June 2015

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In the final years of the 19th-century, a push began in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to revise the Westminster Standards. That effort eventually won out in 1903, incorporating changes which in turn allowed for a merger or reception of the larger portion of the Cumberland Presbyterians, a denomination which was historically anti-Calvinistic.

Benjamin B. Warfield opposed any talk of revision and in one of his lesser known works, presented his reasons at some length. From an address delivered by Dr. Warfield before the Presbytery of New Brunswick, at Dutch Neck, New Jersey, on June 25, 1889, the following five points summarize his arguments against revision:

REASONS FOR NOT REVISING THE CONFESSION.

  1. Our free but safe formula of acceptance of the Confession of Faith, by which we “receive and adopt it” as “containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” (Form of Government, XV., xii.), relieves us of all necessity for seeking, each one to conform the Confession in all its propositions to his individual preferences, and enables us to treat the Confession as a public document, designed, not to bring each of our idiosyncrasies to expression, but to express the general and common faith of the whole body—which it adequately and admirably does.
  2. Enjoying this free yet hearty relation to the Confession, we consider that our situation toward our standards is incapable of improvement. However much or little the Confession were altered, we could not, as a body, accept the altered Confession in a closer sense than for system of doctrine; and the alterations could not better it as a public Confession, however much it might be made a closer expression of the faith of some individuals among us. In any case, it could not be made, in all its propositions and forms of statement, the exact expression of the personal faith of each one of our thousands of office-bearers.
  1. In these circumstances we are unwilling to mar the integrity of so venerable and admirable a document, in the mere license of change, without prospect of substantially bettering our relation to it, or its fitness to serve as an adequate statement of the system of doctrine which we all heartily believe. The historical character and the hereditary value of the creed should, in such a case, be preserved.
  2. We have little hope of substantially bettering the Confession, either in the doctrines it states or in the manner in which they are stated. When we consider the guardedness, moderation, fullness, lucidity, and catholicity of its statement of the Augustinian system of truth, and of the several doctrines which enter into it, we are convinced that the Westminster Confession is the best, safest, and most acceptable statement of the truths and the system which we most surely believe that has ever been formulated; and we despair of making any substantial improvements upon its form of sound words. On this account we not only do not desire changes on our own account, but should look with doubt and apprehension upon any efforts to improve upon it by the Church.
  3. The moderate, catholic, and irenical character of the Westminster Confession has always made it a unifying document. Framed as an irenicon, it bound at once the Scotch and English Churches together; it was adopted and continues to be used by many Congregational and Baptist churches as the confession of their faith; with its accompanying Catechisms it has lately been made the basis of union between the two great Presbyterian bodies which united to constitute our Church; and we are convinced that if Presbyterian union is to go further, it must be on the basis of the Westminster Standards, pure and simple. In the interests of Church union, therefore, as in the interests of a broad and irenical, moderate and catholic Calvinism, we deprecate any changes in our historical standards, to the system of doctrine contained in which we unabatedly adhere, and with the forms of statement of which we find ourselves in hearty accord.

Words to Live By:
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”—2 Timothy 1:13-14, NASB.

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kirkpatrickJohn Lycan Kirkpatrick was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on January 20, 1813. Alfred Nevin notes that his parents were pious Presbyterians, members of Providence Church, and that John was baptized by the Rev. James Wallis, pastor of that church. Nevin also provides information that his family moved to Morgan county, Georgia when he was four years old, and later to DeKalb county when he was 15. Kirkpatrick was educated at Franklin College, Athens, Georgia, attending there in 1830, and then transferring to Hampden-Sydney College and graduating there in 1832 with the Bachelor of Arts degree. He taught at Charlotte Court House, Virginia for two years, 1833-1834 and then moved on to train for the ministry at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, 1834-1837.

He was licensed to preach by West Hanover Presbytery in March of 1837 and ordained by the same Presbytery in November of that same year, being installed in his first pastorate at the Second Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, VA. He served that church as pastor from 1837-1841, and in the second year of that pastorate, married Mary Elizabeth Turner of Lexington, VA. Rev. Kirkpatrick and his wife subsequently moved to Gainesville, Alabama when Rev. Kirkpatrick answered a call to pastor the PCUS church there, remaining in that post, his longest pastorate, from 1841-1853. He next served as pastor of the historic Glebe Street Church in Charleston, South Carolina from 1853-1860. From roughly 1856 until 1860, Kirkpatrick served as the editor of The Southern Presbyterian. Undoubtedly many of his published works appeared in that journal, but we have been unable thus far to access that material.

Leaving the Glebe Street Church, Rev. Kirkpatrick spent the remainder of his years in academia, serving first as president of Davidson College, from 1860-1866. Then from 1866-1885, he was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and it was during these years that his wife died, on August 8, 1874. Rev. Kirkpatrick also served as interim supply for the Lexington Presbyterian Church, from the Spring of 1867 until August of 1868. He continued as Professor at the University until his death on June 24, 1885.

