November 2018

You are currently browsing the archive for the November 2018 category.

It was on this day in 1857 that the Rev. Ebenezer Platt Rogers [1817-1881] delivered an historical discourse regarding the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Albany, New York, on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1857. But if like me you are still suffering from too much turkey and pecan pie, perhaps it will be best to skip over the heavier substance of the message from Rev. Rogers and simply to focus on his opening words. I pray you will find these words thought-provoking and something to take to heart.

We begin with the text chosen for his discourse.

 

 

Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers
thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that
ye may tell it to the generation following.—Psalm xlviii: 12, 13.

“Thus does the pious psalmist exhort us to note with zealous care, the history and character of the Church of God. To trace out that history, to record her progress, to take note of God’s dealings with her from time to time, and testify to her advancement and triumph, is a grateful task, and a solemn duty. Especially when that history runs over the track of centuries, should this duty be discharged. For as the river widens its channel, and bears richer freight on its bosom, as it flows farther and faster from its source, so as we follow the history of the Church down the stream of time, we find it richer in interest, and more deeply laden with the treasures of the Divine presence and blessing.

“And what is true of the church at large, is no less true of individual churches and congregations. We regard it as the solemn duty of every church to keep a faithful record of its history, and to afford the opportunity to succeeding generations to know something of its origin, its progress, its vicissitudes, its foes, its struggles and its triumphs. The ancient Jews were required “to instruct their children that they might convey throughout all generations the history of those Divine interpositions and mercies with which they had been favored.” And the obligation is no less binding upon Christian churches, thus to keep in perpetual remembrance the dealings of God with them for the information and encouragement of succeeding generations.”

Words to Live By:
Time and again throughout the Scriptures, perhaps most notably in the Psalms, we are instructed to remember the Lord’s works. By God’s design, it is a means by which we can keep our hearts fresh before the Lord and our love for Him fueled anew.

Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart,
in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
sought out of all them that have pleasure therein
.
His work is honourable and glorious:
and his righteousness endureth for ever.
He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered:
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion
.
—Psalm 111:1-4, KJV (emphasis added)

Last week we concluded Rev. Van Horn’s series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. But noting that we did miss a few of his lessons, we’re going to go back and present those before moving on to new territory in the coming year. Today’s post covers Question 100 of the Catechism.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 100. What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “Our Father which is in heaven,” teacheth us to draw near to God, with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us and that we should pray with and for others.

Scripture References: Isa. 64:9; Luke 11:13; Rom. 8:15; Eph. 6:1; Acts 12:5; Zech. 8:21.

Questions:

1. When we say “Our Father” in the prayer, are we speaking of one God the Father?

No, we are speaking of the triune God. The Father is mentioned but the Son and the Holy Spirit are included because they are the same in essence.

2. Is it possible for everyone to pray this prayer?

No, it is a prayer that only those who are believers are able to pray. It is only those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them because of their relationship to Jesus Christ that can call out “Our Father” and sincerely mean it.

3. What can we be taught from the words “Our Father” in the prayer?

We can be taught that we can address our Lord with an attitude that is likened (though deeper) to the attitude of a child towards his earthly father. It is an attitude of love, adoration, and delight.

4. Why is it important for us to know God is in heaven?

It is important for us as by this we can direct our prayers to Him away from the cares of this world and to expect our blessings from above. It should also teach us to be careful of our attitude toward God that it is a holy attitude and an attitude of carefulness of our words directed toward Him. (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

5. Should we not remember that the preface contains the word “Our” as we pray?

Yes, we should remember this constantly. This should teach us to pray with and for others. It should remind us that we are “one in Christ Jesus” and that we are not alone no matter what our trouble or difficulty might be here on earth.

ELEMENTARY PRAYER

One of the difficulties of the prayer life on the part of many is that they attempt some of the more advanced patterns of prayer before becoming well-versed in elementary prayer. What is elementary prayer? The simple procedure of making of requests and giving thanks.

