May 2016

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The 100th General Assembly of the PCUSA was notable as the first time in which the disrupted Church, North and South, met fraternally. The Southern Presbyterian Church, while meeting in Assembly in Baltimore, came to meet with the Northern Presbyterians during their Assembly in Philadelphia. Discusssions of a permanent reunion were on the table, but nothing came of it. News of that event, as reported in a denominational magazine of the day, follows:

THE PRESBYTERIAN CONGRESS.

The great Presbyterian Congress—its General Assembly—begins its sessions in Philadelphia to-day. As our Philadelphia dispatches showed yesterday, it is a body notable for the number of distinguished divines and laymen who are to lead its deliberations. Of the 500 delegates in attendance a large majority are prominent in the States from which they come, and there are scores of men who are known and honored all over the country, while some of them are recognized by Protestants the world over, as leaders of the religious thought and action of the age.

The great gathering suggests more than ecclesiastical or denominational considerations and reminiscences. It reminds intelligent students of the history of this country of the intimate relations between Presbyterianism in its various forms with the history of the struggles for religious and political freedom, in the old world and in the new. It was the love of freedom of the Presbyterians in Great Britain that brought on them the persecutions and trials that drove here hundreds of thousands of Presbyterians, who became the staunchest and most intelligent supporters of American independence. The same causes gave to the American colonies the splendid qualities for citizenship that were possessed by the exiled Huguenots and by the Dutch Presbyterians. It was a natural and most vitally important result that during the whole period of the Revolutionary war the Presbyterian churches were unanimously for American independence and furnished a large proportion of the ablest civil and military leaders who conducted the war and founded the Union.

One of the most notable  concessions as to the harmony between Presbyterianism and our peculiar form of government was made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, when he wrote these words:

“Though it is my privilege to regard the authority exercised by the General Assembly as usurpation, still I must say with every man acquainted with the mode in which it is organized, that for the purpose of popular and political government, its organization is little inferior to that of Congress itself. It acts on the principle of a radiating centre, and is without equal or rival among the other denominations of the country.”

[excerpted from The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 3.]

President Grover Cleveland’s Address to the Members of the General Assemblies.
[The Church at Work, 2.34 (31 May 1888): 4]

I am very much gratified by the opportunity here afforded me to meet the representatives of the Presbyterian Church. Surely, a man never should lose his interest in the welfare of the church in which he was reared. Those of us who inherit fealty to our church as I do, begin early to learn those things which make us Presbyterians all the days of our lives, and thus it is that the rigors of our early teaching, by which we are grounded, in our lasting allegiance, are especially vivid, and perhaps, the best remembered. The attendance upon church service three times each Sunday, and upon Sabbath school during the noon intermission, may be irksome enough to a boy of ten or twelve years of age to be well fixed in his memory, but I have never known a man who regretted these things in the years of his maturity. The Shorter Catechism, though thoroughly studied and learned, was not, perhaps, at the time, perfectly understood, and yet in the stern labors and duties of after life those are not apt to be the worst citizens who were taught “What is the chief end of man.”

Speaking of these things, and in the presence of those here assembled, I may say the most tender thoughts crowd upon my mind—all connected with Presbyterianism, and its teachings. There are present with me now memories of a kind and affectionate father, consecrated to the cause and called to his rest and his reward, in the mid-day of his usefulness; a sacred recollection of the prayers and pious love of a sainted mother, and a family circle hallowed and sanctified by the spirit of Presbyterianism. I cannot but express the wish and the hope that the Presbyterian church will always be at the front in every movement which promises the temporal as well as the spiritual advancement of mankind.

In the turmoil and bustle of every day life few men are foolish enough to ignore the practical value to our people and our country of the church organization established among us, and the advantage of Christian example and teaching. While we may be pardoned for insisting that our denomination is the best, we may, I think, safely concede much that is good to all other churches that seek to make men better.

