December 2019

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Here is an opportunity to learn from two esteemed and learned brothers in the faith, as they each step out into a new year. Note that they do not offer resolutions, but meditations—on the goodness and mercy of God; on the depth of His love; and on their place in His kingdom. Much to learn from here, by their examples.

From The Life of Daniel Baker, p. 64—

Friday, January 1st, 1813.
This morning I have been almost overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite majesty of Almighty God, and my own insignificancy and unworthiness. O, how astonishing is the grandeur, love, and condescension of Jehovah! He who created and sustains universal nature; who keeps in quiet and unceasing motion the countless and stupendous systems of planetary worlds; who causes them all to roll along and revolve with inconceivable velocity, and most exact order and harmony.

This great and glorious Being has been and is still mindful of man; man that is a worm, and the son of man that is a worm; nay, has devised a plan for his redemption; a plan, O how wonderful and astonishing! a plan for the execution of which the Lord of glory bowed the heavens, came down upon earth, was clothed in human flesh, and suffered a cruel and ignominious death; and all this, that guilty, apostate men might be redeemed from his pollutions, and introduced into the blissful presence of his Maker and his God. Be astonished, O heavens! be amazed, O earth! at this wonder of wonders, and thou, my soul, admire, and adore, and magnify thy Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, and let the mystery of godliness be for ever the sweet, the delightful, the enrapturing theme of thy meditations.

O that I might be more abstracted from the world; that I might worship my God with more devotedness of heart! O that I might feel the influence of a Saviour’s love shed abroad in my soul; that I might be more zealous in His cause; that I might feel a more lively and affectionate solicitude for the eternal welfare of my fellow-men; that I might devote myself more unreservedly, more heartily and diligently to the service of the greatest and the best of Beings. My God! to thee I commit my way—bring it to pass.

From The Life of Dr. Jacob Jones Janeway—

January 1, 1809.

“Behold, God has spared my life, and permitted me to enter on the threshold of a new year. I have great reason to be thankful to God for his many mercies to me and to my family.

Yesterday being set apart as a day of thanksgiving in this city, I endeavoured to recollect the favours which I and my family have received from God, and to be grateful. I felt some emotions of gratitude, and gave thanks and praise to God. Oh, that this year may be better improved than the last; and if I live to see the end of it, may I be found then nearer in point of preparation than I am at present! Great changes, it is to be apprehended, will take place in this country, before the close of this year. The Lord in mercy, prepare me for whatever may await me; and oh, save my country! This day, as well as yesterday, my dear colleague preached. It is more than four months since he was able to preach; and yet the Lord in mercy, sent supplies to our church.

For this favour, and for his restoration thus far, I praise God. The Lord make him still a lasting blessing.”

[here the biographer closes with a lesson drawn from the above entry:]
He mentions that a meeting was called for the express purpose of revising the constitution of the Bible Society, and the original friends were apprehensive of attempts, seriously to change its character, yet the better feeling prevailed, and the effort was voted down, to the joy of its friends. How often are the early movements for good threatened by indiscreet and mistaken friends! How true that Satan sows tares amid the wheat! There is no calculating how much mischief would have accrued, and how much good might have been hindered, if any serious modification had been accomplished in the constitution of this, the mother Bible Society of our land.

Tis’ the Season

You may have noticed that “everyone” is currently considering how they will read through the Bible in the coming year–what plan they will use.

The first rule of success is to have a plan. And there are a number of good plans out there for reading through the Bible.

I’d like to suggest a rather straight-forward way to accomplish this most necessary and commendable goal.

It all boils down to just reading 3-1/2 to 4 chapters of the Bible each day, and that typically takes about fifteen minutes. With this plan, there is no specific text for a particular day. Just pick up the Bible and read. Start where you want and keep reading.

Another key to accomplishing this goal is to do your reading at the very start of the day, before other things intrude. Email will wait and so will social media. Breakfast will wait as well. 

Stay after this schedule of 3-1/2 to 4 chapters per day and you will have read through the entire Bible by year’s end.