There are higher patterns of prayer. There are such things as adoration, communion, spiritual warfare, intercession and contemplation. But so many times the young believer–and many times the believer of many years–will attempt some of these higher patterns, become discouraged, and the prayer life will continue to suffer. How can we train ourselves to reach the higher patterns some day?

One of the simple methods is to keep a “Prayer Card” in your pocket or in your Bible or in your purse and keep an orderly list of things for which you can pray. As new things come to your attention, add them and you will be amazed at how your list will grow. You will also be amazed at the increases in urgency in prayer on your part.

This urgency in prayer is one of our greatest needs. So many times we seem to feel we can only pray when we are in the right mood. We should remember that our Sovereign God knows all about our moods and will give us the grace, as we cast ourselves on Him, to rise above our moods and be regular and urgent in our prayer lives.

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman tells the story of Praying Hyde (John Nelson Hyde) coming to his room for prayer. Dr. Chapman stated, “He came up to my room, turned the key in the door, dropped on his knees, waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips. I could hear my own heart thumping and his beating. I knew I was with God. Then with upturned face, down which tears streamed, he broke out with, ‘O, God!’ For five minutes he was still again. When he knew that he was talking with God, there came from the depths of his heart such petitions for men as I have never heard before. I rose from my knees knowing what real prayer is.”

We need more Praying Hydes today. Will you join with me with some elementary prayer? (Luke 18:1).

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 7, No. 4 (April 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

In hopes that on the weekend you will have time to read a longer article, over the next few weeks we will be running a series of articles from 1949 written by Chalmers W. Alexander. Our author was a graduate of Princeton University, class of 1932, a lawyer and noted civil servant, and a faithful ruling elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi (now a PCA church). He died in 1996. These articles appeared in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, a monthly magazine published by Samuel G. Craig, founder of the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, and that journal ran from 1930-1949; it should not be confused with the one still publishing today under the same name.

The Heretical Auburn Affirmation And The Northern Presbyterian Church
(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander
Jackson, Miss.

The Auburn Affirmation, which was published in 1924, bearing the signatures of almost 1,300 ordained ministers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, did not create the lamentable doctrinal situation which exists in that denomination today.  The Auburn Affirmation merely brought into clear locus the various elements of heresy and apostasy which had existed in the Northern Presbyterian Church for many years prior to 1924, so that all of the world could see those elements plainly.

What is the Auburn Affirmation, to which reference is made so often? Why did it come into being and what does it mean?

In order to understand completely the answers to these questions, it is necessary to review briefly some of the events which have taken place in the Northern Presbyterian Church in recent years.

Events Leading To The Auburn Affirmation

In January of 1919 Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist and a professor in that hot-bed of Modernism known as Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, was invited to serve as “stated preacher” of the First Presbyterian Church of New York City. From the pulpit of that Presbyterian Church, Dr. Fosdick, who is one of the most popular and destructive Modernists in the entire Christian Church, began carrying on his Modernist propaganda instead of faithfully preaching the Christian Gospel as it is contained in the Bible. In fact, Dr. Fosdick from that pulpit began a strong attack upon the truths and doctrines which are the very heart and core of historic Christianity.

Because of this, seven different Presbyteries of the Northern Presbyterian Church sent overtures (which are simply formal requests for advice or action) to the General Assembly of that denomination, for consideration at its 1923 meeting which was to be held in Indianapolis.  These overtures vigorously called attention to the deplorable situation in the First Presbyterian Church of New York City and asked that something be done about it.

The General Assembly of 1923 did do something about it. First that General Assembly directed the Presbytery of New York to correct the situation in the First Presbyterian Church of New York City.  Then it reaffirmed the evangelical statement or deliverance made by the General Assembly of 1910, in which each of the following had been declared to be “an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our standards”:

1.   “That the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide, and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error.”
2.  “That our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.”
3.   “That Christ  offered  up  Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and to reconcile us to God.”
4.  “That on the third day He rose from the dead with the same body with which He suffered, with which He also   ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father, making intercession.”
5.  “That our Lord Jesus showed His power and love by working mighty miracles.  This work was not contrary to nature, but superior to it.”

