April 2016

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hallDWDr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, Georgia, returns today with the fourteenth in our series of Election Day Sermons. As a collection, these sermons present the reader with a great opportunity to explore the theology of the church-state relation. When speaking of elections and elected officials in the government, what is right and proper for a pastor to say from the pulpit? And do the standards exhibited in these sermons remain valid to our day and time? Has what is lawful and proper changed in any way? Clearly there are many questions and we pray that our presentation of this series will help you begin to think through these matters. 

“Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God”
by Charles Chauncy (May 27, 1747)

Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) was one of the most influential pastors in Boston during his life. He received his theological training at Harvard and served as pastor of First Church for nearly 60 years. He wrote numerous pamphlets between 1762-1771 against the British proposal to impose a Bishop in America. This sermon preached in 1747, addressed to rulers (the Governor, the council, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives), called them to be just and frequently to recall their subordination to God. Original punctuation has been preserved. He drew upon an often used text from 2 Samuel 23—a passage that was a slam dunk for pastors comparing candidates to unchanging norms. He began: “there are none in all the Bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their public capacity, of more solemn importance.”

Viewing these as the last sentiments of David, Chauncy’s outline was:

  1. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.
  2. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
  3. The whole will then be applied to the occasions of the day.

In his first section, an apology for government in general, Chauncy observed: “Order and rule in society, or, what means the same thing, civil government, is not a contrivance of arbitrary and tyrannical men, but a regular state of things, naturally resulting from the make of man, and his circumstances in the world.” Human sin necessitated this. As both Calvin and Madison had noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” While government in general was ordained by God, the particulars could and did vary.

Government was “not a matter of mere human prudence, but of moral necessity. It does not lie with men to determine at pleasure, whether it shall or shall not take place; but, considering their present weak, exposed and dependent condition, it is unalterably right and just there should be rule and superiority in some, and subjection and inferiority in others: And this therefore is invariably the will of God; his will manifested by the moral fitness and reason of things.”

However, under the second head, the manner of rulers was prescribed. The first quality (and the one with the most discussion in this sermon) was for ruler to be just. One of Chauncy’s full elaborations of justice was:

They should do it by appearing in defense of their liberties, if called in question, and making use of all wise and suitable methods to prevent the loss of them: Nor can they be too active, diligent or laborious in their endeavors upon this head: Provided always, the privileges in danger are worth contending for, and such as the people have a just right and legal claim to. Otherwise, there may be hazard of losing real liberties, in the strife for those that are imaginary; or valuable ones, for such as are of trifling consideration.

They should also express this care, by seasonably and faithfully placing a proper guard against the designs of those, who would rule in a despotic manner, to the subversion of the rights naturally or legally vested in the people.

They were to be just in their use of power (not encroaching due liberties) and also just in regard to “the laws by which they govern.” He articulated this second rung of justice as “They should not, when upon the business of framing and passing acts, suffer themselves to be swayed by any wrong bias, either from self-will, or self-interest; the smiles or frowns of men greater than themselves; or the humor of the populace: But should bring the proposed laws to a fair and impartial examination.” He warned against “framing mischief by a law.” Just rulers would also punish evildoers and maintain honest economic standards.

Surely with the book of Proverbs’ admonition toward just weights and measures in mind, Chauncy also applied:

And if justice in rulers should show itself by reducing the things that are bought and sold to weight and measure, much more ought it to be seen in ascertaining the medium of trade, as nearly as may be, to some determinate value. For this, whether it be money, or something substituted to pass in lieu of it, is that for which all things are exchanged in commerce. And if this, which is of such universal use in the affair of traffic, be a thing variable and uncertain, of one value this week, and another the next, it is difficult to conceive, how justice should take place between man and man, in their dealings with one another.

Justice also called for right execution of laws and for the appointment of just persons to carry out those just laws. Justice was called for in terms of debt—not a light matter; and justice was to be a guarantor of liberties. Not only could liberties be threatened by those of high office, but Chauncy also warned about excessive populism: “The men who strike in with the popular cry of liberty and privilege, working themselves, by an artful application to the fears and jealousies of the people, into their good opinion of them as lovers of their country, if not the only stanch friends to its interests, may, all the while, be only aiming at power to carry every thing according to their own sovereign pleasure: And they are, in this case, most dangerous enemies to the community.”

A ruler could, thus, err in many ways. The standards for office were high, according to the Hebrew standards and to those of early America. Chauncy put it this way:

If it is their business to act as executioners of justice, they must faithfully inflict the adjudged sentence: In doing of which, though there may be room for the exercise of compassion, especially in the case of some sort of debtors; yet the righteousness of the law may not be eluded by needless, much less fraudulent delays, to the injury of the creditor.

