August 2020

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Christ Himself Is Our Comfort.

A difficult lesson, and a deep theology here, from the diary of the Rev. J. J. Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century. 

Sabbath, August 12, 1810. 

“I have been examining myself with respect to my growth in grace, and I find, that although I have reason to mourn, that with the privileges I enjoy I make so small improvement in the Divine life, yet I make some. Blessed be God for it! Oh, to make more rapid advances! On Friday evening I felt much assisted in conducting worship in Mr. Bradford’s family. This day I preached on the great duty of forgiving our enemies. Oh, for a heart truly to forgive mine!

“The Lord was pleased to assist me at His table. I felt some movements of the affections, though not much. I was, however, enabled to act faith in the sacrifice of Christ, so as to have communion with Him in His broken body and shed blood, receiving them as broken and shed for me. My mind was composed, so that I was able to meditate. My confession respected sins, which I have for some time been in the habit of confessing, and my petitions respected blessings, which have for some time formed the burden of my prayers. I hope I prayed in faith, pleading the fulness, the death of Christ, the promises, and oath, and covenant of God, and my future destination to perfect purity. My mind one day last week seemed turned toward the grave, and it seemed that it would be a sweet resting-place. My heart is dreadfully depraved. What envy! What selfishness! I have endeavoured to mourn over them, and nail them to the cross of my Saviour. I pray to be delivered from them. Victories over them, I have, I trust, gained by divine grace, and this is my encouragement to carry on the conflict. Happy period, when I shall be freed from them entirely, and from all other sin!”

The first breach in Dr. Janeway’s family occurred at this time. A child of uncommon loveliness and promise was removed by death. His father returned from church in time to see him expire. There was much of comfort in his departure, and his father was enabled to resign him with humble confidence, into the hands of a gracious God. The lessons of submission which he had enforced on others, he now learned, and all the recorded exercises of his heart were in accordance with the calm dignity of his piety. Gone, but not lost! In glory before the throne, and not amid the sins of earth. On the next Sabbath he endeavoured to improve it to his people’s good, and to profit himself by God’s dealings.

The year closed by asking himself the question, “What comfort do I derive from religion?” and his answer was, that he was not favoured with those lively consolations which are the lot of some of God’s dear people; yet he could share in various ways in its comforts. He blesses God for the steady hope that he enjoyed, and that uneasy doubts seldom disturbed his serene peace. While God’s grace was the cause of this, yet, as a means to this blessed end, he recognizes frequent self-examination, and searching into the nature and evidences of a gracious state. Casting himself, and all his cares and anxieties upon God, with all the unfeigned resignation of a child who trusted in its father, he prays—God’s will be done, and give me grace to acquiesce.

Excerpted from THE LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 176-177.

Words to Live By: 
Dearly beloved, are you pressing to know the Lord Jesus Christ better, to love Him more? Are you seeking after Him with your whole heart? He is your Comfort. Bring all your cares and anxieties and cast yourself upon God, “with all the unfeigned resignation of a child” who trusts in the Father, praying, “God’s will be done, and give me Thy grace.”

Truly a Historic Day
by Rev. David T. Myers

The big announcement for a continuing Presbyterian Church outside the Presbyterian Church, US was made on August 11, 1971 at the Journal Day gathering.  Much prayer and planning had gone into this point.  The July 15 devotional spoke of the first strategy meeting earlier in the year.  Now on this day was the unveiling of the whole plan, with those who were willing to take the lead for this historic departure.

Jack Williamson announced that the four conservative organizations — The Presbyterian Journal, Concerned Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Presbyterian Churchmen United — had each officially given the impetus by naming representatives to serve as a Steering Committee “for the continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to the Scriptures and to the Reformed faith.”  All four organizations, instead of continuing to  represent conservative Christians inside an apostate denomination, had reached an agreement “to accept the apparent inevitability of division in the Presbyterian Church US caused by the program of the radical ecumenists, and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.”

The Presbyterian ruling elder continued, “We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction.  We know that any result which is pleasing to Almighty God shall not be accomplished by our might, nor by our power but by His Spirit.  There, we urge and implore you to undergird this effort daily with much fervent prayer that God  will fill us with His Holy Spirit to guide us in this tremendous undertaking…This is truly a history day for all of us. We resolutely set our faces in a new direction.  We shall, with God’s help, preserve for future generations the witness of our  historic faith, that faith once delivered to the saints, to the glory of our King and Head, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The Steering Committee consisted of the following: Donald Patterson, Chairman, James Baird Jr., Leon F. Hendrick, William E. Hill, Kenneth Keyes, John E Richards, John R. Richardson, Kennedy Smartt, G. Aiken Taylor, S.A. White, Ben Wilkinson, and Jack Williamson.