This doctrinal deliverance, or the “Five Points” as it came to be called, was not something new.  It had first been made in 1910 by the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church in reply to an overture from the Synod of Baltimore “respecting prevalent doubts and denials of certain statements of the Confession.” And it had been reaffirmed by the General Assembly of 1916 in response to overtures complaining of the action of the Presbytery of New York in licensing candidates for the Presbyterian ministry who “neither affirmed nor denied the doctrine of the virgin birth.” As Dr. J. Gresham Machen, probably the world’s greatest New Testament scholar at the time of his death in 1937, once observed:

“This evangelical pronouncement of the General Assembly contained no intricate or detailed doctrines, and no doctrines peculiar to the Reformed Faith (or Calvinism). It merely set forth five central verities in which the great historic branches of the Christian Church are agreed.”

The Auburn Affirmation Is Published

Yet this evangelical pronouncement by the General Assembly of 1923 was powerfully attacked by a subtle and cleverly worded document called the Auburn Affirmation. This document was published in 1924, from Auburn, N. Y., and it bore the names of 1,293 ordained ministers of the Northern Presbyterian Church, representing more than one-tenth of the ministers in that denomination.

By signing that infamous, heretical document, the Auburn Affirmationists boldly denied the necessity of a Presbyterian minister’s believing in five of the great, central, foundation truths of the Christian religion.

The Auburn Affirmation at one stroke removes all of the “Five Points” from the essential message which the Christian Church is to proclaim to the world, for it claims that these five truths are not
essential at all.

When the Auburn Affirmation first appeared it gave all of the Bible-believing members of the Northern Presbyterian denomination an earthquake shock. And it will shock every Bible-believing Southern Presbyterian who will take the time to see what it says.

It should be kept clearly in mind that every Northern Presbyterian minister who signed the Auburn Affirmation had solemnly vowed, when he was ordained as a minister, that he believed the Bible to be the Word of God, the “only infallible rule of faith and practice.” He also had solemnly vowed that he received and adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.

Now let us consider some of the characteristic statements of the Auburn Affirmation and compare them briefly with the clear teachings of the Confession of Faith and of the Holy Bible.

The Inerrancy Of Scripture Is Attacked

The Auburn Affirmation states: “The doctrine of inerrancy, intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in fact impairs their supreme authority for faith and life, and weakens the testimony of the Church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ. We hold that the General Assembly of 1923, in asserting that ‘the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error,’ spoke without warrant of the Scriptures or of the Confession of Faith.”

Now the Confession of Faith declares: “The Old Testament in Hebrew . . . and the New Testament in Greek . . . being immediately inspired by God, and by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.” (Chapter 1, Section 8). But the Auburn Affirmationists say the General Assembly in 1923, in asserting that the writers of the Holy Scriptures were kept from error, spoke “without warrant of the Scriptures or of the Confession of Faith.” Evidently to the signers of the Auburn Affirmation the statement in the Confession of Faith that the Scriptures were “kept pure in all ages,” does not mean “kept free from error!”

What amazing gymnastics the Auburn Affirmationists have performed here! They would tell us that the doctrine of inerrancy “impairs” the authority of the Bible and “weakens the testimony of the Church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ.” According to their thinking it must follow that to claim that the Holy Bible contains errors actually strengthens its authority and fortifies the testimony of the Christian Church.  Or, as Dr. Gordon H. Clark, Ph.D., points out in an article entitled “The Auburn Heresy,” the proposition reduces itself to this absurdity”: … in order for the Bible to be authoritative, it must contain error; and, I suppose, the more erroneous it is, the more authoritative it can be.”