I am here to greet the delegates of two General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church. One is called “North” and the other “South.” The subject is too deep and intricate for me, but I cannot help wondering why this should be. These words, so far as they denote separation and estrangement, should be obsolete. In the councils of the Nation and in the business of the country they no longer mean reproach and antagonism. Even the soldiers who fought for the “North” and for the “South” are restored to fraternity and unity. This fraternity and unity is taught and enjoined by our church. When she shall herself be united, with all the added strength and usefulness, then harmony and union ensue.

Words to Live By:
How the mighty have fallen. How some have departed over these many years from the clear proclamation of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We take no pride in making such an observation. If anything, we should be immensely humbled, knowing our own sinful hearts. Indeed, we should fear the Lord and daily strive to draw near to Him. May the Lord by His Holy Spirit bring repentance. May He revive His Church in these latter days.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.—I Corinthians 10:12, NASB.

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Our co-laborer in this blog, the Rev. David T. Myers, comes today on this Memorial Day with a sermon suited to the occasion. This departs somewhat from our standard fare, both in content and in form, but I trust you will find it profitable and a blessing to your soul. May God be glorified.

A Memorial Day Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers

Scripture Lesson: Joshua 3:14 – 4:7

Introduction:

(Illustration) There is on the web a post entitled “Children’s Letters to God.” It is both touching and humorous, to say the least. Let me read just a few to you by way of introduction this morning.

      1. Eugene wrote, “Dear God, I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool.” God is clearly in His creation for this child.
      2. “Dear God,” Joyce wrote, “Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.” She was grateful for the new arrival to her family but hey, God, He hadn’t answered her heartfelt prayer for a four legged addition to the family unit. What gives?!

      3. “I went to a wedding in church,” Neil wrote in his letter, “and the couple kissed right in church. Is that okay?” Good question, Neil. As a pastor who has performed the marriage of a number of couples, I too have wondered about what takes place in weddings.

      4. Nan acknowledged “I bet it is hard for You to love everyone in the whole world. There are only four people in my family, and I can never do it.” The mystery of God’s love.

      5. “Dear God,” Mickey said, “If you watch me on Sunday, I’ll show you my new shoes.”

        Perhaps without realizing it, Mickey just affirmed the omnipresence of God. Everywhere there is a there, God is there.

Well, this morning, we want to look at, not our letters to God, but rather His letters to us. They are found in the Bible, one of which is found in the passage which was read for our Scripture Lesson this morning, namely Joshua chapters 3 and 4. So please turn there in your Bible.

All of us here know the history of this national holiday. It began back around the time of the Civil War. It was intended to remember those who had given their all to their country. And it was remembered by decorating the graves of loved ones who has died in the service of that country. As each national conflict came and went, we have seen more reasons to celebrate it. Yet the numbers who do that remembrance are getting smaller and smaller, prompting one individual to bemoan the amnesia of Americans who treat this day only as the beginning of summer, still many hold to the true meaning of memorial day today, especially in this chapel.

Today, from Joshua chapters 3 and 4, we hear the inspiring story of a Biblical Memorial to the God of Israel, and the biblical application to us.

Opening Prayer: Let us pause for a moment in prayer.

OUTLINE: Consider first with me

  1. AN AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE in Joshua 3:1 – 6.

Now we didn’t read this portion in our Scripture Reading earlier, but if you scan it quickly, you will see the presence of God found . . . in the ark of the covenant. That ark is mentioned seventeen times in Joshua chapters 3 and 4. Its presence hits us again and again. We cannot get away from it. The inspired writer obviously doesn’t want any of us this morning to miss the importance of the ark, which was the sign of God’s presence among his people. Specifically, how are we to be aware of God’s presence in this scene?

A. Clearly, we are to Perceive God’s presence at a distance. That is found in v. 4 (read)

There was to be a distance of about 1000 yards between the ark and Israel. Some commentators believe it was because of the majestic holiness of God. And there might be some truth to that belief. But it was also, and this is the primary truth, hat they needed to see in person, with their own eyes, what divine miracle God was about to do in their midst.

