February 2016

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In the Minutes of the Thirty-third General Assembly (2005) of the Presbyterian Church in America, pp. 56-58, we find this tribute to the life and ministry of Alta Woods Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, which was organized on this day, February 29th, in 1948, and which was merged with the Pearl Presbyterian Church of Pearl, Mississippi in 2005:—

COMMUNICATION 3 from Mississippi Valley Presbytery

Recognition of the Alta Woods Presbyterian Church 1948 – 2005

Whereas, Alta Woods Presbyterian Church was established as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States on Daniel Loop in South Jackson by Central Mississippi Presbytery on February 29, 1948 unto the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and

Whereas, Alta Woods sought to uphold the inerrancy and sufficiency of Holy Scripture in a time when both have been seriously challenged and she held forth freely the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way of
salvation, and

Whereas, Alta Woods under the leadership of Rev. B. I. Anderson was instrumental in the formation of the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley in 1973 for the preservation of a Biblical church through a well trained
and Bible believing ministry, being a charter church, and

Whereas, the pastor and ruling elders of Alta Woods Presbyterian were actively engaged in the formation and establishment of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, being represented at the convocation of sessions on May 18, 1973 and at subsequent General Assemblies of the PCA, and

Whereas, Alta Woods directly encouraged men to pursue the gospel ministry through generous support of students, sending out many sons into the ministry of the PCA and impacting our community, country and world
with gospel zeal, and

Whereas, Alta Woods was directly responsible for the support of Rev. Al LaValley with his planting of the West Springfield Covenant Community Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the support of Rev. Rodney
Collins for his planting of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Laconia, New Hampshire, for the sending of Rev. Bill Inman to Crystal, New Mexico to pastor the Navajo Indigenous Church, and for the establishment of South
India Reformed Theological Institute through the work of Dr. Tom Cherian, and

Whereas, Alta Woods nurtured a missionary vision that supported and sent missionaries who served around the world, as well as mission groups to Columbia, South America; Crystal, New Mexico and West Springfield, Massachusetts, and

Whereas, Alta Woods grew to become the second largest Presbyterian Church in Jackson under the able leadership of pastors: Rev. A. N. Moffett (1948-55), Rev. B. I. Anderson (1955-85), Dr. Steve Jussely (1989-96), and Dr. Merle Messer (1996-present). She further enjoyed the dedicated leadership of associate pastors: Rev. Bill Bratley and Rev. Roger Collins, and assistant pastors: Rev. Don Craft, Rev. John Keubler, Rev. Timothy Meyer, and Rev. Judson Davis as well as many notable youth ministers and interns. Moreover Alta Woods has been blessed with many dedicated ruling elders who have guided the church and participated in presbytery and the PCA with sacrificial service and devotion, and

Whereas, under the faithful leadership of Dr. Merle Messer, Alta Woods desires to continue her ministry in union with the Pearl Presbyterian Church, of Pearl, Mississippi,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley give all praise to Jesus Christ as the head of the church for his mighty work in and through the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation over the last fifty seven years and that we offer thanksgiving for her valuable role in the establishment of our presbytery and her faithful work among us for the building up of the church. Moreover, let us express our joy and extend our deepest desires for the successful union of the Alta Woods Presbyterian congregation into the Pearl Presbyterian congregation that together they might know the continued blessing of our sovereign God upon their ministry and outreach. May this united work serve to bring greater glory to Jesus Christ.

Let it further be resolved that this resolution be signed by the clerk of Mississippi Valley Presbytery and spread upon the minutes of this presbytery, and

Let it further be resolved that an official copy of this resolution be sent to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to be included in the official minutes of the PCA General Assembly that all might marvel at the great work of Christ as the head of the church and might pray for his greater blessing upon the union of the Pearl and Alta Woods congregations.

To God alone be all the glory given!

Adopted by The Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley on June 7, 2005.
/s/ Roger G. Collins
Stated Clerk

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Back-tracking slightly, we present today our previously missing treatment by Rev. Van Horn of Q. 65 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.


Q. 65  What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to everyone in their several places and relations.

Scripture References: Romans 13:7-8.


1. What are the sins of the superiors?

The sins of the superiors include the following: the neglect of those who are under their authority; the seeking of their own glory in the midst of their responsibility; the encouraging of inferiors into things that are wrong; the wrong use of authority toward inferiors, thus provoking them to wrath; the exposing of inferiors to wrong or temptation to wrong; the subjecting of the inferiors to a bad example because of wrong conduct.

