October 2018

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by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 103. What do we pray for in the third petition?

A. In the third petition, which is, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” we pray, That God, by His grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to His will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

Scripture References: Matthew 6:10; Psalm 67; Matthew 26:39; Psalm 119:36; 2 Samuel 15:25; Job 1:21; and Psalm 103:20-21.


  1. What do we mean by the will of God?

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we mean by His will two things:
(1) His will of Providence in which He determines what He will do for us and to us. This is His secret will, the will of His decree (Isaiah 46:10);
(2) His will that is revealed to us in the Scripture and one for which we should be constantly praying (Acts 21:12-14).

2. When we are praying for His providential will to be done, what is involved in our prayer?

We are praying that we might be made willing to comply with His will in our lives. A good example of this is found in I Samuel 3:18 where it states, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good.” We are willing to see God in the ways He takes us though sometimes our “seeing” Him is by faith.

3. What is involved in our prayer when we pray for His revealed will to be done?

We are praying that we might understand, through His Word and the help of the Holy Spirit, the ways He would have us to go. We are praying, “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God: Thy Spirit is good.” (Psalm 143:10).

4. How can we be made willing to do His will?

We should recognize He is our Sovereign God and be willing to let the Holy Spirit lead us within that framework. We should recognize that His will is freer to work in us as our hearts are free from the love of the world. We should recognize that His way is the best for us and that someday we will understand.

5. What sort of obedience do the angels in heaven have toward God’s will?

Our Larger Catechism tells us it is one of “humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy” (Larger Catechism Q. 192).


“Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Ephesians 6:6). “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8). Two verses from the Word of God and both of them speaking to us regarding the will of God. The first one tells us we have a duty, a privilege, to do the will of God as servants of Christ. The second one informs us we should delight to do that will. Do we have a desire to do the will of God? Is this something that is real to us, day by day?

Whenever I think of finding the will of God for my life, I turn immediately in my mind to my life verses: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Many years ago I began to see that knowing the will of God had more to do with identification than with education. The closer I walk to Him the easier it is for me to understand His will.

This is all saying that a knowledge of the will of God is always paralleled with a desire to do the will of God. And a desire to do the will of God comes with an attitude of commitment to our Lord. The desire to know the will of God and the denial of self is beautifully tied together in the hymn:

“Thy will, O Lord, not mine,
Teach me to say;
Not my will, Lord, but Thine,
I would obey;
Then shall I know the joy,
And Thy name glorify,
When I, on earth, shall try
To follow Thee.”

If we expect to know His will for our lives, if we expect to be called by Him to do His work and know—It is His work, we must accept commitment to Him as a prerequisite. The heart that is willing to surrender to Him in self-denial is the heart that will be led by the Spirit of God. Too many times we expect to know His will without being willing to pay the price involved of saying “No!” to self. OUR ways, our understanding, our desires must be submitted to Him and then we can pray te words: “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God . . .” (Psalm 143:10). And then He will answer our prayer by leading us with His gentle hand.

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. 8 (August 1968)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

A Typical Military Sermon by a Presbyterian Chaplain
by Rev. David T. Myers

Several Tennents were Presbyterian members of the clergy at the time of the American Revolution. And several of them took time away from their civilian congregations to serve the Lord as Chaplains to the troops. Such a one was William McKay Tennent. We don’t know much about his early life other than the fact that he was born in 1741. He attended and graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1763. Married to a daughter of the Rev. John Rodgers, he was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1776.

Nothing is known of his ministry from that date in history, other than a sermon preached as a military chaplain in the American Revolution at Mount Independence, Sunday, on this day, October 20, 1776. Gathering together American soldiers from the regiments of Col. Motts and Col. Swift, who were waiting for the approach of British troops at Mount Independence, New York, Chaplain Tennent gave the following message: (and this post will only give relevant portions of it)

“(My text is) Nehemiah 4:14 (which says) Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

“Our text is delivered by good Nehemiah to the Jews when their proud, their haughty, and oppressive enemies were coming upon them for their destruction.

“Be not afraid of them is the voice of heaven, the voice of your bleeding country, the voice of the church, and the voice of all who are dear to you – with respect to the approaching foe.

“There is nothing but victory or an honorable death before you.

“Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible.

“Call to remembrance His almighty name. Let the strength of Israel be your trust. Implore His aid and assistance. Under His banner go forth to battle. In His name and strength, meet the approaching foe. Determine to conquer or gloriously die.

