January 2013

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Founding Was In His Blood.

broomall_wickWick Broomall, Jr. was born on this day, January 31, 1902 to parents Wick Broomall, Sr. and his wife, Annie Nixon Broomall. Their son was educated at Maryville College, graduating in 1925 and then preparing for the ministry by attending Princeton Theological Seminary, from 1925-1929. Loraine Boettner was attending Princeton at that same time. Wick earned the Th.B. degree in 1928 while concurrently earning an M.A. from Princeton University, and he then earned the Th.M. degree in 1929. That was the year that was marked by the reorganization of Princeton Seminary, a change in the governance of the school which allowed modernists to take control and a change which drove conservatives like Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen, O.T. Allis, and several other professors to resign in order to start Westminster Theological Seminary.

By August of 1929, Wick was ordained by Birmingham Presbytery and he briefly served as stated supply for the PCUS church in Montevallo, Alabama, 1929-30, before taking a post teaching at the Evangelical Theological College, 1930-32 (this school was renamed Dallas Theological Seminary in 1936). Returning to Birmingham, he pastored the Handley Memorial church, 1933-37 while also serving as the founding President Birmingham School of the Bible (now Southeastern Bible College).

Broomall_Wick_02Rev. Broomall also served churches in Georgia and South Carolina and taught at Columbia Bible College, 1938-51, before transferring his credentials into the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and taught at Erskine Theological Seminary, 1952-58, then was received back into the PCUS and pastored the Westminster Presbyterian church in Augusta, Georgia, 1958-69. While serving as one of the founding faculty at the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies, 1971-75, he was also pastor of the PCUS church in Sparta, Georgia, 1972-75, and as one of the founding fathers of the PCA, led the Sparta church in becoming one of the founding churches of the new denomination.

The author of a number of books and articles, Rev. Broomall was also a founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society, well-known among their number. On February 5, 1976, he was called home to his Lord, at the age of 74.

Words to Live By:
In 1938, an article by Rev. Broomall, on the subject of regeneration, appeared in The Evangelical Student. This would have been published just as he began his tenure at the Columbia Bible College, and may be among his first published works.

“Much is being said and written in our modern age about the fruits of Christianity. The so-called social gospel of bankrupt Modernism is nothing less than a vain attempt to get the fruits of Christianity without the one essential root that alone can produce the desired fruits. The root that we are referring to is what the Bible calls the new birth or regeneration. The sterility and barrenness of present-day Modernism is to be found in the fact that Modernists have largely denied that man as he is needs a radical change in his nature. They have said so many nice things about our sinful Adamic nature, and have dressed it up with so many refinements and cultural embellishments, that they have completely covered up the facct that man’s nature is essentially evil and is absolutely incapable of producing the desired fruits. One does not need to hear or read many sermons in order to be convinced that the doctrine of regeneration as taught in the Word of God is both denied and ignored today.”

[excerpted from “The Christian Doctrine of Regeneration,” The Evangelical Student, 13.1 (Jan. 1938) 15-19.]

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This day, January 30, marks the birth of Francis August Schaeffer, in 1912.

cfc1944Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer’s early ministry is not all that well known. He began his studies at Westminster Theological Seminary, then transferred to, and graduated from, Faith Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, he answered a call to serve a small Presbyterian congregation in Grove City, PA. Arriving in Grove City in June, by July he had in place and began to implement Dr. Abraham Lance Lathem’s Summer Bible School program. Lathem’s program was intense. It met for five weeks, three hours each morning, was centered on Scripture and Catechism memorization, and had no hand-crafts! In two years time, the congregation grew from 18 to 105 members, largely because of Schaeffer’s emphasis upon ministry to children.

