June 2016

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A few days late on this post, about the Rev. Francis Herron, but I pray you will find it edifying, nonetheless.

Standing Against Conformity to the World

Born, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1774.
Graduated, at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, May 5, 1794.
LIcensed to Preach, by the Presbytery of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, October 4, 1797.
Ordained to the ministry and Installed as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Rocky Spring, Franklin County, PA, April 9, 1809.
Removed to Pittsburgh, and Settled as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, May, 1811.
Resigned his Pastoral Charge, December 1850.
Died, December 6, 1860.

So in short compass the life of a venerable Presbyterian divine, as it is summarized at the head of a slim volume issued in his memory. Rev. Herron’s life, it was said, was “a life of more than usual historic importance.”

herronFrancis_portrait1862Francis Herron was born near Shippensburg, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1774. He belonged to that honored and honorable race, the Scotch-Irish, memorable in the history of the world, but especially in our country, for a thorough devotion to evangelical truth and constitutional liberty. The training of his early years bore rich fruit at a subsequent period of his life, making him so eminent among his brethren as an effective preacher and an orthodox divine.

Receiving the careful training indicative of his parents high regard for knowledge, he entered Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, then under the care of that distinguished Presbyterian, Rev. Dr. Nesbitt. Here he completed his classical course, and graduated May 5, 1794. The prayers of his pious parents were answered by the influence of grace upon his heart, and he was led to study for the ministry of reconciliation. He studied Theology under Robert Cooper, D.D., his pastor, and was licensed by Carlisle Presbytery, October 4, 1797.

He entered upon his Lord’s service as a missionary, going out into the backwoods, as it was then called, passing through Pittsburgh, Pa., then a small village, and extending his tour as far west as Chillicothe, Ohio. Stopping for the night at a tavern at Six Mile Run, near Wilkinsburg, Pa., the people prevailed upon him to stay till the following Sabbath, which he did, and under the shade of an apple tree this young disciple broke the bread of life to the people.

His journey resumed the next day, and with a frontier settler for his guide, he pushed on to his destination through an almost unbroken wilderness, his course often guided by the “blazes” upon the trees. Two nights he encamped with the Indians, who were quite numerous near what is now the town of Marietta, Ohio.

On his return from Chillicothe, Ohio, he visited Pittsburgh. The keeper of the tavern where he lodged, proved to be an old acquaintance, and at his request, he consented to preach. Notice was sent, and in the evening a small congregation of about eighteen persons assembled. The house he preached in was a rude structure, built of logs, occupying the site of the present First Presbyterian church. And such was the primitive style of that day, that during the services the swallows, who had their nests in the eaves, flew among the congregation.

At this time the churches in that portion of our country were visited with a season of refreshing grace, and Mr. Herron entered into the revival with all the ardor of youth filled with hopefulness and zeal. He preached for Rev. Dr. John McMillan at the Chartiers church, during a revival season. He also preached at the Buffalo church, where his fervid eloquence made a deep impression and the people presented him a call, and strongly urged it upon his attention. He however concluded to return to the vicinity of his home, especially, as a call from Rocky Spring church was awaiting him. This call he accepted, and he was ordained and installed as pastor of that church, by Carlisle Presbytery, April 9, 1800.

Some ten years later, he was invited to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian church, then vacant by the recent death of Rev. Robert Steele.

The people were charmed with his discourse, his ripening intellect modified by that refined spirituality, which was a prominent element in his ministrations, had a powerful effect upon his audience. They urged him to preach for them a second time, which he did, the result was a unanimous call was made out and presented to him in the usual manner.

The Presbytery of Carlisle dissolved the relation that existed between Rocky Spring church and Mr. Herron, and he was dismissed to Redstone Presbytery, April 3, 1811, and he was installed pastor of the First Presbyterian church, Pittsburgh, PA, the following June. In a few weeks he removed with his family to his new home, travelling in a large wagon, with his wife, children, and all his household goods.

