July 2014

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The Lone Star of the Covenant

Donald CargillChallenged by his land owner father to become a minister, Donald Cargill resisted the suggestion at the first. His inclination was not the gospel ministry. Finally, with what his father had put into his hand and heart, young Cargill at last set aside a day to prayerfully consider whether God was calling him to this ministry. It was said that a text from Ezekiel came into his mind, “Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak to the house of Israel.” Then when Presbytery chose the same text from Ezekiel during his trials, there was no doubt of his divine calling to the ministry.

His first charge was that of the Barony Church in Glasgow, Scotland, which charge would take his time and talents from 1655 until 1662. The church was divided in Covenanting groups and non-Covenanting groups of people. No one can abide long in such a divided congregation without receiving the wrath of one group or the praise of another. All this changed however in 1661, upon the restoration of Charles, when Donald Cargill delivered a sermon before a great crowd. He said in part, “the king will be the woefullest sight that ever the poor Church of Scotland saw. Woe! Woe! Woe! unto him, his name shall stink while the world’s stands, for treachery, tyranny and lechery.” Obviously, this was not a statement which would bring good relations between the Crown and his place as pastor in Scotland! And indeed, before a week went by, government soldiers were out looking for him, and he had gone into hiding.

His ministry from that point on until his capture by the Crown was that of witnessing before small groups of men and women. From 1668 on, he became a traveling evangelist for the Gospel, escaping death and destruction by many a close call. To be sure, he showed bravery and courage in many a situation. In other cases, he was weakened and oppressed by lack of assurance.

On one occasion, a great crowd was present to hear the word of grace from his lips. But in addition to that Word came words which amounted to a curse upon his persecutors. He said, “I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority and power from Him, do, in His name, and by His Spirit excommunicate, cast out of the true Church, and deliver to Satan, Charles the Second . . . The Duke of York, the Duke of Monmouth, the Duke of Lauderdale, the Duke of Rothes, General Dalziel, and Sir George MacKenzie. And as the causes are just so being done by a minister of the gospel, and in such a way as the present persecutions would admit of, the sentence is just. And there are no kings or ministers on earth who, without repentance of these persons can reverse these sentences. God, who is their author, is more engaged to the ratifying of them: and all that acknowledge the Scriptures ought to acknowledge them.” There is no doubt that such words were inflammatory and some even questioned and criticized such talk. Yet all those he mentioned here in his curse did die in strange ways. As Calvinists, we see no place for coincidence in the realm of persons, places, and events on this earth.

Finally caught by the authorities, he would be martyred on July 27, 1681. His last words were “farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell, acquaintances and earthly enjoyments; farewell, reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproach, and sufferings. Welcome, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Standing in the crowd of mourners was James Renwick, a future minister of the Covenanters and the last in Scotland to die by hanging for the cause of Christ. God is so gracious as to continue His witness in the land. Consider times when mere man thought that some event was the end of the matter. But God . . . But God . . . But God! To Him goes our prayers and praise for the truth that “He does according to His will in the hosts of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Daniel 4:35b)

Image source: Sketches of the Covenanters, by J.C. McFeeters (Philadelphia, 1913), p. 298.

And for our Sunday Sermon, an abbreviated portion of a sermon by the Rev. Donald Cargill:

For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”—Hebrews xiii.14.

In vain would we hope to bring men to a course of godliness, considering how averse the flesh is to it, and in vain would we deal with ourselves for that purpose, if great and real advantage lay not in taking that way. Whatever the flesh objects as to disadvantage, yet there is no real disadvantage in a religious life; yet, there is more advantage in this course, than will make up for all other disadvantages. It were good that we were considering what advantages there are in this way, and comparing our advantages with our disadvantages. It would gain our affections to it, considering that our Lord is calling us to leave all that which at last will prove our eternal ruin. As for anything lawful, He is not calling us to leave that; but we are not to idolize, or make a god, as it were, of it. Consider what He is calling us to pursue. It is that without which we cannot be eternally happy.

Now, this is the scope of the words. The apostle is here pressing that exhortation which he was giving in the 13th verse. Says he, “Let us therefore go to him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” But this seems heavy, and therefore he puts in this reason in the text, “For here we have no continuing city.” In these words, we have

1st, The shortness of man’s life signified. It is here compared to a city. In opposition to the present life, Paul sets forth the length of eternity, “But we seek one to come.”