2. What are the sins of inferiors?

The sins of the inferiors include the following: the neglect of obeying their superiors; the sin of envy toward their superiors; the act of rebellion toward those who are their superiors; the sin of wrong conduct against those in command; the showing of dishonor toward their superiors and the government they represent.

3. What are the sins of equals.

The sins of equals include the following: the neglect of Christian love toward one another; the despising of those that are good; the sin of envy because an equal has been blest by God with a gift greater than one’s own; the lack of rejoicing at the success of an equal; the usurping of pre-eminence over equals when such pre-eminence has not been granted by God.

4. Do these sins relate to all relationships of man?

Yes, these sins are applicable to the relationships of man whether they be parent-child, husband-wife, master-servant, ruler-subject, minister-congregation, older-younger relationships.

5. In what areas of our lives today does this commandment relate?

It is pertinent in the family relationships, in the church relationships, in employment relationships and in the civic relationships. Sin in any of the areas is sin in the sight of God.


“As long as you think a law or a rule is wrong it is alright to disobey it.”—such is the reasoning being used today by children toward superiors, by the citizen toward the state, by the worker toward the boss, by the congregation toward the man called of God to preach The Word. It is a dangerous philosophy that is becoming very prevalent in our country and has even spread to conservative churches. This seems to be a day when everyone feels he has the perfect right to make his own rules and not be concerned about The Rulebook handed down by God. This fifth commandment speaks very clearly to the person following this false philosophy.

The Almighty, Sovereign God knew that respect for authority was very important in order that a family, a nation, an economy, a church might be able to carry on its duties in the world. Therefore He emphasized proper respect for authority in His Word time and time again. His words, “Obey them that have rule over you” are stated over and over again in different ways by different writers in The Word. he knew that a lawless society becomes a mob and a mob becomes a group of people out of hand.

What has caused the loss of respect for authority? What has caused this new philosophy to make inroads into our way of thinking? There is not space in this short devotion to answer the question for all of life but a suggestion could be offered as to why it is happening in conservative churches. It is simply another indication of a departing from what God hath said, a closing our eyes to certain portions of The Word because we find them too unpopular for the certain portion of society in which we find ourselves. Whenever a Christian or a Christian church breaks a principle of Scripture the result is always disaster. Disaster in this area not only comes to the person or the church but it also comes to the young people committed to the care of the person or the church.

Why are the young people of today showing such a disrespect for authority? Could it not be that they see such inconsistencies in their elders that they have no example to follow? Where is church discipline today? Where is Christian love toward all people today? Where is the unqualified stand against compromise today? Do our children see things in us? Might we read again Titus 2 – 3:3?

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Vol. 4, No. 59 (November 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

An Election Sermon by Samuel Payson (Feb. 28, 1778)

The Rev. Samuel Phillips Payson (1736-1801) was a classical scholar and Pastor. His family migrated from England, and his father was a pastor before him; his wife was also a daughter of the manse. He graduated from Harvard in 1754 and pastored in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He delivered this sermon on February 28, 1778 to a State Convention in Boston just before the state constitution was considered.

Payson took this sermon from Gal. 4:26 and 31. He began praising liberty: “We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state.” He also denounced bondage, corruption, tyranny, and lust. Payson preached, “Hence a people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will really enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud.”

In this sermon, he was clearly an advocate of ‘republican’ governance: “Much depends upon the mode and administration of civil government to complete the blessings of liberty; for although the best possible plan of government never can give an ignorant and vicious people the true enjoyment of liberty, yet a state may be enslaved though its inhabitants in general may be knowing, virtuous, and heroic.”

Payson also sounded Calvin’s warnings against either pure democracy or monarchicalism:

. . . a government altogether popular, so as to have the decision of cases by assemblies of the body of the people, cannot be thought so eligible; nor yet that a people should delegate their power and authority to one single man, or to one body of men, or, indeed, to any hands whatever, excepting for a short term of time. A form of government may be so constructed as to have useful checks in the legislature, and yet capable of acting with union, vigor, and dispatch, with a representation equally proportioned, preserving the legislative and executive branches distinct, and the great essentials of liberty be preserved and secured.

Rather than espousing an abstract theory or presuming a dictatorial posture, his sermon targets to, “ask the candid attention of this assembly to some things respecting a state, its rulers and inhabitants, of high importance, and necessary to the being and continuance of such a free and righteous government as we wish for ourselves and posterity, and hope, by the blessing of God, to have ere long established.”