In fine, whatever their trust is, whether of less or greater importance, they must exercise it with care, fidelity, resolution, steadiness, diligence, and an entire freedom from a corrupt respect to men’s persons, as those who are concerned for the honor of government, and that its laws may take effect for the general good of the community.

He charged the General Court to apply themselves to these standards of justice. He further reminded his listeners that they were responsible to God, specifically telling them “that they are accountable to that Jesus, whom God hath ordained to be the judge of the world, for the use of that power he has put into their hands.” The latter part of this sermon provides a discussion of the fear of the Lord, with the injunction that rulers were to keep that in mind in their activities and decisions. This aspect was salutary as follows: “But no restraints are like those, which the true fear of God lays upon men’s lusts. This habitually prevailing in the hearts of rulers, will happily prevent the out-breaking of their pride, and envy, and avarice, and self-love, and other lusts, to the damage of society; and not only so, but it will weaken, and gradually destroy, the very inward propensities themselves to the various acts of vice. It naturally, and powerfully, tends to this: And this is the effect it will produce, in a less or greater degree, according to the strength of the religious principle, in those who are the subjects of it.”

Chauncy’s sermon wraps up with specific charges to the rulers to apply these standards. Somehow, I doubt that the need for fear of God as discussed above, or the requirement to be just, has been altered by time or circumstance.

A printed copy of this sermon is available in my 1996 Election Day Sermons and is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). The sermon is online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N04742.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

Called to Noble Service


Reproduced here are two accounts, the first an obituary, the second a reminiscence, on the death of the Rev. David Herron, who served some fifty years as a missionary to India, sent by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. In 1833 the Reformed Presbyterians had suffered a split, dividing into the RP, General Synod and RP, Synod groups. Yet despite the grievous wound of a denominational split, both sides were aggressive in their missionary efforts, and just two years after that split, Rev. Herron was sent to India to begin a work there. The work begun there in Dehra Dun continued on after Herron’s death. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Calvin Taylor, then later by Rev. Frank Fiol, Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Taylor, and Mr. & Mrs. David Fiol. What an amazing legacy down through the years; what a wonderful testimony to the Lord God whom we serve!


herronDavid_age90The committee to whom was referred the demise of Rev. David Herron, who died on the 29th of April, 1900, would submit to Synod the following minute. In the death of our esteemed brother for over fifty years a representative of General Synod, as a missionary in Northern India, our church has lost a man and minister eminent for missionary spirit, a high order of talent, Christian graces, and a temper and disposition which endeared him to all who knew him. His long service in missionary work in India, and his wide acquaintance with the needs and natives of India render his death an almost irreparable loss to our mission in the East.

At the meeting of General Synod held in Pittsburgh, 1835, a resolution was adopted that two of its members be selected for the foreign field. At that time Synod resorted to the ordinance of the lot, the result was that the lot fell on Rev. David Herron and Rev. Wm. Calderwood. The occasion was one of great solemnity and a farewell meeting of Synod was held.

These brethren proceeded to prepare for their departure to their distant field of labor. After reaching India our brother gave himself earnestly to the acquisition of the native language. At the same time he connected with the Saharanpur Presbytery. After missionating for a time in various parts of the Northwest provinces, he subsequently became principal of a female school in Dehra Doon. Here he became instrumental in training young women for varied work in India, some of whom became distinguished in literature and in medicine. Among these were two daughters of Rev. B.M. Bose, who now su
pport their father at Dehra Doon.

When the Saharanpur Presbytery was about to be dissolved by the Presbyterian Church, Rev. David Herron, in connection with Mr. Calderwood took means to preserve the integrity of the Presbytery and was eminently successful. And when after many years of separation, the reunion of the Saharanpur Presbytery with General Synod was proposed, our brother heartily seconded the proposition, and expressed himself by letter, as thankful to the church of his fathers and the church of his choice for their kindly continuing him as a member of the church after so many years of estrangement.

The last work of Mr. Herron’s life has been preaching to a regiment of English soldiers, together with aiding by sympathy and contributions an asylum for lepers.

He was a warm and genial friend, a successful missionary, able preacher of the Gospel, and a devoted Christian brother. The mission in India will deeply feel his loss. But he has gone to higher society. He sleeps in Jesus, and although his body lies in the grave, far distant from the sepulchres of his fathers, and we can see no more his genial face on earth, we hope to meet with him in the home above, where separation shall never enter. Meanwhile General Synod places on record this minute of appreciation of his life and labors.

[The Minutes of General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (1900), p. 28-29.]