2ndly, There is the employment of those that leave it. How are they taken up? They are as travellers going from one place unto another, until they at last come unto their long abode, or resting-place, which is heaven.

Now the words hold forth these few things unto us:—

I. That man’s continuance on earth and enjoyments of earthly things are but for a short time.

II. That the consideration of this short time on earth should take our hearts off from earthly things, and set them upon Christ only.

III. That we must all flit and remove from this earth, for “here we have no continuing city.”

IV. That all should be seeking after Christ and that city of eternal habitation of rest.

Now we shall speak to some of these:—
1. The first thing which we proposed to speak unto, was, that man has but a short time or lease on earth. The Spirit of God points it out by sundry expressions, “Lord, make me know mine end, and the measure of my days.” And what is the answer: “Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth,” yea shorter, “and mine age is as nothing before thee.” Says Moses, when speaking of man’s life, “They are like a sleep; in the morning they are like grass that groweth up, and in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” Our days are but as a thought; nay, the Holy Ghost points them out to be shorter: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth a little, and then vanisheth away.” It is rather a vapour than a reality. It is but a vapour that continueth a little time. And doth not experience prove all this? Are we not here to-day and away to-morrow? The great thing we ought to consider is, that our time here is but short—a truth seldom minded and more seldom laid to heart.

Use 1.—If our time here be short, it ought to be the better employed; it should make us early up in the morning, and late up at night about our main work. It becomes us,

(1.) To consider our ways and what belongs to our peace. It is a good advice that Solomon gives us: “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come;” and yet the most part of us, for all that is spoken from the word of the Lord concerning the shortness of man’s life, think not that our time is short, but long enough, and so remember not that the evil days are coming upon us.

(2.) We lie down, and know not if ever we shall rise up again. Should we not then improve our time? For is there any person so certain of his life that he can say, “I shall live so long”? And is it not of God’s good providence that it is so short and so uncertain unto us?

(3.) Consider that it is not only short and uncertain, but also full of trouble and misery. And is it not enough for every person? What is dying and a decaying old age but labour and misery? And should not this be considered and laid to heart, that our life is not only short and uncertain but full of misery? And should not the time we now have be well employed on that account?

(4.) To incite you to employ your time, consider that the time is short and the task is great. Are there not many strongholds of sin and corruption to subdue and conquer? Hath not man a little world to subdue in his own heart? Now, lay these two together, that your time is short and your work great, and this may make us employ and improve it to the best advantage.

(5.) To provoke you to a right improving of time, consider further that there is nothing of greater moment or concernment than eternity, an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery. It were good for us that we were considering this, and laying the preciousness of the soul in the balance with all earthly things, that we might see which of them is of most value; for, as our Lord says, “What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.”

(6.) Consider that eternity is fast approaching, and our Lord Jesus is coming to judgment. His last words are, “Surely I come quickly.” And is Christ hastening? Should not every believer then be hastening to meet Him? If believers loved Christ as well as He loves them, they would be more hasty to meet Him. It is a wonder to see what we are employed in, and yet never employing our time aright.

Lastly, Consider that the Bridegroom is coming, and the bride must be prepared. It ought to be all our work, or talk here, to be ready to meet Him, that we may not be found unprepared. Oh, what a dreadful thing will it be to be found unprepared when Christ comes—when the midnight cry is made, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him”!

and concluding the sermon, Rev. Cargill said,

IV. And from this we would pose you, Are ye ready to meet Christ, and ready for eternity? Have ye nothing to do but to come and meet Him? We say, Are ye ready to step into eternity? We, if it be not so, ye have need to be serious in time, for we are not sure of another day or another sermon. Consider eternity will come once, and if ye spend not your time well, it will be ill with you. Take the apostle’s advice, “Walk while ye have the day.” Hath God given you a day? Then ye should be serious in it, for we know not if we shall have another. And is it not a mercy that we are not lying in the bosom of the earth unprepared and unconverted. If you misspend this time, then wrath will come upon you. On the whole, these words are a direction to you, to consider the time is passing on, and ere long we must all away, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek for one to come.”

[excerpted from Sermons in Times of Persecution in Scotland (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter, & Company, 1880), pp. 516-521.]