If they were right behind the ark carried by the priests, they wouldn’t be able to discern what might be happening. But by this distance, all would be able to see God’s great miracle soon to take place before their very eyes.

B. We are also to Prepare for the Lord’s Working in our Midst v. 5 “sanctify yourselves..”

Get apart from the ordinary things of your life and consecrate, dedicate yourself for the great work which Jehovah God is about to do. This certainly involved confession of sins. It involved a time in remembering the Word of God. Prepare yourself in a spiritual way, Israel.

Why bother with this preparation? Because it is crucial that what is about to happen is truly of God. They needed to understand that what was about to happen was a miracle in time and space history. This wouldn’t be some accident of nature. It wasn’t by luck or fortune or chance that the river would soon mysteriously part. God was going to do it. He is the Author of it. They were mere spectators of this miracle. So prepare for it, Israel.

This raises an important question by way of . . .

Application: Question? When we come to chapel each Lord’s Day, are we properly prepared for the public worship of God? Are we prepared to adore God, our Savior and Redeemer? Has there been confession of sins, so that there is nothing to hinder us from approaching God? Have we been praying for Chaplain Sieg who is about to lead us into worship? The prelude played by our organist or pianist is designed to quiet our hearts and prepare for worship.

This applies for all of life as well. Could it be that we fail to detect the Lord’s marvelous working in the routine working of our lives because we have not prepared ourselves to see or even expect that divine working? There is to be a place in our weekly life where God’s Presence is sought through prayer and meditation in His Word, the Bible. Are we engaged in that sacred preparation?

But having looked at the importance of the awareness of God’s presence, let us note second,

II. THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S POWER in chapter 3 of Joshua, verses 10 – 13.

Look there in your Bibles, especially verse 10 itself. (read)

This is what Bible commentators call “theo-logic.” You take one large display or event of God and from it, you assure yourself that the same God who easily took care of that large event, will take also take care of all lesser events in your spiritual lives.

In the New Testament, it is found in Romans 8:32. Your lay leader read it this morning. Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.”

The most important truth in this text is that God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for us. That is the great truth of redemption. But here is a second truth too. To those who have received Him by faith alone, all lesser benefits of eternal life belong to us as well. It is a theo-logic argument, from the greater to the lesser.

In Joshua 3, by crossing the Jordan River by the power of God, or the larger event in the life of the nation, Israel will know that this same God will repel the enemy forces of all of these pagan tribes in the land now. If He can get you into the promised land, then He will surely give you the promised land. No one – not the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites – in other words, all the “ites” will not be able to match up against the absolute power of God. They will know that the living God is on our side.

How God’s people today need to remember this biblical truth. How His church needs to see that the God of the Bible is not just a three letter word in Christian jargon, but he is the Sovereign God who has come, who intervenes in history, who rescues us in our times of need, and who guides all His people in the perplexing times in which we live.

That is my God and your God. Amen? Amen! Even we Presbyterians pastors can say “Amen.”

We have seen the Awareness of God’s Person and the Assurance of God’s Power, now let us see for our third point,

  1. THE AWESOME GOD OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE Joshua 3:15

I believe all of us here know the thrilling account of Israel crossing the Jordan River. You have heard sermons on this before. You have studied the passage in our Christian Education Classes in Sunday School.

We are reading Joshua 3:14 and following with great expectancy to the pivotal part of the inspired story, when the priests carrying the ark will dip the soles of their feet into the water of the Jordan, with the result that the river will part, it will come to a heap on one side, and the people will go across on dry land. But then, in our section of Scripture, the whole thrilling story comes to an abrupt stop in action. The inspired writer in verse 15 supplies us all with a sentence of raw data on the river conditions of the Jordan in the spring time.

Why did the inspired author ruin a perfectly good story with a report on river conditions? Give me a break! You got to be kidding! Why dash our hopes here?

Answer? Because he wishes everyone here to appreciate the miracle they are about to hear and read about?

