” Second, CAPO was an online think tank, with seven different divisions. Each of those seven departments, aptly named after a great theologian or practitioner from our tradition, needed, we thought, a revival of reformed theology to renew its core. The seven different Institutes (see more below) were:

  1. The Calvin Institute for Theology
  2. The Kuyper Institute for Politics
  3. The Augustine Institute for Ethics
  4. The Van Til Institute for Apologetics
  5. The Newton Institute for Science
  6. The Groen Van Prinsterer Institute for History
  7. The Burke Institute for Economics

Yes, it was an ambitious vision that was never fully realized, although the fine articles which populated our e-pages were not only cutting edge for that day but also composed by a rising generation of evangelical scholars and organizational leaders. Ruling elder and friend (now Dr.) Mark Buckner was the primary poster, the brains, and the entire technical department; without him, there would have been no CAPO.

Still, Premise may have been the most widely read of our organs. That monthly magazine, first published in December 1994, featured editorials, essays, book reviews, substantive theological articles, political briefings, sermons, chapters from forthcoming works, and other writings. At the time, although we were unsuccessful, we sought to drag other fine reformed ministries and educational institutions onto the internet. However, after a few years, many ministries came to realize that the internet was neither a fad among college students nor reserved for the military.

Little could most elders predict how wide ranging and developed internet publishing would become. Those of us who ventured onto the internet a decade before the explosion of blogs were on new technical turf, despite our protestation to the contrary that in the realms of ideas there was nothing new under the sun.

This was in the day before Amazon was launched. And very few newspapers were online. I remember when Mosaic software was the first truly graphical interface and how much that advanced our online publishing. I recall a time before Microsoft had web publishing software and the time before either Mozilla or Internet Explorer. Yet, we did think the day would come when personalized news services were available and information would be interlinked. Moreover, the international access led to stunning missiological possibilities.

With gratitude to God for all his gifts, thus, I am happy to dedicate the digital version of Premise to the PCA Historical Center, both with my thanks to that organization and to its director, Mr. Wayne Sparkman.

************************

The explanations from our home page were:

CAPO is the umbrella organization, which provides funding, direction, and facilities for:

THE INSTITUTES

The Kuyper Institute for Politics is named for Dutch pastor and politician Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). It focuses on applying biblical standards to politics, particularly House and Senate races. Regular briefings by email are available. To subscribe send an email message to:
majordomo@use.usit.net
with SUBSCRIBE CAPO-L in the body of the message.

Back issues and other studies remain posted, providing a unique timely biblical analysis of American politics. Among all the other political think tanks, The Kuyper Institute is unique in this: It alone has been created and developed to promote a distinctively Christian critique of modern politics.

The Calvin Institute for Theology, is named after John Calvin (1509-1564). It contains essays on various historical periods of theology and offers in-depth analysis and critique. Included are essays on current themes, historical essays, bibliographies, and numerous other studies, providing a unique online theological repository.

The Van Til Institute for Apologetics is our center for the reasoned defense of the historic Christian faith. Named for a ground-breaking 20th century apologist, Cornelius Van Til, this center provides some of the finest cutting edge scholarship in the world. This center serves an international community with the highest caliber of thoughtful apologetic studies and resources.

The Augustine Institute for Ethics specializes in, medical, legal, and philosophical ethical issues. Named after Augustine of Hippo (354-430), this center concentrates on applying the most solid of ethical criteria to modern issues, frequently contrasting the two philosophical oppositions observed by Augustine: The City of God or the City of Man. Current, analytic, and systematic studies are contained.

The Burke Institute for Economics seeks to apply historic Christian norms to economics. This center honors the work of Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Long under-appreciated in terms of its impact, economic theory and practice is as value-laden as anything else. This center seeks to champion a biblical approach to economics in theory and practice.

The Groen Van Prinsterer Institute for Historyfollows the method of Dutch thinker Guillaume Groen Van Prinsterer (1801-1876). Recognizing the two major philosophical explanations in modern times as either an Enlightenment humanism or a Reformation base, this center collects numerous essays on a widerange of historical subjects.