(This contributor is thankful for the book “To God all Praise and Glory” by Paul Settle, for the above information)

Words to live by:  When tough decisions have to be made, God provides faithful and courageous men to stand up  in the gap for His church.  Such were the above mentioned names who agreed to serve on the Steering Committee for a continuing Presbyterian Church faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.  Today, the Presbyterian Church in America continues her ministry to a watching world because of their historic stand.  We should praise God for them and  honor them because they honored God.

patterson_donald_bray


AN ANNOUNCEMENT
Made at Asheville, N.C. on August 11, 1971
by Dr. Donald B. Patterson [pictured at left]

It is my privilege to announce to you that the men on the platform with me now have been officially named as representatives from their respective boards to a steering committee. They represent the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, the Presbyterian Journal, the Presbyterian Churchmen United and the Concerned Presbyterians. Here is visible proof of the unity of conservatives working toward a common goal.

These groups have reached a consensus to accept the apparent inevitability of division in the Presbyterian Church US caused by the program of the radical ecumenists, and to move now toward a continuing body of congregations and presbyteries loyal to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards.

This steering committee has been charged with the responsibility of developing and implementing a plan for continuation of a Presbyterian Church loyal to the Scriptures and Reformed faith, recognizing that the Sovereign Holy Spirit may be pleased so to revive our Church as to make revisions in the plan necessary.

This committee held its organizational meeting last night. I was elected its chairman; Jim Baird, its vice-chairman; and Kennedy Smartt, its secretary.

This plan anticipates the involvement of every single congregation in our Church that is interested in preserving the historic witness of our faith. You will be given the opportunity to participate soon.

We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in this direction. We know that any result which is pleasing to Almighty God shall not be accomplished by our might, nor by our power but by His Spirit. Therefore, we urge and implore you to undergird this effort daily with much fervent prayer that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit to guide us in this tremendous undertaking.

This is truly a historic day for all of us. We resolutely set our faces in a new direction. We shall, with God’s help, preserve for future generations the witness of our historic faith, that faith once delivered to the saints, to the glory of our King and Head, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

THE STEERING COMMITTEE
Rev. Donald Patterson, Jackson, Miss., Chmn.
Rev. John R„ Richardson, Atlanta, Ga.
Rev. James Baird, Jr., Gadsden, Ala.
Judge Leon F. Hendrick, Jackson, Miss.
Rev. Kennedy Smartt, Hopewell, Va.
Rev. William E. Hill, Hopewell, Va.
Rev. G. Aiken Taylor, Asheville, N.C.
Mr. Kenneth S. Keyes, Miami, Fla.
Rev. John E. Richards, Macon, Ga.
Rev. Ben Wilkinson, Decatur, Ga.
Mr. S. A. White, V., Mebane, N.C.
Mr. Jack Williamson, Greenville, Alabama

BCO is Presby-speak for Book of Church Order. It is the document that guides the organization, the discipline and the worship of the Church. Every Presbyterian denomination has a similar constitutional document, though they may call it by slightly different names. And while a post like this might seem quite boring to some, stick with us, for the background and context of these things is important for how our churches are governed today.

The PCA was organized in 1973, but based its BCO on that of the denomination that they were separating from, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (aka, the Southern Presbyterian Church). To trace the lineage further, it may be less confusing to simply set out a chronology:

1789 – Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. adopts its Constitution, including the Form of Government,  Forms of Process and Directory for Worship.
1821 – First revision of the PCUSA Book of Church Order.
1837 – Division of the PCUSA into Old School and New School factions.
1857 – The Old School PCUSA moves to revise the Book of Discipline section of their BCO [see our story below]
1861 – The Old School PCUSA divides north and south, thus creating the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian Church)
1867 – First draft of the PCUS Book of Church Order
1879 – First approved edition of the PCUS BCO [though minus the Directory for Worship]1925 & 1929 – Major revisions of the PCUS BCO were adopted
1933 – This was the edition of the PCUS BCO upon which the PCA based its BCO, with some important revisions. (and we’ve been tweaking it ever since!)