Aware of the excesses of both Greek and Roman governments, Payson’s knowledge of history led him to aver: “There are diseases in government, like some in the human body, that lie undiscovered till they become wholly incurable. The baneful effects of exorbitant wealth, the lust of power, and other evil passions, are so inimical to a free, righteous government, and find such as easy access to the human mind, that it is difficult, if possible, to keep up the spirit of good government, unless the spirit of liberty prevails in the state.”

Americans were “children, not of the bond woman, but of the free”; thus, their government should rightly reflect that. Slavery, he declared, was born of ignorance. Education was critical, but nothing was more important for good government than “public virtue.”

Payson was not naïve:

The exorbitant wealth of individuals has a most baneful influence on public virtue, and therefore should be carefully guarded against. It is, however, acknowledged to be a difficult matter to secure a state from evils and mischiefs from this quarter; because, as the world goes, and is like to go, wealth and riches will have their commanding influence. The public interest being a remoter object than that of self, hence persons in power are so generally disposed to turn it to their own advantage. A wicked rich man, we see, soon corrupts a whole neighborhood, and a few of them will poison the morals of a whole community.

On the role of faith and an authentic view of establishment, he proclaimed that “religion, both in rulers and people,” was of the highest importance to public matters, preaching:

This is the most sacred principle that can dwell in the human breast. It is of the highest importance to men—the most perfective of the human soul. The truths of the gospel are the most pure, its motives the most noble and animating, and its comforts the most supporting to the mind. The importance of religion to civil society and government is great indeed, as it keeps alive the best sense of moral obligation, a matter of such extensive utility, especially in respect to an oath, which is one of the principal instruments of government. The fear and reverence of God, and the terrors of eternity, are the most powerful restraints upon the minds of men; and hence it is of special importance in a free government, the spirit of which being always friendly to the sacred rights of conscience, it will hold up the gospel as the great rule of faith and practice.

He also thought a ruler’s faith was important:

The qualities of a good ruler may be estimated from the nature of a free government. Power being a delegation, and all delegated power being in its nature subordinate and limited, hence rulers are but trustees, and government a trust; therefore fidelity is a prime qualification in a ruler; this, joined with good natural and acquired abilities, goes far to complete the character. Natural disposition that is benevolent and kind, embellished with the graceful modes of address, agreeably strike the mind, and hence, in preference to greater real abilities, will commonly carry the votes of a people. . . . A good acquaintance with mankind, a knowledge of the leading passions and principles of the human mind, is of high importance in the character before us; for common and well-known truths and real facts ought to determine us in human matters. We should take mankind as they are, and not as they ought to be or would be if they were perfect in wisdom and virtue. So, in our searches for truth and knowledge, and in our labors for improvement, we should keep within the ken or compass of the human mind.

He seemed to think that the Galatians passage led to this: “A state and its inhabitants thus circumstanced in respect to government, principle, morals, capacity, union, and rulers, make up the most striking portrait, the liveliest emblem of the Jerusalem that is above, that this world can afford. That this may be the condition of these free, independent, and sovereign states of America, we have the wishes and prayers of all good men. Indulgent Heaven seems to invite and urge us to accept the blessing. A kind and wonderful Providence has conducted us, by astonishing steps, as it were, within sight of the promised land.”

Payson even praised a specific foreign power in this sermon: “We must be infidels, the worst of infidels, to disown or disregard the hand that has raised us up such benevolent and powerful assistants in times of great distress. How wonderful that God, who in ancient times ‘girded Cyrus with his might,’ should dispose his most Christian Majesty the king of France to enter into the most open and generous alliance with these independent states!—an event in providence which, like the beams of the morning, cheers and enlivens this great continent. We must cherish the feelings of gratitude to such friends in our distress; we must hold our treaties sacred and binding.”

He concluded his address to the legislature with these words:

With diligence let us cultivate the spirit of liberty, of public virtue, of union and religion, and thus strengthen the hands of government and the great pillars of the state. Our own consciences will reproach us, and the world condemn us, if we do not properly respect, and obey, and reverence the government of our own choosing. The eyes of the whole world are upon us in these critical times, and, what is yet more, the eyes of Almighty God. Let us act worthy of our professed principles, of our glorious cause, that in some good measure we may answer the expectations of God and of men. Let us cultivate the heavenly temper, and sacredly regard the great motive of the world to come. And God of his mercy grant the blessings of peace may soon succeed to the horrors of war, and that from the enjoyment of the sweets of liberty here we may in our turn and order go to the full enjoyment of the nobler liberties above, in that New Jerusalem, that city of the living God, that is enlightened by the glory of God and of the Lamb. Amen.

