July 2015

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Chapter V. – Post-Apostolic Presbyterianism.

The order of apostles was a temporary one, just as the priesthood had been, both having grown out of the exigencies of their respective periods. The priests passed away with the completion of their work, when Christ came. The apostles were chosen to be eye-witnesses of the great fact that Christ rose from the dead. The order, therefore, could not exist after those died who were contemporaries of Christ. To be an apostle it was necessary to have been appointed to that office, and to have seen the Lord after his resurrection. This is plainly set forth in 1 Cor. ix. 1, where Paul is vindicating his apostolic authority. He says, “Am I not an apostle? . . . Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?”

The apostles all passed away, and the government of the Church remained what it had been from the beginning—a government by assemblies of elders, or “presbyters.” It was a spiritual republic, admitting of no distinctions of rank; and even Peter, whom Roman Catholics claim as the first of the popes, said of himself in his First Epistle (v. 1), “I who am also an elder” (presbyter).

After the apostles we have historical proof of the true Presbyterian organization of the Church.

Clemens Romanus, writing in the first century, says, “It is a shame, my beloved, and unworthy of your Christian profession to bear, that the most firm and ancient church of the Corinthians should be led to rise up against the elders. Let the flock of Christ enjoy peace with the elders which are set over it.”

Again, in the third century, Hippolitus writes, “The elders cited Noëtus, who was charged with heresy. Having summoned him a second time, they condemned him and cast him out of the church.” Here is a trial by Session too plainly set forth to need argument.

It is with peculiar pleasure that the testimony of a great Episcopalian is here introduced. Dean Stanley, of Westminster Abbey, London, writes, “The most learned of all the bishops of England, whose accession to the great see of Durham has recently been welcomed with rare unanimity by the whole Church of England, has, with his characteristic moderation and erudition, proved beyond dispute, in his celebrated essay attached to his edition of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, that the early constitution of the apostolic churches of the first century was not that of a single bishop, but of a body of pastors indifferently styled bishops or presbyters, and that it was not until the very end of the apostolic age that the office which we now call episcopacy gradually and slowly made its way into Asia Minor; that Presbytery was not a later growth out of Episcopacy, but that Episcopacy was a later growth out of Presbytery; that the office which the apostles instituted was a kind of rule, not by bishops, but of presbyters; and that even down to the third century presbyters as well as bishops possessed the power of nominating and consecrating bishops; and, besides, there were, from the commencement of the Middle Ages down to the Reformation, large exceptions from the principle of episcopal government which can be called by no other name than Presbyterian.

This testimony, coming from Bishop Lightfoot—“the most learned bishop of the Church of England”—endorsed by Dean Stanley (who for his scholarly attainments and elegant diction was the pride and favorite of the British aristocracy), is of immense value in establishing our claim to apostolic Presbyterianism.

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It was an astonishing request by the Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Unable to join the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War due to an abundance of volunteers, a captain in the western part of Pennsylvania had requested Secretary Cameron for permission to raise an independent regiment for the war effort. To Captain (and later Colonel) Leisure, the Secretary had responded to the question with “Yes, Captain, if they will be men that will hold slavery to be a sin against God and a crime against humanity, and will carry their Bibles into battle.” Carry their Bibles into battle? What military recruiter today lays down that requirement? The good captain answered “I have no other to bring.” And with that, what became known as the Roundheads, the One Hundreth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment came into existence in 1861.

From a love of their country, some 1400 men from the counties of Washington, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Mercer, and Westmoreland in western Pennsylvania, all of them being Psalm-singing Presbyterians and Covenanters, entered the Union war effort to fight for their country. They were to fight in some of the bloodiest contests of the entire war, engaging the Confederates at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Applomatix. During this time, they kept their biblical faith.