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patterson_donald_brayDonald Bray Patterson was born in Quitman, Georgia, July 26, 1923, to James Hastings Patterson and Ethel Bray Patterson. He was raised in the Presbyterian Church, and professed faith in Jesus Christ as a boy.

During World War II, he served as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator in the Army Air Corps in the Southwest Pacific. After the war, he returned to Wheaton College (Ill.), graduating from there in 1948. In 1951, Don Patterson received his theology degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga. Belhaven College granted him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1972.

In 1947, he married Jeanne Taber in Hackensack, N.J. Three children were born to them: Elizabeth, James, and Shirley.

Don Patterson was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the United States by Athens Presbytery; and his first pastorate was in Commerce, Ga., where he served from 1951 to 1953. He pastored in Perry, Ga., from 1953 to 1958. In 1958, he was called to West End Presbyterian Church, Hopewell, Va., to succeed the Rev. Bill Hill, who had by then gone into full-time evangelistic work. Four years later, Don Patterson became Pastor of McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Fla. Seven years after that, in 1969, he became Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss.

Dr. Patterson retired from the pastorate in 1983, and became Minister-at-Large for Mission to the World (MTW), the world missions arm of the Presbyterian Church in America. In 1993, his job description changed to that of Representative for MTW.

Don Patterson was one of several key leaders who brought about the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He served on the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church as one of three representatives of Presbyterian Churchmen United. When the announcement was made at Presbyterian Journal Day in August, 1971, that a continuing church, loyal to Scripture and the Westminster Standards, would be a reality, Dr. Patterson was the churchman who introduced the men on the Steering Committee.

Two years before the PCA celebrated her silver anniversary in 1998, Dr. Patterson was chosen as one of two Co-Chairmen of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Celebration Committee. That 24th General Assembly would be the last one he attended. Suffering from illness, he could not make it to the 25th Assembly in 1997. Nor could he attend the 26th General Assembly in the summer of 1998. The Anniversary Committee had hoped to nominate him for Moderator, but his weakened condition caused his absence from the court of the church he loved. The Assembly unanimously bestowed on him the title of Honorary Moderator, and news of this honor was conveyed to him as he lay in bed.

Don Patterson continued to fight the illness, but finally succumbed on the evening of December 25, 1998, with his wife of fifty-one years at his side. His passing came exactly three weeks after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the PCA.

Don Patterson Remembered

Atlanta, Georgia (January 3, 1999)—

The classic church structure pointed its steeple into the gray skies. Outside, it was a cold Sabbath afternoon in Atlanta.

Inside, the atmosphere was serious, and respectful, but not gloomy. A crowd of worshippers had gathered to bow before the Lord, and pay respects to one of the faithful warriors of the church militant, who had now entered the church triumphant.

Donald Bray Patterson-World War II veteran, Presbyterian minister, church statesman, missions spokesman, pastor to missionaries-had fought the good fight, and had now gone home. Denominational leaders and friends came to remember him and his labors.

Several days before, First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi, where Dr. Patterson had pastored, was the scene of a memorial service. For this memorial service in Atlanta, Westminster Presbyterian Church was a fitting site. It was here, twenty-six years ago, that the Convocation of Sessions was held which determined to found a new denomination through withdrawal from the Southern Presbyterian Church. And it was Don Patterson who was one of the key players in the Continuing Presbyterian Church movement. Indeed, he was nicknamed the “Mother Bird” by the leaders who looked to him for guidance in those turbulent years prior to the painful ecclesiastical separation.

Conducting the service was Dr. Paul Kooistra, Coordinator of the Mission to the World (MTW) Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America. His selection reflected the commitment to world missions by Dr. Patterson, who had served both as a Committee member and an employee of MTW.

The first eulogizer was his long-time friend Kennedy Smartt. The present Moderator of the General Assembly, Dr. Smartt was elected to that post only because Don Patterson, who would have been nominated, was too weak to attend the Assembly. Moderator Smartt read Philippians 1:20-23. He told the congregation that “the testimony of the Apostle Paul was the same which we would expect from our friend, Don Patterson.” His theme was that of “Have thine own way, Lord.” Referring to Philippians 1:21a (“For to me to live is Christ”), Dr. Smartt said of Don Patterson: “That was his desire and his ambition-to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.”