The Rev. David Herron, who fell asleep in the Lord at Chakrata, India on the 29th of April, 1900, was intimately connected with the Saharanpur Presbytery almost from the time of its organization in 1837, and was its staunch supporter during the period of its greatest troubles; and it is not too much to say that had it not been for his strenuous exertions to maintain its integrity it would have been impossible for the Presbytery to continue in existence up to the present day. By his death not only has the Presbytery been bereft of a friend on whose wise counsel and unfailing support it could always depend, but the whole Church in India has been deprived of the benefits derivable from the presence among them of a venerable minister of mature experience, wide sympathies and burning zeal in the cause of Missions. He has however fought a good fight and has received a crown of glory at the hand of his Lord and Saviour, and although we deeply mourn his loss we bow in submission to the Will of our Heavenly Father whom it has pleased to take him away from us to a life of happiness above.

[The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 35.14-17 (July-Aug, 1901): 312.]

Pictured below, Rev. Herron with his children and an Indian servant. This photograph was taken in 1863 when Rev. Herron returned to the United States following the death of his wife, Mary Louise Browning Herron.











You Can’t Say That!

Talk about Goliath against David.  This was the case on this day April 28, 1937 when the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America went to court against the Presbyterian Church of America.  They had been successful in winning the church properties of those ministers who had been suspended from their ranks.  They had been successful in evicting them from the manse or parsonage.  They had been successful in removing their life insurance policies.  Now they wanted their name.

Their argument was simple.  Plans had been under way for some time for a proposed union of the United Presbyterian Church of North America with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.  And one of the names floated for that proposed union was the Presbyterian Church of America.

MudgeLSThe principal witness for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., was the denomination’s Stated Clerk, Lewis Seymour Mudge. Key to the whole case was the question of similarity of names as the sole basis for the suit against the Presbyterian Church of America.  Attempts by the latter group to show the doctrinal reasons for the new church were then met with objection after objection by the attorney for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Witnesses for the P.C. of A. were a “who’s who” of its early leaders. Ministers Paul Woolley, Edwin Rian, and Charles Woodbridge all testified on April 28 and April 29. Professor John Murray tried to bear witness about the doctrinal differences between the two denominations, but was hindered by objections to his presence on the stand. He left, without testifying.

It took several months before the decision was handed down. But as the historical devotional for February 9, 1939 showed, the decision was made against the Presbyterian Church of America. Moderator R.B. Kuiper called for an earlier than usual General Assembly in that month of February, 1939, and the new name of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was chosen by the  church.

When the union between the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Presbyterian Church of North America took place in 1958, their new name was the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA). In God’s providence, this gave the opportunity for the southern Presbyterians who left the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1973 to choose the name, The Presbyterian Church in America, as their new name during their second General Assembly.

PCofA_4thGA_1938OPC_5th_1939Presbyterian Guardian managing editor Thomas R. Birch remarked at the close of his report in the May 29th, 1937 issue, “And once more . . . Gideon’s band of true Christians, the Presbyterian Church of America, has publicly taken its unflinching stand on the side of historic Presbyterianism and the principles of religious liberty for which the fathers fought and died.” His entire article concerning the injunction can be read online in the May 29, 1937 issue of the Presbyterian Guardian. Yet through further legal appeal, it was not until March 15, 1939 that the denomination officially changed its name to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Birch wrote again at that time regarding the name change, “What’s In A Name?”, on page 47 of the March 1939 issue of The Presbyterian Guardian.

Words to Live By:  Jesus promised His followers that they would be brought up before the courts for the sake of their profession as Christianity.  This was one such example, and it will not be the last time in the history of the Christian church.  Yet God’s Word is sure.  Remain steadfast to the faith, and God’s reward will be ultimately yours in Christ.

And to Explain: 
Lest you be confused, the original name of what is now The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, was the Presbyterian Church of America. They legally had that name from their founding in 1936 until the decision was made that they simply did not have the funds to fight the PCUSA legal challenge, and so gave up the court battle and changed their name in 1939.

Fast forward to 1973, and a new denomination began, gathering some 40,000 members out from the old Southern Presbyterian Church. This new group initially called themselves the National Presbyterian Church, but because of a discovered conflict, chose to change its name a year later. It was their own choice; no legal challenge was involved. And the name selected in 1974 was the Presbyterian Church in America. Why was there no legal challenge about the PCinA name, you ask? Because the mainline denomination was, by way of a merger, operating as the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. from 1958-1983, and the PCinA name was not in view as something they might employ.

So to review, PCofA, 1936-1939, which then becomes the OPC, 1939-ongoing; and NPC, 1973-74, which then becomes the PCinA, 1974-ongoing.