In Horatio Hackett’s book “Christian Memorials of the War,” we read the following account of a chaplain’s worship service on page 28: “It was my lot to meet the Roundheads, officers and men, for the first time in the house of God, the Sabbath after I landed in Beaufort, December twenty-second. The chaplain of the regiment, Rev Robert A. Brown, of Newcastle, Pa, lay ill of fever at that time, and the colonel had invited me to preach to them at the usual hour of morning worship. The appointment was made accordingly; and at bell-ringing the colonel marched his men, nine hundred strong, into the Baptist meeting-house, under arms, and with measured tread; but quiet and reverent, as became the place, the service, and the day. It was an impressive spectable. The soldiery, intermingled with members of other corps, filled the entire area of the lower floor, and most of the spacious galleries, which projected on either side. At the end stood, close crowded together, groups of ‘colored people.’ There, listening to the word of God, or rising in prayer, or singing, after their ancient metrical version, some of the Psalms of David, the Roundheads joined in worshiping the God of their Fathers, – their God and our God, – just as they had been wont to worship, in their several sanctuaries, with kindred and friends at home.”

Their service brought casualties to their ranks, with nearly as many dying of disease as from the wounds of war. And at the end of the war, on this day, July 24, 1865, they were mustered out, to go home to their loved ones and friends, mindful of their faithful service to God and their chosen country.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes our convictions of faith brings us into difficult days associated with conflict. Our faithfulness to God doesn’t end on those occasions with regards to God and His Word. It continues to persevere in difficult days as well as peaceful days. Let us be faithful to bring God’s Word, the Bible, with us everywhere we go, but especially in our hearts. In fact, prepare today, or continue today, by memorizing significant texts and chapters of God’s Word. In that way, you will have this means of grace available for your spiritual needs when you need its comforting words.

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The Day of Small Beginnings

Drawing from three separate quotations, we have in short compass the story of Jenny Geddes and her little wooden stool, which God used to bring about a revolution and a return to biblical truth.

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GeddesStool03Two years ago, while walking about in Old St. Giles’ church in Edinburgh, with Dr. W. G. Blaikie, whose fame as author, scholar, and preacher, is known throughout the Presbyterian Church, he said, ― this is the first time I have been here in seventeen years. And yet this is the church in which Knox preached and Jennie Geddes worshipped. Here she threw the famous stool at the head of the Dean who was reading the liturgy, under orders from King Charles. The outburst of popular indignation, occasioned by this act, was the beginning of the great struggle for religious liberty in Scotland.

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The war in behalf of purity in religion began in Scotland. Archbishop William Laud [1573-1645] prepared a new Prayer-book and sent it to Edinburgh for the use of the churches. On July 23, 1637, the priest of St. Giles Church came forth in white surplice to read the new ritual. Jennie Geddes flung her stool at his head, and a riot drove the minister from the chancel. All Scotland arose in arms against Laud’s innovations, and in 1638 the National Covenant was signed, binding the Scottish people to labor for the purity and liberty of the gospel. In the same year, at Glasgow, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland deposed the bishops and re-established the Presbyterian system.

Two brief wars with Scotland were waged by King Charles, but the lack of money compelled him to summon the representatives of the people. The combatants stood face to face in the arena of debate. The issues of religious and of civil liberty were at length to be decided in a conflict between Charles Stuart and the English Parliament.

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GeddesStool02It has been said, and not without a show of propriety, “that the First Reformation in Scotland was commenced by a stone cast from the hand of a boy, and the Second Reformation by a stool from the hand of a woman.” By causes in themselves so insignificant does God often produce the grandest results. Detach them from their connections, and they are nothing. Associate them with the other links in the chain of providential influence to which they belong, and they become mighty for good or for evil. The bite of a spider has caused the death of a monarch, and the monarch’s death a revolution in his empire.

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Words to Live By:
The Lord delights to use the weak things of this world to accomplish His purposes.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NASB)

Elsewhere on the Web today, PCA pastor George Grant shared this poem by J.S. Blackie. Thank you, George. I did not previously know of this poem.

The Song of Jenny Geddes by J.S. Blackie

‘Twas the twenty-third of July, in the sixteen thirty-seven,
On the Sabbath morn from high St. Giles the solemn peal was given;
King Charles had sworn that Scottish men should pray by printed rule;
He sent a book, but never dreamt of danger from a stool.

The Council and the Judges, with ermined pomp elate,
The Provost and the Bailies in gold and crimson state,
Fair silken-vested ladies, grave doctors of the school,
Were there to please the King, and learn the virtues of a stool.