If you’re still with us, here now is an account of the story behind the PCUSA’s attempted revision of their Book of Discipline, in 1857. Though never actually adopted, the committee’s draft is important because that work reflected the thinking of James Henley Thornwell, and while Thornwell died early in 1862,  he had greatly influenced those men who later picked up the work of drafting a Book of Church Order for the Southern PresbyteriansThis 1857 draft of the Book of Discipline was a masterful revision of the old PCUSA Book, and it served as the guiding model for the discipline section of the PCUS Book of Church Order and thus, in turn, the PCA’s Book of Church Order.

So, coming to our story, in The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, by Benjamin M. Palmer (pp. 428), we read the following account :

ThornwellJH_sm

“The only part of the proceedings of the Assembly of 1857 with which these Memoirs are concerned, was the appointment of a Committee to revise the Book of Discipline, with Dr. Thornwell as its Chairman.  The subject came up before the Assembly through two overtures, one from Dr. R.J. Breckinridge, proposing a change from Presbyterial to Synodical representation, and a limitation of the General Assembly to fifty ministers and fifty ruling elders, each; the other from the Presbytery of Philadelphia, proposing a form of judicial proceedings.

The first suggestion was, to commit these topics to suitable men for consideration, who should report to the next Assembly.  This was enlarged so as to require an examination and revision of the whole Book of Discipline.  The Rev. Dr. Hoge, of Ohio, proposed to add the Form of Government also as a subject for revision, which was resisted by Dr. Thornwell, on the ground that the Church was not yet prepared for this.  This measure was therefore dropped, and the Book of Discipline was put for revision into the hands of a committee, consisting of Rev. Drs. Thornwell, Breckinridge, Hodge, Hoge, McGill, Swift, and Judges Sharswood, Allen and Leavitt.

It may be added, that the subject continued to be under discussion until the breaking out of the war, and the separation of the Southern Church from the Northern.  It was taken up in the Southern Assembly after its organization, under a committee of its own, which reported a revised code for adoption.  The Presbyteries not being sufficiently agreed, the work was laid by; and thus the matter at present rests.  The reader will be interested in the following letter from the lamented Dr. Van Rensselaer, the Moderator by whom the appointment of the original committee was made.  It is addressed to Dr. Thornwell:

Philadelphia, August 10, 1857.

van rensselaer

MY DEAR BROTHER:  I feel some solicitude about the results of the action of the committee, appointed by the last Assembly, to revise our Book of Discipline.  I say solicitude, chiefly because I had the responsibility of the appointment of the committee, as Moderator.  On reviewing the whole matter frequently, I have always come to the conclusion that I could not have done better.  I firmly believe that it is in your power to bring in a report satisfactory to the great body of our people.  The reasons why I named you as chairman were, first, your conservative views on the subject of altering our Book; second, your influence in carrying the question in the Assembly; third, the great confidence and love of the Church towards you, and the respect entertained of your mental endowments; fourth, I wished to avoid the appearance of giving too much predominance to this section of the Church; fifth, I was strongly drawn towards you that night, by an influence which seemed to me more like a special Divine influence than anything I remember to have experienced during my whole life.  My mind was led to you, and to none but you.

“Under these circumstances, I have a strong desire to see the work done, and done by you; and I believe that, under God, you can do it.  Alterations in the book are unquestionably called for; and if they are made with judgment and decision, and are not too numerous, the Presbyteries will adopt them.”

Here follow some matters of detail, as to the meeting of the committee.  Then the letter concludes:

“Praying that you may fulfill the best hopes of the Church in the important work committed to your care, I am,
“Yours respectfully and fraternally,
C. VAN RENSSELAER.”

Words to Live By:
Despite how things may seem at times—and they can seem bleak indeed—we must keep coming back to this firm assurance, that God is sovereign over His Church. He is guiding it inexorably toward His intended destination, and He will never fail in His purpose.
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude, vss. 24-25, KJV)
Postscript:The 1879 PCUS Book of Church Order was widely commended, and for one, it prompted the PCUSA to return to the work of revision in 1884. As both theOrthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church were formed by people leaving the PCUSA  circa 1936, it is not surprising that the OPC and BPC Books of Church Order are based on prior editions of the PCUSA BCO.  To put it one way, both those denominations follow a northern tradition of church polity, while the PCA follows a southern tradition. There are similarities between the two traditions, but there are also substantial differences.  [The OPC has in recent years made further and extensive changes to their Book of Church Order.] Meanwhile, the RPCNA and ARP Books remain quite different, since they don’t derive from either the PCUSA or PCUS Books.

