August 2020

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Revive Us Again
written by David T. Myers

It is a remarkable true story of God’s redemptive work.

Reared in a Scottish home, William Paton MacKay was born on May 13, 1839. We know nothing of his family except that his mother was a godly Scottish woman. All during his younger years, she endeavored to place the principles of biblical Christianity into his heart, but was met with only resistance by her son. When the latter went away to Edinburgh to attend the university, she handed him a Bible with his name on the inside cover which she had written, followed by John 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) She obviously commended him to the God of redemption.

Upon arriving at the University, William soon fell into the company of some aggressive unbelievers, joining the local infidel’s club, and began to live a godless life. To feed his drinking habit, he even sold the Bible which his mother has given to him, using the money to buy whiskey.

Fast forward to his graduation from the University of Edinburgh and his subsequent training to become a medical doctor. Now engaged in his medical practice, William was using those gifts of healing in a local city hospital when a dying man entered the hospital as a patient. The patient knew he would soon die and began to urgently request that the hospital staff get his landlady, as he yet owed her money for his rent. But also weighing heavy on his mind is a book in his apartment; he needed that book brought to him. “I need my book,” was his dying request. But alas, he perished without the book.

Curious, Dr. MacKay went to the apartment and asked the landlady about his patient’s great desire for this book. So they searched the apartment and found his Bible. But it was not just any Bible. It was the very same Bible which Dr. MacKay’s mother had given to him when he left for the university years before! Evidently, the dying man had bought the Bible from the pawn shop where young William had sold it years before.

Returning to his office at the city hospital, Dr. MacKay found his mother’s familiar writing in both his name and the text of John 3:16 on the inside cover. The pages were worn and weathered, but he could still note the texts which his mother had marked for him to read. The medical doctor read them that whole night in his medical office, and at the end of it the next mornng, his life was changed for good from a state of sin to a state of salvation.

He left the medical profession, went to a theological college, and became a minister. He served the Prospect Street Presbyterian Church, in Hull, Scotland, as their pastor. To the blessing of the wider Church, he wrote 17 hymns, always full of gospel truths. He departed to heaven on this day, August 22, in 1888.

Words to Live By:
His best known hymn is still familar today, entitled “Revive Us Again.” Oddly, it is not found in either edition of the Trinity hymnbook. That is to our loss, for it is most biblical, based both on Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2. The fourth verse describes Rev. MacKay’s spiritual beginning when it states, “All glory and praise To the God of all grace Who has bought us and sought us and guided our ways.” God did purchase with His blood, seeking and guiding Thomas MacKay. Now, can you, the reader, trace how the God of all grace bought, sought, and guided your way to salvation?

For all the discussion of “safe places,” in recent years, it was an amusing surprise to find Wm. Childs Robinson making reference to “Luther’s Safe Place” at the end of this article.

Has “Unreserved Dedication” Taken The Place of Creedal Subscription?
by Rev. Wm. C. Robinson, D.D., Decatur, Ga.
[The Southern Presbyterian Journal, 8.17 (2 January 1950): 5-6.]

This question is raised by a paragraph in a recent book review carried in The Presbyterian Outlook of November 7. Reviewing Professor Cooper’s Southwestern At Memphis, Dr. Warner L. Hall writes the following paragraph:

“One of the sidelights of the book is the struggle which Dr. Diehl had with heresy hunters. His victory was, by no means a personal one, for it, in some sense, assured to many others the right of an intellectual freedom within the limits of an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause.”

We have no desire to reopen any struggle with reference to Dr. Diehl, but the inference which Dr. Hall draws gives us grave concern. The reviewer’s words imply that many Presbyterian educators and Presbyterian ministers—Dr. Diehl is both—have either (or both) been relieved of all creedal obligations or else have agreed among themselves that those creedal obligations to which they have subscribed are only indicative of their dedication to the Christian cause.

Now it is not difficult to show that “an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause,” indispensable as that is, is not a sufficient safeguard for the Church or her teachers. Certainly, there have been Jesuit missionaries unreservedly dedicated to the Christian cause, and Armenian ministers, and perhaps Unitarian scholars. The other day I was told about a very devout Mormon. Apparently, this Latter Day Saint could offer “an unreserved dedication to the Christ cause” as he saw it … and yet I cannot believe that Dr. Hall would favor him for a Chair of Religion in Southwestern or for his associate pastor in Charlotte, N. C.

