June 2014

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Eighty years ago, on June 30, 1934, there was an observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean mission started by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Other denominations had their own missions in that land. The Southern Presbyterian Church (properly, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.) had a substantial mission there as well, one which was greatly blessed of the Lord, and we may speak of the PCUS mission later.

But for today, reading briefly in The fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Korea Mission of the Presbyterian church in the U.S.A., June 30-July 3, 1934 by the Rev. Harry A. Rhodes, we come to what is for us the heart of the subject, a paper presented by the Rev. Herbert E. Blair, under the title of “Fifty Years of Development of the Korean Church.”

The Role of Missionaries
According to the Rev. Herbert E. Blair, three main principles undergirded the PCUSA mission to Korea in the period between 1884-1934. These were: (1) the supreme place given the Bible, with its simple Gospel message as the inspired, authoritative Word of God. (2) the common determination to make the Korean Church an indigenous church from the beginning, self-propagating, self-instructing, and self-governing. And (3) a spirit of comity and cooperation.

Persecution
But Blair also notes that there was great opposition to the gospel ministry in Korea in those days. “Men were imprisoned and flogged and threatened with death for helping the foreigners bring in the Gospel. Terrible persecutions were inflicted by hostile communities or privately by families or by fathers and husbands. Young widows of the Church were snatched and sold by heathen relatives and terribly abused. Wives were beaten, dragged out of churches and through the streets by their hair and cursed, and their clothes hidden so that they could not go to church again. Some were locked up and food denied them. They were cast off for Christ’s sake. Young boys suffered terrible beatings at the hands of brothers and fathers and were driven from home. Young girls were dragged away to heathen marriages and tortured if they protested. If they fled they were arrested and forced back into weddings they could not escape.”

The Bible and the Korean Church
Rev. Blair continues: “But by God’s grace, the Korean Church grew and became established—established upon the very best and only true Foundation. Writing from his vantage point in 1934, Dr. Blair states, “Bible study has been magnified in the Korean Church. The Bible has been ever at the side of leaders and followers alike. The Bible has been a passion with many pastors and teachers. Rev. Kil Sun-chu [or, Kil Son-ju, 1869-1935], the blind preacher of Pyongyang, has been first of all a diligent Bible student. He had studied all the old cults, but nothing brought peace till his soul began to feed on the Word of God. Pastor Kil has been an inspiring model before the eyes of the whole Church. His sight failed him but Dr. H.C. Whiting operated and enabled him to read again. This past generation pictures Pastor Kil always standing in the midst of great Bible classes, holding up his Bible close to his big, round, radiant face so that through his immense lenses he could himself read the Scriptures and then pour out his great soul in vision and plea. He has so studied and taught the Bible that he can repeat whole books. He has repeated the Revelation hundreds of times. Similarly, most of the leaders of the Church have been good Bible students. Their Bibles are filled with notes, worn and black from Genesis to Revelation. Some of them know their Bibles so well that they are veritable concordances. Such examples have helped the whole church to become a Bible-studying, Bible-loving church. Even old grandmothers and ignorant farmers have been inspired to learn to read so they too could know God’s Word.”

“One can tell a Christian home by the Bible on the floor or on the box at the window or the little table. In their homes family prayers have not only been for daily devotion but they have also been the family schools where the fathers and mothers, aged parents and little children, have gathered in circles about the little oil lamps on the floors, with their Bibles open before them, reading around, verse after verse, the fathers often pronouncing syllable after syllable for the little children to repeat till all have learned to read. Probably all who have spent any length of time in Syen-chun, have been impressed when late at night or earlyt in the morning, while going through the street, passing house after house, they have heard the sound of family prayers or the muffled tone of song. The open Bible is the family altar. All over Korea for years, in multitudes of homes, they have had such family prayers.”

Words to Live By:
Much of this account seems so similar to accounts of other times of God’s great blessing upon His Church. And consistently in each case, a faithful devotion to the Word of God and to prayer undergirds each of those times of blessing. Christian, where is your Bible? Is it gathering dust? Or is it your daily companion? And are you constant in prayer, seeking your Father’s face, drawing near not just with your daily burdens, but also with groanings and petitions for the Church at large, that the Lord would be glorified before a watching world? Be constant in God’s Word and in prayer, and watch expectantly to see how the Lord will work. Pray that once great denominations in the U.S.A. would again be seized with the truth of the Bible and return to a faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Pray too that we who consider ourselves orthodox would indeed maintain our first love in all humility and obedience.

