December 2019

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The following was reproduced in THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL  (23 July 1958): 7-10, and was located among the Papers of Dr. Frederick W. Evans while searching out a matter for a patron of the Historical Center. And while it was on yesterday’s date, December 27th, in 1797, that Charles Hodge was born, we thought it best to leave this longer post to today when you might have more time to read and consider this post. Blessings in Christ our risen Lord.

The Minister’s Vows And The Confession Of Faith

By Charles Hodge, D.D.

At a recent meeting of our General Assembly [Ed.: Referring to the 98th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, US, aka Southern Church] there was considerable discussion about the implications of the minister’s vows as related, to the Westminster Standards. In order to assist in the clarification of thought in the Church we submit an incisive article on this subject written by Dr. Charles Hodge. We give it in an abridged form.

Dr. Charles Hodge is Princeton Seminary’s best known and most influential theologian. He was a prolific writer. His “Systematic Theology” is still used in many Seminaries. For 43 years he was the editor of the Princeton Review. His writings were characterized by clarity in presentation and a complete mastery of his subject. His writings are still relevant because he was preeminently Biblical. It was said, “It is enough for Dr. Hodge to believe a thing to be true that he finds it in the Bible’.”John R. Richardson.

___________

Circumstances have recently awakened public attention to this important subject. It is one on which a marked diversity of opinion exists between the two portions into which our Church has been divided: and as in May last a direct proposition was made on the part of one branch of the New School body to our General Assembly for a union between them and the Old School, this original point of difference was brought into view. Not only on the floor of the Assembly was this matter referred to, but it has since been the subject of discussion in the public papers, especially in the South. A passing remark made in the last number of this journal, which we supposed expressed a truth which no man could misunderstand or deny, has given rise to strictures which very clearly prove that great obscurity, in many minds, still overhangs the subject. We either differ very much among ourselves, or we have not yet learned to express our meaning in the same terms. It is high time, therefore, that the question should be renewedly discussed.

We have nothing new to say on the subject.

As long ago as October, 1831, we expressed the views which we still hold, and which in a passing sentence were indicated in our number for July last. Those views have passed unanswered and unheeded, so far as we know, for thirty-six years. How is it that the renewed assertion of them has now called forth almost universal condemnation from the Old School press? They have been censured by men who adopt them, and who in private do not hesitate to admit their correctness. This does not imply any unfairness, or any other form of moral obliquity. It is easily accounted for. The proposition, that the adoption of the Confession of Faith does not imply the adoption of every proposition contained in that Confession, might mean much or little. It might be adopted by the most conservative, and is all that the most radical need claim. Still the proposition is undeniably correct.

The fault of the writer, as the Presbyterian of the West, sensibly remarked, is not in what is said, but in what was left unsaid. This fault would have been a very grave one had the subject of subscription to the Confession been under discussion, and had the above proposition been put forth as the whole rule in regard to it. The remark, however, was merely incidental and illustrative. To show the impossibility of our agreeing on a commentary on the whole Bible, we referred to the fact that there are propositions in the Confession of Faith in which we are not agreed. Does any man deny this? If not, where is the harm of saying it? Are we living in a false show? Are we pre- tending to adopt a principle of subscription, which in fact we neither act on for ourselves, nor dream of enforcing on others? Or are we so little certain of our own ground that we are afraid that our enemies will take advantage of us, and proclaim aloud that we have come over to them.

If we really understand ourselves, and are satisfied of the soundness of our principles, the more out-spoken we are the better; better for our own self-respect, and for the respect and confidence of others towards us. If the Christian public, and especially those who have gone out from us, hear us asserting a principle or rule of subscription which they know we do not adopt, it will be hard for them to believe both in our intelligence and sincerity. The question put to every candidate for ordination in our Church, is in these words: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” It is plain that a very serious responsibility before God and man is assumed by those who return an affirmative answer to that question. It is something more than ordinary falsehood, if our inward convictions do not correspond with a profession made in presence of the Church, and as the condition of our receiving authority to preach the Gospel. In such a case we lie not only unto man, but unto God; because such professions are of the nature of a vow, that is, a promise or profession made to God.