We feel obligated, therefore, to ask the questions which Dr. Hall’s review has raised. First, have the professors in our Presbyterian educational institutions been relieved of all creedal obligations, vows or doctrinal conditions as requirements for the presidential or professional positions they hold? We invite the several educational institutions connected with our Church to let the Church know just what, if any, obligations are now required. If the institution in particular has abrogated such requirements in the last two decades, the reasons for such change would also interest the Church. We can conceive of an occasion in which a college might have a man of known evangelical piety and Bible belief from another denomination that they wished installed as professor in some chair in which he would not teach church doctrine and might properly make an exception in his case to a rule requiring subscription to Calvinism. But we could only question the propriety of a Board using such an occasion as an excuse for abrogating all requirements.

Three centuries ago Harvard was training men for the Calyinistic ministry in Puritan New England — teaching the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek and the Shorter Catechism in Latin . . . but somebody slept at the switch . . . and Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked. When I studied at Harvard they were inculcating almost everything, except the doctrine for which that institution was established.

A few years ago a prominent U.S.A. Presbyterian College was teaching a volume on evolution edited by Professor H. H. Newman for “the superior students” of Chicago University, entitled The Nature Of The World And Of Man. Now if a Presbyterian College is only going to teach the naturalism which allows of no direct intervention of God in special creations, in miracles, in the Incarnation, in answers to petitionary prayers for physical things — why endow and support such colleges? Why not send the men on to Chicago in the first place? Incidentally, Lecomte de Nouy, Human Destiny, has at least pointed out how tenuous is the thread of evolution which Newman said was “proved or established as firmly as the law of gravitation.” (Op. cit. 193 of 194, 381).

Last summer I met a graduate of another U.S.A. College — Wooster to be exact—who told me how the Bible course in that Northern Presbyterian institution had upset his faith in the Bible as the Word of God and as the guide for life. In the last issue The Journal had a review of the Bible Syllabus used at Wooster in 1947.

Without requiring at least the acceptance of the Divine-human Christ, of the miracles of His Person and His works by each professor, an institution might find its whole Christian position undermined by an academically competent but unbelieving teacher. And the institution might be afraid to remove such a man because of the support he would receive from his professional union and from the academic accrediting agency.

Secondly, do those who take definite professional or ordination vows- regard them as merely an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause? Our ministerial vows still obligate us to accept the Holy Scriptures as being the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practise and of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms as being the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. If there are those in our Church who feel that the full and fair meaning of these vows is “an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause” we invite such brethren to reconsider their positions in the light of history.

In his able discussion of the meaning of our Presbyterian ordination vows Dr. Charles Hodge, Church Polity, Pages 317-4S2, shows that the meaning of the vow is not determined by the man taking it but by the natural, historical force of the words and by the body imposing the vow. There was a wave of rationalism in eighteenth century England and Ireland which substituted sincerity for creedal subscription. Even James Moffatt says that “this mistaken aversion to creedal subscription” killed English Presbyterianism; and only the entrance of the Erskinites or Seceders saved Presbyterianism in eighteenth century Ireland. Against the loose views of Presbyterianism then coming over from Ireland the American Presbyterian Church passed the adopting act of 1729 in which every minister subscribed to the Westminster Standards as being in all essential and necessary articles good forms of sound words and accepted said Confession and Catechisms as the confession of his faith. This act has governed our American Presbyterian thinking these 220 years. Under its aegis our Southern Assembly in the last decade has declared certain things such as the infallible truth of Scripture, Christ as true and eternal God, His becoming our brother man by His virgin birth, to be involved in the vows to which we subscribe.

Again, if there are ministers or professors who regard these creedal vows as merely an unreserved dedication to the Christian cause we invite them to reconsider their positions before the judgment bar of truth. Speaking on this theme from the standpoint of the Scottish Churches, Principal John Macleod says:

“We should not fail to observe the moral issues that are raised in regard to the loyal maintenance of pledges given to be faithful to Creeds and Confessions. They call for very deliberate study and consideration before they are adopted. They call equally for honorable treatment on the part of men who have avowed them as their own.”