So let me give you some familiar facts. Just listen, and some of you may already know about this historical data, but listen anyhow by way of review. I have borrowed it from Dr. Dale Ralph Davis, on of my fellow ministers in his comments on this text. He writes,

“The actual Jordan Valley between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea varies in breadth from three to fourteen miles. Within this valley is the river’s flood plain, which is 200 yards to one mile wide. The floodplain was packed with tangled bush and jungle growth. Thus, it was not the river so much as the jungle growth that was difficult to cross.

Then Dr Davis continue on, “Then there was the river channel, which, was from 90 to 100 feet broad, with a depth of three feet at some fords to as much as ten to twelve feet” at others.”

Illustration: I can remember see a cartoon in a Christian magazine which depicted several of the priests who were carrying the ark. Seeing this water hindrance before them and the people, one of the them says to the others, “Did you ever stop to think of how silly we are going to look if Joshua is wrong” Yes, they would look silly if Joshua was mistaken. But, Joshua wasn’t wrong in his directions to the priests of Israel.

The point is, what Israel faced that springtime was no placid stream like the Yellow Breeches in our county, but a raging torrent, probably a mile wide covering a mass of tangled brush and jungle growth.

This is the import of this sentence in verse 15 which stops our attention in the story. Why did the inspired writer include it, except . . . to remind us that often the God of providence allow us to come into circumstances, into situations so bleak and hopeless, for the very purpose of impressing upon us that when we make it through them, when we endure them, it will only be because of His grace and power, and His grace and power alone!

Our help, the Psalmist reminded us for our Responsive Reading this morning, Psalm 121, “ Our help does come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

IV. Quickly, look at our last point this morning, which is THE APPLICATION OF GOD’S PRESENCE, POWER, AND PROVIDENCE It is found in Joshua 4, summed up in verses 6 – 7 (read)

The memorial pile of stones at the site built by the Israelites after the miracle was intended to, first, to

A. Cause Israel to Remember God’s Presence, Power, and Providence in their Lives and the Life of the Nation

Let’s face it, folks, the greatest enemy of faith may be . . . forgetfulness. We forget what God has done in the past in our lives and thus we too often question God in the present and future. We just simply forget what God has done for us, or for His church in times past.

The pile of stones deposited at the far bank of the promised land after the crossing of the river was intended to remind Israel in all her history that the God of Joshua was and continued to be their God in that same present time and the future. It was a visual aid to that end

B. This miracle was intended to Be an Instruction for Future Generations. Joshua 4:21 – 24

Read vv 21 – 24.

We can almost see in our mind’s eye, a future father and six year old son hiking in Gilgal National Park. The son sees the piles of stones, counts 12 of them, and says, “Hey Dad, what are those stones for?” The curiosity of the son becomes the occasion for the communication of the past event and how Israel’s God unleashed His power for His people.

That provokes in my mind, folks, a question. How much time, parents, did we give to re-telling the story of God’s faithfulness in specific instances of your life? I don’t mean here simply telling our children that this or that happened to you. I mean, how many times did we tell our family the place of God in your life?

If you haven’t done it as a practice in their younger days, it may not be too late to communicate this to your grown children, and especially your grandchildren.

This was the purpose of the 12 stones there on the river bank long ago.

      1. This miracle was intended to be A Witness to the World

Francis Schaeffer said in his commentary on Joshua “that the stones were to tell the other nations round about that Israel’s God is different. He really exists. He is a living God, the God of real power who is immanent in the world.”

In conclusion,

So on this Memorial Sunday, by all means, remember those who served our nation through the years. I can do it for Chaplain US Army Major David K Myers, my father, who served in WW2 through the Korean War. My wife can do it for Newton Baxter, her father, who was a WW2 photographer at a factory building bombers for the war effort.

But as Christians, we can also remember the God of Israel who miraculously led His people across the Jordan River millenniums ago by a miracle in time and space history. That God is alive today. And we are to remember His Presence, His Power, and His Awesome Providence, as He continues to watch over, guide, and protect those who call on His Name today. Happy Memorial Day.

STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 84. What doth every sin deserve?