It is no less plain that the candidate has no right to put his own sense upon the words propounded to him. He has no right to select from all possible meanings which the words may bear, that particular sense which suits his purpose, or which, he thinks, will save his conscience. It is well known that this course has been openly advocated, not only by the Jesuits, but by men of this generation, in this country and in Europe.

The “chemistry of thought,” it is said, can make all creeds alike. Men have boasted that they could sign any creed. To a man in a balloon the earth appears a plane, all inequalities on its surface being lost in the distance. And here is a philosophic elevation from which all forms of human belief look alike. They are sublimated into general formulas, which include them all and distinguish none. Professor Newman, just before his open apostasy, published a tract in which he defended his right to be in the English Church while holding the doctrines of the Church of Rome. He claimed for himself and others the privilege of signing the Thirty-nine articles in a “non-natural sense”; that is, in the sense which he chose to put upon the words. This shocks the common sense and the common honesty of men. There is no need to argue the matter. The turpitude of such a principle is much more clearly seen intuitively than discursively.

The two principles which, by the common consent of all honest men, determine the interpretation of oaths and professions of faith, are first, the plain, historical meaning of the words; and secondly, the animus imponentis, that is, the intention of the party imposing the oath or requiring the profession. The words, therefore, “system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” are to be taken in their plain, historical sense. A man is not at liberty to understand the words “Holy Scriptures” to mean all books written by holy men, because although that interpretation might consist with the signification of the words, it is inconsistent with the historical meaning of the phrase. Nor can he understand them, as they would be understood by Romanists, as including the Apocrypha, because the words being used by the Protestant Church, must be taken in a Protestant sense. Neither can the candidate say that he means by “system of doctrine” Christianity as opposed to Mohammedanism, or Protestantism, as opposed to Romanism, or evangelical Christianity, as distinguished from the theology of the Reformed (i.e. Calvinistic) Churches, because the words being used by a Reformed Church must be understood in the sense which that Church is known to attach to them.

If a man professes to receive the doctrine of the Trinity, the word must be taken in its Christian sense, the candidate cannot substitute for that sense the Sabellian idea of a modal Trinity, nor the philosophical trichotomy of Pantheism. And so of all other expressions which have a fixed historical meaning. Again, by the animus imponentis in the case contemplated, is to be understood not the mind or intention of the ordaining bishop in the Episcopal Church, or of the ordaining presbytery in the Presbyterian Church. It is the mind or intention of the Church, of which the bishop or the presbytery is the organ or agent. Should a Romanizing bishop in the Church of England give a “non-natural” sense to the Thirty-nine articles, that would not acquit the priest, who should sign them in that sense, of the crime of moral perjury; or should a presbytery give an entirely erroneous interpretation to the Westminster Confession, that would not justify a candidate for ordination in adopting it in that sense. The Confession must be adopted in the sense of the Church, into the service of which the minister, in virtue of that adoption is received. These are simple principles of honesty, and we presume they are universally admitted, at least so far as our Church is concerned.

The question however is, What is the true sense of the phrase, “system of doctrine,” in our ordination service? or, What does the Church understand the candidate to profess, when he says that he “receives and adopts the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”? There are three different answers given to that question. First, it is said by some that in adopting the “system of doctrine,” the candidate is understood to adopt it, not in the form or manner in which it is presented in the Confession, but only for “substance of doctrine.” The obvious objections to this view of the subject are:

1. That such is not the meaning of the words employed. The two expressions or declarations, “I adopt the system of doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith,” and, “I adopt that system for substance of doctrine” are not identical. The one therefore cannot be substituted for the other. If there were no other difference between them, it is enough that the one is definite and univocal, the other is both vague and equivocal. The latter expressions may have two very different meanings. By substance of doctrine may be meant the substantial doctrines of the Confession; that is, those doctrines which give character to it as a distinctive confession of faith, and which therefore constitute the system of belief therein contained. Or it may mean the substance of the several doctrines taught in the Confession, as distinguished from the form in which they are therein presented. It will be at once perceived that these are very different things. The substance or essence of a system of doctrines is the system itself. In this case, the essence of a thing is the whole thing. The essential doctrines of Pelagianism are Pelagianism, and the essential doctrines of Calvinism are Calvinism. But the substance of a doctrine is not the doctrine, any more than the substance of a man is the man. A man is given substance in a specific form; and a doctrine is a given truth in a particular form. The substantial truth, included in the doctrine of original sin, is that human nature is deteriorated by the apostasy of Adam. The different forms in which this general truth is presented, make all the difference, as to this point, between Pelagianism, Augustinianism, Romanism, and Arminianism.

It is impossible, therefore, in matters of doctrine, to separate the substance from the form. The form is essential to the doctrine, as much as the form of a statue is essential to the statue. (In adopting a system of doctrines, therefore, the candidate adopts a series of doctrines in the specific form in which they are presented in that system.) To say that he adopts the substance of those doctrines, leaves it entirely uncertain what he adopts. The first objection then to this view of the meaning of the phrase, “system of doctrine,” is, that it is contrary to the simple historical sense of the terms. What a man professes to adopt is “the system of doctrine/’ not the substance of the doctrines embraced in that system.

2. Another objection is, that it is contrary to the mind of the Church. The Church, in demanding the adoption of the Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, demands something more than the adoption of what the candidate may choose to consider the substance of those doctrines. This is plain from the words used, which, as we have seen, in their plain import, mean something more, and something more specific and intelligible than the phrase “substance of doctrine.” The mind of the Church on this point is rendered clear beyond dispute by her repeated official declarations on the subject. The famous adopting act of the original Synod, passed in 1729, is in these words: “Although the Synod do not claim or pretend to any authority of imposing our faith on other men’s consciences, but do profess our just dissatisfaction with, and abhorrence of such impositions, and do utterly disclaim all legislative power and authority in the Church, being willing to receive one another as Christ has received us to the glory of God, and admit to fellowship in sacred ordinances, all such as we have grounds to believe Christ will at last admit to the kingdom of heaven, yet we are undoubtedly obliged to take care that the faith once delivered to the saints be kept pure and uncorrupt among us, and so handed down to our posterity; and do therefore agree that all ministers of this Synod, or that shall thereafter be admitted into this Synod, shall declare their agreement in, and approbation of the Confession of Faith, with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, as being, in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine, and do also adopt the said. Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith. And we do also agree, that all Presbyteries within our bounds shall always take care not to admit any candidate of the ministry into the exercise of the sacred functions, but that declares his agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of said Confession, either by subscribing the said Confession and Catechisms, or by a verbal declaration of their assent thereto as such minister or candidate shall think best. And in case any minister of this Synod, or any candidate for the ministry, shall have any scruple with respect to any article or articles of said Confession or Catechisms, he shall at the time of making said declaration, declare his sentiments to the Presbytery or Synod, who shall, notwithstanding, admit him to the exercise of the ministry within our bounds, and to ministerial communion, if the Synod or Presbytery shall judge his scruple or mistake to be only about articles not essential and necessary in doctrine, worship, or government. But if the Synod or Presbytery shall judge such ministers or candidates erroneous in essential and necessary articles of faith, the Synod or Presbytery shall declare them incapable of communion with them. And the Synod do solemnly agree that none of them will traduce or use any opprobrious terms of those who differ from us in extra-essential and not necessary points of doctrine, but treat them with the same friendship, kindness, and brotherly love, as if they did not differ in such sentiment.”