As that great Bible scholar, Dr. Machen, once wrote, while he was still a minister in the Northern Presbyterian Church:

“At that point, there is a clear-cut break between the signers of the Auburn Affirmation and the Bible-believing Christians. Signers of the Auburn Affirmation are able to see how a book can be the Word of God and at the same time contain errors; Bible-believing Christians are unable to attain to such a degree of subtlety as that; they are simple-minded enough to think that when God speaks He speaks truth and only truth.
“I do not think that any amount of fine words can conceal that fundamental cleavage. The most important thing about a building is not its super-structure but its foundation; and the foundation upon which Bible-believing Christians, as distinguished from signers of the Auburn Affirmation, build is the full truthfulness of God’s Holy Word.”

The Virgin Birth And Other Verities Are Attacked

In referring to the “Five Points” enunciated by the General Assembly of 1923, the Auburn Affirmation states: “We all hold most earnestly to those great facts and doctrines . . . Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.”

What does the Confession of Faith say, for instance, with reference to the Virgin Birth? How does it compare with what the Auburn Affirmation says on the same subject?

The Confession of Faith says: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity .. . did — take upon him man’s nature . . . being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance.” (Chapter 8, Section 2). This is a fact of history, recorded clearly in the Bible. It  either  happened,  or it did not happen. But to the Auburn Affirmationist it is not a fact at all, but merely a “theory” of the Incarnation (which is the belief that Christ, being the Son of God, became man on this earth). And, to the Auburn Affirmationist, it is merely one of several possible “theories” which can be held.

Now there are three possible “theories,” to use the word used in the Auburn Affirmation, which can be held relative to Christ’s birth, if you grant that Mary was His mother. (1) The first “theory” is that the Lord Jesus Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, and was born of the Virgin Mary without a human father. That is the only account given in the Bible, and it is the only account set forth in the Confession of Faith. (2) The second “theory” is that Christ was born of Mary, who was not a virgin, and that Joseph was the father of Christ. The Bible states positively that this is not the case, and in order for one to believe this “theory” it is necessary that he run head-on into the plain statement to the contrary contained in the Holy Bible. (3) The third “theory” is that Christ was born of Mary, who was not a virgin, and that some man other than Joseph was His father. To believe this “theory” makes the Lord Jesus Christ an illegitimate child and portrays Mary as a woman of loose morals and low character. And yet the Auburn Affirmation affirms that if a Presbyterian minister happened to subscribe to this third “theory” he would nevertheless be, to quote the language of the Auburn Affirmation, “worthy of all confidence and fellowship!”

A similar comparison of the statements of the Word of God and of the Confession of Faith, with what the Auburn Affirmation says on the same subjects, indicates clearly that the Auburn Affirmationists brazenly deny that it is essential for a Presbyterian minister to believe in the substitutionary atonement to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, or in the bodily resurrection of Christ, or in the miracles of our Lord. In fact, a Presbyterian minister may deny flatly all of the “Five Points,” according to the Auburn Affirmation, and yet he is to be considered “worthy of all confidence and fellowship” as though he actually and positively believed all of the “Five Points.”

Dr. Machen’s Opinion Of The Auburn Affirmation

After denying that any of the “Five Points” are essential doctrines, the Auburn Affirmation then attempts to make some positive statement of creed of its own. But this creedal statement is so cleverly worded that even the most radical Modernist could subscribe to it.  When one carefully reads this creedal statement he is more impressed by what the Auburn Affirmation fails to say than by what it actually says.

In connection with this statement of creed by the Auburn Affirmation, and with regard to the Auburn Affirmation as a whole, let us listen once more to that master theologian, Dr. Machen. The emphasis in the following quotation is added:

“Let us not deceive ourselves. The Auburn Affirmation is a typical Modernist document. It is typical in the deceptive way in which it uses general terms which many interpret in a Christian sense, but which many also interpret in a non-Christian sense.
“It affirms ‘the inspiration of the Bible, and the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Continuing Life and Supernatural Power of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It declares that the ‘writers of the Bible were inspired of God; that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh; that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, and through Him we have our redemption; that having died for our sins He rose from the dead and is our ever-living Saviour; that in His earthly ministry He wrought many mighty works, and by His vicarious death and unfailing presence He is able to save to the uttermost.’
“That sounds Christian, does it not? But the trouble is that every one of these noble terms is often used today in a non-Christian sense by destructive unbelief; and the Auburn Affirmation is careful to say that it will not define those terms in  the manner that the General Assembly did, so as to break definitely with unbelief.
“A document which will affirm inspiration but denies that the Scripture is without error; which affirms the incarnation but will not affirm the virgin birth; which will affirm the atonement but will not say Christ died as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God; which will affirm the resurrection but will not say, as our Standards say, that the Lord rose from the dead with the same body in which He suffered; which will say that He wrought mighty works but will not say that He wrought miracles — this is simply one more manifestation of that destructive Modernism which is the deadliest enemy of the Christian religion in practically all of the larger Churches of the world at the present day . . .
“A mighty conflict is on in the Presbyterian Church at the present time. On the one side of the conflict are to be put believers in, and defenders of,   the Word of God;   on the  other side are to be put not only the signers of the Auburn Affirmation themselves, but also all those who are ready to make common cause, without protest, with the signers of the Auburn Affirmation in mission boards, in governing boards of theological seminaries, and in the courts and councils of the Church.”

The Auburn Affirmation is the boldest statement of heresy and apostasy ever to appear in the Northern Presbyterian Church. And yet, in spite of this fact, the Auburn Affirmation was never repudiated by the Northern Presbyterian Church, and none of its signers were ever convicted of heresy. Instead, many of the Auburn Affirmationists have now become powerful and influential leaders in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

The Opinion Of Other Sound Northern Presbyterian Ministers

In 1934 there was a plan afoot to unite the United Presbyterian denomination with the heresy-tainted Northern Presbyterian Church. One of the outstanding Conservative leaders in the Northern Presbyterian Church is Dr. Clarence E. Macartney, Pastor of the great First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh; Dr. Macartney was elected Moderator of the Northern Presbyterian Church in 1924. Dr. Macartney, in the April (1934) issue of “Christianity Today,” one of the orthodox church papers in that denomination, wrote an article entitled “Thou Shalt Say No,” in which he spoke vigorously against the proposed union. (And it is of interest to note that the United Presbyterian denomination has not yet united with the Northern Presbyterian Church.)

One of the principal grounds on which Dr. Macartney advised the United Presbyterian denomination not to unite with the Northern Presbyterian Church was the deplorable situation in the latter denomination, and one of the evidences he gave of this doctrinal unsoundness was the Auburn Affirmation.

Dr. Macartney stated that, because of the serious doctrinal division within the Northern Presbyterian denomination, one evidence of which was the Auburn Affirmation, the Presbyterian League of Faith had come into being in 1931. Among the 1,082 Northern Presbyterian ministers who organized the Presbyterian League of Faith were well known names in the Presbyterian Church, prominent professors, missionaries, ministers, and three former Moderators of the General Assembly of that denomination. The objects of the Presbyterian League of Faith were as follows (the emphasis is added):

1.  “To maintain loyalty to the Bible as the Word of God.”
2.   “To  maintain the Reformed, or Calvinistic, system of doctrine.”
3.  “To oppose changes in the historic formula of creed subscription required of candidates to the ministry and eldership.”
4.  “To oppose the attack made by the document commonly called ‘The Auburn Affirmation.’ ”
5.  “To warn men everywhere that salvation is to be obtained not by human merit, or human effort to please God, but only through the redeeming work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
6. “To encourage the vigorous defense and joyous propagation of the Gospel in its fulness as it is set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith on the basis of Holy Scripture.”

If the Northern Presbyterian Church had remained faithful to its historic doctrinal position, and had not drifted away from the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms, the Presbyterian League of Faith never would have been organized.