A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Scripture References: Gal. 3:10. Matt.25:41. Ezrp. 9:6 2 Cor. 5:21.

Questions:

1. What is meant by the wratn and curse of God?

The wrath and curse of God is the punishment that God has threatened to inflict upon all sinners for the sins they commit.

2. What is this punishment that God will inflict upon sinners?

The punishment is all the miseries of this life, death itself, and the pains of hell forever (see Question 19, Shorter Catechism).

3. Does every sin we commit deserve this wrath and curSe of God?

Yes. every sin we commit deserves it. Every sin that is committed is against the Holy, Righteous God who hates all sin. He is the just God and He desires and requires satisfaction for the sins committed.

4. Why is sin so hateful to God?

Sin is hateful to God becanse it is the very opposite of God’s holy nature and God’s holy law. Therefore, sin is exposed to the wrath and curse of God.

5. Do the sins of believers deserve this same punishment?

The sins of believers deserve it but their persons can never be exposed to, or liable to, God’s wrath, either in this life or in the life to come.

6. What is it that we can learn from this Question of the Catechism?

We may learn once again to look up to God and thank Him and praise Him for saving us, even when we were not worthy of it. We should look up to Him and thank Him for His mercy, His pardoning mercy, knowing we are such great sinners. We should repeat daily the words from Ezra 9:6: ” … O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.”

DELIVERED FROM THE WRATH TO COME

It Is my prayer that the reader has a well-grounded hope In Jesus Christ, that he is truly saved, for then he will be delivered from the wrath of God. The Bible says, ” … even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (l Thess. 1:10). If a person is born again he will be proving it day by day. He will live in such a way that there is proof lhat his whole life Is governed and controlled by the Book. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones says this person, this saved person, has been taken up by Christianity; he has not simply taken up Christianity. This is the person that has been delivered.

If there is that well-grounded hope, if there is present that God-given ability to know what he is, where he stands, and where he is going, then the believer should be very thankful to God for the deliverance. He will know that Jesus suffered, bled and died for him. He will know that Jesus shed His blood and took the curse that the believer will not have to suffer the wrath of God. There should never a day pass without the believer looking upward and thanking Him once again.

Now the believer must understand that though he is delivered from the wrath to come it does not mean that God will not inflict things upon him in this life. Afflictions will come and the believer must be willing to submit to them with good grace. I once knew a dear brother in the Lord who lived with affliction. It seemed that his every day was filled with it. He hnd physical afflictions, he had material afflictions. One night in his study I asked him how he kept such a wonderful attitude in the midst of such trouble. His answer went something like this: “Certain!y my affliction is heavy but it is nothing compared to what I deserve to suffer eternally in hell.” He had found the right perspective, he knew that his present state was far better than he deserved. And for this he praised God by living day by day knowing he was surrounded by the amazing grace of God.

The deliverance He purchased for us is from God’s wrath. It was a perfect redemption. No affliction, no trial, no sorrow, no trouble on this earth can take it away frem us. Praise God for making “him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21).

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

Vol. 6, No.1 (January 1967)

Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

“A Sermon on the Occasion of the Commencement of the New Hampshire Constitution”
by Samuel McClintock (June 3, 1784)

Samuel McClintock (1732-1804), a graduate of the College of New Jersey, served the Greenland, New Hampshire, Congregational church for nearly a half century. He was a chaplain in the French and Indian War and for the New Hampshire Regiment in the Revolutionary War.  This sermon was preached at the convocation of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to commemorate the recently adopted constitution. The biblical text for this sermon was Jeremiah 18:7-10.