This fundamental act, passed in 1729, has never been either repealed or altered. It has on several occasions been interpreted and reaffirmed, but it has never been abrogated, except so far as it was merged in the re-adoption of the Confession and Catechisms at the formation of our present Constitution, in the year 1788. This important document teaches, first: That in our Church the terms of Christian communion are competent knowledge, and a creditable profession of faith and repentance. The Synod, say they, “admit to fellowship in sacred ordinances, all such as we have grounds to believe Christ will at last admit to the kingdom of heaven.” Second: That the condition of ministerial communion is the adoption of the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. This is expressed by saying: “We adopt the said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of our faith.” For this is substituted as an equivalent form of expression, “agreement in opinion with all the essential and necessary articles of said Confession.” That is, “all the essential and necessary articles” of the system of doctrine contained in the Confession. Third: That the only exceptions allowed to be taken were such as related to matters outside that system of doctrine, and the rejection of which left the system in its integrity. That this is the true meaning and intent of the act is plain, first, because the Synod in 1730 expressly declared, “That they understand those clauses that respect the admission of entrants or candidates, in such sense as to oblige them to receive and adopt the Confession and Catechisms at their admission, in the same manner, and as fully as the members of the Synod did, that were then present.

3. Not only are the plain meaning of the words, and the animus imponentis opposed to the interpretation of the ordination service now under consideration, but that interpretation is liable to the further objection, that the phrase “substance of doctrine” has no definite assignable meaning. What the substance of any given doctrine is cannot be historically ascertained or authenticated. No one knows what a man professes, who professes to receive only the substance of a doctrine, and therefore, this mode of subscription vitiates the whole intent and value of a confession. Who can tell what is the substance of the doctrine of sin? Does the substance include all the forms under which the doctrine has been, or can be held, so that whoever holds any one of these forms, holds the substance of the doctrine? If one man says that nothing is sin but the voluntary transgression of known law; another, that men are responsible only for their purposes to the exclusion of their feelings; another, that an act to be voluntary, and therefore sinful, must be deliberate and not impulsive; another, that sin is merely limitation or imperfect development; another, that sin exists only for us and in our consciousness, and not in the sight of God; another, that sin is any want of conformity in state, feeling, or act, to the law of God; do all these hold the substance of the doctrine? What is the substance of the doctrine of redemption? The generic idea of redemption, in the Christian sense of the word, may be said to be the deliverance of men from sin and its consequences by Jesus Christ. Does every man who admits that idea hold the substance of the doctrine as presented in our Confession? If so, then it matters not whether we believe that that deliverance is effected by the example of Christ, or by his doctrine, or by his power, or by the moral impression of his death on the race or the universe, or by his satisfying the justice of God, or by his incarnation exalting our nature to a higher power. The same remark may be made in reference to all the other distinctive doctrines of the Confession.

4. This system has been tried and found to produce the greatest disorder and contention. Men acting on the principle of receiving the Confession for substance of doctrine, have entered the ministry in our Church, who denied the doctrine of imputation, whether of Adam’s sin or of Christ’s righteousness; the doctrine of the derivation of a sinful depravity of nature from our first parents; of inability; of efficacious grace; of a definite atonement; that is, of an atonement having any such special reference to the elect, as to render their salvation certain. In short, while professing to receive “the system of doctrine” contained in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, they have rejected almost every doctrine which gives that system its distinctive character. It was this principle more than any other cause, and probably more than all other causes combined that led to the division of our Church in 1838, and it must produce like disasters should it again be brought into practical application among us. What every minister of our Church is bound to do is to declare that he “receives and adopts the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” The words “system of doctrine” have a fixed, historical meaning. The objection that it is an open question, what doctrines belong to the system and what do not, and therefore if the obligations be limited to the adoption of the system, it cannot be known what doctrines are received and what are rejected, is entirely unfounded. If the question, “What is the system of doctrine taught by the Reformed Churches?” be submitted to a hundred Romanists, to a hundred Lutherans, to a hundred members of the Church of England, or to a hundred skeptics, if intelligent and candid, they would all give precisely the same answer. There is not the slightest doubt or dispute among disinterested scholars as to what doctrines do, and what do not belong to the faith of the Reformed. The Westminster Confession contains three distinct classes of doctrines.