“Yet if men change their views on what they had confessed as the truth of God they should have the manliness to acknowledge that such a change has taken place and to refuse to stay in what is to them a false position.”

“We should not forget that the fundamental obligation lies upon every teacher in the Church of God to be true to the full circle of truth as the Apostolic and Prophetic Revelation has brought it before us. This truth has been entrusted to the Church to be held fast in its integrity, and it is no bondage to be laid under the obligation to honour such a trust; and this is what is meant by the exaction of a strict pledge of loyalty to the Confession of Faith. Nor can it well be spoken of as an advance in Christian freedom for the Church to loosen the bond that binds her rulers to hold fast the whole truth of God as His Word sets it forth.” Scottish Theology, Pages 254-241-254.

Finally, we invite any brother if any there be who thinks that unreserved dedication is an adequate fulfillment of his ordination vows to reconsider the same before the judgment bar of God. For in the end we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account of the deeds done in the flesh. And even before that final day, God does execute judgment among the children of men and often His judgment begins at the house of God. Two hundred years ago the moderate machine tolerated lax doctrine on the Deity of Christ by Professor John Simson, of Glasgow, Scotland, while it cracked down on the marrow men because their evangelical fervour smelled of dispensationalism — their paradoxes sniffed of anti-nomianism. But read the two histories of Scottish Theology, by Walker and by Macleod, and history has vindicated the Evangelicals — Boston, Erskine, T. Gillespie, John Love, and John Witherspoon; while it has judged Hadow, Patrick Cumming, William Robertson and Principal Hill with their whole “moderate” program. Pick up second volume of The Life Of Alexander Duff, by George Smith, and get a real account of the miserable end to which this so-called moderatism—what God has called lukewarmness—actually led. God will judge . . . God does judge . . . God is judge.

As He does judge may He also speak in the mercy which every one of us needs. All of our obligations get their meaning from our loving Lord Jesus Christ who stands above and by His Spirit gives life to our system of doctrine. It was well said of Charles Hodge, the ablest expounder of our Presbyterian vows, that there was no point in his whole system of theology that did not derive its chief meaning from its relation to Christ. For him, “man is nothing, Christ is everything. We have no worthiness. Christ is altogether worthy … our acceptance with God from beginning to end is in the Beloved. He is the ground of our election, the foundation of our Justification, the fontal head of our Regeneration, the means and medium of our Sanctification, and the efficient cause and model of our glorification. He is all in all, and we are complete in Him.” “Jesus Christ is the God whom I worship.” —Dr. William Paxton on Hodge as a Teacher of Theology in The Life Of Charles Hodge, Pages 596-597.

Luther’s Safe Place

When Martin Luther was in the throes of the Reformation, and the Pope was trying to bring him back to the Catholic Church, he sent a cardinal to deal with Luther and buy him with gold. The cardinal wrote to the Pope: “The fool does not love gold.” The cardinal, when he could not convince Luther, said to him: “What do you think the Pope cares for the opinions of a German boor? The Pope’s little finger is stronger than all Germany. Do you expect your princes to take up arms to defend you — you, a wretched worm like you, I tell you no. And where will you be then?” Luther’s reply was simple: “Where I am now, in the hands of Almighty God.” — Pentecostal Herald.

Britain’s Mercies and Britain’s Duty”
by Dr. David W. Hall

Rev. George Whitefield

The idea of unlimited submission to unjust government, especially to foreign British rule, was ablaze in America several generations prior to the revolution. Even the leading British evangelist of the Great Awakening, having come to America, weighed in on the subject. In a 1746 sermon, George Whitefield (1714-1770) invoked the same vocabulary as the earlier Reformers in speaking of the ruler as “a nursing Father of the church.” His Britain’s Mercies and Britain’s Duty exulted in “Protestant powers” as tokens of blessing given by the King of Kings.[1] Whitefield considered England blessed in having no “popish abjured pretender.” Employing the terminology of the Hebrew Psalter, he said, “if the Lord had not been on our side, Great Britain, not to say America, would, in a few weeks, or months, have been an Aceldama, a field of blood.” Had the “popish pretender” succeeded, Britain would not have been ruled by parliament but by “Arbitrary principles . . . sucked in with his mother’s milk.”[2] Whitefield also viewed his Protestant people as under obligation to hold fast to God’s commands. Like Mayhew, he stated that citizens were not obligated to submit to an unjust government.