To Kennedy Smartt, Don Patterson was akin to Mr. Great Heart, the character in Pilgrim’s Progress who tore down Doubting Castle and slew the giant. The contemporary Mr. Great Heart was, said Dr. Smartt, Mr. PCA. He was “a champion not only for the Bible to be the Word of God, but also a champion for a denomination that would put world missions and evangelism at the forefront.”

That burning passion for world missions had led Dr. Patterson and Dr. John Kyle, the first Coordinator for Mission to the World Committee, to pioneer the notion of cooperative agreements, whereby people from the Presbyterian Church in America could serve simultaneously as denominational missionaries and as missionaries with other, independent agencies. Unique at the time, this type of arrangement has been employed by other churches.

Pastor Smartt read also II Timothy 4:6-8. The Apostle’s familiar words in verse 7-“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”-characterized Don Patterson, said the preacher. He recounted how the two of them started rooming at Presbyterian General Assemblies even before the PCA came into existence. They “used to pray and read the Bible together,” he recalled. And then he said of his old friend: “He fought a good fight all through his life, but he fought a good fight the last eight months. . . . Don Patterson finished the race with his torch burning, aflame for God.”

Verse 8-“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing”-also was apropos. “How eloquent that was to describe Don Patterson,” Kennedy Smartt averred. “A champion for God! A gentleman! There aren’t many gentlemen left in this world today. . . . An encourager!”

On that last point, Dr. Smartt referred to an email sent recently to Don and his wife Jeanne Patterson, by Don and Carol Iverson. Those MTW missionaries to Japan expressed great appreciation for the encouragement which the Pattersons had been to them, not only while on the mission field, but also when they were deliberating where the Lord would have them serve.
Kennedy Smartt concluded: “Praise God that He gave us an encourager in these days. And as they sang in Jackson, ‘Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth!'”

Dr. John Kyle also gave a message. He began by reading II Corinthians 5:1-10. Dr. Kyle said that Don Patterson was a “multi-faceted person.” He was “a world Christian” (even before that term was coined), for he had “a burden for the world.” After his retirement from the pastorate at First Presbyterian in Jackson, he became MTW’s Church Relations Director and assumed other responsibilities, including ministering to missionaries and to fifty organizations “with which we have cooperative agreements.” Dr. Kyle continued that “Don Patterson was known around the world, not just by Presbyterian and Reformed people.”

In Dr. Kyle’s eyes, “Don Patterson was like a diamond-you turn it one way and you get this reflection, and you turn it another way and you get another reflection.” His was an Open Door policy, and staff people were continuously ministered to by him.

The end of the service featured a litany of short speeches by a variety of people who wanted to express their thoughts about the man. The first to come to the microphone was Dr. Kyle’s son, Jay. He said of Dr. Patterson: “His commitment to the Word of God was paramount.” Dr. Patterson’s commitment to world evangelization was summed up by the sentence, “We must tell the next generation that people do not know Jesus Christ.”

Dave Smith, missionary to Ukraine, said that he would remember Don Patterson for three things. First, with regard to vision, he said, “Don had a vision-even for plumbing, so we could house more people.” His vision extended to the nationals who were being trained as church leaders. Second, with regard to caring, “Don Patterson really cared. . . . He wanted to know what was going on with [the missionaries].” Third, Don Patterson was an example, in the way that he lived his life.

John Rollo, who worked for MTW in Atlanta, stated that Don Patterson was the one who got him involved in missions. Ron Shaw said that Don Patterson was a pastor of pastors.

Marcus Kyle, another son of Dr. Kyle; Gerald Morgan, who worked as an administrator for MTW; Jim Hughes of Insurance, Annuities and Relief; and Mrs. Strom, retired missionary to India, also shared their thoughts.

After the service, the Patterson family, including his widow, graciously received the many congregants who had come.

Don Patterson’s Last Letter

The following is a letter dictated by Don Patterson to one of his daughters, dated December, 1998.

Dear Praying Friends:

Although I had intended to write this letter a long time ago, I left it to the very end. The Doctor doesn’t give me much encouragement for a future life, and I’m taking him at his word. Although none of us know when our time has come, still we know that death is inevitable.