Honors conferred on John Lycan Kirkpatrick during his life include the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by the University of Alabama in 1852. He had been a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in both 1846 (as it met in Philadelphia) and 1854 (Buffalo, NY), and he also served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA) in 1862.

It was said of him that he was “an able and accomplished preacher, instructive, earnest, tender, and in many ways attractive. Having a clear, penetrating and well-balanced mind, a sound judgment, an extensive knowledge of men and affairs, and an uncommon share of common sense. Without compromising principles, or the interests of the Church, he was peculiarly skilled in the solution of intricate questions and adjusting conflicting views.” In sum, he was “a man of great purity and elevation of character, firm in principle, and yet impartial and generous.”

Words to Live By:
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:12, KJV) — And if that is Paul’s charge for younger men, how much more so for older men, to live as befits the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, we must all, men and women, so live as examples of those who believe. In your speech, your conduct, your love, faith and purity, live day to day with the purpose of honoring and glorifying the Lord who saved you by His grace.

Sources:
Hunter, Robert F., Lexington Presbyterian Church, 1789-1989 (Lexington, VA : Lexington Presbyterian Church, 1991), p. 92.
Nevin, Alfred, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Encyclopedia Publishing Co., 1884), pp. 1172-1173.
Scott, E.C., Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1861-1941(Austin, TX : Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1942), p. 379.

Image source: Alfred Nevin, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America(1884), p. 1172.

The following are the known published works by the Rev. John L. Kirkpatrick—
1840
Oration delivered before the Philistorian Society of Georgetown College, D.C. on the 22d of February, 1840 … to which are prefixed the remarks of W.L. Warren, Ga., previous to his reading the farewell address of Washington. (Washington [D.C.?] : Jacob Gideon, Jr., 1840), 16 p.

1845
The moral tendency of the doctrine of falling from grace examined. A sermon preached before the Synod of Alabama at the opening of its sessions in Gainesville, October 24th, 1844 (Mobile, Register and Journal Office, 1845), 28 p.

1851
A sermon, preached on the occasion of the death of Mrs. Mary Chamberlain Brackett : in the Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, Ala., March 2, 1851 (St. Louis : Hill & M’Kee, printers, 1851), 24 p.

1859
A funeral discourse, delivered on Sunday morning, April 10, 1859, in the Independent or Congregational (Circular) Church, of Charleston, on the death of the Rev. Reuben Post, D.D., late Pastor of that church (Charleston, S.C. : Walker, Evans & Co.’s Steam Powered Press, 1859), 32 p.

1861
“ The Waldenses and Infant Baptism, ” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 14.3 (October 1861) 399-430.

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John Lafayette Girardeau (14 November 1825 – 23 June 1898)
by Dr. C. N. Willborn, formerly associate professor of Church History and Biblical Theology at the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and currently pastor of the Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church, Oakridge, TN.
©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2004. All Rights Reserved.

girardeau06John Lafayette Girardeau was born as Lafayette Freer Girardeau on November 14, 1825 to John Bohun Girardeau and Claudia Herne Freer Girardeau. The parents of young Girardeau were of French Huguenot descent and, by the time of their eldest son’s birth on James Island (across the Ashley River from Charleston), possessors of a rich colonial ancestry, which included at least one Revolutionary War hero. John Bohun (a planter) and Claudia Freer were also solid Presbyterians of the Scottish type. The Holy Scriptures and Westminster Standards were the standard fare for the Girardeau children with both father and mother active in their religious upbringing.

Also important in Girardeau’s formative years were two notable pastors, Aaron W. Leland and Thomas Smyth. Leland was the wee lad’s pastor on James Island and Smyth nurtured him during his early adolescent years in Charleston. Although Leland was of English ancestry, he was of the Scottish persuasion when it came to his theology and ecclesiology. Smyth was of Scotch-Irish background and pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston. The lowcountry Presbyterians had from the first identified with Scotland rather than the Mid-Atlantic Presbyterians. This was no doubt true because of Archibald Stobo, the pioneering Scot who founded the earliest distinctly Presbyterian churches in the South.

Girardeau was educated on James Island and in Charleston, completing Charleston College (now College of Charleston) in 1844 at the age of seventeen. He graduated with first honors (valedictorian) as a Greek and Latin scholar. Upon his graduation, Professor William Hawksworth exclaimed to those around him, “There goes a fine Greek scholar to make a poor Presbyterian preacher.”