But if you feel ready to tackle a bigger accomplishment, I’d like to suggest that you consider taking that same fifteen minutes for reading the Word, not just at the start of the day, but again before bedtime. With a second reading of the same text you are more likely to better understand and remember something of the content. And at the end of the year, having kept after your daily readings, you will instead have through the whole Bible TWICE!

Finally, with this plan it’s easy to see how you could also add another reading at lunch time, another fifteen minutes set aside to spend with the Word of God. And at the end of the year, you would have read through the Bible THREE times. Think what that would do for your comprehension, your understanding, and your ability to find and turn to portions of Scripture when needed.

I leave it to you to decide what fits your schedule best. And it any of the above options don’t fit, please review the many other plans presented by Ligonier Ministries over on their blog—truly something to suit every possible preference or schedule: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

May our Lord richly your time spent in His Word in 2020.

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Sermon At A Service of Installation

greenWH_1856_missionIt was on this day, December 30th, in 1856, that the Rev. Dr. William Henry Green brought a sermon on the occasion of the installation of Rev. Heman R. Timlow, as pastor of the Harris Street Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts. Rev. Timlow had been called to serve this church following the resignation of the Rev. W.W. Eels in March the year prior. All of which is admittedly a rather obscure set of facts and we might honestly wonder why it should merit our attention?

Among Presbyterians, the installation of a pastor remains to this day a service carried out in much the same way. So for one, if we were to look for a model for such an occasion, then here is one example. Moreover, we have here a sermon by an admittedly brilliant young man, at a point early in his remarkable career.

There is also the contrast of the youth of Dr. Green [1825-1900], just 31 years old when he served at the installation of this new pastor, compared with the advanced age of Rev. Dana, then near the end of his life yet still faithfully serving the Lord’s people at this installation. Dr. Green came from a long line of Presbyterians, among them, Jonathan Dickinson, first president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Green had graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1846, was ordained in 1848, and following a brief pastorate in Philadelphia, was installed in 1851 as professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He remained a professor there until his death in 1900.  Rev. Daniel Dana [1771-1859] as noted was near the end of his life, having long served the Presbyterian churches of Newburyport. It was Rev. Dana who had asked Dr. Green to bring the installation sermon on this occasion. Rev. Dana then brought the charge to the pastor. Others serving at this installation included the Rev. John Pike, of Rowley, who brought the charge to the people; and the Rev. A.G. Vermilye, of Newburyport, who extended the right hand of fellowship.

But the primary value of this sermon remains the message itself, as brought by Dr. Green that day. For his message, he chose the text of Luke 4: 18-19 :

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

By the standards of that era, Green’s message is rather brief, taking up just 12-1/2 pages in print. Many of his peers would typically produce similar sermons of twenty pages or more. But length is no judge of quality, and Green is succinct for a purpose, and from a pastoral standpoint, could be seen as a hallmark of his long career at Princeton Seminary, indicative of the heart of his ministry.

The above text, as Dr. Green states in the opening of his sermon, contains an exposition of Christ’s earthly mission. It is the commission which He received from the Father and it is the reason why He was anointed with the Spirit above measure. It comprises the errand upon which He came into the world. And so, to give a glimpse of his sermon, here below are a few choice portions:—

“The mission of the Savior was to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And yet when He ascended to the Father, He left behind Him a world still unreconciled to God, still in its pollution, misery and sin. It was filled still with poor to whom no glad tidings had been carried, with captives whose prison doors were barred as tightly, whose fetters were as galling and whose miserable dungeons were as dark and cheerless as ever; with the broken hearted to whom no voice of the comforter had spoken relief, and with the blind whose sight was as far as ever from being removed. But judge not from this that His errand was was abortive and His work a failure.”

“The work of the world’s recovery was not one begun in a moment and ended in a moment. As there was a protracted period of preparation reaching through many ages and employing various and potent instrumentalities before He came; so there is needed a protracted period for that scheme which He set in operation and which He still conducts and superintends, to work out its expected and certain consummation. The whole might have been accomplished in an instant had the almighty grace of God so chosen; and the moment of Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the grave might have been signalized by the complete ingathering and perfect sanctification of all God’s elect people, by the utter overthrow of Satan’s baleful empire, and by the entire and final banishment from earth of sin and its accursed effects. And so, had God chosen, the world might have been created in a moment, and all its forms of beauty and its innumerable orders of creatures sprung instantaneously into being, instead of being gradually evolved through six successive days. But thus God did not work in creation; nor did He in redemption.”