“Be not afraid of them, for they are not invincible. Be not afraid of them, because they are engaged in a wicked and unrighteous cause, which the righteous Lord abhors. Be not afraid of them though their numbers should be superior to yours, because you are possessed of advantages which they have not. You have the ground and all the works you have made on it. Be not afraid of them, because the lack of courage will prove your ruin.

“Fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.

“May He cover your hearts in the day of battle, and crown our arms with victory, and the glory shall be given to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, world without end, Amen.”

Words to Live By:
Such words as these have been the challenge for many an evangelical and Reformed military chaplain in modern times to our troops in various conflicts. Let us pray for our chaplains as they minister the Word of God in perilous times to our brothers and sisters in the ranks.

Today, I would like to present you with a short portion of one of John Flavel’s discourses, A Practical Treatise of Fear. We will focus on the sixth chapter of that work, where Flavel prescribes the rules to cure our sinful fears, and to prevent the sad and woeful effects of those fears. This is a synopsis of that sixth chapter, which runs thirty-one pages in length. Obviously an overview like this does not allow the author to build his arguments and to drive home his applications. For that, we urge you to read the full work at your leisure. [the link is to volume 3 of Flavel’s Works, and chapter six of this discourse begins on page 280.]


Rule 1. The first rule to relieve us against our slavish fears, Is seriously to consider, and more thoroughly to study the covenant of grace, within the blessed clasp and bond whereof all believers are.

Rule 2. Work upon your hearts the consideration of the many mischiefs and miseries men draw upon themselves and others, both in this world and that to come, by their own sinful fears.

Rule 3. He that will overcome his fears of sufferings, must foresee and provide before-hand for them.

Rule 4. If ever you will subdue your own slavish fears, commit yourselves, and all that is yours into the hands of God by faith.

Rule 5. If ever you will get rid of your fears and distractions, get your affections mortified to the world, and to the inordinate and immoderate love of every enjoyment in the world.

Rule 6. Eye the encouraging examples of those that have trod the path of sufferings before you, and strive to imitate such worthy patterns.

Rule 7. If ever you will get above the power of your own fears in a suffering day make hast to clear your interest in Christ, and your pardon in his blood before that evil day come.

Rule 8. Let him that designs to free himself of distracting fears, be careful to maintain the purity of his conscience, and integrity of his ways, in the whole course of his conversation in this world. 

Rule 9. Carefully record the experiences of God’s care over you, and faithfulness to you in all your past dangers and distresses, and apply them to the cure of your present fears and despondencies.

Rule 10. You can never free yourself from sinful fears, till you thoroughly believe and consider Christ’s providential kingdom over all the creatures and affairs in this lower world.

Rule 11. Subject your carnal reasonings to faith, and keep your thoughts more under the government of faith, if ever you expect a composed and quiet heart in distracting evil times. 

Rule 12. To conclude, exalt the fear of God in your hearts, and let it gain the ascendant over all your other fears.

The Pastor’s Familiar Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Macartney, Clarence EdwardHave you ever had the experience of  having your pastor preach the same sermon to your congregation of which you are a member, every fall of the year, for 37 years? And here’s the second part of the equation—was this request to the pastor eagerly given by your fellow members to do this very thing? Or Pastors, have you ever had your congregation vote to have you preach the same sermon every fall for as long as you were in the church? It must have been a dynamite sermon in every case.

And yet, that was exactly the case with Dr Clarence Edward McCartney, senior pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On October 18, 1915, he preached a famous sermon entitled “Come Before Winter” from the text in 2 Timothy 4:21. It reads in the King James Version, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Paul was in prison. He was on the eve of his life and ministry. The great apostle was giving his last report to the church through his disciple Timothy.   He urges Timothy to capture the moment and take the opportunity presented, to come to  him. Listen to his words:

“Before winter or never. There are some things which will never be done unless they are done ‘before winter.’  The winter will come and the winter will pass. The flowers of the springtime will deck the heart of the earth and the graves of some of our poor families, perhaps the grave of a dearest friend.  There are golden opportunities on this autumn day and next October, they will be forever shut.”

The emphasis of the celebrated Presbyterian pastor was to make haste when you consider the work of the Lord.  The word “diligence” speaks of being especially conscientious in discharging an obligation.  It is to be zealous, eager, take pains, make every effort, and doing your best.  In short, do what you need to do without delay.