From Slavery to Service for her Savior
by Rev. David T. Myers

stockton_betsey_c1798-1865History does not record the date of her birth in slavery. But we do know that it was around the year of 1798. We do know that the place of her birth was . . . Princeton, New Jersey. And she took the name of her slave owner master, an attorney named Robert Stockton. Obviously, slavery was not restricted to the South.

In a providential move, Betsey Stockton was presented as a “gift” to the new husband of Richard Stockton’s daughter, in Princeton, New Jersey. His name was the Rev. Ashbel Green, the third president of the College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton University. Rev. Green home schooled the young woman in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and yes, theology. She was allowed into Rev. Green’s own personal library to read the great books of the Christian faith. She even went to classes at the college. A revival which started in the College spread out to the town, and Betsey was gloriously converted to faith in Christ. In 1817, she became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, and baptized a week later. At that time, she was granted her freedom from the terrible yoke of slavery. Betsey was kept on as a paid domestic servant, and eventually accepted as a daughter to the Green family.

As Betsey Stockton grew in her faith, she began to express an interest to go to the mission field. Joining a couple named Charles Stewart and his wife, who had an interest to go to the Sandwich Islands, (known as Hawaii today), they set sail from Connecticut with a dozen other missionaries under the auspices of the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions, on November 22, 1822. The trip took five months to complete, but it was on this day, April 27, 1823, that they arrived at their destination.

Sensing her calling to teach, she persuaded the Stewart’s to allow her to teach the children of the common people on the islands. Learning the language, she opened her school, teaching history, English, Latin, and Algebra. Later, when the king wanted his son to learn English, she opened up a special school teaching English and Hawaiian side by side. It was said that 8000 Hawaiians received an education due to her initial efforts.

Two years later, when Mrs. Stewart became sick, Betsey Stockton returned to America with them. But her ministry did not end. She began schooling for Native American children in Canada. This was followed by various schools for black children around Princeton, New Jersey, including the Witherspoon Street Colored School, which was an offshoot of Witherspoon Presbyterian Church.

She went into glory in 1865, loved by all for her Christian piety. John McLean, president of the college, and Charles Hodge, conducted the funeral service. She is buried in Cooperstown, New York, beside the graves of Charles Stewart and his wife, her fellow missionaries in Hawaii.

Words to Live By:
From human slavery to human and spiritual liberty, that was the life of Betsey Stockton. She stands as an individual, who regardless of the circumstances of birth, and early life, went on through Christ to serve her Savior and Lord. Let us all examine our hearts and life, and serve Him regardless of outward circumstances with which we entered this world. To God be the glory!

He Being Dead, Yet Speaks

We have a few of the characters in this historical devotional guide who are mentioned in more than one date out of the year.  Their birth dates, their death dates, and significant dates during their lives are found here. The reason why that is, is that they, while members now of the triumphant church, were well-known members of the militant church on earth. Such a one like that was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Born in 1851 in Kentucky from good solid Presbyterian heritage, especially on his mother’s side, Warfield was known and still is known as a great defender of the faith. The books he wrote are still readily available in both hard copy as well as on the web.  Yet he had limited experience in the pulpit and pastorate, serving only a few years in that capacity.  Further, he was not interested in  church politics,  either in the presbytery, synod, or general assembly.  His place of ministry was always in the classroom in a seminary setting.

In that sense, he was, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:12, an individual who “equipped the saints.”  That word “equip” is used in the gospels accounts to describe the necessary work of the fishermen who later became the apostles of our Lord.  It was said that when that divine call came, they were “mending the nets.”  In other words, they were getting the nets ready for service.  This is what the word “equip” speaks about in Ephesians 4.  And that is exactly what Warfield did as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary with his students.  They were equipped as student saints.   They were prepared for service in the kingdom of God.

No one did a better job in his time there than Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.  He took over the Chair of Charles Hodge from the son of Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge.  He was therefore a link to the marvelous Hodge dynasty at old Princeton.  When he died in 1921, it was said that Old Princeton had passed away. In God’s providence, a mere nine years later Westminster Theological Seminary  began,  as an effort to preserve and continue something of that tradition of Old Princeton.

And to think all this story officially began on April 26, 1879 when Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was ordained to the ministry.   It was a recognition of the spiritual gifts which he possessed in knowledge and wisdom, in teaching, and in discernment. His ordination was a recognition by the Church of the hope and anticipation of how those gifts might be used in coming years, for the glory of God.

Words to Live By: Warfield is in heaven now, but his words live on in the church on earth.  It will do you, the reader, much good to spend time in reading his books either in book form or on the web.  Those books are not always easy to read, but they are worth the effort, for they still stand ready to equip you for service in Christ’s kingdom.

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