First, those common to all Christians, which are summed up in the ancient creeds, the Apostles’, the Nicene and the Athanasian, which are adopted by all Churches.

Secondly, those which are common to all Protestants, and by which they are distinguished from Romanists.

Thirdly, those which are peculiar to the Reformed Churches, by which they are distinguished, on the one hand, from the Lutherans, and on the other from the Remonstrants, or Arminians, and other sects of later historical origin. From the Lutherans the Reformed were distinguished principally by their doctrine on the sacraments, and from the Arminians, by the five characteristic points of Augustinianism, rejected by the Remonstrants, and affirmed at the Synod of Dort by all the Reformed Churches, viz.: those of Switzerland, Germany, France, England and Scotland, as well as of Holland. What those points are everybody knows. First. The doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin, i.e., that the sin of Adam is the judicial ground of the condemnation of his race so that their being born in sin is the penal consequence of his transgression. Secondly, The doctrine of the sinful, innate depravity of nature, whereby we are indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good. Therefore there can be no self-conversion, no cooperation with the grace of God in regeneration, as the Arminians taught, and no election not to resist as the Lutherans affirmed. With this doctrine of absolute inability consequently is connected that of efficacious, as opposed to merely preventing and assisting grace. Thirdly. The doctrine that as Christ came in the execution of the covenant of redemption, in which his people were promised to him as his reward, his work had a special reference to them, and rendered their salvation certain.

Fourthly, The doctrine of gratuitous, personal election to eternal life; and,

Fifthly, The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It is a matter of history that these doctrines constitute the distinguishing doctrines of the Reformed Churches. And, therefore, any man who receives these several classes of doctrine (viz.: those common to all Christians, those common to all Protestants, and those peculiar to the Reformed Churches,) holds in its integrity the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession. This is all that he professes to do when he adopts that Confession in the form prescribed in our Constitution. A man is no more at liberty to construct a system of theology for himself, and call it the system contained in the Confession of Faith, than he is authorized to spin a system of philosophy out of his head, and call it Platonism. The first argument, therefore, in favor of this interpretation of our ordination service is that it is in accordance with the literal, established meaning of the words, and attaches to them a definite meaning, so that everyone knows precisely what the candidate professes.

A Son of Presbyterians and Patriots —
by Rev. David T. Myers

There is some dispute as to exactly on what date in December Charles Hodge was born.  Several sources, one of them  a Presbyterian one, states that he was born on December 28, 1797.  Dr. David Calhoun, author of the celebrated book on Princeton Seminary, states that he was born on December 27, 1797.  That is the date we will use for this historical devotional.

There is no doubt that his ancestors were, as our title puts it, “Presbyterians and Patriots.” His grandfather, Andrew Hodge, had, like so many others, emigrated from Ireland in the decade of 1730’s, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the Great Awakening occurred all over the colonies, the Presbyterian church which he attended, resisted that spiritual work, so the grandfather withdrew from First Presbyterian and helped to organize Second Presbyterian Church in the same city. The new congregation called the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, who was the chief proponent of the New Side Presbyterians.

Charles’s father, Hugh Hodge, a graduate of the College of New Jersey, became a successful surgeon in the city.  He married Mary Blanchard of Boston in 1790, who was of French Huguenot stock. Thus, Calvinism was alive and well in his parents.  Unhappily, life expectancy was not high in those early years of our country, and with the advent of yellow fever in the city, it was even lower. Three of their children succumbed to the disease, along with their father after Charles was born in 1797. That left the mother with two infants with very little income to rear them.

Mary Hodge, however, made their upbringing her whole life work.  Putting boarders in his home for financial aid, she continued to rear her two sons, including Charles, in the things of the Lord.  Primary among them was the learning of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Standards. Their pastor, now Asabel Green, complemented this home training by teaching out of that historic catechism to the children of the church.

In 1812, after other training, the whole family moved to Princeton, New Jersey.  It would be a town which Charles Hodge would forever be identified with in his life and ministry.

Words to live by:  This writer cannot stress enough the valued practice of both home and church cooperating together in the memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.    It will produce a solid foundation for Christian faith and life in the heart of the young man or woman who learns it, and then applies it to all of life. This writer had that privilege, and has enabled me to stand the challenges of time with it. If you church does not have such a practice, ask the Session of Elders to institute it. It will make the difference in your church testimony and life.

A  Church Planter One Year, A Country Politician the Next Year —
by Rev. David T. Myers

Born  on February 12, 1721, in Millington, Connecticut, Elihu Spencer studied at Yale College, graduating in 1746.  Ordained two years later into the Presbyterian Church in America,  he was called to minister with David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards to the Iroquois Six Nation tribes of native Americans.  After doing that for a number of year, he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, New Jersey in 1750.  He believed that wherever  he was needed, there he would go.  And so when the French and Indian War broke out, he was appointed a chaplain to the troops in that conflict.  After that war, he would pastor five Presbyterian Churches in New Jersey for the next 15 years.

In 1764, he and the Rev. Alexander McWhorter was sent to North Carolina by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia to rally the scattered Presbyterians in that colony to begin congregations.  They were successful in planting many Presbyterian churches in the colony.

On December 26, 1775, the provincial congress of North Carolina petitioned the Presbytery of New Brunswick in New Jersey to send the Rev. Dr. Elihu Spencer back down to North Carolina for the purpose of “uniting the people in the cause of independence.”  Evidently, some of the Presbyterians were loyalist or Tories, resisting the patriot cause.  Who better to convince you that your path should be with the American independence movement than the one used by the Lord to organize your scattered groups of Scot-Irish believers!

Nine years later, on also December 27, 1784, Elihu Spencer would go to meet his Maker and Redeemer, with a life and ministry full of deeds for God and country.

Words to live by:  Today, Christian Presbyterians might be hesitant to stand so boldly in the political world, using their religious ministry as a basis for their actions.  But the day of our American revolution was a challenging one.  Certainly, there is nothing changed in the Proverb which states that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  We who are ministers of the gospel must seek to hold God’s Word before the people so that they can vote and act responsibly as Christian citizens.

A SAVIOR HAS COME AMONG US. HIS MERCY IS FOR THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.

BIRTH OF JESUS FORETOLD

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

MARY VISITS ELIZABETH

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

MARY’S SONG OF PRAISE: THE MAGNIFICAT

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

(Luke 1:26-56, ESV)

Recently the magazine CHRISTIANITY TODAY has been in the news, and with some relevance we re-post an earlier article from some years back concerning the Rev. J. Marcellus Kik, one of the first editors of the magazine. In the first three years or so of that magazine’s existence, articles, reviews and letters to the editor were so frequently contributed that the magazine had a decidedly Reformed flavor to it. As Rev. Kik moved on to other efforts, those contributions were fewer and fewer in succeeding years.
Additionally, we’re also presenting some news with this post, that the PCA Historical Center has begun a project to digitize a newspaper published by Rev. Kik. His paper was titled 
BIBLE CHRISTIANITY, and it ran from late in 1935 until the early 1950’s. Click here for the index page, which will have links to each issue. The first three issues of the paper have already been posted, and more will follow in January and then throughout 2020. This is a side-project at the Historical Center, but one we hope to stay after.