“To what has been said it may be still further added, that the verses before us are descriptive of the mission of the church of God, as composed of those who have embraced this precious system of saving truth, and stand as its embodiment, its representatives and its champions before the world. . . .Every one who has received the gospel of God’s grace into his soul, is not only one redeemed from the power of the enemy, but one commissioned to ransom others; not only one upon whom the balm of Gilead has begun its work of cure; but a physician, a healer of the hurts and maladies of others; not only a captive loosed from bonds, but set to the work of breaking the chains of those who wear them still. Every Christian is not a mere passive recipient of the truth and of its saving benefits, but in his measure and according to his station, opportunity and ability, he is set for its defence and propagation. He is a light kindled that it may shine—salt put into the mass for the preservation of the whole. The gospel is given to the church of God to spread it and apply it everywhere. . . It is a work of solemn obligation; and to every Christian unemployed in this his bounden duty, comes his Savior’s reproving voice—’why stand ye all the day idle? go, work in my vineyard.’ “

Words to Live By:
The call of the Gospel is a call to real action here and now. Christ saved us that we might bear fruit—that we might live out the life of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and so be used of Him to draw others into His kingdom. For one, as Dr. Green is careful to point out elsewhere in his sermon,

“. . . there is no warrant for restricting the redeeming virtue of the gospel solely to what is spiritual and eternal, and excluding from the sphere of its potency that which is temporal; or rather since it is expressly declared, that godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come,—as the gospel is capable of undoing and was intended to undo all the mischiefs of the fall, and to banish suffering and sorrow from this present world as well as deliver from it in the next, the church is God’s grand engine of philanthropy. There is not a question bearing on man’s amelioration, individual, social or national, in which the church has not an interest, and in whose solution she should not take her share. There is not a cry of distress, that may be suffered to break upon her ear unregarded. She carries in her hand the potent remedy; and she may not, through her culpable inactivity or through her criminal lack of faith in its sovereign efficacy, keep back from suffering men, what Christ has charged her as His almoner with bestowing upon them. She must hold up the gospel which she has received, before the eyes of men, as God’s appointed cure for all the evils that are in the world. Nor may she content herself with the mere propounding of its abstract principles, nor with the diligent application of it to one class of man’s disorders; as though her caring for one part of her commanded work absolved her from the rest,—as though by caring for men’s eternal, she was absolved from all regard for their temporal interests,—as though after proffering eternal salvation to men, she was thenceforward discharged from further care for them, and might shut up her bowels of compassion from her suffering and needy brother. . . . She must not only hold up the gospel in one of its aspects, but hold it up in all,—not only state its principles but search out and exhibit its applications. ”

 A print copy of the above sermon may be found preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Or more conveniently, it may be found on the Web by clicking here.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith (1834)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 73 & 74.

Q. 73. Which is the eight commandment?

A. The eighth commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal,” Exod. xx. 15.

Q. 74. What is required in the eight commandment?

A. The eight commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

EXPLICATION.

Lawful procuring and furthering the wealth, &c. –Using every just and honorable means in our power, for increasing the worldly comfort of ourselves and others ; such as diligence and honesty in business, praying for the blessing of God upon our labors, giving to the poor,  &c.

ANALYSIS.

The duties required in the eight commandment, are of four kinds:

  1. The procuring of our own wealth and outward estate. Rom. xii. 17. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
  2. The furthering of our own wealth and outward estate. –Prov. xxvii. 23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flicks, and look well to thy herds.
  3. The procuring and furthering also, of the wealth and outward estate of others. –Lev. xxv. 35. If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him. Phil. ii. 4. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
  4. That only lawful means are to be used for this purpose. –Jer. xvii. 11. He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

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