Image sources:
Engraved portrait of James Henley Thornwell, from The Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church, by Alfred Nevin (1884), p. 941.
Photograph of Cornelius Van Rensselaer, from The Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, vol. 1, no. 5 (September 1902): facing page 317.

Every Lord’s Day should be a day of remembering the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His death, He paid the debt of our sins. By His resurrection, He gave irrefutable proof that the debt was canceled.

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]

The Rev. James A. Bryan, known affectionately as Brother Bryan of Birmingham, was a powerfully effective pastor and evangelist in the city of Birmingham, Alabama in the early 20th-century, pastor of the historic Third Presbyterian Church there in Birmingham, which is now a PCA church. He was particularly effective in his ministry to the poor of the city, both black and white. The following sermon is from one of three published collections of Brother Bryan’s sermons, all apparently quite rare now.

SUBJECT: “THE COMFORTING CHRIST;”
SCRIPTURAL TEXT, “THY BROTHER SHALL RISE AGAIN,” – JOHN 11:23

We remember that Jesus, to comfort Mary and Martha, walked 35 miles to their homes in Bethany. With the weeping sisters we read that “Jesus wept.” Oh, my dear friends, when their hearts were sorely grieved over the death of their brother Jesus Himself wept with them. Another very striking thing just here is one of the wonderful sentences which Jesus uttered to them in these words: “Thy brother shall rise again.”

And so, my friends, Jesus speaks to you and to me concerning our sleeping loved ones and it should be very comforting and inspiring to hear Him as He says, “Thy mother, thy father, thy brother, thy sister, thy friend or thy friends shall rise again.” You may be sorely grieved over the loss of a little child or a daughter or a son, but how comforting to hear Jesus say, “Thy child, thy little friend, thy daughter, thy son shall rise again in the last day in the resurrection.”

I wish you to notice the culture and refinement, education, spiritual education of these lovely sisters at Bethany. Martha responded to Christ’s words by looking up into His face and speaking softly and calmly, “Yes, Lord, I know that my brother who is sleeping in his sepulcher down at the foot of this hill will rise again in the resurrection in the last day.” Now Martha was a Jewess and deep down in her heart was that Jewish belief of the resurrection of the dead in the last day as Christ was then teaching in His words: “Thy brother shall rise again.” The spiritually-minded Hebrew or Jew was most secure in such a belief, and this wonderful Jewess of Bethany tells Christ that this was a certainty in her life.

And yet this sleep was mighty hard for Martha to bear because she loved her brother dearly. The separation from love is mighty hard. Lazarus was a loving brother. While we love the separation is mighty hard. Then Jesus, to continue to comfort the grieved and sorrowing sister, said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” It was Jesus who had also said, “I am the bread of life, I am the living water of eternal life, I am the light of this dark world, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And He says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” That is, Jesus was telling Martha, and is telling the whole world, “I am the resurrection and the life, and whosoever believeth in Me, that I have power over sin and death and the grave unto salvation shall see His power.” And so He is saying this morning, “I am the light of the dark grave in which your loved one or friend is sleeping. I am the power to remove the gravestone. I have power over the darkness to give light.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.” Death is the absence of life and Jesus says of it, “I put life in that body to bring it back unto myself, and whosoever believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again.” I believe this as positively as I can. If I believe in Him, trust in Him, and daily and hourly reach out for Him, when I die my body goes to sleep and is placed in the graveyard or cemetery to be resurrected again at the last day and my soul goes to Christ. The soul of the Christian, the believer goes to Christ and is made perfect in happiness and holiness. Truly that is the reward of walking by faith and not by sight.

Now Jesus is still in Bethany, where the sisters’ faith has been tested and tried in the separation from their brother whom they loved. Many things are taking place since Christ has raised Lazarus from the dead. It was a very exciting time in Jerusalem, Bethany and the surrounding country to which the news had spread very rapidly. The Jews numbered among the enemies of Christ could not stand for Christ’s popularity. Here in Bethany is a man who had been dead four days and Christ has raised him to life. There was the little daughter of Jairus in Capernaum whom Christ had raised very soon after her death by going into the room where her body had been carefully prepared for the casket or bier, upon which it would be soon placed and borne to the cemetery. There with Peter, James and John, Christ prayed and spoke the resurrecting words, “Talitha Cumi.” “Little maid, I say unto thee, arise.”