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Keeping in mind that newspapers were little different then than now, subject to the same human foibles*, nonetheless the following coverage of the modernist controversy and the resulting denominational split is interesting, as it offers some different perspectives on what a division means to those involved.

[*There are two errors mainly in the text below, both of which will be noted in brackets in their first appearance.]

This article is from a Wilmington, DE newspaper, dated June 29, 1936, and is found preserved in one of seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon, covering the modernist controversy in the years 1935-1939. The photographs have been added and were not part of the original article.

familiesdivided

Dissension with all the heartaches and strained loyalties that civil war brings, is definitely wedged in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Where it will lead and the effect of the wedge, no one knows.

But this much is already evident in the Presbytery of New Castle, which embraced Delaware and parts of Maryland: families are divided, parents against children, husbands against wives, and friend with friend.

This is a time when members of congregations are torn between loyalty to their established church, when men are being accused of dogmatism, heresy, apostasy and free will.

Out of the seething cauldron has been born a new church, the Presbyterian Church in [sic; should be “of”] America, in contrast to the old Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The nature of the wedge that is lodged in the church of the U.S.A. today is itself controversial.

Question Not Doctrinal

Those who are remaining loyal say the split is on a church constitutional question and among the loyalists are both fundamentalists and modernists.

“The matter now and never has been a controversy between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘modernists’ the general council of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. states.

It is a question the general council states, of whether ministers shall disobey the established constitution of a church and agree to the will of the majority.

The secessionists–all fundamentalists–say the differences are based upon doctrinal questions and liberty of conscience.

In any case, the immediate cause of the secession and the controversy has been the Independent Board of [sic; should be “for”] Presbyterian Foreign Missions, a board with no official connection with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

The leading personality in the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions has been the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, N.J.

Four Judicatories in Church

For those not familiar with Presbyterian Church government, it should be explained that the judicatory and administrative bodies of the church are: First, the session, composed of representatives of a congregation, governing the church; second, the Presbytery governing a group of sessions in a district; third, the synod, a group of Presbyteries and fourth, the General Assembly which is the national ruling body of the Presbyterian Church which also is the supreme court and lawmaking body of the entire church.

Also as part of the story of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions is Pearl Buck, a missionary in China, whom it was charged was too much a modernist.

Dr. Machen Heads Movement

machen02Though she resigned, the charges persisted from the militant fundamentalists of the Presbyterian Church against the alleged modernism in the foreign mission groups. In 1933, Dr. Machen introduced into the Presbytery of New Brunswick a proposed resolution to be presented to General Assembly relating to what he called “modernism” in the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

A large majority of the Presbytery of New Brunswick refused to send this resolution to General Assembly but similar resolutions did reach General Assembly in 1933. The assembly received it and Dr. Machen was heard by the committee to which the resolutions had been presented for consideration.

By a vote of 43 to 2, the committee reported unfavorably and expressed its confidence in the Board of Foreign Missions and by a nearly unanimous vote, the General Assembly approved the report of this committee.

But Dr. Machen did not pause there. Accepting neither the views of the committee nor the “judgment of the General Assembly,” he was influential in the establishment of the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions, incorporated in December of 1933, with Dr. Machen as president. It is not a recognized body of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., being just what its name indicates, “independent.”

H. S. Laird Member of Board

lairdhsTo this board came the Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First and Central Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, an ardent fundamentalist.

But before he joined the independent board, he consulted with his session. He did not join against their counsel.

Another point, not widely known, is that Mr. Laird during his pastorate at First and Central Presbyterian Church never solicited for the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It was only after much earnest prayer and careful consideration,” he said, “that I came to the conviction that this movement was of God, and being thus convinced, I agreed to throw what little influence I have in the church to the lifting high of this standard. This was my primary motive in allowing myself to be elected a member of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

“It is from this board that I was ordered to resign. I believe the board is of God and I also believe that my call to membership on that board was of God. Under such circumstances, how can I resign? Shall I obey man rather than God?”

Taking note of this independent board and that ministers and elders were prominent in its membership, the General Assembly directed that all ministers and laymen affiliated with the board sever their connections with the organization.

Those who declined to obey this direction were ordered tried by their Presbyteries. A number were found guilty and either rebuked or suspended.

Mr. Laird tried before the Presbytery of New Castle, protested that his affiliation with the independent board had been guided by his conscience and that in refusing to sever his connection, he was placing the word of God above the courts of man.

Rebuked, But Not Suspended.

Mr. Laird, however, was found guilty, with one dissenting vote in his favor. He was ordered rebuked but allowed to remain [in] his pulpit.

But Mr. Laird continued in the membership of the independent board. The Presbytery recently suspended him from the ministry–an act regarded as illegal by Mr. Laird who immediately renounced the authority of the Presbytery.

Words to Live By
Unity is a precious thing, to be cultivated and prized. But Christian unity must be centered on the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where we have that unity, it is glorious. Without Jesus Christ as our Cornerstone, there can be no Church.

Luke 12:49-53 (ESV)
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Psalm 133 (KJV)
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

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Wonderful Songs Despite a Life of Sorrow

She could have been  bitter.  She could have blamed God for what happened to her.  She could have lived a life of depression and hopeless sorrow. But Eliza Edmunds Hewitts did not do any of these. Instead she lived a life of joy in anticipation of heaven’s shores.

Born June 28, 1851, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she attended public schools in the city. Graduating valedictorian from the Girls Normal School, he became a teacher in the public school system of Philadelphia.  During one of those classes, an unruly student threw a large piece of slate at her. Her career was cut short in teaching as the effect of that slate gave her a spinal injury. She was confined to bed at first. Eventually she was able to be partially restored, but the rest of her life was spent in great pain.

She began to study English literature at that time. That study enabled her to sing and write Christian hymns and songs.  With the help of several composers, she wrote the words for approximately seventy-one hymns.  Several of her best hymns are “More about Jesus would I know,” “My faith has found a resting place,”  “Stepping in the Light,”  “Sunshine in my soul,”  “When we all get to heaven,” “Give me thy heart, says the Father above,” and “Will there be any stars in my crown?”

Her other field of labor was still in the teaching field. She became the Sunday School superintendent at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. At one point, she oversaw 200 children. She was a regular contributor to “Sunday School Helps.”

She died on April 24, 1920, to receive the stars in her crown for her spiritual work, despite a life and final bed of pain.

Words to Live By:  The New Trinity Hymnal has only “More about Jesus would I know” on page 538. The blue (old) Trinity Hymnal has “Give me thy heart” on pg 723. Other evangelical hymnals will give you other favorites of Eliza (or E.E.) Hewitt. Why not join with a group of  Christians, or on Sunday evening for a hymn sing, to lend your voice to singing her  hymns of the faith? Then discuss her life, of being by God’s strength, able to write and serve the Lord despite her physical pain. It would be a profitable study.

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A Desire to Effect a Reformation

J.J. JanewayThe Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

When the new year of 1800 opened, the Rev. J. J. Janeway was found on its threshold with a strong desire to “effect a reformation” in his heart and life. He wrote in his diary, “On examination, it is found that early rising, fervency in devotion, religious reflections in company, humility, courage, disinterested benevolence, and much engagedness are particularly worthy my attention in this reformation. May God enable me to reform. Amen.”

It was not a short-lived expectation or goal for Rev. Janeway. He persisted. On June 26th of that same year, he wrote in his diary:

“This day I spent in fasting and prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on my ministry. I have read the Scriptures; meditated and prayed. Confession of sins has been made. I have entreated God to bestow on me courage, wisdom, prudence, ardent piety, circumspection, a feeling sense of the importance of divine truth, compassion for the souls of men. I have prayed that I may propose divine truth with clearness, illustrate it with wisdom, and urge it with affection and energy; that I may be furnished for my work abundantly; that I may be a wise, faithful, able and successful minister of the Lord Jesus.”

Words to Live By:
An able, effective, and pointed prayer for any pastor. And in a similar way, for any and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. May each of us press closer to know the Lord, to seek His face, to draw near to Him day by day. Read the Scriptures. Dwell upon their meaning and pray. Confess your sins and ask God to give you what is needed for this day, to live to His glory.

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WarfieldBB_1903REVISION OR REAFFIRMATION?

The following letter was sent by Professor Warfield to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., with Warfield declining to serve on the Committee of Revision appointed by the last Assembly. For at least a decade prior, certain elements in the PCUSA had worked to bring about a revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Warfield opposed this effort with a number of articles and short works, but in the end. lost this battle. In 1903, the Assembly approved the addition of two chapters to the Confession—a “chapter 34” on the Holy Spirit and a “chapter 35” on “The Love of God and Missions.” The PCA, OPC, RPCNA and most other conservative American Presbyterian denominations have rejected these added chapters, and it is worth noting that the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod has this year voted to remove these added chapters from their edition of the Confession.

Princeton, N. J., June 25, 1900.

To the Rev. Dr. William Henry Roberts, D.D., LL.D.,

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.

My Dear Dr. Roberts :

The intimation you have sent me of my appointment to the committee, authorized by the last General Assembly, “to consider the whole matter of the restatement of the doctrines most surely believed among us,” reached me duly. I am deeply sensible of the honor of such an appointment, and as well of the duty of the servants of the Church to address themselves diligently to the tasks assigned to them by its highest court. Nevertheless, I am constrained to ask to be relieved from this service. There are circumstances arising from illness in my family, and others arising from losses sustained lately in the teaching force of the Seminary in whose immediate service I am employed, which would require me to hesitate to undertake additional labors at this time. But I should not be true to myself did I not say frankly that the decisive reason moving me to request release from service on this committee is an unconquerable unwillingness to be connected with the present agitation for a revision of our creedal formulae in any other manner than that of respectful but earnest protest.

I cannot think that the violent assault upon certain of our confessional statements—statements which are clearly Scriptural and as clearly lie at the centre of our doctrinal system—in which the agitation originated, was a fitting occasion for a movement of this kind, or for any action of the Church except the rebuke of the assailants by the courts to which they were directly amenable. I cannot think the precipitate action of a few presbyteries following these assaults with a request for some review of our confessional position other than unwise. I cannot believe that the Assembly acted with that regard for the peace of the Church and the integrity of its testimony to the truth which is becoming in our highest court, when it paid such heed to these few discordant and, as I must believe, ill-considered overtures that it ignored the eloquent silence of five-sixths of the Presbyteries of the Church and precipitated an agitation as to its doctrinal standards upon the whole Church. My conviction is clear that, in the circumstances, it was rather the duty of the Assembly, in fulfillment of its high function of guardian of the truth professed by this Church, to reaffirm the doctrines that had been assailed; to quiet the disturbance that had been raised; and, by renewed hearty commendation of our Standards to the churches under its care, to strengthen in them a firm and intelligent attachment to these Standards and their forms of sound words. It is greatly to be feared that the effect of its contrary action, by which on so small an occasion it has invited every Presbytery to subject the fundamental law of the Church to searching inquisition, will be to foment carping criticism and discontents if it be not taken in some quarters as a license to unrebuked assaults upon the very bond by which our churches are held together, and on the very substance of the truth delivered into our keeping by the great Head of the Church. It is my hope and prayer that the. Presbyteries may be led by the Divine grace to avert these dangers and to repair the evil already done, by entering an effective protest against this whole movement through a reaffirmation of their hearty loyalty to the system of doctrine brought to such admirable expression in our Standards.

In my own person at least I feel constrained to make this protest and reaffirmation with the utmost emphasis, and I am unwilling to enter into any relations which may seem to any to lessen this emphasis in any degree. I am thoroughly out of sympathy with the whole movement of which the work of this committee is a part. I desire above all things to see the Church pass quietly away from this disturbing agitation concerning its fundamental beliefs, which form the basis of its unity. It is an inexpressible grief to me to see it spending its energies in a vain attempt to lower its testimony to suit the ever changing sentiment of the world about it. I would fain see it, rather, secure in the peaceful possession of its well-assured doctrinal system, and animated by an enthusiastic loyalty to it and to the Standards in which it is expressed with such singular clarity and power, go forth in strength to win the world to the evangelical truth it has drawn from the Scriptures and professed through so many years of struggle and suffering, of progress and triumph. That God may bless the Church through these coming months with a double portion of the knowledge of His truth and of wisdom from on high, and with a double portion of holy courage to believe in its heart and to reassert in the face of whatever unbelief or doubt the whole truth that He has delivered to its keeping, is my constant and fervent prayer.

Will you kindly, my dear Dr. Roberts, communicate to the Moderator of the Assembly this my request to be released from service upon the committee, and make my excuses in whatever manner may be proper.

I am very truly yours,

BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD.

Words to Live By:
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” — 2 Timothy 1:13-14, KJV.

Image source: Frontispiece photograph in The Power of God unto Salvation. The Presbyterian Pulpit series, no. vi. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1903.

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