Girardeau, John Lafayette [14/11/1825-23/06/1898]After a year of tutoring and teaching on James Island and Mt. Pleasant (to raise money), he matriculated at the Theological Seminary of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia (later Columbia Theological Seminary). As a ministerial student at Columbia he studied under his childhood pastor, Aaron W. Leland, and the venerable George Howe. Girardeau supplemented his seminary education by regularly attending the pulpit ministrations of Benjamin Morgan Palmer at the Presbyterian Church (now First Presbyterian), a short walk from both the seminary and South Carolina College. The seminarian also placed himself under the tutelage of James Henley Thornwell at the College (now University of South Carolina). Thornwell was at the time Professor of Moral Philosophy and preached or lectured regularly in the college chapel (Rutledge Chapel). Girardeau and other seminary students attended Dr. Thornwell’s addresses assiduously. Indeed, Girardeau attributed Dr. Thornwell’s chapel addresses with giving “shape and form” to his theology, which was already stoutly Westminsterian.

As a child of Claudia Herne Girardeau, the scion of South Carolina had learned to respect the poor and needy of society. During the latter years of college he had held regular meetings for the slaves on his father’s plantation, exhorting them to believe the gospel and rest upon Christ for their deliverance from sin. In seminary he held evangelistic meetings in a warehouse where the poor, enslaved, derelict, and disreputable attended. Shortly after graduation from seminary in 1848 he was ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament and embarked upon a brief series of pastorates-Wappetaw Church and Wilton Presbyterian Church-that would culminate in Charleston as a famous pastor to slaves.

In January 1854, he and his wife Penelope Sarah (“Sal”) moved from St. John Parish and Wilton Presbyterian Church (January 1849-December 53) to Charleston to assume the work begun by John B. Adger and the session of Second Presbyterian Church. The work was designed to establish a church for and of the slaves. In 1850, citizens of Charleston built a meeting house on Anson Street for the exclusive use of the slaves. After Adger’s health failed, Girardeau was handpicked by Adger and Smyth to lead the work forward. The work expanded from thirty-six black members when Girardeau arrived to over 600 at the time of the American Armageddon. He preached to over 1,500 weekly from 1859 through 1861.

zionPC_CharlestonSCIn 1858/59 the Anson Street Mission experienced a marvelous revival and in April 1859 they moved into a new building at the prestigious and prime intersection of Meeting and Calhoun Streets. The black membership was given the privilege of naming their church (which was particularized in 1858) and they chose “Zion.” Zion Presbyterian Church became famous for Girardeau’s preaching—he was called “the Spurgeon of America”—but it was also noteworthy for its diaconal ministry in the community, catechetical training of hundreds in the city, sewing clubs for the women, and missionary activity. The outreach and influence of Zion was of such public notoriety that Girardeau and the session were often criticized and sometimes physically threatened. For example, the catechetical training and teaching of hymns and psalms was so effective that some Charlestonians believed Girardeau was teaching the slaves to read for themselves (which was contrary to state law).

Pictured above right, Zion Presbyterian Church, Charleston, South Carolina.

After the War and before Girardeau could return to Charleston, a number of freedmen of Zion Presbyterian Church beckoned Girardeau to return to “the Holy City” and resume his work with them. They desired to have their white pastor whom they knew, loved, and respected, rather than a black missionary from the North. Throughout the post-War and Reconstruction years, he arduously worked amongst both black and white in Charleston. He mightily labored within the Southern Presbyterian Church to see that the freedmen were included in the church and in 1869 he nominated seven freedmen for the office of ruling elder in Zion Presbyterian Church, preached the ordination service, and with the white members of his session laid hands on his black brothers.

Unfortunately, the pressures of Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the hardened positions of notables like B. M. Palmer and R. L. Dabney brought the church to a pivotal moment. The weight of political and social issues eventuated in “organic separation” of white membership and black membership and the formation of churches along the color line. Girardeau alone dissented against the resolution at the 1874 General Assembly in Columbus, Mississippi, for which he served as Moderator.

In 1875, B. M. Palmer nominated Girardeau for Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Seminary, a position W. S. Plumer had held since 1866. In January 1876 he began his seminary labors which lasted until June 1895. During his academic career he continued as a popular preacher in the Southern Church, defended biblical orthodoxy against the inroads of modernism in the Woodrow Controversy at Columbia Seminary, labored actively against union with the Northern Presbyterian Church, served the courts of the church tirelessly, contributed many theological, ecclesiological, and philosophical articles to academic journals, and wrote several important monographs on theology, worship, and philosophy. He made significant contributions to the doctrine of adoption and the diaconate.

girardeauGrave01Girardeau and his beloved wife “Sal” had ten children who crowned their forty-nine years of marriage. Seven Girardeau children lived to adulthood while three died in infancy. Three Girardeau daughters married Presbyterian ministers, including the notable theologian and churchman Robert Alexander Webb. This pastor to slaves and theologian of the Southern Church died quietly at his home in Columbia on June 23, 1898, just a few months after his friend R. L. Dabney had passed away. B. M. Palmer wrote of Girardeau that “It will be long before another generation can produce his equal; and those, who have known him from the first to last, feel that we lay him to rest among the immortals of the past.” His body rests just a few short steps from his mentor and friend James Henley Thornwell in Columbia’s Elmwood Cemetery.