A version is available at the Liberty Fund’s OnLine Library at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2066&chapter=188684&layout=html&Itemid=27. A printed copy is in the 2012 Kindle edition of Election Sermons (pp. 181-198; http://www.amazon.com/Election-Sermons-David-W-Hall-ebook/dp/B0077B2RLK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454974474&sr=8-1&keywords=Election+sermons+david+w.+hall#reader_B0077B2RLK)

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


An absent without leave minister

One of the original seven ministers of the infant Philadelphia presbytery was Samuel Davis. We don’t know a lot about his background. He was believed to be born in Ireland. We are not sure when he immigrated to America, but we do find recorded in the records in Somerset County, Maryland, that he performed a marriage ceremony on February 26, 1684. He is listed as being the minister of Snow Hill, Maryland seven years later in August 1691. We do know that he had “a tent making” ministry besides his pastoral duties to add to his pastoral income. That business venture, whatever it was, might have been the reason for his sketchy attendance at Presbytery.

Though he was the fourth member of seven member ministers on the roll of the first Presbytery in 1706, he was not physically present on that historic first meeting. At the next meeting in 1707, his written excuse to be absent was not sustained, nor was his first absence in 1706. In fact, there was an order by the small group of presbyters to be present at the 1708 meeting in the same city. He did show up, and was promptly elected moderator! He did present his reason for being absent the previous two meetings, and his excuses were sustained by the others present.

Samuel Davis, as the moderator of the Philadelphia Presbytery, was sent to participate in the installation of Rev. John Hampton in the church of Snow Hill, Maryland. However, Davis did not show up for the installation of Rev. Hampton. He was asked to preach at another way station of early Presbyterianism, but was absent on that occasion as well. A letter was sent to him with a complaint for not only these absences, but other delinquencies as well. He was ordered to prepare a sermon on Hebrews 1:4
for the next presbytery meeting.

In the Presbytery of 1712, there is the note in the minutes that, after inquiry, his fellow ministers were satisfied that their fellow pastor Samuel Davis was necessarily absent for the past three years. Two ministers were instructed to write him and exhort him to be present for future meetings, or failing that, to send a justified excuse if he couldn’t be present. He wasn’t present in 1712, nor did he sent an excuse for the meeting in 1713, but did send one in 1714. However, he did arrive later in at the meeting in 1714 and was part of an ordination for the new Presbyterian pastor of Cape May, New Jersey.

He was excused from attending the 1715 and 1716 meetings. At the 1716 meeting of the Philadelphia presbytery, he was transferred to the Snow Hill Presbytery, which was composed of him and two other ministers. It is not known if he was any more faithful in these new parts of the Presbyterian church. He died in 1725.

Words to Live By: Faithfulness in God’s work is the essential ingredient of a successful ministry. Let us pray for those who preach the Word of God and encourage them in that work.

A Plain, Good Minister of the Gospel
by David T. Myers

Our subject this day is Charles Tennent. Some readers might respond with, “Don’t you mean WilliamTennent, founder of the Log College?”. Or, of course you meant to say, “Gilbert Tennent,” the Presbyterian firebrand in the New Side, Old Side Presbyterian schism of the mid 18th century in the colonies? While both of these more Tennent’s were better known, and relatives of our subject, we wish to think on the Rev. Charles Tennent today.

Charles Tennent was born in Colerain, Ireland on May 3, 1711 in the home of a Presbyterian pastor by the name of William Tennent. At the tender age of seven, he emigrated to the American colonies with his parents and three brothers. Like the rest of the children, he was home schooled as well as received his theological training at the famous Log College. Graduating from there, he entered the Presbyterian ministry, becoming the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Whiteclay Creek, Delaware.

After only a short time there as under shepherd, the great revival in the American colonies under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield took place. Especially when the English Anglican Whitefield came to Whiteclay Church to preach the gospel, revival came to the Presbyterian Church of Charles Tennent. It was said that Whitefield assisted Charles Tennent with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper one Lord’s Day, while also preaching from the pulpit for four days the Word of God. What an auspicious start to the pastorate did Charles Tennent have!

Charles was described as a “plain good preacher,” and “not distinguished for great abilities.” But still God used him to do extraordinary things for the gospel.

He closed out his ministry in a Presbyterian church in Maryland, and went to be with the Lord on this day, February 25, 1771.

Words to Live By:
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 29 are a worthy application for our meditation. “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 that 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.” (NASV)

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