Francis Herron, D.D.He joined Redstone Presbytery June 18, 1811. The importance of his new position was fully and truly felt, the commercial importance of Pittsburgh had given all kinds of business an impetus, and prosperity was advancing rapidly; but this outward show referred only to worldly affairs, the religious condition of the people was cold and almost lifeless. The church to which he was called was embarrassed with debt, and the piety of the people manifested a degree of conformity to the world, which nearly appalled the preacher’s heart. But the experience of his ten years pastorate was to him invaluable, and girding himself, he entered upon his duties with a true heart and an earnest purpose. His preaching was the simple exposition of the truth as it is in Jesus, pointed, clear, and unwavering, revealing the enormity of sin and pleading with the fidelity of one who loved their souls. This style of preaching was sustained by his efforts to establish the prayer-meeting, which, strange as it now appears, met with much opposition, even among professors of religion; but this young pastor knew the holy influence of communion with God, and that God favored a praying people, he therefore went forward, and, in connexion with Rev. Thomas Hunt, who was pastor of the Second church, they persisted, and though to avoid a collision with the people the meetings were not held in the church, a small room was used for that purpose, in which Mr. Hunt taught a day-school. The first meeting consisted of the two pastors, one man, and six women, and thus for eighteen months did this meeting continue without adding a single person to their number.

The chilling indifference of the people soon grew into downright hostility, and husbands and fathers prohibited their wives and daughters from attending, and, finally, when the continued efforts of these pious people could be no longer borne, they waited upon Mr. Herron and told him that it must be stopped, his reply was the turning point in the spiritual condition of that people. He said, “Gentlemen, these meetings will not stop, you are at liberty to do as you please; but I also have the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of my conscience, none daring to molest or make me afraid.” From that time a spirit of piety manifested itself among the members of the church, several gay and fashionable persons were hopefully converted, and an impression was made upon the whole community, at once hopeful and healthful.

Words to Live By:
Do not expect courage of conviction from men who have no convictions, from those who have no anchor in the Word of God. The Scriptures must be drilled down deep into our souls if we are to stand against temptations and testings. May God give us pastors who will set an example, who will faithfully stand against the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Another Look at a Presbyterian Missionary
by Rev. David T Myers

Marcus WhitmanWe all live in an age of political correctness. We may not accept it, nor delight in it. Frankly, it  can be a challenge to our biblical Christianity as we follow  it each and every day. We see it on many fronts.

The faculty and student body, past and present, saw it in the history  of a four year liberal arts college in the state of Washington recently.  The college is Whitman College. The college was begun in the eighteen hundreds as a prep school. Then in the early nineteen hundreds, it was changed to a college.

It had an interesting mascot for a school.  We have all experienced them in our collegiate days. And a lot of them are  under attack today due to “political correctness” mentioned above in our first paragraph, especially dealing with sports teams.  With this College however, their teams down through the years were known as “Missionaries.”  Yes, you read that right.  Their mascot was Missionaries.

This was due to the fact that the name of the school was called Whitman, named after the nineteenth century Presbyterian missionary, Marcus Whitman, who was called to minister the gospel to the area’s Indian tribes, or pardon me, native American people, called the Cayuse.

We have dealt with Whitman’s life and times before during our maiden year of This Day in Presbyterian History in 2012 on February 29th, this day, June 29, and also on August 18th of that year. So this post is not a case of your not having read and considered the remarkable ministry and his wife before they were martyred for the gospel.

What Whitman College did though is quite recent. They polled their graduates and present faculty and student body. The majority of the latter indicated that this mascot name was inappropriate for a modern college, implying that the name was non-inclusive and imperialistic, and incorrectly implied that Whitman College is a religious school.

Now this author is not really thrilled about a mascot named Missionaries. But the reason for the change was essentially that the calling of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman to this tribe of native Americans was wrong and not to be recognized as acceptable in a day of political correctness.

It was on this day, June 29, 1936,  that the United States Congress recognized the work of the Whitmans and set aside the Whitman National Historical Park in Washington state.  But then, that was before political correctness became a standard for faith and life in the life of our beloved country.