Again they had heard how Christ upon entering upon the threshold of the approach into the city of Nain had met a funeral procession of a poor widow’s son, her only support and comfort in a world of trials and temptations. No doubt they were very poor people and the dead body was being carried out of corporation limits to be buried in a lonely country cemetery where funeral expenses were little known. Jesus, touched with the grief of that poor mother, walked up to the bier and touched it, saying, “Son, arise,” and the son arose and was restored to his mother again for her comfort and support.

But now the enemies of Christ have, many of them, witnessed the resurrection of a man who had been dead four days, one day longer than Christ Himself would sleep in the garden tomb. Lazarus had come forth from the tomb bound hand and feet in grave clothes. Jesus turned and said to some of them, “Loose him, and let him go.” Friends, we too, have something to do to carry on the work of Christ, who died on Calvary and was resurrected, and says to us, “Go.” We must be active because there is much to be done. Oh, what a blessed thing it is to be at work for Christ by having the light turned on our lives that we may help others to see Christ, the Light of the world. Oh, to help others see that Christ is the bright and morning star, the express image of God Himself, the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, the Immanuel, the Jesus, the light of this dark world, a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, a brother born for adversity, our mediator, our saviour, our comforter.

We think of what a comforter Christ was to the lovely sisters of Bethany in an hour of grief. He has been such a comforter, and is today such a comforter to thousands of homes. He just longs to be a comforter to all. He wants to be a comforter to the many men and women without work, to those in hospitals without means, to the poor without shoes and without clothes and without food. He is calling to us to go out and help them. Are we answering that call by going out and helping those in need?

Of course, there were curious people about the country who were just crazy with excitement over the great event which had just happened at the foot of the hill, below the little village of Bethany. They might have wanted to see Christ, but they were extremely anxious and curious to see Lazarus. Along about this time the Jewish authorities began in great earnestness to devise a way to kill Christ. In the latter part of this chapter they said, “Do you think He will come to the feast?” They were just seeking a chance to entrap and kill Christ. They could not stand the fact that He could open blind eyes, cleanse lepers, heal weak feverish babies in their mothers’ arms, cast devils out of men and women, restore withered hands, eat with publicans and sinners, and heal sick folks on the Sabbath. They could not stand for Him to say that He and the Father were One and that He robbed God of no glory by taking upon Himself the form of God and also at the same time a fleshly body. That is, in that He became flesh and dwelt among us did not rob God of any glory and honor. His enemies were now ready that all doors be closed to Him and that He be put to death.

Friends, is the door of your heart open to Christ this morning? Is the door of your home open to Christ? Is the door of your business, wherever and whatever it is, open to Christ? Look over your work and see if you have been fair and square with those you have dealt with? Mr. Business Man, look over your books and see if you have charged someone too much. You are not the only one who is keeping an account. God knows about those charges. Oh, is your place open for Christ today? Is He the head and great partner in your work?

A Deluge of Pentecostal Power
by Rev. David T. Myers

We have at  various times in this historical devotional turned to the Diary of David Brainerd.  Brainerd was a Presbyterian missionary to the Indians, or native Americans as we would call them today, in the mid seventeen hundreds.  In his short life and ministry among them, he recorded his thoughts and his actions to them and on their behalf, which diary has been used by the Holy Spirit of God to lead countless in both olden times and modern times to commit their lives to service to the Lord.

We look at one day in August 8, 1745 when in a return visit to the Indians of Crossweeksung, New Jersey, the Lord brought about an awakening of their hearts which surpassed anything David Brainerd had experienced up to this time.  Listen to his words from his diary:  “. . . the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a mighty raging wind’ and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it.  I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience almost universally; and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible form of a mighty torrent, or swelling deluge, that with its insupportable weight and pressure bears down and sweeps before it whatever is in its way.  I must say . . . that the Lord did much to destroy the kingdom of darkness among his people.”

And then at the bottom of his diary, he writes “This was indeed a surprising day of God’s power, and seemed enough to convince an atheist of the truth, importance, and power of God’s Word.”

When so much of his missionary work has been dry of any results, at least from what he could see, it must have been refreshing to finally see God’s powerful work in breaking up  the hard hearts and the giving to them soft hearts for the gospel.

Words to live by:  There is a powerful text which all believers to remember.  It is a wonderful comfort for us.  It is found in the last phrase of Acts 13:48 where it says, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Both parts of this text are correct.  Who will believe the gospel?  Answer: as many as were appointed to eternal life.  How do we know those appointed to eternal life?  Answer: They will believe.  Be encouraged to continue to share the good news of eternal life with all those who are interested in listening to you – unsaved loved one, neighbors, work associates, school mates, friends, and strangers you meet.

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