But the chasm between Enlightenment conceptions of law and God’s law remained vast. There could be no progress in the future, and the classical models were disdained. Whitefield viewed God’s law as unimproveable, challenging: “Tell me, ye men of letters,” he asked, “whether Lycurgus or Solon, Pythagoras or Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, or all the ancient lawgivers and heathen moralists, put them all together, ever published a system of ethicks, any way worthy to be compared with the glorious system laid down” in Scripture.[3]

Had the Lord not providentially spared England from theological error, Whitefield thought the universities would have been ruined and pulpits filled with “freewill” and other antichristian doctrines. Protestant charity and influence would have diminished to the levels of impoverished England. Whitefield also associated the tyranny of Arminianism with a theology that worshipped classical idols like Diana and adored “unassisted unenlightened reason.” Like Calvin before him, Whitefield saw God at work throughout British history. He ascribed a military victory in England to the fasting and prayer of repentant Scottish ministers.

Whitefield, contrary to John Wesley, supported the independence of America. On one occasion, he even warned against English efforts to impose a bishop on North America. Prior to leaving America at the end of a 1764 crusade, Whitefield the Calvinist warned his spiritual compatriots that his heart bled for America. “O poor New England!” he exclaimed, “There is a deep laid plot against your civil and religious liberties, and they will be lost. Your golden days are at an end. . . . Your liberties will be lost.”[4] The cause of his fear was that Anglicans hoped to quell American independence by setting up a bishopric in America. That fear, combined with the outrage against the Stamp Act, which followed shortly thereafter, fired American attitudes against Britain even more. Whitefield, it turned out, was more loyal to Calvinism than to his British monarch; and he expected the worst.

Whitefield retained a great respect for America until the end of his life in 1770. This British Calvinist was eventually buried in an expatriate grave in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It is little wonder that he was still revered at the outset of the Revolutionary war. On one occasion, when a New England militia had set out on a disastrous attempt to invade Quebec, its commander, Benedict Arnold, prior to his traitor days, searched for a Holy Grail to encourage his soldiers. He led his officers down into the crypt where Whitefield’s remains lay. The officers stripped off Whitefield’s clerical collar and wristbands and distributed pieces of these relics to the soldiers as tokens of blessing. James H. Hutson observes of this episode: “The distribution of the Great amulets showed in its eerie way that men facing stress and anxiety wanted links to a preacher of a living God . . . One need look no farther for the reason evangelicalism demolished deism.”[5] Within weeks of his death, scores of memorial services were held for this British Calvinist who evangelized America.[6]

Like so many of these grandchildren of Calvin, he kept Genevan ideas alive and applied them to the American context. Stan Evans writes that American founders “faced the task of establishing a new political order of their own, rather than escaping one controlled by Whitehall; yet the concerns expressed about human frailty, and political power, continued exactly as before. Virtually everyone in our politics, it appears, was a believer in Original Sin, wherever he stood on the specific issues of the day. Simply reading statements on this topic, without other means of identification, one would have no idea at all as to what party or interest was being promoted.”[7] Many of the founders of modern western democracies were children of the Calvinist Reformation, not the Enlightenment Revolution.

This classic sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). An online version is posted at: http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/Whitefield.html.

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

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

[1] Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), 125.

[2] Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), 126. Whitefield detested the Arminian inroads to the Anglican Communion as heretical departures from Calvinism. His revival sermons were little more than “rehearsals of traditional Calvinist doctrine.” Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 1966, 37. He insisted that “the constant Tenour of my preaching in America has been Calvinistical.” Idem. Non-Calvinist ministers were fearful of his emphasis on “Calvinistic Principles and [the] Doctrines of Grace.”

[3] Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), 134.

[4] Ellis Sandoz, ed., Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1991), 120.

[5] James H. Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1998), 35. Geissler also reports that Aaron Burr visited the tomb of Whitefield and left with a relic. See Suzanne Geissler, Jonathan Edwards to Aaron Burr, Jr.: From the Great Awakening to Democratic Politics (New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1981), 138.

