November 2016

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We Don’t Do Evangelism!
by Rev. David T. Myers

A speaker over the phone actually said the words of our title to a friend of this author. She was shocked, and so was I upon hearing it. Have they snipped out by scissors the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 – 20? The very existence of our Presbyterian Church in America is that of being committed to the Great Commission. Certainly the subject of our post today when he sailed for the New Hebrides in 1846 was for the purpose of evangelism. His name was John Geddie.

John Geddie was born in Scotland on April 10, 1815 to John and Mary Geddie. At the tender age of two, his parents sailed to Pictou, Nova Scotia in Canada. Joining the Succession Presbyterian Church there, the young Geddie was trained in the ordinary schools of that province while joining his father in his clock making business. But his real interest was spent in reading books sent by the London Missionary Society. He was brought to a saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior through these means at age nineteen. Enrolling in theology courses, he would be licensed to preach the gospel in 1837 and ordained as a Presbyterian minister one year later. Marrying Charlotte MacDonald in 1839, they set about rearing a family which eventually reached eight children.

Having a call to serve the Lord outside of Canada was made difficult in that no Presbyterian church was actively involved in foreign missions. Geddie organized a mission society in his local congregation. Yet even with the organization established, missionary endeavors were slow in coming to fruition. This was all too obvious when the regional synod voted 13 to 12 to select a mission field to even evangelize!  Yet one year later, on November 30, 1846, John Geddie, his wife Charlotte, and two small children sailed for the New Hebrides. Landing on the island of Aneiteum, they set at once to build a ministry among the natives.

For the next fifteen years, they sought to be faithful to the Great Commission in the midst of these heathen tribes. Often John would be assaulted by spears and stones as he traveled from one place to another. Then six years after he landed, several native chiefs converted to biblical Christianity. Thirty-five hundred natives, nearly one half of the population, threw away their idols and avowed the true Jehovah as their God and Savior. Immediately, the converted natives began to obey the Great Commission and send Christian teachers to other islands in the chain of the New Hebrides. Indeed, if you look up the country today (known as Vanuatu), you will see their religion to be Christian.

James Geddie died on December 14, 1872, but not before he had translated the entire New Testament in their language. He was in the process of working on the Old Testament when he was taken home to glory.

The island memorial to John Geddie is stunning to behold. It reads, “when he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen.”

Words to Live By:
A friend of this author had made one rule his guide in his ministerial life. For every milestone he passes, he endeavors to share the gospel with that many strangers in his ministry area. Thus, if he has turned fifty years of age, then he endeavors to witness to fifty unsaved individuals. Now, whether that goal brings 50 conversions is entirely dependent upon the work of the Spirit of God. We Reformed Christians understand that!  But do we recognize the command of the Great Commission is to be carried out by us? Or is it our practice that we do not do evangelism?

Missionaries Among the Nez Perce in the Northwest
by Rev. David T. Myers

This nineteenth century missionary couple has been mentioned before in these pages in connection with Marcus Whitman on February 29 and August 18.  They were Henry Harmon Spalding and his wife Eliza Hart Spalding.  There were a number of “firsts” connected with both of them.  Along with Mrs. Marcus Whitman, they were the first white women to travel on the Oregon Trail. Indeed, they were part of the first wagon train to travel on that famous trail. In the case of Henry and Eliza, theirs was the first white home in what is now Idaho. They brought the first printing press to the Northwest. But our interest in them was of far more importance than simply their being the “first” this or “first” that. They had a heart for the Nez Perce Indian people and their eternal souls.

So after a very long and difficult trip by steamer, horse back, and wagon train, Henry and Eliza arrived at their place of work, settling in a house which they built, on November 29, 1836.  Henry Spalding had unusual success in reaching this Indian tribe. He was able to give them a written script of their language, which enabled him to teach their tribal members. Spalding then translated parts of the Bible, including the entire gospel of Matthew. Leaders of the tribe were baptized, including the father of Chief Joseph, the brilliant military leader of the Nez Perce.

When the Whitmans and twelve of their followers were massacred in 1847, Henry was at that time on his way to meet them. He narrowly escaped in the five days journey back to his home, and eventually took his wife to Oregon City, Oregon to wait for the situation to simmer down. The Board of Missions which had sponsored them, however, decided to abandon the Mission Station.