Since February, 1997, I have struggled with cancer, then radiation, but worst came when I came back from Ukraine with a solid case of pneumonia. My heart couldn’t take the load and got weaker and weaker. Now it is about to give out. Without your heart, you don’t function very well.

My hope is in Jesus Christ, my Savior, who gave His life for me. I stand firm on the promises that God gives in His word. I’m claiming the verse, “Faithful is He who calls you Who will also do it.” I praise Him for the years of service He was allowed me both in this country and overseas. He has been gracious and loving throughout it all. What a joy to know Him as Lord!
Jeanne and the children stand beside me constant and caring. I see the love in their eyes. I wish I could greet each one of you personally. I would thank you for all the cards, letters, e-mails and gifts that have poured in during the last year and a half of illness.

May our God who made Christmas possible be with you. I soon will see Him face to face.  Glorious!

Don Patterson

— end — 

To God alone be all glory and praise.

[Source: Presbyterian & Reformed News, 5.1 (March 1999): 10. Used by permission.]

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This summer seems to be a time when a number of my friends who are pastors are taking up new calls and so moving to new locations. In that light, this post from last year is appropriate to re-run today. (not to mention that there simply wasn’t much to be found happening on this date in Presbyterian history.)


A few years back, an alert ruling elder at the Hixson Presbyterian Church spotted an old copy of The Central Presbyterian at a local sale. Purchasing the old newspaper, he then graciously donated it to the PCA Historical Center. Reproduced here is one of the articles from that July 24, 1858 issue. The language reflects the era, and the piece is obviously sentimental in nature, but interesting nonetheless —

A Pastor’s Farewell to his Study.

Providence has assigned me another location, and I must leave, among other places greatly endeared, that upper chamber, called the study.  It is now more than twenty years since I first took possession of it.  It seemed an interesting locality then; but how much has occurred since to give the place a deeper hold upon my mind.

Charles Hodge's StudySermons have been studied out here, with long and earnest thought.  And there they lie on that shelf, piles of them.  They have had their day.  The simple author thought quite highly of, now and then, of one of them, when in the glow and excitement of effort he finished the last sentence.  But the mist in which they loomed up so auspiciously, has passed away and their glory has drooped sadly.  He does not exactly know how much light they gave at first; but he has tried some of them lately, and he has the comfort of saying, they ignite freely, and give a cheerful radiance in the place of the ordinary kinds of in-door illumination.

[Above right: A drawing of Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836, when he suffered from lameness.]

There are ranges of books.  Old men are there—fathers and ancients.  And young men are there; some of them wiser than their fathers—others less so.  They have stood there through slowly rolling years.  They disagree, some of them, with each other.  And the words of some of them are like those of a fierce hussar in anger with his fellow.  But they have not broken the peace of the study, standing quietly side by side.

There is a book.  As I look at it in its place upon the shelf, it awakens interesting trains of thought.  I will take it down and read the inscription on the fly-leaf.  The hand is fair, and the heart was warm that dictated the utterance made by that pen.  But they use no such things where the writer has gone.  It is a good book—a good man gave it, who has gone to be with the good.  And good the work did me.  It will outlive me, and do good to others.  I love to pray for those who may yet use those books.  They will soon be scattered.  Let them go.  They have been my pleasant and profitable companions in the study; may they go and do good, yet greater good to others.

I look round about the study.  That map of the world, how often I have gazed upon it, as I looked to see where moral darkness yet reigns unbroken and again to see where the kingdom of Christ has come in the place of Satan’s kingdom.  That map has been a powerful preacher.  Silently it revealed to me those works of God, the continents, the islands, the oceans, the kingdoms.  That map has hung long against the wall.  Often as I rested from driving the pen, and looked up, it caught my eye.  There was the world—light and shadow—civilization and barbarism—delusions hoary with age, fortified as by mountains and rocks, in the depravity of the heart, and there was Christianity, a little cloud in the vast horizon, but bright and growing brighter, and hastening to fill all lands with its brightness.  I am much obliged to that map.  It has made many valuable moral impressions upon my mind.

Another book arrests my eye.  A note, in a fair hand, is pasted on a fly-leaf, and it reads, “Presented to our pastor by his Bible Class: a small token of their gratitude for his labors for their good.”  The writer was one of the liveliest of youthful saints, and long since went to the presence of that other Teacher, who leads his friends to living fountains of waters.