Pictured above right: The stone marking the grave of John L. Girardeau.

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Presbyterians ought to know Presbyterianism.

Our series earlier this month, TEN REASONS FOR BEING A PRESBYTERIAN, was well received. So taking that encouragement, our plan is to now present each Saturday for the remainder of this summer a chapter from the little book PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, by the Rev. Dr. Robert P. Kerr. Today we present Chapter I.

kerr_robertPThis little volume is not for theologians. There are many abler and more elaborate works on Presbyterianism written for them. It is for the people—the busy, earnest people, who have neither the time nor the taste for an extensive study of this subject, but who ought to know—at least, in a general way—what Presbyterianism is, what it has been in the past, what it believes and teaches. In his pastoral work the author has often wished for such a book, and he earnestly hopes that this one may help supply what he believes to be a real need of the Church. For it he asks the blessing of God and the favor of the people.—R.P.K.
[Robert Pollock Kerr, 1850-1923, pictured at right]

CHAPTER I. — THE STUDY OF PRESBYTERIANISM.

The Presbyterian Church, including all its branches, is the largest Protestant organization in the world. Its communion embraces people of every civilized nation, and it is recognized as one of the great forces of Christendom. Its members have acted a distinguished part in literature, philosophy, science, art and government, as well as in religion, and many of the great names of history are found on its rolls. It has been identified with nearly all great movements looking to the advancement of the highest interests of mankind, in Church and in State. Liberality and breadth of vision have at all times characterized this branch of the Church of Christ. The Presbyterian Church has never been sectarian in its treatment of other denominations, but has acknowledged the churchship of all bodies which hold the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, offering fellowship even to those who would not hold fellowship with it, receiving their members at its communion-table and their ministers into its pulpits.

Indeed, in many cases, Presbyterians have been so liberal as to neglect the study of their own peculiar institutions. Thousands of them are in ignorance of the history of their Church and of the high place it holds among the denominations. A boastful spirit is not to be desired, but Presbyterians ought to know Presbyterianism. They have been noted for the study of the great doctrines of religion rather than of forms of government and worship or of their own peculiarities. In other words, they have studied Christianity more than they have studied Presbyterianism. This is right, but they have gone too far. In doing one they should not have left the other undone. The Shorter Catechism, which was drawn up, in connection with other standards of doctrine, by the Westminster Assembly, in London, in 1646, and which is our great theological text-book, is so thoroughly unsectarian that it has been freely used by other denominations for the instruction of the young, and in some instances by persons who did not know that it was a Presbyterian catechism; for the word “Presbyterian” does not occur in the book.

The study of Presbyterianism need not make men bigoted or exclusive, but should contribute to their efficiency in the grand army of God. The cavalry ought to understand cavalry tactics, the infantry and artillery should master their own respective departments, and all should fight harmoniously, side by side, for one great end.

It is hoped that the perusal of these pages may not tend to sectarianism, but that it may help some Presbyterians to a better understanding of the peculiarities of the Church to which they belong. These peculiarities refer to government and doctrine, and may be described as ecclesiastical republicanism combined with Calvinistic theology.. The subject will be examined under these two divisions, prominence being given to the former, as that is our own peculiar possession, Calvinistic theology being held by several other churches in common with our own.

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Charles Hodge enters into eternity

Hodge’s death came on this day, June 19, in 1878. Then early in July of that same year on the pages of The Christian Observer, this brief note appeared under the title, “Calvinism and Piety,” :

The Christian Union, which has no friendship for Calvinism, closes its article on the death of Dr. Hodge, as follows:

Dr. Hodge, who was the foremost of the old Calvinists in this country, was, in character, one of the sweetest, gentlest and most lovable of men. His face was itself a benediction. We doubt whether he had any other than a theological enemy in the world. Curiously too, the peculiar tenets of his theology were reserved for the class-room and for philosophical writings. In the pulpit he preached a simple and unsectarian gospel; his favorite texts were such as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;” and his sermons were such as the most successful missionaries delight to preach in foreign lands. In Princeton he is regarded as without peer in the conduct of the prayer meeting. His piety was as deep and as genuine as his learning was varied and profound. The system of theology of which he was the ablest American representative seems to us, in some points, foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, but the life and personality of the man were luminous with the spirit of an indwelling Christ.

Words to Live By: May we all—those of us who name the name of Christ and who also claim that same biblical faith commonly called Calvinism—so find our maturity in Christ as to live in a similar way, luminous with the spirit of the indwelling Christ, pointing all men and women to the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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