Eliza would never see the region of the Nez Perce again, except after her death. Sixty years after her death, her body was interred on their land again beside that of her husband.  Henry had ministered in various areas in the “civilized” northwest as a pastor and a commissioner of schools in what later became Oregon, until finally in 1859, he returned with delight back to his beloved Nez Perce. He would stay only a few years before difficulties arrived, and he died in 1874.  He was buried on their land.

Words to live by:  To go into uncharted territory with the Gospel is a worthy goal and takes an unusual kind of Christian. Henry Spalding was just such an individual. He knew his calling and wanted to waste no time in fulfilling it. And fulfill it he did. Along with the Gospel, caring for the souls of the Nez Perce, this missionary couple taught the tribe irrigation laws and the cultivation of the . . . potato!  The next time you go to the store and buy some Idaho potatoes, think of Presbyterian missionary Henry Spalding!

Make Me A Map of the Valley
by Rev. David T. Myers

hotchkissJedOur title was not just a request, but a famous order from an Army commander, Stonewall Jackson. That order was, “I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places.” The time obviously was that of the Civil War, or War between the States, in 1862. And the Confederate soldier to whom it was directed was Jedidiah Hotchkiss.

Jed, as he was known to his friends, was born in the North, in fact, born on this day, November 28th, 1828 in Windsor, New York. His father was a farmer, but his great grandfather was the founder of Windsor, New York. Seeing the studious interests of his son, the father enrolled his son into the prestigious Windsor Academy of that city, from which he graduated at age eighteen. During this time, he was fascinated with geology and geography. After graduation, he taught school in Pennsylvania, a profession which would occupy his talents both before and after the future civil war of the nation.

In the background of all these pursuits, the Presbyterian faith of his parents became his convictions and choice of churches. He always joined the Presbyterian churches in which he was located, even after his marriage to Sarah Ann Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania in 1853. Together they moved to a farm near Churchville, Virginia, and joined there by his brother, they opened the Loch Willow Academy. The school was highly successful.  It was during this time that he taught himself map-making. It would be this career which would make him a name to be remembered.

Despite his brother’s staunch Unionism, Jed joined the Confederacy in June of 1861 by entering the Confederate Army. First serving in what is now West Virginia, he later gained a calling into the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In this  time, in which he provided vital geographic support to the major battles in Virginia, he did not leave his Christian faith behind. It was said of him that he had “a well rounded Christian character of beautiful  piety and cheerfulness.” When Jackson was shot by his own soldiers by mistake, and died several days later, Jed, upon hearing the news, remarked, “all things were ordained of God and must be accepted.”

Jed Hotchkiss transferred his map making talents to other general officers, like  Richard  Ewell and Jubal Early. He served to the end of the Confederacy, and returned to his wife in Staunton, Virginia. Reopening his school, he was involved in promoting the recovery of war ravaged Shenandoah Valley, as well as West Virginia. The latter state recognized his efforts to help the people, and especially their spiritual state,  by naming a town after him in Raleigh County.

While in Staunton, Virginia, an evangelist came to that town and held successful meetings. With many converts to Christ, Jed Hotchkiss led a small group of members in 1875 from the First Presbyterian Church  to begin what became known as the Second Presbyterian Church of Staunton.  That church still exists today.  Jedidiah Hotchkiss died in his 71st year in 1899.

Words to Live By:
While some of our readers may not have agree with his choice of allegiance to the Confederate States of America, we can all agree with his convictions of Presbyterian doctrine and government.  That stood him through many challenges and trials.  Indeed, his belief in the sovereignty of God should help us in our own lives.  Look up Romans 8:28,  memorize it, and then live it.

 

“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

THE SUBJECT : The Holiness of Truth

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : I Peter 1:15-16; II Tim. 3:12; Titus 2:12; Gal. 5:25; II Cor. 7:1; I Thess. 4:1; Eph. 4:24; Titus 1:1.

REFERENCE TO THE STANDARDS : Confession, XIII; XVI; Larger Catechism, Q. 75; 78; 77; Shorter Catechism, Q. 35.

One of the greatest difficulties encountered by those subscribing to the Reformed Faith is that of keeping the right relationship between their doctrine and their life. The right perspective must be kept at all times. There must be a Biblical balance between the mind and the heart.

Paul puts it very well when he says in I Thess. 4:1 — “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.” Or, as our title puts it, the “holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24b) should be showing forth in our lives.

John Owen states that “holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realization of the gospel in our souls.” This is important for us to understand. What God begins in His children is what He continues to work out in His children. Our Lord Himself said, “Sanctify them in (or by) thy truth: thy word is truth.” How much of this do we realize?