Perhaps now we can see why the congregation asked him to preach this every fall.  They saw that their spirits needed to be reminded to not be procrastinators in the things of life, to say nothing of the work of the Lord.  And so, the pastor had the urging by the congregation to preach the same message every year. And he did so, for forty consecutive years!

Words to live by: There are some things which we can put off without a great deal of problems.  But  procrastination  has  painful effects for God’s kingdom.  Satan and his host are going full speed to tear down God’s kingdom and hinder His work. There is no delay in  his evil designs. But some of God’s people believe that they have all the time in the world to put off the doing of God’s work.  They are wrong.  Don’t be one of them.  Many of the commands in the Bible are set in a tense which speaks of doing something and doing it now.  We are not to put off to tomorrow what must be done today.  One day we will give an account of our times to the Lord.  Let us be busy in the work of the Lord.

Sermon Portion:
To give a fuller sample of the sermon, here are the opening paragraphs. The full sermon can be found elsewhere on our blog by clicking here.

Come Before Winter
by Clarence Macartney
[18 September 1879 – 20 February 1957]

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me…. Do thy diligence to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:9, 21)

Napoleon Bonaparte and the Apostle Paul are the most renowned prisoners of history. One was in prison because the peace of the world demanded it; the other because he sought to give to men that peace which the world cannot give and which the world cannot take away. One had the recollection of cities and homes which he had wasted and devastated; the other had the recollection of homes and cities and nations which had been blessed by his presence and cheered by his message. One had shed rivers of blood upon which to float his ambitions. The only blood the other had shed was that which had flowed from his own wounds for Christ’s sake. One could trace his path to glory by ghastly trails of the dead which stretched from the Pyrenees to Moscow and from the Pyramids to Mount Tabor. The other could trace his path to prison, death, and immortal glory by the hearts that he had loved and the souls that he had gathered into the Kingdom of God.

Napoleon once said, “I love nobody, not even my own brothers.” It is not strange, therefore, that at the end of his life, on his rock prison in the South Atlantic, he said, “I wonder if there is anyone in the world who really loves me.”

But Paul loved all men. His heart was the heart of the world, and from his lonely prison at Rome he sent out messages which glow with love unquenchable and throb with fadeless hope.

When a man enters the straits of life, he is fortunate if he has a few friends upon whom he can count to the uttermost. Paul had three such friends. The first of these three, whose name needs no mention, was that One who would be the friend of every man, the friend who laid down his life for us all. The second was that man whose face is almost the first, and almost the last, we see in life — the physician. This friend Paul handed down to immortality with that imperishable encomium, “Luke, the beloved physician,” and again, “Only Luke is with me.” The third of these friends was the Lycaonian youth Timothy, half Hebrew and half Greek, whom Paul affectionately called “My son in the faith.” When Paul had been stoned by the mob at Lystra in the highlands of Asia Minor and was dragged out of the city gates and left for dead, perhaps it was Timothy who, when the night had come down, and the passions of the mob had subsided, went out of the city gates to search amid stones and rubbish until he found the wounded, bleeding body of Paul and, putting his arm about the Apostle’s neck, wiped the blood stains from his face, poured the cordial down his lips and then took him home to the house of his godly grandmother Lois and his pious mother Eunice. If you form a friendship in a shipwreck, you never forget the friend. The hammer of adversity welds human hearts into an indissoluble amalgamation. Paul and Timothy each had in the other a friend who was born for adversity.

Paul’s last letter is to this dearest of his friends, Timothy, whom he has left in charge of the church at far-off Ephesus. He tells Timothy that he wants him to come and be with him at Rome. He is to stop at Troas on the way and pick up his books, for Paul is a scholar even to the end. Make friends with good books. They will never leave you nor forsake you. He is to bring the cloak, too, which Paul had left at the house of Carpus in Troas. What a robe the Church would weave for Paul today if it had that opportunity! But this is the only robe that Paul possesses. It has been wet with the brine of the Mediterranean, white with the snows of Galatia, yellow with the dust of the Egnatian Way and crimson with the blood of his wounds for the sake of Christ. It is getting cold at Rome, for the summer is waning, and Paul wants his robe to keep him warm. But most of all Paul wants Timothy to bring himself. “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me,” he writes; and then, just before the close of the letter, he says, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

Why “before winter”? Because when winter set in the season for navigation closed in the Mediterranean and it was dangerous for ships to venture out to sea. How dangerous it was, the story of Paul’s last shipwreck tells us. If Timothy waits until winter, he will have to wait until spring; and Paul has a premonition that he will not last out the winter, for he says, “The time of my departure is at hand.” We like to think that Timothy did not wait a single day after that letter from Paul reached him at Ephesus, but started at once to Troas, where he picked up the books and the old cloak in the house of Carpus, then sailed past Samothrace to Neapolis, and thence traveled by the Egnatian Way across the plains of Philippi and through Macedonia to the Adriatic, where he took ship to Brundisium, and then went up the Appian Way to Rome, where he found Paul in his prison, read to him from the Old Testament, wrote his last letters, walked with him to the place of execution near the Pyramid of Cestius, and saw him receive the crown of glory.