A Common Creed No Longer Exists

Today the Northern Presbyterian Church has as its doctrinal basis the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms — as modified or qualified by the heretical Auburn Affirmation.  The Southern Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, still has as its creedal basis the Word of God as outlined in the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms.

While the Northern Presbyterian Church still professes the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms, its true testimony in connection with these Westminster Standards is radically curtailed and qualified with regard to the great doctrines about the Holy Bible and about the Lord Jesus Christ by the open denials and negations contained in the Auburn Affirmation.  On the other hand, the Southern Presbyterian Church has clarified its testimony regarding the Holy Bible and regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, as this testimony is set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms, by this declaration which was adopted unanimously by our General Assembly of 1939:

“The General Assembly hereby declares that it regards the acceptance of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Scriptures, and of Christ as very and eternal God who became man by being born of a virgin, who offered Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, who rose from the dead with the same body  with which He suffered, and who will return to judge the world, as being involved in the ordination vows to which we subscribe.”

The true creedal bases of the Northern Presbyterian Church and of the Southern Presbyterian Church simply do not coincide any longer.

It would be a decided step downward, and a definite compromise with heresy and apostasy, for the Southern Presbyterian Church to unite with the Northern Presbyterian Church.

What shall Southern Presbyterians, as Bible-believing Christians who repudiate completely the views contained in the Auburn Affirmation and who wish to remain separated from the signers of the heretical Auburn Affirmation, say with regard to the proposed union with the heresy-tainted Northern Presbyterian Church?

Thou Shalt Say, No!

The latter half of the twentieth century was marked by a number of unions between various Presbyterian denominations. There were splits too, but the number of mergers or attempted mergers was noteworthy. One attempted merger, never brought to completion, occurred over the middle years of the 1970s. Ultimately these talks between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) ended without creating the merger. Perhaps more accurately, talks of merger were transformed into a larger vision, as the OPC, the RPCES, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) and the PCA began a mutual discussion in the late 1970s, which finally led to the RPCES being received into the PCA, while the OPC and RPCNA continued on as separate denominations.

What follows is the transcription of a two-page document recently located in the PCA Historical Center. This is report on a second informal conference between the OPC and the RPCES. There was a prior report on the first of these conferences, but I cannot find that we have that document. If one of our readers does have it, please contact me at the PCA Historical Center.

THE BROACHING OF TRUTH AND TENETS

A SUMMARY of the second informal RP-OP Conference of Expressions  on the union of the two denominations at John Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Silver Spring, Md., Saturday, November 23, 1974, 9:00 a.m.

These two presbyteries are either indifferent to dangers or valiant enough to walk where angels fear to walk; mature in grace or ostentatiously obsequious; or those who really oppose the union do not come to these meetings but if there do not press their issues.

The Rev. Larry Vail of Grace OPC, Vienna, Va., led the brethren in a meditation on Ephesians 3:14-21. He stressed that Paul’s prayer has the impulse for church unity. He mentioned that this impulse is love and that this love is the fertile ground for faith, which in turn becomes the basis for the UNITY of the Body of Christ. A period of prayer followed the meditation.

Six topics of discussion were posted on the black board:

A. The Scope and Character of Eschatological Liberty.
B. Dispensationalism.
C. The Apologetical Significance of the Doctrine of God, Regeneration, Faith, and the Unity of the Covenant.
D. Neo-Pentecostalism.
E. Discipline as Held on Paper and Practice.
F. Organic Union and the Scriptural Mandate.

Dr. Robert Countess moderated the meeting. Dr. Countess is pastor of OPC in Manassas, Va. (until July, 1974, he was RPCES).

The Rev. Dominic Aquila, of Stony Point RPC, gave a summary of his paper on the first RP-OP Conference. Dominic reiterated that the issues of difference are not in the area of theology, church polity, etc., but rather in the realm of real suspicion and misunderstanding; not the content but the individual viewpoints.