The Bishop and the Dean came in wi’ muckle gravity,
Right smooth and sleek, but lordly pride was lurking in their e’e;
Their full lawn sleeves were blown and big, like seals in briny pool;
They bore a book, but little thought they soon should feel a stool.

The Dean he to the alter went, and, with a solemn look,
He cast his eyes to heaven, and read the curious-printed book:
In Jenny’s heart the blood upwelled with bitter anguish full;
Sudden she started to her legs, and stoutly grasped the stool!

As when a mountain wildcat springs upon a rabbit small,
So Jenny on the Dean springs, with gush of holy gall;
Wilt thou say mass at my lugs, thou popish-puling fool?
No! No! She said, and at his head she flung the three-legged stool.

A bump, a thump! A smash, a crash! Now gentle folks beware!
Stool after stool, like rattling hail, came twirling through the air,
With, well done, Jenny! Bravo, Jenny! That’s the proper tool!
When the Devil will out, and shows his snout, just meet him with a stool!

The Council and the Judges were smitten with strange fear,
The ladies and the Bailies their seats did deftly clear,
The Bishop and the Dean went in sorrow and in dool,
And all the Popish flummery fled when Jenny showed the stool!

And thus a mighty deed was done by Jenny’s valiant hand,
Black Prelacy and Popery she drove from Scottish land;
King Charles he was a shuffling knave, priest Laud a meddling fool,
But Jenny was a woman wise, who beat them with a stool!

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John, Father of Samuel

You see it in the Bible—when you wanted to bless someone, you looked to bless their father (1 Samuel 17:56). Conversely, a curse on a son was understood as a curse on the father (Gen. 9:25; 1 Kings 11:9-12). All Christians want their children to grow strong in the Lord, to be greatly used in His kingdom. So when we see such a child now grown, it is understandable that we might look to the parents, to see their character and method with their children, that we might learn and profit from their wisdom. Dr. Samuel Miller, of Princeton, was a man greatly used of the Lord, and so it fitting that we should look at the life of his father, the Rev. John Miller. This day, July 22, 1791, marks the date of Rev. John Miller’s passing.

John Miller was born in Boston, on December 24, 1722. By ancestry, he was the great-great-grandson of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. His father, John Miller, Senior, had immigrated from Scotland in 1710 and found remarkable success as a manufacturer, refining sugar. The Millers had two children, John, the eldest, and Joseph, who never married and who, in early adulthood, was lost at sea during a voyage to Great Britain. John, the subject of our post today, never graduated from any college, but did manage to obtain an excellent classical education at a public school of high reputation in Boston. Here he became proficient in Latin and Greek, and it was during this time that he also came to faith in Christ and began to aim toward the pulpit ministry.

In May of 1748, John was licensed to preach by the Congregational association in Boston and soon began to travel throughout the Delaware and Maryland colonies. When a call came to serve the Presbyterian church in Dover, Delaware, John returned to Boston to secure ordination. Once installed in the Dover church, it was not long before an additional call came, to also serve the Presbyterian church in Smyrna (also known as Duck Creek), which was twelve miles north of Dover. Rev. Miller’s solution was to pastor both churches concurrently, establishing his home between the two churches, some four miles from Dover. And in this arrangement he spent the remaining years of his ministerial career, serving as pastor of these two churches for over forty years.

As seems so often to have been the pattern in those times, Rev. Miller had deferred marriage until he was established in a charge. But now, wasting no time, he courted and then married Margaret Millington, the daughter of a successful planter.  Dr. John Rodgers of New York was  on one occasion heard to pay the compliment that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Yet her physical beauty was exceeded by her moral beauty, and she proved to be a great blessing to her husband, to her children, and to all who knew her. Margaret was known for her good sense, for her prudence, for her skill and wisdom in keeping her home, and for her active engagement in charity towards others. Above all, Margaret’s life was characterized by an honest and sincere love of her Lord.