Many times those subscribing to the Reformed Faith seem to have an erroneous opinion. They know, from their study of doctrine, they are “kept” by God. They know they cannot be lost. They know the covenant of grace, the finished work of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are all at work keeping them. But many times they do not realize that though the grace of God as it works out sanctification in the soul may never die, it can decay. Therefore, there must be a constant commitment on the part of the believer, a commitment to the Truth that has a holy influence on those elected by His Sovereign love.

How can we best be certain we make use of God’s Word in our holy living? There are many methods. But all of them include a loving devotion to the Word of God. Each believer has the responsibility to discover the best method, or methods, to be certain the “Holiness of Truth” is at work in the life.

One method that will have a certain result is that of starting the day with the Bible and with prayer. There is a great, and rightful emphasis ion the Reformed Faith on the authority of God’s Word. We must be certain we make use of a portion of it each day as we offer ourselves to God as His servant, determining to hide His Word in our heart, all to His glory.

Another method is that of faithfulness to the church, the Bride of Christ. A church should be found that is faithful to Biblical truth and it should be attended faithfully. When a believer sits under the authoritative preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and does so faithfully, God will work out His will in that believer. One of the greatest Biblical preachers I have ever heard had three rules for his listeners :
(1) Listen carefully to God’s Word as it is proclaimed;
(2) Take notes of important facts that convict or comfort your soul;
(3) If you have questions, go to God’s servant and ask them!

In addition, another method is that of being determined to practice self-denial in your life. To be a disciple of the Master means disciplining yourself to the way of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). This is not easy, but it is necessary. It is not something for tomorrow but for today. It grows on the believer the more he practices it.

The last method to be mentioned here is that of reading the Puritans. The longer this servant of the Lord lives the more is he convinced that their strong convictions regarding the authority of God’s Word, and their constant allegiance to it, motivated great writings. It is helpful to keep a notebook handy to jot down those thoughts that strike to the depth of the soul. There is no shallowness to their writings. They are deep. Sometimes it takes the reading of a passage over and over again. But the blessed result is well worth the effort.

We must be certain we understand that God requires us that we should be holy, and that we must make use of those things He has provided for us to enable us to reach His standard as far as we are able. We dare not forget His admonition to His children : “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17:1). Our love for Him should show forth in our obedience. Our desire for His will to be worked out in our lives will be fulfilled, by His grace, as we press onward in holiness.

Have You Cashed In Your  Baptism?

At the PCA Historical Center listed on the web, there is a sermon preached by the Rev. Donald Dunkerley at Mcllwain Presbyterian Church in Pensacola, Florida, on November 26, 1972.   For those who know the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, this would have been a full year almost to the day when the latter church began her witness as a separate denomination outside of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  The theme of this message by the veteran pastor was that of the sacrament of baptism, in the light of the Word of God.  This writer would like to quote its concluding paragraphs which have an excellent gospel challenge to them.  Pastor Dunkerley writes:

“One must not trust in baptism.  One must not trust in anything that he has done or in any works of man, but only in Jesus who died for us.  Baptism is a sign that God offers us a Savior and promised to cleanse us if we believe in Him, if we stop trusting in anything in ourselves — even in our baptism — and put all our trust in Jesus alone.  Then we will be cleansed from sin.  But until we come to that point of renouncing all self-trust and put our trust in Jesus alone, then our baptism is sign of our condemnation.

“A pastor I know was once calling on a man who was not a converted person.  He frequently attended the church where this man pastored, he had lived in that town all his life and indeed, years before as an infant, he had been baptized in that very church.  He was showing the pastor around his house, and the pastor noticed a frame certificate on the wall and he turned to the man and he said ‘What is this?’  ‘Oh,’ the man said, ‘that’s my baptismal certificate.  I was baptized in our church, you know!’  The pastor said, ‘Ah, your baptismal certificate. Very good!   Tell me, when are you going to cash it in?’”

To read the rest of Rev. Dunkerley’s sermon, click here. [PDF file]

Words to live by:  The pastor of this sermon asks a serious question to those who have been baptized in their infancy by godly parents.  When are you, the adult now, going to claim the promise signified by your outward baptism?  You are baptized for sure.  You may even have the baptismal certificate signed by the preacher and any witnesses who were there to see it. But unless you have put your personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that baptism is a sign of your condemnation, not a sign of the covenant.  Reader, how is it with you?  Have you received the gift of eternal life?

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