An OPC brother expressed that suspicion toward OP evangelistic apathy can be substantiate, but only on the basis of isolated occurrence. Yet an isolated situation can never become a norm to characterize a denominational emphasis or the lack of it. A reply from the RP was that similar situations have occurred in the RPC and could have led to suspicion among the OP. To that the moderator gave an apt illustration from his personal experience.

An elder urged that real obstacles for union still exist on account of the lack of being sufficiently informed on the level of the elders.

The eschatological matter was more predominant at this meeting. References to the Larger Catechism Questions 86-89 were made. It was suggested, that if the RPC Standards do not show the change as given in the proposed Plan of Union, why then have the change, if it causes considerable difficulties to accept the proposed change. An RP man expressed that, as he sees it, this issue is more at the gut-level—emotional. He said the proof to that was exceptionally evident at the RP Synod in May, 1974. Another urged that distinctions have to be made clear, that there is a difference between the historic pre-millennial view and dispensationalism, in order to alleviate prevailing misunderstandings. Both denominations confessed to the fact that they have eschatological mixture and considerable liberty. Because of that the brethren were reminded that there are always emotional people in any group and that therefore certain attempts to make charges of heresy will be inevitable. The important part of that is, will the charge and response be done in mature love? A situation concerning RP minister ______ ________ and the OP Presbytery of ______________ was presented to illustrate the point of emotionalism. But the assembly was cautioned not to make that issue an illustration of an eschatological clash but rather a legitimate presbytery matter to which the assembly had not enough facts to draw illustrative conclusions. Some one else suggested the possibility of having something black on white to promote and protect eschatological liberty in the future in the merged denomination.

The other posted topics did not find such lengthy evaluations. Topic C was drawn out, and mention was made that this was more a matter of individual emphasis of those who are involved in this field. The differences that exist will continue to be more personal than normative.

Neo-Pentecostalism and issues concerning it SEEMED to be more settled in the mind of the brethren or insufficient facts thwarted any “juicy” discussion on this matter. It was pointed out that the Form of Government of both denominations expressed some implicit attitude (OPC FOG ch. 3, par. 1, and RPC FOG ch. 5, par. 1).

Christian liberty caused no aspects of disagreement. There seemed to be general agreement on the statement on holy living in the plan of union.

In conclusion, one should say that it is refreshing to get together with another denomination and find such large and wide range of harmony. Thanks to God’s eternal grace, we have the more excellent way to settle the differences that exist. May it be said of us in the future that the love of Christ constrained us . . . rather than that emotional fulmination variegated us.

Respectfully submitted,

Hermann W. Mischte
Dominic Aquilla

Remember to praise God quite as much as to pray.

And now for something completely different (as Monty Python used to say):

[excerpted from The English Presbyterian Messenger, New Series, No. 156 (December 1860): 375-376. Emphasis added.]

Some of our readers will peruse the following letter with interest and profit. It was not written for publication, but the Lord may make it useful for the edification of his own people. The friend who kindly sent it to us says :—

“ The enclosed letter, from a deeply tried and experienced Christian in Scotland, was sent to me the other day, along with two others, for my perusal. If you think with me that it is valuable, and can find space for it in “The Messenger,” it may, perhaps, prove a blessing to some souls. I have copied it, and I forward it to you almost entirely as I received it. You can do with it as you think proper.”

I——–, October 19th, 1800.

My Dear. Brother, — I was very glad to receive your kind and interesting letter. I value exceedingly the Christian friendship and brotherhood which the Lord permits me to enjoy. I value exceedingly your own ; but I desire grace ever to refer it all to the fountain, and to be flung back more than ever on the inestimable friendship of the Blessed One.

Dear brother, if it be sweet to have a friend—another poor, trembling heart like our own, to whom we can unbosom sorrow, assured that all will be looked at through the medium of a loving eye, and where no help can be given, sympathy, at least, will be felt; if this be precious, who can tell the preciousness of the sympathizing love of Jesus, who can feel as well as help, who can deal with us so gently and so wisely. No eye scans us with such gentle love as Jesus. Oh to have faith always as well in the love of his heart as in the power of his hand.