The Newton Institute for Science. Few areas need more attention than science. Isaac Newton (1642-1717) applied scripture to science; this center encourages the same by its thoughtful studies on the interface of science and Christianity.

CAPOFellows included:

Stanley Bamberg, Ph.D., Fellow
Doug Bandow, J.D., Sr. Fellow
* Michael Bauman, Ph. D., Research Fellow
* E. Calvin Beisner, M.A., Fellow
* Joel Belz, M.A., Distinguished Fellow
Mark Buckner, M.S., Ph.D., Research Fellow
* J. Ligon Duncan, III, Ph. D., Fellow
Nick Eicher, Fellow
Darwin Glassford, Ph.D., Fellow
T. David Gordon, Ph.D., Fellow
* George Grant, Ph. D., Distinguished Fellow
David Hall, M. Div., Sr. Fellow
Michael S. Horton, Ph. D., Fellow
* Frank James, Ph.D., Fellow
Doug Jones, M.A., Fellow
Reggie Kidd, Ph.D., Fellow
Peter Leithart, M.A., Fellow
* Peter Lillback, Ph.D., Research Fellow
R. Russell Miller, M.S., Research Fellow
* Marvin Olasky, Ph.D., Sr. Fellow
F. Edward Payne, M.D., Fellow
M. Dale Peacock, J.D., Fellow
Patrick S. Poole, Fellow
Tim Rake, M.Div., Fellow
W. Duncan Rankin, Ph. D., Fellow
R. C. Sproul, Jr., M. A. Fellow
Hilton Terrell, M. D., Ph. D., Fellow
Timothy Terrell, M. A., Fellow

2011 Note: those marked by an asterism (*) went on to lead major reformed or evangelical organizations.

Our motto was: Looking for Wisdom as Ancient as the Scriptures.”Since June of 1994.

And our front page introduced our work as follows:

The Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy

An Innovative
. . . high-tech
. . . Electronic
. . . Analytic
. . . On-line Archive and
. . . Publishing Forum
. . . With Serious and
. . . Distinctively biblical perspectives.

Mailing Address and Offices
190 Manhattan Ave.
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone: (423) 482-7549
Fax: (423) 483-5581

Our Story:
In early 1994 an insightful Board conceived, funded, prepared, and launched the first evangelical think tank on the World Wide Web, a service that is . . .

  • as large as the world;
  • comprehensive enough to provide a worldview;
  • unsurpassed in terms of evangelical online scholarship and analysis;
  • consistently reflective of the ancient (paleo) biblical faith.

In terms of human thought, we agree with Solomon: Nihil novum sub sole (“There is nothing new under the sun.”)

With a consortium of 7 distinct think tanks, a monthly award-winning journal, numerous electronic publishings, and a publishing arm, and an online bookstore [2011 Note: This was pre-Amazon.com but we did not have the business savvy to develop this], this center combined the best of modern technology with proven truth.

The Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy is a distinctively biblical and historic consortium of networked think tanks, publications, and scholars. The purpose of the Center, located in Oak Ridge TN, is to shed ancient biblical light on modern issues. Admidst the demise of modernity and postmodernism, CAPO is unconvinced that all earlier thinkers should automatically be excluded from modern discussions, as if moderns are inherently and categorically superior. CAPO reaches thousands of international readers per month and has won the following awards . . .

Christ Himself Is Our Comfort.

A difficult lesson, and a deep theology here, from the diary of the Rev. J. J. Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century. 

Sabbath, August 12, 1810. 

“I have been examining myself with respect to my growth in grace, and I find, that although I have reason to mourn, that with the privileges I enjoy I make so small improvement in the Divine life, yet I make some. Blessed be God for it! Oh, to make more rapid advances! On Friday evening I felt much assisted in conducting worship in Mr. Bradford’s family. This day I preached on the great duty of forgiving our enemies. Oh, for a heart truly to forgive mine!

“The Lord was pleased to assist me at His table. I felt some movements of the affections, though not much. I was, however, enabled to act faith in the sacrifice of Christ, so as to have communion with Him in His broken body and shed blood, receiving them as broken and shed for me. My mind was composed, so that I was able to meditate. My confession respected sins, which I have for some time been in the habit of confessing, and my petitions respected blessings, which have for some time formed the burden of my prayers. I hope I prayed in faith, pleading the fulness, the death of Christ, the promises, and oath, and covenant of God, and my future destination to perfect purity. My mind one day last week seemed turned toward the grave, and it seemed that it would be a sweet resting-place. My heart is dreadfully depraved. What envy! What selfishness! I have endeavoured to mourn over them, and nail them to the cross of my Saviour. I pray to be delivered from them. Victories over them, I have, I trust, gained by divine grace, and this is my encouragement to carry on the conflict. Happy period, when I shall be freed from them entirely, and from all other sin!”

The first breach in Dr. Janeway’s family occurred at this time. A child of uncommon loveliness and promise was removed by death. His father returned from church in time to see him expire. There was much of comfort in his departure, and his father was enabled to resign him with humble confidence, into the hands of a gracious God. The lessons of submission which he had enforced on others, he now learned, and all the recorded exercises of his heart were in accordance with the calm dignity of his piety. Gone, but not lost! In glory before the throne, and not amid the sins of earth. On the next Sabbath he endeavoured to improve it to his people’s good, and to profit himself by God’s dealings.

The year closed by asking himself the question, “What comfort do I derive from religion?” and his answer was, that he was not favoured with those lively consolations which are the lot of some of God’s dear people; yet he could share in various ways in its comforts. He blesses God for the steady hope that he enjoyed, and that uneasy doubts seldom disturbed his serene peace. While God’s grace was the cause of this, yet, as a means to this blessed end, he recognizes frequent self-examination, and searching into the nature and evidences of a gracious state. Casting himself, and all his cares and anxieties upon God, with all the unfeigned resignation of a child who trusted in its father, he prays—God’s will be done, and give me grace to acquiesce.

Excerpted from THE LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 176-177.

Words to Live By: 
Dearly beloved, are you pressing to know the Lord Jesus Christ better, to love Him more? Are you seeking after Him with your whole heart? He is your Comfort. Bring all your cares and anxieties and cast yourself upon God, “with all the unfeigned resignation of a child” who trusts in the Father, praying, “God’s will be done, and give me Thy grace.”

Truly a Historic Day
by Rev. David T. Myers

The big announcement for a continuing Presbyterian Church outside the Presbyterian Church, US was made on August 11, 1971 at the Journal Day gathering.  Much prayer and planning had gone into this point.  The July 15 devotional spoke of the first strategy meeting earlier in the year.  Now on this day was the unveiling of the whole plan, with those who were willing to take the lead for this historic departure.

Jack Williamson announced that the four conservative organizations — The Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United — had each officially given the impetus by naming representatives to serve as a Steering Committee “for the continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to the Scriptures and to the Reformed faith.”  All four organizations, instead of continuing to  represent conservative Christians inside an apostate denomination, had reached an agreement “to accept the apparent inevitability of division in the Presbyterian Church US caused by the program of the radical ecumenists, and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.”

The Presbyterian ruling elder continued, “We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction.  We know that any result which is pleasing to Almighty God shall not be accomplished by our might, nor by our power but by His Spirit.  There, we urge and implore you to undergird this effort daily with much fervent prayer that God  will fill us with His Holy Spirit to guide us in this tremendous undertaking…This is truly a history day for all of us. We resolutely set our faces in a new direction.  We shall, with God’s help, preserve for future generations the witness of our  historic faith, that faith once delivered to the saints, to the glory of our King and Head, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The Steering Committee consisted of the following: Donald Patterson, Chairman, James Baird Jr., Leon F. Hendrick, William E. Hill, Kenneth Keyes, John E Richards, John R. Richardson, Kennedy Smartt, G. Aiken Taylor, S.A. White, Ben Wilkinson, and Jack Williamson.

(This contributor is thankful for the book “To God all Praise and Glory” by Paul Settle, for the above information)

Words to live by:  When tough decisions have to be made, God provides faithful and courageous men to stand up  in the gap for His church.  Such were the above mentioned names who agreed to serve on the Steering Committee for a continuing Presbyterian Church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.  Today, the Presbyterian Church in America continues her ministry to a watching world because of their historic stand.  We should praise God for them and  honor them because they honored God.

patterson_donald_bray


AN ANNOUNCEMENT
Made at Asheville, N.C. on August 11, 1971
by Dr. Donald B. Patterson [pictured at left]

It is my privilege to announce to you that the men on the platform with me now have been officially named as representatives from their respective boards to a steering committee. They represent the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, the Presbyterian Journal, the Presbyterian Churchmen United and the Concerned Presbyterians. Here is visible proof of the unity of conservatives working toward a common goal.

These groups have reached a consensus to accept the apparent inevitability of division in the Presbyterian Church US caused by the program of the radical ecumenists, and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.

This steering committee has been charged with the responsibility of developing and implementing a plan for continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to the Scriptures and Reformed faith, recognizing that the Sovereign Holy Spirit may be pleased so to revive our Church as to make revisions in the plan necessary.

This committee held its organizational meeting last night. I was elected its chairman; Jim Baird, its vice-chairman; and Kennedy Smartt, its secretary.

This plan anticipates the involvement of every single congregation in our Church that is interested in preserving the historic witness of our faith. You will be given the opportunity to participate soon.

We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction. We know that any result which is pleasing to Almighty God shall not be accomplished by our might, nor by our power but by His Spirit. Therefore, we urge and implore you to undergird this effort daily with much fervent prayer that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit to guide us in this tremendous undertaking.

This is truly a historic day for all of us. We resolutely set our faces in a new direction. We shall, with God’s help, preserve for future generations the witness of our historic faith, that faith once delivered to the saints, to the glory of our King and Head, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

THE STEERING COMMITTEE
Rev. Donald Patterson, Jackson, Miss., Chmn.
Rev. John R„ Richardson, Atlanta, Ga.
Rev. James Baird, Jr., Gadsden, Ala.
Judge Leon F. Hendrick, Jackson, Miss.
Rev. Kennedy Smartt, Hopewell, Va.
Rev. William E. Hill, Hopewell, Va.
Rev. G. Aiken Taylor, Asheville, N.C.
Mr. Kenneth S. Keyes, Miami, Fla.
Rev. John E. Richards, Macon, Ga.
Rev. Ben Wilkinson, Decatur, Ga.
Mr. S. A. White, V., Mebane, N.C.
Mr. Jack Williamson, Greenville, Alabama

BCO is Presby-speak for Book of Church Order. It is the document that guides the organization, the discipline and the worship of the Church. Every Presbyterian denomination has a similar constitutional document, though they may call it by slightly different names. And while a post like this might seem quite boring to some, stick with us, for the background and context of these things is important for how our churches are governed today.

The PCA was organized in 1973, but based its BCO on that of the denomination that they were separating from, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (aka, the Southern Presbyterian Church). To trace the lineage further, it may be less confusing to simply set out a chronology:

1789 – Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. adopts its Constitution, including the Form of Government,  Forms of Process and Directory for Worship.
1821 – First revision of the PCUSA Book of Church Order.
1837 – Division of the PCUSA into Old School and New School factions.
1857 – The Old School PCUSA moves to revise the Book of Discipline section of their BCO [see our story below]
1861 – The Old School PCUSA divides north and south, thus creating the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church)
1867 – First draft of the PCUS Book of Church Order
1879 – First approved edition of the PCUS BCO [though minus the Directory for Worship]1925 & 1929 – Major revisions of the PCUS BCO were adopted
1933 – This was the edition of the PCUS BCO upon which the PCA based its BCO, with some important revisions. (and we’ve been tweaking it ever since!)

If you’re still with us, here now is an account of the story behind the PCUSA’s attempted revision of their Book of Discipline, in 1857. Though never actually adopted, the committee’s draft is important because that work reflected the thinking of James Henley Thornwell, and while Thornwell died early in 1862,  he had greatly influenced those men who later picked up the work of drafting a Book of Church Order for the Southern PresbyteriansThis 1857 draft of the Book of Discipline was a masterful revision of the old PCUSA Book, and it served as the guiding model for the discipline section of the PCUS Book of Church Order and thus, in turn, the PCA’s Book of Church Order.