Words to Live By:
The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (NIV) This is true for all “political correctness” in our day.  How we must pray for spiritual discernment for Christians today, for our local churches and her leaders and members, that we all might be biblically oriented, Christ honoring, and committed in applying the Word of God to our culture today, and yes, even to political correctness.


d'AubigneJH“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.



ten_reasons_for_being_a_Presbyterian9. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because the Church of Christ was Presbyterian in her earliest and purest times. Ecclesiastical history tells me by what steps came the predicted falling away from apostolical doctrine and order (2 Thess. ii. 3); how the primitive Episcopacy (which we still hold) was supplanted by Prelacy and Popery; and how those Churches which were God’s faithful witnesses in the midst of the Anti-Christian apostasy, the Waldensian, the Albigensian, and other martyr-Churches were Presbyterian. And when the time of Reformation came, when men stood, and saw, and asked for the ancient paths, then the good old way of Presbyterianism, with its Evangelical truth, its apostolical order, its wholesome discipline, and primitive worship, was with one consent resumed by the Reformed Churches. In England alone it was not so; but for this we satisfactorily account in the assumption of the headship of the Church by Henry VIII.—the indecision of Cranmer and the early Reformers—the limited extent to which the work of Reformation could be carried—together with other later events in England’s national history.

Although outward forms in themselves are of minor consequence, yet they are important as means for the building up of the spiritual Church. And if Church history is of any use, we should search it to see which form of Christianity best fulfills the purposes of a Church of Christ. Let Presbyterianism be so tried : contrast the state of the English Church as to vital religion in the Puritan times, and after the restoration of Charles II., and the ejection of the two thousand Nonconformists, nearly all of whom were Presbyterians; contrast the present state of Presbyterian Ulster  with any other province of Ireland; contrast the state of Scotland with any other country of Europe; and every friend of Bible instruction, of Sabbath observance, of true religion, ought to rejoice in the prospect of Presbyterianism being extended in every part of the world.


10. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that has been so valiant for the truth, or that has been honoured to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ on earth. None can show a more goodly company of confessors, a more noble army of martyrs, than the Presbyterian Church. Let history testify this, from the earliest times, through the dark ages of Popery, down even to our own day, when the Free Church of Scotland, in her noble stand for truth, and in the sacrifices made by her ministers and people for Christ’s sake, has displayed a spirit worthy of olden times, and shown that living faith and high principle are yet to be found on the earth. While maintaining in common with other Protestants the truths relating to the Prophetical and Priestly offices of the Redeemer, the Presbyterian Church has especially been called on to testify and to suffer in defense of the Kingly office of Christ; that He is the only Head of the Church, visible and invisible, (Colossians i. 16, 17, 18,) that Christ alone is king in Zion—(Psalm ii. 6.)

The Bible teaches us to be subject to the powers that be, to render honour to whom honour is due, tribute to whom tribute, to all their dues (Rom xiii. 1—7), but not to render unto Caesar the things that are God’s—(Matt. xxii. 21.) While contending for spiritual independence against Erastians on the one hand, we contend against the spiritual supremacy of Papists and Prelatists on the other. Popery has ever found in our Church a stern and uncompromising opponent. She is no less opposed to Arian, Socinian, and other forms of Anti-Christian error. And though some have wrongfully used our name, and some branches of our Church have at times been on the side of error, true Presbyterians have ever been foremost in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints.

For these and other reasons I am a Presbyterian. While I know that God has His people among different denominations of professing Christians, I prefer the Presbyterian Church, because I believe it to be most conformable to the Word of God, most conducive to the spread of truth and righteousness, and most fitted for the extension of the cause of Christ on the earth.


We are a few days off from the anniversary of this event, but other scheduled posts bumped this post to today. Close enough, for our purposes, I think.

WarfieldBB_1903In the late 19th century, an effort was begun to revise the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, as held by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. This effort toward revision was led by Charles A. Briggs and several other then prominent men in that denomination. Opposing them, among others, was the Rev. Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Here he presents some of his earliest arguments in countering the revisionists:—

Professor Warfield’s Paper presented to the New Brunswick Presbytery, June 25, 1889.


At the June intermediate meeting of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, held on June 25th at Dutch Neck, the overture of the General Assembly anent the revision of the Confession of Faith was answered in the negative, nemine contradicente, as follows :

“The Presbytery of New Brunswick, having carefully considered the overture in relation to the revision of the Confession of Faith, proposed by the General Assembly, respectfully replies as follows :

“This Presbytery does not desire any revision of the Confession of Faith.”