There is a little matter I would like to bring before you, dear brother, as having been used of the Lord to be exceedingly helpful to me; and although, perhaps, not needing it so much as I was, it may possibly be useful to you. Its benefit to me is incalculable. It is simply this. Remember to praise God quite as much as to pray. Now this is clearly scriptural. You will find in Scripture far more exhortations to praise than to prayer. The Psalms abound with them, line upon line, line upon line. God is served by praise, Psalm 50. 23. It is specially the Christian’s great service. Heb. xiii. 15 ; 1 Peter ii. 5—9. Now in looking at my own conduct in reference to this, I found it sadly neglected. My heart was little attuned to the blessed service of thanksgiving. I had infinite cause for thankfulness, but, alas! a thankless heart. I have sought to have this altered, and with happy results. I seek the spirit of praise quite as much as of prayer, and desire to cherish the feeling of happy thankfulness for mercies enjoyed, as well as believing prayer for mercies needed. Ofttimes when my cold heart cannot get into communion through the gates of prayer, I turn to the gate of praise, and in a minute or two am in the glorious presence. In certain states of soul, when the enemy rushes on me like Behemoth, and threatens to swallow me up, I fall down on my knees, and drawing near to God, through Jesus, begin to thank God for his mercies. And as the heart goes over the boundless and glorious list, it begins to glow, and the enemy is driven off. Ofttimes five minutes’ praise is blessed with a success that an hour’s praying fails to receive. Now, we have always matter for thankfulness ; and however low we are, let us begin there and come to God in our reality, and praise Him heartily for whatever blessing we feel laid on our hearts, I mean blessing in Christ Jesus. And oh, as faith gazes on that face, brighter than the sun in his strength, and listens to that voice, soft as the murmur of many waters, telling out the tenderness of His grace, the soul becomes as the chariots of Amminadib, and is caught up into heaven and brought very near. There is never between us and the joy of God’s presence any wall but the wall of unbelief. Alas, that we ever cherish and fondle it, and do our blessed Saviour, and the brethren, and ourselves this great wrong. For God is glorified, and others are helped, and our souls are blessed, precisely as we live in happy fellowship with our heavenly Father.

Dear brother, you may know all about this far better than I do, yet I would like to suggest your trying what benefit you might find in seeking to abound in faith with thanksgiving. Say that for a week you give up your heart to praise God for Jesus in all the relations in which you feel you can lay hold on him. In business, let your heart glance up every spare half-minute, just in a gleam of thankfulness, and one word of praise. By the way, to and from home, give up your heart to praise alone. At table let your wife and yourself provoke each other to gratitude and praise, by conversing on the excellencies of Jesus, and of Jesus as all your own. This does not interfere with your seasons of prayer. And, after the week, I am sure you will see occasion to seek God’s gift of the spirit of praise, as well as of prayer. When I blow out my candle in the evening, and sit gazing into the red coals for an hour, and letting the heart wander amid all the revelations of Divine love, back into a past eternity, forward into a coming eternity, to Calvary, to heaven ; taking everything only in connection with Jesus, and with Jesus as God’s gift to me, my heart begins to burn within me, selfish and temporal griefs disappear, Jesus himself fills my heart; and if any one were to offer me a kingdom for every sorrow I have, I could at such times scarcely manage honestly to muster a single one.

Dear brother, try it. When Satan casts us into prison, and puts our feet fast in the stocks, let us sing praises to God at midnight, and very soon God will send his angel, and there shall be an earthquake, and our chains shall fall off, and our souls be restored to liberty. “ O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness! ” Yes, that is our crying want, the want of a heart ever attuned to this blessed work of heaven.

With heartiest love, … I am, my dear brother,

Yours, humbly and affectionately,
J. D.

[excerpted from The English Presbyterian Messenger, New Series, No. 156 (December 1860): 375-376.]

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: