December 2015

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When the Fullness of Time had Come
by David Myers and Wayne Sparkman

With this traditional day of celebration of our Lord’s birth on earth, and with the expectation of family and friends gathering for gift giving, meals, and fellowship, both Wayne Sparkman and I urge a reverent pause among our readers by reading (and perhaps to or with our families) a brief meditation on the first two phrases of Galatians 4:4, “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son . . . .” (NASV)

On the one hand, on whatever day of history Christ came to earth, we can state that it was the time appointed by the Father in ages past and realized in human time. His birth into time and space history had been ordained by the providence of God. Along with John Calvin, we must not presume to be dissatisfied with this secret purpose of God by raising a dispute as to why Christ did not come sooner. The prophet Isaiah states clearly in Isaiah 55:8, “For (God’s) thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways (God’s) ways, declares the LORD.”

On the other hand, God sent forth His Son, as the second phrase in Galatains 4:4 states, at a providential time in human history. Consider the following truths:

      1. The philosophies of the age had run their course, leaving their adherents, spiritually empty. Reflect on the many idols of worship Paul found in Acts 17 as he stood in the midst of the Areopagus in Athens. Yet these idols did nothing to satisfy the souls of the people.

      2. The Greeks had brought a cultural revolution to the nations, producing a common Greek

        language to all the lands, which enabled the early disciples to communicate the gospel to

        all peoples. They didn’t have to learn a new language to share the gospel, a fact which facilitated the spread of Christianity.

      3. The Romans had conquered the then known world, bringing peace with order, which enabled the early Christians to travel all over with the gospel of real peace.

      4. The Hebrews had all the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah completed, waiting for their fulfilment by the Birth of the Savior.

Truly, Christ came at the right time in time and space history. We can receive that truth intellectually, but far better to receive it spiritually. So let us make sure this Christmas that we have received Him as our personal Savior by faith alone. Let us pray for all members of our respective families, and friends, that they too have received Him as Lord and Savior.

And so on this December 25, 2015, we say Merry Christmas, dear readers of This Day in Presbyterian History.

Wayne Sparkman/David Myers

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The Quiet Influence of a Canadian Presbyterian


Quiet workers, in God’s kingdom, are often found to have an abiding influence.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” – (Col. 3:23, NASB)

In 1965, the following obituary (slightly edited here) appeared on the pages of Christianity Today, observing the passing of one of the founding editors of that magazine:

The Reverend J. Marcellus Kik was one of the first three members of the editorial staff of Christianity Today, from its inception in 1955. When the magazine was initially planned, advice was sought from hundreds of men in this country and abroad. None of the replies showed more depth of understanding and vision for this Christian witness than Mr. Kik’s. His long experience as a pastor and as editor of a church paper in Canada enabled him to make a significant and lasting contribution to this maga­zine, which he served as associate editor.

About 1960, Mr. Kik assumed the post of research editor. In that capacity he spent many months in Europe, particularly in Switzerland and Holland.  In Geneva he received permis­sion to study all minutes’ of the consistory for the period of Calvin’s great ministry in that city, and also the min­utes of the city council dur­ing the same years.  Mr. Kik had these minutes micro­filmed and then translated from seventeenth-century French into English.  These indefatigable efforts brought to light the clear distinction Calvin made between his duties as a Christian citizen and the spiritual role of the corporate church in society.

During 1927 and 1928 Mr. Kik attended Princeton Theological Seminary, and he was part of the first class graduated from Westmin­ster Theological Seminary in the Spring of 1930. For the next twenty­-two years he held pastorates in Canada, where he also conducted a weekly radio program for thirteen years.  He wrote a number of religious books and served on the Board of Trustees of both Westminster Seminary and Gordon College and Divinity School.

Mr. Kik continued his Calvin research up to the week of his death.  In 1964, he underwent radical surgery from which he never fully recovered but which never daunted him in his work and witness for his Lord. He died in Philadelphia on October 22, in 1965.

Funeral services were held in the Second Reformed Church of Little Falls, New Jersey, of which he had been pastor for eleven years before joining the staff of Christianity Today. A testimony to his life echoed through the hymns sung at the service: “O, for a Thousand Tongues,” “Hallelujah! ‘What a Saviour!,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Jacob Marcellus Kik was born in Phillipsland, Netherlands on 24 December 1903.  He attended Hope College, graduating in 1927 and then went on to Princeton Seminary, attending there from the Fall semester in 1927 through the Spring semester of 1929. He then transferred to the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary in the Fall of 1929 along with other Biblical conservatives.  He graduated from Westminster in May of 1930, was ordained by Miramichi Presbytery on 29 October 1930 and pastored the Bass River and West Branch churches in New Brunswick, Canada from 1930 to 1933.

Rev. Kik’s influential role began early on, as noted in this article, speaking of the situation in Canada in the 1930’s and following:

“A pattern had been established. Independent Presbyterian journals presented an opportunity for minorities to present their views and gain an audience. Only a decade after church union, a new independent journal would appear. Bible Christianity owed much to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s from which Canada was largely spared. The magazine, supported by W. D. Reid, minister of the well-heeled Stanley Church, Westmount, Montreal, became known for its outspoken opposition to what it perceived as liberalism in the continuing church. Bible Christianity was edited by J. Marcellus Kik, a Presbyterian minister who was among the first graduates of Westminster Seminary after it split from Princeton in 1929. Kik had been minister in New Brunswick but came to Montreal in 1936 and served there in various capacities (for a time as full-time editor and religious broadcaster) from 1936 to 1952.  [The later Bible Presbyterian, which was published out of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, by dissident Presbyterian minister Malcolm MacKay.]” — Note: Vol. 1, no. 1 of Bible Christianity is now posted in PDF format.

Another article, on the early history of the Banner of Truth Trust, notes the influence of Rev. Kik:

“Among Professor Murray’s chief concerns was the restoration of true preaching.  One who shared this view was the Rev J Marcellus Kik, a trustee of Westminster Seminary. This subject was discussed with Mr. Kik when he was present in London in 1961.  As a result he carried back to Professor Murray in Philadelphia a proposal that a conference should be held for ministers the following year in the UK, concentrating specifically on the need for a renewal of preaching.” [Thus the beginnings of the annual Banner of Truth Pastors’ Conferences.]

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From Trash to Treasure.

tenney_samuel_millsPresbyterian pastors love to rummage through old books. Browsing through a used bookstore in Houston, Texas, in 1902, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney noticed a bound stack of papers set aside in a corner of the store. His curiosity piqued, he asked the store owner and found that the papers were going to be thrown out. Glad to be relieved of what he considered trash, the owner gave the pile of papers to Rev. Tenney, who then carried his prize home for closer inspection.

Back in his study, Rev. Tenney dusted off the papers and began to examine them closer. To his great surprise, he found these were class notes and other papers from around 1845 which had once belonged to Robert Lewis Dabney, from when Dabney was a student in Seminary. Dabney, as most know, went on to become one of the leading theologians of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. “Is this the way our Church treats her great men?,” Tenney asked himself.

This “chance” discovery became the inspiration that led Rev. Tenney to a lifelong obsession to preserve the history of his denomination. His 1902 discovery then led to his founding the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Synod of Texas, which later came to be located in Texarkana. Working without other support, Tenney spent the next twenty-five years gathering an impressive collection of records and memorabilia.

Then in 1926, when the 66th General Assembly of the PCUS met in Pensacola, Florida, that Assembly voted to establish a denominational archives, utilizing Rev. Tenney’s collection as the core of their new archives. The next year, the archives was given its official name, operating as the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Relocation of the archival collections from Texarkana to denominational property in Montreat, North Carolina followed shortly thereafter.

Rev. Tenney continued as director of the Historical Foundation until his death on December 23, 1939.

When the PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1983, the merged denomination now had two archives, the other being the Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia. Both institutions continued on, operated by the Presbyterian Church (USA), until early in 21st century, when the decision was made to close the Montreat location. So ended a great cultural institution. The major collections of the old Historical Foundation were relocated to Philadelphia, while arrangements were made to house the congregational history collections at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was founded in 1973, there were subsequent discussions about housing our denominational records and archival collections at Montreat, under a cooperative agreement. Thankfully that arrangement was never realized. Instead, in 1984, Dr. Morton Smith, then Stated Clerk of the PCA, stood before the Twelfth General Assembly and made his case for a PCA Archives. The Assembly approved his motion. This was at a point when the PCA still did not have central denominational offices for its agencies, and so Dr. Will Barker, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, offered free space for the Archives in the Seminary’s library. We’ve been there ever since, though we’re rapidly outgrowing our current facility.

Words to Live By:
There are a number of reasons why a denomination needs to maintain its own archive. But far and away, the most important is that these records stand as a testimony to what the Lord has done in our midst. I like to think of the Historical Center as a “Hall of Testimonies,”— witnesses to the reality of the Gospel and the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” — (Psalm 111:4a, KJV)

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” — (Psalm 145:4, KJV)

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He Gained the Martyr’s Crown

The enemies of the Covenanters had very long memories. Long after sermons were preached or actions taken, the authorities in Scotland remembered words and actions against them. Such was the case with a young minister by the name of Hugh McKail.

A child of the manse, from Bothwell, Scotland, his pastor father was one of those forced out of his pulpit and parish when he refused to conform to Prelacy.  Little is known of young Hugh’s early days, but he did go to Edinburgh for education. There he was soon marked out as a young man of exceptional ability. For that, upon graduation, he was chosen to be a chaplain and tutor of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir James Stewart. In that Covenanter home, he would sit at the feet of those in leadership positions in the church and learn of the dire situation facing both the church and the state.

In 1661, he applied to the Presbytery for licensure in the ministry. Preaching in a variety of situations, he was quickly recognized by his hearers for his great ability in the Word of God. However, his ministry soon came to an end as it became obvious that he wouldn’t compromise his convictions, just as his father before him.  Preaching his last sermon in a church in Edinburgh, he had a sentence in it which marked him for remembrance by the Prelate forces of his day. He said, “the Church is persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church.” The identification was obvious to all in the pews that day.

Forced to leave his beloved Scotland, the young twenty-six year old would spend the next three years in Holland. On his return to Scotland, the situation had not improved any and there was a spark of rebellion in the air. That spark was ignited, as my post on November 28 indicated, at the Battle of Rullion Green. Hugh McKail was among the nine hundred in the Covenanter ranks that day. But his own physical weakness removed him before that great battle arrived, and he traveled to Edinburgh instead. There he was arrested by the authorities, not so much for his Covenanter attachments as for his statement made in that Edinburgh church some years before.

Interrogated in prison, he was placed in the Boot, a fearful torture device which all but crushed his leg while he remained silent in voice. He was ordered to die by hanging on December 22, 1666. His exact words that day of death have been preserved through the ages. They were:

Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Could Hugh McKail have compromised his convictions and avoided suffering and death? Certainly, and many did. But this young man  was reared by a parent who by his example remained steadfast to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. With such an example like that, it is no wonder the young minister was given over to sacrifice, in loyalty to both the Living and Written Word, come what may to his physical body. Addressing all parents reading these posts on Presbyterian history: Your life preaches all the week. Are those in your family being helped or hindered to follow the Living and Written Word?

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After the resignation of I. N. Hays, the Middle Spring Presbyterian Church remained vacant for one year and a half, though the pulpit was usually occupied. Several attempts were made to secure a pastor, but on account of division of sentiment in the congregation and other causes, these attempts proved fruitless, until the autumn of 1869, when Rev. D. K. Richardson was called, and having accepted, commenced his labors Jan. 1, 1870, and was installed May 6th of the same year. He resigned the pastoral charge on December 21, 1871. The first year of the labors of Mr. Richardson in the Middle Spring church, was one of great discouragement, which arose from an absence of the convicting and converting presence of the Holy Spirit, and disharmony in the church. During the latter part of this year, things became more settled, and there was an increased interest in the preaching of the Word. On the third Sabbath of January 1871, during the afternoon service at Newburg, the presence of the Spirit became manifest. It proved to be the Prophet’s cloud from the sea, and the harbinger of a gracious revival, which extended pretty generally through the congregation, and resulted in the accession of forty-seven persons to the membership of the church. During his ministry here the church was no doubt greatly benefited spiritually. The pastor was growing in favor each day with the people, and we have no doubt the dissolution of this pastoral relation was the saddest and most unexpected in the history of the church. This took place December 21, 1871, he having received a call from the church at Greencastle, Pennsylvania.

Rev. David K. Richardson.

Rev. D. K. Richardson was born near Shanesville, Ohio, January 7, 1835. His father was for many years a ruling elder in the Church of Berlin, Ohio. Mr Richardson pursued his classical studies at Vermillion College. He afterwards engaged in teaching and the study of law, with a view to the profession. While engaged in teaching he was truly and happily converted to God, being then at the age of twenty-two, and at once turned his thoughts towards the ministry of the Gospel. In the fall of 1861 he entered Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, and completed a three years’ course. In the spring of 1863 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Maumee, and in 1864 was ordained by the same Presbytery, and installed over the churches of Napoleon and Bryan. He spent with these churches six or seven years of most earnest, devoted, and successful work. His ministry was greatly blessed. In 1870 he was called thence to the Middle Spring Church, Cumberland county, and before the close of his second year to the church in Greencastle, where he was installed February 10, 1872. This church he served until his death, August 20, 1877. Prior to his death he had accepted a call to Vincennes, Indiana, and amid his preparations to remove thither, was suddenly stricken down. In his brief ministry of thirteen years he was very successful, winning many to Christ by his impressive preaching. His labors in every charge were blessed with revivals. He was growing in spiritual and intellectual power, and his early deaath was deeply regretted.

Minutes of the Synod of Harrisburg, Volume 12, 1881, p. 59.

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