The PCA Historical Center has preserved a portion of a letter from Dr. Schaeffer in which he commends the Summer Bible School program:

Dear Friend in Christ:

For a long time I have been keenly interested in the ALL-BIBLE “SUMMER BIBLE SCHOOL”. Before I had a regular charge that interest was academic–the plan sounded splendid both as a means of Christian instruction and as a Church builder. When we were called to the Covenant Bible Presbyterian Church of Grove City, a Church of 18 active members meeting in the American Legion Hall, we put the plan to the test and found it more powerful than we had even guessed. We arrived in Grove City in June and in July with little other means of contact than door bell pushing, we had our first Summer Bible School. That first year with only 4 children in our Sabbath School, we had 135 children enrolled. The following three years we had Schools all of which had over 170 in them. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the greatest factors which God used in the Building of the Grove City Church to a congregation of 105 members with its own beautiful little building was the All-Bible “Summer Bible School”.

Educationally the school meets many needs. A great many of us long for an educational system that will bring our children to the Lord instead of taking them away. Modern unbelief has gained much of its control through the early planting of many of its men in educational centers. However, the setting up of Christian Schools is difficult and not many of us can achieve it. Never-the-less, in the pedagogically correct and Spirit empowered Summer Bible School course, we have a solution which each of us can effect.

As I have said, I have been impressed with the All-Bible Summer Bible School for a long time, but since I have been called to Chester as Associate Pastor and have gone over the remarkable record of the School in its world-wide scope, I am continually more certain that God has raised up nothing in our age that has surpassed this All-Bible Summer Bible School as a means of evangelization, as a bulwark against unbelief through the careful teaching of the Word of God, and as a builder of Church congregations that mean to stand “all out” for Fundamental, Supernatural Christianity.

The School was founded 30 years ago by Dr. Lathem, and uses No Handcraft; it is the Word of God and the Word of God only. There are records at hand of 100,000 conversions through it, and only God knows how many more have been reached for Christ that are not recorded. Before the Nationalistic blow against Fundamental Christianity in Japan there were 586 Schools in Korea alone. It is my firm conviction that the All-Bible Summer Bible School fills an increasingly important. . .”

[The letter ends there. Perhaps we will one day find the rest of that letter among some other collection.]

Words to Live By: Can there be any more important ministry than in raising up children in the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord? What a blessing to be able to say that you never knew a time when you did not trust Christ for your salvation. And please don’t think that you have to wait to be able to talk with your children about spiritual matters. Patience and plain, simple language will overcome the barriers and even fairly young children can grasp their sinful condition and their need of Christ as their savior. Communicate the Gospel clearly, plainly, lovingly—not just by your words but especially by your actions—and wait in trusting faith on God’s time to bring about conviction, repentance and faith.

Image Source: The photograph above is from 1944, when Dr. Schaeffer was pastor of the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, where ministry to children continued to play an integral part in his overall ministry to the Church. Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:

In memory of
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”

lattaJamesHaving read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.

During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.

Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.”  God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.

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The Subcommittee which oversees the work of the PCA Historical Center met this past Saturday, and that meeting went well. Several new projects are on the board for this coming year. Thank you for your continued prayers for this work, which is a ministry of the PCA Stated Clerk’s Office. But in the rush of things, time was short and so we will today revisit a post from last year, with just a few new notes.

AlexanderJAJoseph Addison Alexander was the third son of the Rev. Archibald Alexander and his wife Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, born in Philadelphia on April 24th, 1809. In modern terms, Joseph was home schooled, and he developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, pursuing one subject after another as it caught his attention. Eventually he grew to become another of that esteemed early faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Of his final days, one biographer notes, we find that “Dr. Alexander’s gigantic mind was in full vigor until the day before his death. On the morning of that day he was occupied with his usual course of polyglot reading in the Bible, being accustomed to read the Scriptures in some six different languages, as part of his daily devotions….In the afternoon of that day, he rode out in the open air for the first time since an earlier attack of hemorrhage. During that ride, however, which was not continued more than forty-five minutes, a sudden sinking of life came on him.” Carried home, death then came within a day, without a struggle, on January 28, 1860.