I muse on.  In this room have been numbers of anxious inquirers.  “Hit of the archer,” they came in here, sore wounded, and would fain know how they might be healed.  Some were healed while here, for the Great Physician was present; and many more, following counsels here given, went away and soon after, “touching the hem of his garment, were made whole.”  They will never forget this room.

Here have been those—their number is great—who came here to ask, if Zion’s gates were open to them, for, hoping in the Saviour’s mercy, they would fain confess him before men.  They told us, who watched at Zion’s gates, why they wished to come.  And most touching tales have here been told of the anguish of conscious guilt, and of the terrible gloom of a soul that had no God, of conflict and struggle and temptation, of light dawning upon darkness, of the calm that followed the storm, of a Saviour found, trusted, loved, enjoyed. Ornaments they became of Zion below, though not a few of them have gone up higher.

Sons and daughters of sorrow have come in here.  It would relieve them to tell their griefs, even to so poor a representative of “the Man of Sorrows,” as the pastor.  Some of them sorrowed as does the world, and groped after comfort, and found it not because of their unbelief.  Others were children of the Highest, passing under the rod, and through the fire.  They came to see if they could not pick up a crumb that had fallen from the Master’s table, to see if sorrow’s solace could not be found in what they might hear of Him “who carried our griefs.”  In cases not a few, the weary found rest, and sorrow’s tears were wiped away, and the retiring mourner could say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”

Little children have been here in the pastor’s study.  He welcomed them, seeing the Great Shepherd’s example, and was interested in their childish wonder at so many books, and pleased their curiosity by such pictures as a place so lean of that material as the study, could furnish.  Those loved little ones!  Childish things have dropped from their hands, for years and years are gone.  They are scattered—some to distant regions of this land, and some to the farthest realms of the earth; though some in childhood fell asleep, and others later fell asleep,—

“That sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.”

But I must leave the study.  Much it has to do with time, more with eternity—a place of wearisome toil though often of joyful labor; a place of anxiety and care, mingled with gleams of light from the celestial land; a place where God was sought for the anxious pastor’s own soul—oftener for the souls of others; a place, a humble Pisgah, where glimpses were caught, at times, of the Delectable Mountains and the Celestial City!

My study!  Others will look out of those windows on the pleasant scenery—on the verdant hills and meadows here, and on the glorious ocean yonder.  Other voices will be heard within these walls.  Others will be here, who have never known what joys and sorrows have been here before them.  May it still be a hallowed place, honored by the occupancy of Pilgrims to nobler mansions above; a place where others shall try the power of prayer, and know the sweetness of submission, the strength of faith, the joy of hope, and all the sacred pleasures which flow from communion with God, the Infinite One, and the invisible world.

– H.B.H.

[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian, vol. 3, no .30 (24 July 1858), pg. 1, and originally published in The Boston Recorder.]

Words to Live By:
We seem to be designed for places. Whether our home, our study, or our church, we place a special value on these places and derive an earthly comfort from them unlike any other. But this world is passing, and God has designed us to have an eye on our eternal home, that we might walk before God in the light of the living. As we seek His mercy and grace, may our surpassing comfort be found in Christ alone. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, may we be made ready to worship God in sweet fellowship, through all eternity.

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10, ESV)

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Our post today is closely adapted from the work by Wm. P. Breed titled Jenny Geddes, or Presbyterianism and Its Great Conflict with Depositism (1869). To read W.P. Breed’s book, click here.

Our Lord Delights to Use the Small and Insignificant in Powerful Ways

Jenny Geddes was a Scotch woman, a native of that land of great minds and heroic champions of Calvinistic orthodoxy. Born perhaps about the close of the sixteenth century, by near the middle of the seventeenth century, she was a resident of Edinburgh. She was no doubt of a human position in life, with her food and clothing earned by the labor of her owns hands.

Whether she was married or not, history does not tell us. She was certainly poor, for in the great cathedral church of St. Giles she had no place among the pews and so went to church with her stool in hand, seeking a place to sit in the aisle or in some other unoccupied spot during the service.

Jenny was also, most evidently, a person who thought on her own and acted on her own, decisively and forcefully. She was a true blue Presbyterian, familiar with the Scriptures, and one who expected orthodoxy from her preachers and others.

It was on the 23d of July in 1637 that Jenny emerged from obscurity to historic celebrity and renown. On that day there was a strange ferment throughout Scotland and a wild excitement in the city of Edinburgh. King Charles had resolved to make Presbyterianism give place to Prelacy throughout the realm. A book of canons [in effect, a Book of Church Order] had been prepared subversive of the whole system of Presbyterian government, and had been enjoined upon the realm by proclamation upon the king’s simple prerogative. Following this book came a liturgy as a law of public worship, and a royal edict had commanded its introduction into all the churches of the realm on this memorable Sabbath day. Notice to this effect had been given the Sabbath before, and hence this intense excitement. For the Scottish people knew that if this measure were carried into effect by the authorities, Presbyterianism was virtually in its grave.

As the hour of Sabbath service approached, the streets of Edinburgh were thronged with crowds of people, full of excitement. There among the crowds, Jenny Geddes made her way to a convenient place, close to the pulpit of the church and there she sat upon her stool.

The cathedral was filled to capacity with titled nobility and with the nobler untitled nobility of the Scottish Presbyterian masses. There were present archbishops, bishops, the lords of the session, the magistrates of the city, members of the council, “chief captains and principle men,” and Jenny Geddes and her stool.

And as the assembled people waited with tension mounting, the Dean of Edinburgh made his appearance, clad in immaculate surplice, book in hand—that fatal book of the liturgy—the device of English Prelacy for the reform of Scotch Presbytery. The was opened and the service begun.

The cup was now full, though as yet no one pretended to know, no one dreamed, what form of expression the pent-up indignation of the outraged people would assume. The question was soon decided.

No sooner had the first words of the book, through the lips of the Dean, reached the ear of Jenny, the stern prophetess on her tripod, than a sudden inspiration seized her. In an instant she was on her feet, and her shrill, impassioned voice rang through the arches of the cathedral:

GeddesStool03“Villain! dost thou say mass in my lug?”

and in another instant her stool was seen on its way, travelling through the air straight toward the head of the surpliced prayer-reader.

[A lug is an ear]

The astounded Dean, not anticipating such an argument, dodged it, but the consequences he could not dodge. He had laid his book, as he thought, upon a cushion—the cushion proved a hornet’s nest. In an instant the assembly was in the wildest uproar. Hands were clapped; hisses and loud vociferations filled the house, and missiles, such as the hand could reach, filled the air. A sudden rush was made toward the pulpit by the people in one direction, and from the pulpit by the Dean in the opposite direction.

Now, he would be marvellously astray who should suppose that this sudden hurricane at St. Giles was but a passing and unmeaning summer squall. It was in truth the outburst of a national feeling. A mighty ferment at this time pervaded the national mind. Great principles were at stake, and the Scottish masses, well comprehending their nature and the drift of events, were solemnly resolved to vindicate their settled religious convictions in the great controversy at whatever hazard and cost.

When that irregular band of patriots, dressed in Indian attire, marched through the streets of Boston and tossed those tea-chests into the bay, they at the same time virtually tossed British sovereignty overboard; and Jenny Geddes’ party at St. Giles signed the death-warrant of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny in both Scotland and England! The storm had been gathering for nearly forty years, and this bursting of the cloud marked a crisis in a great national revolution. It was the first formidable outbreak against the tyranny of the Stuarts, and Jenny Geddes’ stool was the first shell sent screaming through the air at those merciless oppressors of the two realms, and the echoes of that shell are reverberating to-day among the hills.

A Modern Replica (and a calmer retelling):
[Photo and text from The Journal of Presbyterian History (1903)]—

GeddesStool02The stool pictured at left is intended to represent the so-called “Jenny Geddes Stool,” and was made from a photograph of a model of the same that is on exhibition in the National Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. The model was made under the direction of the Rev. Robert Buchanan for the President of the Historical Society, and was forwarded through his kindness to [Philadelphia].