For this occasion, the sermon begins with a given of the day, i. e., that the character and providence of God were undisputed. McClintock believed that both the works of creation and manifest providence pointed to God’s direction of all events. He put it this way:

To men whose practice says there is no God-who view the events of time merely as effects of natural causes, of blind chance, or fatal necessity; and in the pride of reason, conceit that their own wisdom is sufficient to manage the affairs of states and empires, religion must appear an idle superstition; but to those who are convinced of the important truth taught in the words now read, the sovereign dominion of God over the nations of the earth, and the necessary dependence of all things on him, nothing can appear more rational than to seek to him on whom they depend, and in whose hand is the disposal of their circumstances, for direction in all their undertakings; more especially in affairs of public and national concernment, such as the present occasion, when a constitution of government is to take place, which in its operation may essentially affect the interest and happiness of present and future generations.

According to the passage in Jeremiah, he asserted that the Jewish nation had forfeited their blessings by disobeying God; consequently, they were exiled to Babylon. He then drew two main inferences from the theology of this passage:

1st. That God exercises a sovereign dominion over the nations and kingdoms of this world, and determines their rise, growth, declension and durationand

2nd. That his sovereign power is invariably directed by perfect and infinite rectitude; in plucking up and destroying, and in building and planting them, he treats them according to their moral character.

As an application of the first principles, he argued: “By a turn of the wheel of providence, he can form a people into a respectable and happy, or a mean and contemptible nation; more easily than the potter, of the same lump, can make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor.” Coupling this teaching also with a prophecy of Isaiah, he declared:

That sovereign word which gave existence to all things at first, continually supports their being, and gives efficacy to all the secondary causes of the growth and prosperity, or the decline and ruin of nations and empires. When he speaks and intimates his design by favorable events of providence, to plant and build up a nation, things are so ordered that there is a concurrence of causes to promote this end. Their public counsels are directed by wisdom, and their enterprises crowned with success; they are prospered in their agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and all their undertakings-happy in their union at home, and respectable among their neighbors, for their wisdom, virtue, and magnanimity. And when, on the contrary, he determines to destroy an impenitent nation for their sins, no human wisdom, counsel or might, can prevail to frustrate the execution of his threatenings; but they are so infatuated, that even the methods they take to support their tottering state, serve to precipitate their ruin. Thus he increaseth the nations and destroyed them; he enlarged the nations and straitneth them.

He cited the biblical examples of rulers (Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus) as being prompted by lust, pride, and evil, but nonetheless superintended by God’s providence to conform to his purposes. His listeners were exhorted to see God “as the first cause, the fountain of all life, power, and motion, and the author of all the events and revolutions which take place in the nations and empires of this world. It is God who does all these things by the influence of his providence.” And of this particular American revolution, he affirmed:

The divine hand has been so signally displayed in the events and occurrences which have led to it, that those who are not convinced of the government of providence over the affairs of nations by what has passed before them in these late years, would not have been persuaded if they had been eye-witnesses of the mighty works which God wrought in the midst of his peculiar people. For though the events were not strictly miraculous, yet they were truly marvelous, and so circumstanced, that they never can be rationally accounted for without admitting the interposition of providence.

The war was not an act of aggression, he stated, but of self-defense, following on the heels of many insults, oppressions, and injuries. From a worldly viewpoint or if devoid of the Divine favor, McClintock compared this to David Vs. Goliath. Furthermore, he thought that the “Declaration of Rights” and the form of government into 3 distinct branches were little more than correlates of the Christian religion, copied by many other governments. In almost catechetical repetition, he claimed: “In a word, the history of all nations and ages, shows that public virtue makes a people great and happy, vice contemptible and miserable. This is the constitution of God-the immutable law of his kingdom, founded in the infinite perfection of his nature, so that unless God should change, that is, cease to be God, we cannot be a happy, unless we are a virtuous people.”

Far from unleashing government from its Creator, McClintock preached that rulers were “ministers of God for good to the people; and their situation gives them a peculiar advantage to promote this benevolent design. They are placed on high, like a city set upon a hill.” His statement below was fairly customary for the day:

As religion has a manifest tendency to promote the temporal as well as eternal interests of mankind, it is the duty of rulers to give all that countenance and support to religion that is consistent with liberty of conscience. And it is perfectly consistent with that liberty and equal protection which are secured to all denominations of Christians, by our excellent constitution, for rulers in the exercise of their authority to punish profane swearing, blasphemy, and open contempt of the institutions of religion, which have a fatal influence on the interests of society, and for which no man, in the exercise of reason, can plead conscience; and by their example, to encourage the practice of those things which all denominations allow to be essential in religion.

This preacher also commended education for the youth as necessary for the maintenance of virtue; moreover, he believed that even those who did not have religion would favor virtue over vice. Calling for obedience, he reprised Joshua as below:

The Almighty Ruler of nations and kingdoms sets before us this day, life and death, blessing and cursing, and leaves it to ourselves which we will choose. Although true religion, the religion of the heart, consisting in faith and love unfeigned, and a real conformity to the divine character, is necessary in all who on good grounds would hope for eternal life; yet those who are wholly destitute of this religion, have it in their power to practice, on natural principles, that virtue, which according to the constitution of the divine government over nations, will ensure their temporal prosperity and glory.

Concluding with a reference to Daniel’s prophecies, McClintock heralded:

. . . it is matter of solid consolation and exalted joy to the friends of God and religion, amid the darkness and imperfection of this present state, that all human events are under the direction of an infinitely wise, good, holy and powerful providence, and are subservient to the peculiar kingdom of the Mediator, and uniformly working together to bring it to that state of perfection and glory for which it is designed. It is delightful to observe, how all things from the beginning of time, in the four great monarchies that rose in succession, that of the Babylonians, that of the Medes and Persians, that of the Macedonians, and that of the Romans, were disposed by divine providence to prepare the way for the coming of the Mediator, and the introduction of his kingdom; and how the kings and rulers of the earth in those enterprises, in which they were actuated by pride and vain glory, were only instruments in his hand to accomplish the predictions of his holy word respecting his church and people, though they meant not so, neither came it into their heart. The design of God in all his dispensations and in all events that have come to pass in every age, has been to serve the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom. And this, doubtless, is his design in the present revolution.

This sermon is available in printed form in both my 1996 Election Day Sermons, as well as in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). It is accessible online at: http://consource.org/document/a-sermon-on-occasion-of-the-commencement-of-the-new-hampshire-constitution-by-samuel-mcclintock-1784-6-3/.

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

Taken from “20 Messages to Consider Before Voting”

 

Today we are pleased to have as our guest author the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA. It was Dr. Hall who so competently headed up the Calvin 500 celebration just a few years back, a celebration which included the publication of almost a shelf of new works on the life and ministry of John Calvin, with several of those works written by Dr. Hall himself. He has also been our guest author on most Saturdays this year, with a series on Election Day Sermons.

Calvin’s Death

calvinJohn02On April 25, 1564, sensing the nearness of death, Calvin filed his final will. In it he pled his unworthiness (“Woe is me; my ardor and zeal have been so careless and languid, that I confess I have failed innumerable times”1) and thanked God for mercy. He appointed his brother, Anthony (whose reputation for divorcing an earlier wife due to adultery had been maliciously used to malign Calvin himself), to be his heir, and in his will he bequeathed equal amounts to the Boys’ School, the poor refugees, and his stepdaughters. He also left part of his meager estate to his nephews and their children. To vindicate Calvin against charges of greed, Beza reiterated what Calvin had stated earlier: “If some will not be persuaded while I am alive, my death, at all events will show that I have not been a money-making man.”2 When his will was notarized and brought to the attention of the Senate,3 members of that council visited the declining Calvin to hear his final farewell personally.

Calvin’s importance and relationship to the city leaders may be gleaned from his Farewell Address to the Members of the Little Council.4 The members of this council had gone to his home to hear his advice and to express their appreciation for the “services he has performed for the Seigneurie and for that of which he has faithfully acquitted himself in his duty.” A contemporary recorded his sentiments from April 27, 1564. In that chronicle, the dying Calvin first thanked these leaders for their support, cooperation, and friendship. Although they had engaged in numerous struggles, still their relationship was cordial. Even though he wished to accomplish more, Calvin humbly suggested that God might have “used him in the little he did.” He urged the senators to honor God and to keep “hidden under the wings of God in whom all our confidence must be. And as much as we are hanging by a thread, nevertheless he will continue, as in the past, to keep us as we have already experienced that he saved us in several ways.”