Another biographer says of J.A. Alexander that

“…in the midst of all his laborious and diversified pursuits he saved time for the most heart-searching exercises in his closet. He gave himself up to daily communion with his God. He might neglect everything else, but he could not neglect his private devotions. In point of fact he neglected nothing. He moved as by clockwork. The cultivation of personal piety, in the light of the inspired word, was now with him the main object that he had in life. The next most prominent goal that he set before himself was the interpretation of the original scriptures; for their own sake, and for the benefit of a rising ministry, as well as for the gratification he took in the work. The Bible was to him the most profoundly interesting book in the world. It was in his eyes not merely the only source of true and undefiled religion, but also the very paragon among all remains of human genius. He knew great portions of it by heart….But more than this, the Bible was the chief object of his personal enthusiasm; he was fond of it; he was proud of it; he exulted in it. It occupied his best thoughts by day and by night. It was his meat and drink. It was his delectable reward. There were times when he might say with the Psalmist, “Mine eyes prevent the night watches that I might meditate in thy word, I have rejoiced in the way of thy precepts more than in great riches.” He succeeded perfectly in communicating this delightful zeal to others. His pupils all concur in saying that “he made the Bible glorious” to them. 

Words to Live By: The Bible is the very Word of God—His self-revelation to His people. J.A. Alexander seems to have made Psalm 1 the model and guide for his life. If you have never memorized a portion of Scripture, this Psalm is short and is a great place to start. Setting it to memory, such that you can think on it at various times, will bring real profit.

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Additional Notes for this day:
Professor J.G. Machen, lecturer, author and Bible scholar, delivered two addresses on Christianity at the dedication of the new home of the New York Bible Society in East Forty-eighth Street. [The Continent 53.17 (27 April 1922): 529.]

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Another great resource for Presbyterian biography is Alfred Nevin’s 1884 publication, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America: Including the Northern and Southern Assemblies. This is a huge volume of about 1250 pages, and copies can occasionally be found on the used book market or on eBay.

Today we will focus on Jonathan Trumbull Backus, D.D., LL.D., son of E.F. Backus, who was born in the city of Albany, New York on this day, January 27, in 1809. His lower level education took place at the Albany Academy and he later graduated from Columbia College in New York City, in 1827. From 1827 to 1830, he attended Princeton in preparation for entering the ministry and he concluded his theological studies at Andover, 1830-1831 and New Haven, 1832.

He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1830 and then was ordained by the Presbytery of Albany and installed as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, New York, in 1832.

As an aside, we have to mention that First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1760, but left the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. denomination in 1977, later affiliating with the Presbyterian Church in America in 1989. In 2010 this congregation marked its 250th anniversary, and it is today one of the five oldest churches in the PCA. An important volume on the history of the church was published on that occasion. A brief synopsis of the church’s history is available here. The Rev. Larry Roff is the current pastor of the church, though he is perhaps better known across the PCA as the organist for the worship services at General Assembly each year.

Rev. Backus continued as the pastor of First Presbyterian for forty-one years, until 1873, by which time his own health had so weakened that he could no longer properly fulfill his duties as pastor. He died on January 21, 1892, having not quite reached the age of 83.

Honors accorded to Rev. Backus during his life included the honorary degree of Sacred Theology Doctor, awarded to him by Union College, Schenectady, NY, in 1847. He was a commissioner to General Assembly seven times and he actively served the Church on a number of important committees. To mention just one of those committees, he served on the Committee which prepared the Presbyterian Hymnal, working alongside the Rev. Joseph Duryea in the preparation of that volume, published in 1874.

Of particular note, Rev. Backus was unanimously elected Moderator of the first reunited General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1870. Nevin’s Encyclopedia says of Rev. Backus that “In the discharge of his duties in this high office he gained the commendation of all his brethren, for the impartiality, suavity, and dignity with which he presided over the deliberations of the Assembly.”

Words to Live By: Some pastors serve important, historic churches. Others labor in small, relatively unknown places. But wherever the church, regardless of its fame or lack thereof, godly pastors are called to serve because of the people in their churches, because those lives matter. They—we—are the Lord’s chosen people, a holy nation. We are each of us made in the image of God, and now called according to His purpose, a people for His possession. Your life matters, regardless of your station in this world, because you have been called to serve the King of Kings and the Lord of all creation.

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