So, coming to our story, in The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, by Benjamin M. Palmer (pp. 428), we read the following account :

ThornwellJH_sm

“The only part of the proceedings of the Assembly of 1857 with which these Memoirs are concerned, was the appointment of a Committee to revise the Book of Discipline, with Dr. Thornwell as its Chairman.  The subject came up before the Assembly through two overtures, one from Dr. R.J. Breckinridge, proposing a change from Presbyterial to Synodical representation, and a limitation of the General Assembly to fifty ministers and fifty ruling elders, each; the other from the Presbytery of Philadelphia, proposing a form of judicial proceedings.

The first suggestion was, to commit these topics to suitable men for consideration, who should report to the next Assembly.  This was enlarged so as to require an examination and revision of the whole Book of Discipline.  The Rev. Dr. Hoge, of Ohio, proposed to add the Form of Government also as a subject for revision, which was resisted by Dr. Thornwell, on the ground that the Church was not yet prepared for this.  This measure was therefore dropped, and the Book of Discipline was put for revision into the hands of a committee, consisting of Rev. Drs. Thornwell, Breckinridge, Hodge, Hoge, McGill, Swift, and Judges Sharswood, Allen and Leavitt.

It may be added, that the subject continued to be under discussion until the breaking out of the war, and the separation of the Southern Church from the Northern.  It was taken up in the Southern Assembly after its organization, under a committee of its own, which reported a revised code for adoption.  The Presbyteries not being sufficiently agreed, the work was laid by; and thus the matter at present rests.  The reader will be interested in the following letter from the lamented Dr. Van Rensselaer, the Moderator by whom the appointment of the original committee was made.  It is addressed to Dr. Thornwell:

Philadelphia, August 10, 1857.

van rensselaer

MY DEAR BROTHER:  I feel some solicitude about the results of the action of the committee, appointed by the last Assembly, to revise our Book of Discipline.  I say solicitude, chiefly because I had the responsibility of the appointment of the committee, as Moderator.  On reviewing the whole matter frequently, I have always come to the conclusion that I could not have done better.  I firmly believe that it is in your power to bring in a report satisfactory to the great body of our people.  The reasons why I named you as chairman were, first, your conservative views on the subject of altering our Book; second, your influence in carrying the question in the Assembly; third, the great confidence and love of the Church towards you, and the respect entertained of your mental endowments; fourth, I wished to avoid the appearance of giving too much predominance to this section of the Church; fifth, I was strongly drawn towards you that night, by an influence which seemed to me more like a special Divine influence than anything I remember to have experienced during my whole life.  My mind was led to you, and to none but you.

“Under these circumstances, I have a strong desire to see the work done, and done by you; and I believe that, under God, you can do it.  Alterations in the book are unquestionably called for; and if they are made with judgment and decision, and are not too numerous, the Presbyteries will adopt them.”

Here follow some matters of detail, as to the meeting of the committee.  Then the letter concludes:

“Praying that you may fulfill the best hopes of the Church in the important work committed to your care, I am,
“Yours respectfully and fraternally,
C. VAN RENSSELAER.”

Words to Live By:
Despite how things may seem at times—and they can seem bleak indeed—we must keep coming back to this firm assurance, that God is sovereign over His Church. He is guiding it inexorably toward His intended destination, and He will never fail in His purpose.
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude, vss. 24-25, KJV)
Postscript:The 1879 PCUS Book of Church Order was widely commended, and for one, it prompted the PCUSA to return to the work of revision in 1884. As both theOrthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church were formed by people leaving the PCUSA  circa 1936, it is not surprising that the OPC and BPC Books of Church Order are based on prior editions of the PCUSA BCO.  To put it one way, both those denominations follow a northern tradition of church polity, while the PCA follows a southern tradition. There are similarities between the two traditions, but there are also substantial differences.  [The OPC has in recent years made further and extensive changes to their Book of Church Order.] Meanwhile, the RPCNA and ARP Books remain quite different, since they don’t derive from either the PCUSA or PCUS Books.

Image sources:
Engraved portrait of James Henley Thornwell, from The Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 941.
Photograph of Cornelius Van Rensselaer, from The Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, vol. 1, no. 5 (September 1902): facing page 317.

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