He concluded by encouraging each one to “walk according to his station and use faithfully that which God gave him in order to uphold this Republic. Regarding civil or criminal trials, one should reject all favor, hate, errors, commendations.” He also advised leaders not to aspire to privilege as if rank was a benefit for governors. “And if one is tempted to deviate from this,” Calvin added, “one should resist and be constant, considering the One who established us, asking him to conduct us by his Holy Spirit, and he will not desert us.”

Calvin’s farewell to these political leaders was followed by his Farewell Address to the Ministers on April 28, 1564. From his chamber, Calvin reminded them poignantly: “When I first came to this Church there was almost nothing. We preached and that was all. We searched out idols and burned them, but there was no reformation. Everything was in tumult. . . . I lived here through marvelous battles. I was welcomed with mockery one evening in front of my door by 50 or 60 rifle shots. Do you think that that could disturb a poor, timid student as I am, and as I have always been, I confess?” The farewell address continued to review his Strasbourg exile, the tensions he faced upon return, and some of his experiences with various councils. Calvin concluded by predicting that the battles would not lessen in the days ahead, warning, “You will be busy after God takes me, even though I am nothing, still I know I prevented three thousand uproars that there might have been in Geneva. But take courage and strengthen yourselves, for God will use this Church and will maintain her, and be sure that God will keep her.”

Calvin humbly confessed: “I say again that all that I did has no value, and that I am a miserable creature. But if I could say what I truly wanted to, that my vices always displeased me, and that the root of the fear of God was in my heart, and you can say that what I was subjected to was good, and I pray that you would forgive me of the bad, but if there is anything good, that you conform yourselves to it and follow it.”

He denied that he had written hateful things about others, and he confirmed that the pastors had elected Beza to be his successor. “Watch that you help him [Beza],” exhorted the dying Calvin, “for the duty is large and troublesome, of such a sort that he may be overwhelmed under the burden. . . . As for him, I know that he has a good will and will do what he can.” Further, he requested that senators not change anything in Geneva’s structures and urged them “not to innovate—we often ask for novelties—not that I desire for myself by ambition what mine remains, and that we retain it without wanting better, but because all change is hazardous, and sometimes harmful.” The advice from this leader is filled with layer upon layer of wisdom.

Always sensitive to the calling to lead in many sectors of public life, he concluded with a plea for his fellow ministers to recall how they would affect matters outside the walls of the church, too: “Let each one consider the obligation he has, not only to this Church, but to the city, which has promised to serve in adversity as well as in prosperity, and likewise each one should continue in his vocation and not try to leave it or not practice it. For when one hides to escape the duty, he will say that he has neither thought about it nor sought this or that. But one should consider the obligation he has here before God.”

calvin_deathbedWhen Calvin passed away almost a month after making these comments on May 27, 1564, “the whole State regretted” the death of “its wisest citizen . . . a common parent.” He was interred in a common cemetery at Plein Palais, finally finding the anonymity he craved. That, one historian wrote, was characteristic of Calvin in life as in death.5 The widespread notice and sadness at his death should serve to correct any faulty view that his contemporaries either despised him or underestimated his importance. He was mourned, and his large number of friends would keep his memory alive far more than some contemporaries would have predicted.

 

Source: David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding(Lexington Books, 2003).

1 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin (contained in John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises on the Reformation of the Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958], vol. 1), cxxv.

2 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxxviii.

3 Beza refers to this Little Council as the “senate.” See Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxii.

4 This translation is from an unpublished translation of Calvin’s “Farewell Address,” trans. Kim McMahan of Oak Ridge, TN; originally published in 1999 at: http://capo.org/premise/99/jan/p990110.html.

5 Emile Doumergue, The Character of Calvin (Neuilly, La Cause, 1931), 173.

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