Before winter or never! There are some things which will never be done unless they are done “before winter.” The winter will come and the winter will pass, and the flowers of the springtime will deck the breast of the earth, and the graves of some of our opportunities, perhaps the grave of our dearest friend. There are golden gates wide open on this autumn day, but next October they will be forever shut. There are tides of opportunity running now at the flood. Next October they will be at the ebb. There are voices speaking today which a year from today will be silent. Before winter or never!

I like all seasons. I like winter with its clear, cold nights and the stars like silver-headed nails driven into the vault of heaven. I like spring with its green growth, its flowing streams, its revirescent hope. I like summer with the litany of gentle winds in the tops of the trees, its long evenings and the songs of its birds. But best of all I like autumn. I like its mist and haze, its cool morning air, its field strewn with the blue aster and the goldenrod; the radiant livery of the forests — “yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.” But how quickly the autumn passes! It is the perfect parable of all that fades. Yesterday I saw the forests in all their splendor, and Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But tomorrow the rain will fall, the winds will blow, and the trees will be stripped and barren. Therefore, every returning autumn brings home to me the sense of the preciousness of life’s opportunities — their beauty, but also their brevity. It fills me with the desire to say not merely something about the way that leads to life eternal but, with the help of God, something which shall move men to take the way of life now, today. Taking our suggestion, then, from this message of Paul in the prison at Rome to Timothy in far-off Ephesus — “Come before winter” — let us listen to some of those voices which now are speaking so earnestly to us, and which a year from today may be forever silent.

[the sermon continues on from there. Again, the full sermon can be found elsewhere on our blog by clicking here.]

Time and Again, God Triumphs Over Our Sin

Attempts to reform the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, USA were led in part by some of the faculty and board members at Westminster Theological Seminary. When those efforts failed, it was on June 27th in 1933 that the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was organized and on October 17, 1933, its constitution was adopted and officers were elected: Rev. J. Gresham Machen serving as president, Rev. Merrill T. MacPherson as vice president, Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths as secretary, and Murray Forrest Thompson, Esq. as treasurer. The General Assembly of 1934 had put the issue rather bluntly, declaring that members of the IBPFM either were to resign or else face church discipline for violation of their ordination vows.

As new evidence kept coming forward, concerning continued modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people made the decision to begin supporting the IBPFM. This support of the new board so worried the denomination that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. For one, remember that this was taking place during the depression, and charitable funds were especially tight. That reason is not offered to excuse what happened next, but it does help to explain it. Perhaps it was not surprising then that the 1934 General Assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church was required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church, comparable to the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper.

The Assembly then mandated that each Presbytery was to take action against any of its members who were also members of the IBPFM. Thus the deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and in typical Presbyterian fashion, the consequences of that action unfolded slowly. Over the course of the following two years, about a dozen men and one woman were charged, tried and cast out of the Church. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA, on March 29, 1935. His trial was a travesty, with all doctrinal evidence prohibited by the court. Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia. It was a sad conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church, but one which led to new beginnings. As some of the old Puritans used to say, “God never removes one blessing, but what He gives a greater.”

Pictured below is a letter from the Rev. Walter Vail Watson, in which he mentions his discussions with Dr. Machen and sketches out what must have been some of the first outlines of the later formation of the IBPFM:—

Next, (and I realize this may be more difficult to read), is the text of the press release issued by Dr. Machen upon the official formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, on October 17, 1933:—




A Prayer for Our Times:
Lord, give us honest, godly leaders who will do what is right, regardless of the cost to themselves. Give us leaders who, in all humility, fear You and who thus fear no man. And may we be a humble, repentant people capable of following such leaders, seeking Your glory in all that we say and do.

Images: The documents pictured above are from the J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Manuscript Collection, preserved at the  PCA Historical Center.

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