Not long after having been settled as a pastor, Rev. Miller purchased a farm of 104 acres, and here he resided for the remainder of his life. Never a man of great means, the farm allowed him to supply many of the basic needs of his family, and by careful husbandry, allowed Rev. Miller to eventually send four sons to college.

“On this estate his children were born, and from here they went forth to do good.” Of his children, two sons died in infancy, and one son died before his own passing—John, a medical doctor, who died in 1777,  at age 25. The remaining children were present at his beside when the Rev. John Miller died, at the age of 69, and in the 44th year of his ministry. These were: Elizabeth [1755-1817], wife of Col. Samuel McLane; Mary [1762-1801, wife of (1) Vincent Loockerman, Jr. (he died in 1790,) and (2) wife of Major John Patten; Edward [1760-1812];Joseph [1765-1798], who married Elizabeth Loockerman; Samuel [1769-1850],  who was twenty years pastor of the Wall Street Church in New York, then Professor of Theology in Princeton Seminary; and lastly, James [1772-1795]. Thus Samuel, who never enjoyed robust health himself, was the last surviving child of the Rev. John Miller, and that by over thirty years and more.

Words to Live By:
What distinguished the rearing of the Miller children? There are undoubtedly many things that we could look at and discuss. But one moment in their parents’ lives seems particularly significant. Ten years before Samuel Miller was born, his parents lost their first child, Joseph. A few days following, Joseph’s death, his father made this entry in his journal:

“October 5th, 1759. Last night my son Joseph, a promising child, aged nineteen months and eight days, departed this life, after a short but violent illness in the lungs. My heart was far too much bound up in the child. His little, pretty ways insensibly stole my affections from objects infinitely superior to all earthly comforts; the parting stroke has given me a much more affecting view of this than I had before. Oh that I may see the rod and him that has appointed it—see that God has a controversy to plead with me and my house.”

Our children belong to the Lord, and they are His alone. Perhaps what the Rev. John Miller learned is summed up in the words of Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

God gives us a great blessing in our children, but they belong to Him. And as difficult as it may be, our hearts must never be set upon His gifts, but always only upon the Giver.

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The Apostle of Persia (Iran)

The great adversary of the church, Satan himself, did not want the Rev. Justin Perkins to go and minister in ancient Persia, which is modern Iran.  Yet that was where he had been called to work as the first American to live and minister in this Moslem country. And that was where this Presbyterian missionary was sent in 1837 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Justin Perkins had been born in Massachusetts in 1805.  He spent his early years on his father’s farm. Having a religious experience when he was 18 years of age, he attended Amherst College, graduating with honors. His theological studies were at Andover Theological Seminary, and  ordained  a Presbyterian minister in 1833.

It was on July 21, 1833 that he married Charlotte Bass, of Middlebury, Vermont. Their life together would be spent in Persia with incredible hardship and sorrow, as they lost to disease six of their seven children.

Justin Perkins was so ill on the scheduled day of their departure that he  had to be carried on board ship on a litter. Then departing from the port, they encountered terrible storms, which lengthened the ocean trip. Arriving  on the coast of the region of Persia, they ran into opposition from local tribes and national governments. Only an appeal to the diplomatic corps brought them relief from their hardships.

When they arrived finally in their chosen place of labor, Justin Perkins began to preach to the people of the Assyrian Church of the East in Northwest Persia. Despite being poor and ignorant people, Perkins set up boys and girls schools, translated their Syriac language into Scripture, and printed in their language, books by John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. Even the Moslem rulers were impressed by his ministry, and schools were set up for them.

But with the hardships and death of their family, Charlotte Perkins was emotionally and physically weakened, and went back to America in 1841. To everyone’s surprise, she improved and lived until she was ninety years of age. Her husband died in 1869 in Massachusetts. He was the first American, and American missionary to live and work in Iran.

Words to Live By: 
It was the great apostle Paul to acknowledge that in the midst of his great and effective door opened to him in first century Ephesus, a great many adversaries to the gospel were also present. (1 Corinthians 16:9)  Justin Perkins would understand that all too well.  We must all remember that Satan is alive and though the defeated one, is still active on Planet Earth.  Our life and ministry as Christians will not be easy.  Let us put on the armor of God and go forth to battle.

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