[6] See Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 1966, 142-143.

[7] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Liberty: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1994), 99.

How Would You Like to Have a Mountain Named After You?
by Rev. David T. Myers

Our title is more of a discussion starter, yet the subject of this post did have a mountain named after him.   Yes, he climbed it often in North Carolina, and further, he measured it as the tallest mountain in that range of mountains.

Born in Connecticut on August 19, 1793,  Elisha Mitchell graduated from Yale. A brief theological course at another institution enabled him to be licensed to preach by the Congregationalist Western Association of New Haven, Connecticut.  However, he was not going to remain  a Congregationalist.  In 1821, after his move to North Carolina, he turned Presbyterian and was ordained by the Presbytery of Orange, even while he began to teach chemistry, geology and mineralogy for the next thirty-two years at the University of North Carolina.

We are interested in him in this post, primarily, as a Presbyterian teaching elder.  In 1822, he founded Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in his new adopted state along with eight other men.  That church still continues to exist.  His ministerial duties also included a campus ministry at the University of North Carolina, which culminate in preaching in the chapel daily and on the Lord’s Day to the students and faculty.

A controversy with the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina enabled him to enunciate clearly his belief in  Calvinistic doctrine, arguing that Scripture was the only source of religious truth, while  rejecting tradition as a means to religious interpretation.

It was with his habit of mountain climbing however that he came to be recognized in the secular world.  He measured Black Mountain in the Blue Ridge mountain range as the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.  That claim was disputed by  some who claimed the description for other peaks.  In June of 1857, he climbed it again to verify his claim.  Tragically, on this occasion,  he fell down a sixty foot drop and died.  That mountain today is named Mount Mitchell after him.   Further, he is buried on that site.

Words to Live By:   
While secular sources may exalt a person to positions of importance, far more importance is found in spiritual qualities.  Our subject today put Christ first in his place of influence.  He communicated that priority to those under his spiritual oversight.  Whether it be in the home, or the neighborhood, or your  place of employment, a self examination  question is in order.   Do others know that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of your life?   Do you really worship and serve King Jesus?

Off to School with Ye!

It was on this day, August 18th, in 1841, that an Address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. John W. Yeomans, on the occasion of the his Inauguration as President of Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania.

John William Yeomans, D. D., was born in Hinsdale, Massachusetts, on the 7th of January, 1800.  When quite young he served some time as an apprentice, but soon turned his attention to study and commenced his preparation for college under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Cummings, of Albany, N. Y.  After the short space of a year and a half spent in preparatory study, he entered the junior class of Williams College, Mass. He graduated in 1824 with the second honor in his class, Mark Hopkins (who later served as President of that school), taking the first honors. For two years Yeomans was Tutor in the college, after which he studied theology in the Seminary at Andover, Mass.

His first pastoral charge was at North Adams, Massachusetts, where he remained from November, 1828, till the spring of 1832, when he became pastor of the First Congregational Church of Pittsfield, Mass.  In the spring of 1834 he was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Trenton, N. J., as successor to the Rev Dr. James W. Alexander.  In the spring of 1841 he accepted the Presidency of Lafayette College, remaining there until the early part of 1845, when he became pastor of the Mahoning Church, in Danville, PA, where he continued in the discharge of his ministerial duties until his death, June 22, 1862.  Dr. Yeomans was a deep thinker and a vigorous and able writer.  He was regarded as one of the leading theologians in the Presbyterian Church, and as a metaphysician, he had probably but few equals among his brethren.  The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by three different colleges at the same time—the College of New Jersey, Williams College and Miami University.  In 1860 he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly.

Talk about a guy you never heard of! Accorded such accolades, and yet today few if any know of him.

Words to Live By: 
Do the work the Lord has given you. Do it faithfully, to the best of your ability and as unto the Lord. And if you have yet to find your place in life, be faithful in seeking the Lord and His will. History will most likely not remember many of us, but that is not is what is important in this life. What is important is to first take Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Be sure to be found in Him. And then be faithful in doing all His holy will, wherever you are in this life. All else is secondary.

Image source : Engraved portrait as found facing page 36 of the 1861 edition of The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church, edited by Joseph M. Wilson.

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