The history of the stool is well known, and needs but brief mention. Charles I. of England, urged by Archibishop Laud, attempted to impose upon the Presbyterian Church of Scotland a liturgical service similar to that of the Anglican Communion. A service book was prepared, which was popularly known as “Laud’s Prayer Book,” (a copy of which may be seen in the Museum of the Historical Society). By order of the king it was appointed to be used in all the churches. On the day when it was first used in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, a large congregation assembled under a high degree of excitement. Seated near the pulpit was a Scottish matron named Jenny Geddes, who, unable to suppress her indignation, rose from the little stool upon which, as was the custom, she was seated, and hurled it at the head of Dean Hannay, the officiating clergyman, with the exclamation, “Villain! would ye say mass at my lug?” [i.e., ear] This act led to a riotous demonstration before which the ministers fled. This was the beginning of the revolution of 1637 which restored Presbyterianism to Scotland, and of the English revolution, which led to the summons of the Westminster Assembly, the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and finally to the death of Charles I.

It is not pretended that the stool exhibited in the Scottish Museum is the precise one which Jenny Geddes threw at Dean Hannay, but simply that it is one of those typically in use in the cathedral at that time. The model in the Historical Society’s Museum, therefore, accurately represents an implement of domestic use that, humble as it is, had a most important part in one of the greatest movements, both civil and ecclesiastical, of modern times.

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The Lion of the Covenant

To our readers who have been ordained into a church office, or who have had the privilege of attending the ordination of someone else who has been set apart to the biblical office in a local church, I dare say none of us have ever had the following experience happen to us. But in the Presbyterian history of ages past, it did happen to one young man, who was at that time living in Holland. After the laying on of the hands, setting him apart for the office of minister, all but one of the Dutch ministers took their hands off of his head. That sole minister who kept his hands on Richard Cameron’s head, uttered a prophetic sentence, saying, “here is the head of a faithful minister and servant of Jesus Christ, who shall lose the same for his Master’s interest, and it shall be set up before sun and moon in the public view of the world.”

Our focus today in Presbyterian history is Richard Cameron. Born in 1647 in Scotland to a Christian merchant by the name of Alan Cameron, Richard was the oldest of four children. After his university exercises at St. Andrews, he still was not a Christian. Attending a service held by one of the field preachers, he heard the blessed gospel and regeneration occurred in his heart and mind. One year later, he was licensed to preach the Word with strong evidence of his calling beginning to manifest itself in his gifts. Jock Purves in his book Fair Sunshine, said that his sermons “were full of the warm welcoming love of the Lord Jesus Christ for poor helpless sinners.” (p. 44) But in addition to the proclamation of the blessed gospel, there were also strong denunciations of the persecuting government authorities which made such field preaching necessary. Despite the danger to both himself and his gathered congregation, Cameron continued to faithfully, fearlessly proclaim the Word of God.

airds_moss_memorialJust a month before his demise at the hands of the authorities, Richard Cameron had set the issue plain before the whole nation by the posting of the Sanquhar Declaration on June 22, 1680. Now a month after that bold challenge to the government of the kingdom, the latter’s military forces caught up with Richard Cameron and his followers at Ayrsmoss on July 22, 1680.

The battle was preceded by Cameron three times praying “spare the green, and take the ripe.” Looking to his younger brother Michael, who was with him on that occasion, Richard said “Come Michael, let us fight it out to the last; for this is the day that I have longed for, to die fighting against our Lord’s avowed enemies; and this is the day that we shall get the crown.” And he did, along with many others. The monument to their sacrifice is pictured at right.

Oh yes, Richard Cameron’s head and hands were cut off by the British dragoons, to be taken to the city of Edinburgh. But before they were placed on stakes in front of the prison, they were taken to his father Alan who was in prison. He kissed them, saying, “I know them, I know them. They are my son’s, my own dear son. It is the Lord. Good is the will of the Lord, Who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.”

Words to Live By:
When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys,
transported with the view, I’m lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Unnumbered comforts to my soul your tender care bestowed,
before my infant heart conceived from whom those comforts flowed.

When worn with sickness, oft have you with health renewed my face;
and when in sins and sorrows sunk, revived my soul with grace.

Ten thousand thousand precious gifts my daily thanks employ;
nor is the least a cheerful heart that tastes those gifts with joy.

Through every period of my life your goodness I’ll pursue;
and after death, in distant worlds, the glorious theme renew.

Through all eternity to you a joyful song I’ll raise;
for oh, eternity’s too short to utter all your praise.

(Trinity Hymnal (revised edition), No. 56, “When All Your Mercies, O My God,” on Psalm 23:6)

Image source: Photograph courtesy of the Scottish Covenanter’s Memorial Association

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