The reasons to be assigned for this answer, as proposed in a paper presented by Prof. B. B. Warfield, were then taken up ; but, on account of lack of time for full consideration, were laid over until the October meeting of the Presbytery. These reasons have been printed by order of the Presbytery, that all who are interested may have opportunity to consider them before the Fall meeting. They are as follows :

  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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. We have no hope of 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 forms 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.
  1. 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:
Our Confession of Faith can be thought of as a commentary on what the Scriptures teach. As such, it serves to bring unity, when we jointly concur that the Confession summarizes some of the central doctrines taught in the Scriptures. It also serves as a public notice of what will be taught in our churches—think of it as something akin to a truth-in-advertising document : As the Confession is our agreed upon Standard, visitors to our churches should be able to expect a faithful proclamation of the Gospel from our pulpits and teachings that are in accord with the Westminster Standards. For these reasons and more, efforts to revise our Confession should be considered with the greatest care and reluctance. It’s not that the Confession is inerrant or incapable of further perfection, but changes should be soundly Biblical, vested with much prayer, and always with a clear purpose to glorify our Lord and Savior. The changes that eventually were made in 1903 proved damaging to the PCUSA, weakening the Calvinism of the document and thus paving the way for the 1906 reception of the larger portion of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church [about 1000 pastors and 90,000 members]. This was a denomination that historically had opposed Calvinism and taught Arminianism.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.—Hebrews 10:23 (NASB)

by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Scripture References: Matt 28:19, 20. Acts 2:41, 42.


1. Who communicates these benefits to the believers and what are these benefits?

Christ communicates these benefits for such is His responsibility. These benefits are everything that Christ purchased for the elect both here and forever.

2. How are these benefits communicated to the believers?

These benefits are communicated to the believers through mediation by Christ as He works through the ordinances.

3. Why do we call the benefits of redemption “His ordinances?”

They are called His ordinances because He instituted them in His Word and He is the Head of the Church.

4. Why does this Question state “especially the word, sacraments, and prayer …. ?”

These three are stated because they are the chief outward means of communicating the benefits of redemption. This is taught in Acts 2:42. It does not mean that the other means are not important. It simply means these are more important.

5. Why are these called “outward means”?

They are called outward means to distinguish them from the inward means such as faith and repentance, those mighty inward means of the Holy Spirit.

6. What do we mean by “salvation” in this Question?

By salvation in this Question is meant the complete doctrine of salvation. It means the beginning of deliverance from sin; the possession of new life and its resulting happiness in this life; the living unto God day by day; the blessedness which is to come when the believer gets to glory.


When we hear these words, we are to think immediately of the Word, the sacraments and prayer. We do not think of them as the Roman Catholic Church thinks of them, that of rites which have the power to confer grace. Rather, the Reformed Faith has always thought of them as those means appointed by God for the purpose of conveying grace. The manner of conveying the grace comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The difficulty for the believer always comes when he does not make the proper use of the means of grace. Whether by disuse, or whether by a lack of use, the resulting effect will be a life that is not pleasing to the Lord. It is especially true in this day of the church that a proper use of the means of grace be made. Peter writes, “That ye may be mindful (care for) of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” (II Peter 3:2, 3). The time has come when believers must make a proper use of the means of grace in this day of apostasy in the church.

How can we best make use of the means of grace? First, we must be persuaded that it is important that we know them and make use of them. We must realize they come from God, that their efficacy depends solely on God, not on man nor the church. This is one of the greatest dangers facing us today, this false view of the means of grace.

Second, we must prepare ourselves for their use in us. We cannot expect God to work in unprepared hearts, hearts that are harboring sin. We must prepare ourselves for their use by saying with Paul, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2: 12)

Third, we must make use of the means of grace. To make use of them we must use them! We should ever study the Word, making sure that each day finds us giving time to it. We should never miss an opportunity to partake of the Lord’s Supper and we should always keep our covenant vows made at baptism. We should pray without ceasing, knowing full well that a life void of prayer will be a fruitless life.

May God help us to recognize the means of grace as essential to our spiritual well-being!

Published by The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards tor use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 6, No. 5 (May 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

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