 

The Quiet Influence of a Canadian Presbyterian

kikJM

Quiet workers, in God’s kingdom, are often found to have an abiding influence.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” – (Col. 3:23, NASB)

In 1965, the following obituary (slightly edited here) appeared on the pages of Christianity Today, observing the passing of one of the founding editors of that magazine:

The Reverend J. Marcellus Kik was one of the first three members of the editorial staff of Christianity Today, from its inception in 1955. When the magazine was initially planned, advice was sought from hundreds of men in this country and abroad. None of the replies showed more depth of understanding and vision for this Christian witness than Mr. Kik’s. His long experience as a pastor and as editor of a church paper in Canada enabled him to make a significant and lasting contribution to this maga­zine, which he served as associate editor.

About 1960, Mr. Kik assumed the post of research editor. In that capacity he spent many months in Europe, particularly in Switzerland and Holland.  In Geneva he received permis­sion to study all minutes’ of the consistory for the period of Calvin’s great ministry in that city, and also the min­utes of the city council dur­ing the same years.  Mr. Kik had these minutes micro­filmed and then translated from seventeenth-century French into English.  These indefatigable efforts brought to light the clear distinction Calvin made between his duties as a Christian citizen and the spiritual role of the corporate church in society.

During 1927 and 1928 Mr. Kik attended Princeton Theological Seminary, and he was part of the first class graduated from Westmin­ster Theological Seminary in the Spring of 1930. For the next twenty­-two years he held pastorates in Canada, where he also conducted a weekly radio program for thirteen years.  He wrote a number of religious books and served on the Board of Trustees of both Westminster Seminary and Gordon College and Divinity School.

Mr. Kik continued his Calvin research up to the week of his death.  In 1964, he underwent radical surgery from which he never fully recovered but which never daunted him in his work and witness for his Lord. He died in Philadelphia on October 22, in 1965.

Funeral services were held in the Second Reformed Church of Little Falls, New Jersey, of which he had been pastor for eleven years before joining the staff of Christianity Today. A testimony to his life echoed through the hymns sung at the service: “O, for a Thousand Tongues,” “Hallelujah! ‘What a Saviour!,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Jacob Marcellus Kik was born in Phillipsland, Netherlands on 24 December 1903.  He attended Hope College, graduating in 1927 and then went on to Princeton Seminary, attending there from the Fall semester in 1927 through the Spring semester of 1929. He then transferred to the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary in the Fall of 1929 along with other Biblical conservatives.  He graduated from Westminster in May of 1930, was ordained by Miramichi Presbytery on 29 October 1930 and pastored the Bass River and West Branch churches in New Brunswick, Canada from 1930 to 1933.

Rev. Kik’s influential role began early on, as noted in this article, speaking of the situation in Canada in the 1930’s and following:

“A pattern had been established. Independent Presbyterian journals presented an opportunity for minorities to present their views and gain an audience. Only a decade after church union, a new independent journal would appear. Bible Christianity owed much to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s from which Canada was largely spared. The magazine, supported by W. D. Reid, minister of the well-heeled Stanley Church, Westmount, Montreal, became known for its outspoken opposition to what it perceived as liberalism in the continuing church. Bible Christianity was edited by J. Marcellus Kik, a Presbyterian minister who was among the first graduates of Westminster Seminary after it split from Princeton in 1929. Kik had been minister in New Brunswick but came to Montreal in 1936 and served there in various capacities (for a time as full-time editor and religious broadcaster) from 1936 to 1952.  [The later Bible Presbyterian, which was published out of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, by dissident Presbyterian minister Malcolm MacKay.]” — Note: Vol. 1, no. 1 of Bible Christianity is now posted in PDF format.

Another article, on the early history of the Banner of Truth Trust, notes the influence of Rev. Kik:

“Among Professor Murray’s chief concerns was the restoration of true preaching.  One who shared this view was the Rev J Marcellus Kik, a trustee of Westminster Seminary. This subject was discussed with Mr. Kik when he was present in London in 1961.  As a result he carried back to Professor Murray in Philadelphia a proposal that a conference should be held for ministers the following year in the UK, concentrating specifically on the need for a renewal of preaching.” [Thus the beginnings of the annual Banner of Truth Pastors’ Conferences.]

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