December 2020

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John Rankin –  Presbyterian Abolitionist
by Rev. David T. Myers

          Picture a family, a Presbyterian family, who happened to be a Presbyterian pastor, along with his wife, and an undetermined number of children,  in a row boat crossing  the  Ohio River, at the end of one year (1822) and the beginning of another year (1823), and you, the reader, will get the picture of an all-but-forgotten Presbyterian hero and  his family.

          His name was John Rankin.  Reared in the Christian and Presbyterian faith by his parents, Richard and Jane Rankin in Jefferson County, Tennessee, John had a religious upbringing in the Calvinist tenor.  His mother taught him in  home school, including assigning the reading of the Bible as one of his course works.  It is safe to say that by the age of eight, he was deeply affected by his home religion, 

          Coming of age, he enrolled in Washington College in a nearby state, where he sat under the educational training of the Rev Samual Doak, an avowed absolutionist of his day.  Marrying his daughter, Jean, John graduated in 1816, and became a minister in the Presbyterian denomination.  However his views on slavery were not welcome in hid home state, so he left Tennessee with his wife in 1817.  Hearing about an empty pulpit in Carlisle, Kentucky, he stopped  and ministered there four years.  Again, his anti-slavery position caused him to leave and travel finally to Ripley, Ohio, crossing the  Ohio River the last day of December 1822 and the first day of January 1823.

          His continued anti-slavery views and actions however,  brought slave owners to his house regularly, demanding information about their slaves who had fled from their “ownership.”  In 1829, John Rankin moved his family (consisting now of thirteen children) to a house at the top of high hill in Ripley.  From there, they could fly a light to signal slaves when it was safe to come to  their home, receive food, clorthes,  and rest, so as to continue their journey to all points north, guided by his sons. 

          John Rankin died May 12, 1886 at the age of ninety-three.  And his Christian testimony of being a friend of the enslaved continues to this day and age.

Words to Live By:

          After the Civil War, a newspaper editor asked noted abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher who abolished slavery, and he responded “The Rev. John Ranking and his sons did.”  What, reader, are you known for in your Christian faith and service,  by those in your church and neighborhood? Let  us each one shine our light into the dark world and live for Christ every day.  Let us do good and engage in righteous deeds for Christ daily.

Year-end reflections from the inimitable Samuel Rutherford. Most any one of these thoughts could profitably employ your mind the whole day!


1. What God lays on me, let me suffer.
2. Christ and his cross are not separable in this world.
3. There are too many dumb tongues and dry hearts in this world.
4. When Christ and you meet at the entrance into eternity, you shall see Heaven in his face at the first look.
5. As little as a child can carry away of the sea in its hand, am I able to take away of my great and boundless Christ Jesus.
6. When Christ in love gives a blow, it does a soul good.
7. My debt to the love of Christ must lie unpaid to all eternity.
8. A thorough and clear sight of Jesus my Lord, will make me happy forevermore.
9. I should have a king’s life if I had no other thing to do than forevermore to behold and eye my Lord Jesus.
10. O that I could cry down the price and weight of my cursed self, and cry up the price of Christ.
11. Christ is the far best half of heaven; yes, He is all heaven, and more than all heaven.
12. They lose nothing who gain Christ.
13. Either Christ or nothing; either the King’s Son or no husband at all.
14. You will not lay one stone upon Zion’s wall, but the world and Satan will labor to cast it down again.
15. The Church — the bush has been burning above thousand years, and we never yet saw the ashes of this fire.
16. I had rather mar twenty prayers than to not pray at all. The compassionate Advocate can put together broken prayers and perfume them.
17. Welcome, welcome, sweet and glorious cross of Christ! welcome, sweet Jesus, with thy light cross.
18. Christ must be welcome to come and go as He thinks meet.
19. My heart is not longing to be back again from Christ’s country; it is a sweet soil I am come to.
20. When Christ ties a know, all the world cannot loose it.
21. The worst things of Christ are far rather to be chosen than the joys of my adversaries.
22. There is no house-room for crosses in heaven.
23. I persuade you that the greatest part but play with Christianity; they put it by hastily and easily.
24. When you are come to the other side of the water, and have set down your foot on the shore of glorious eternity, and look back again to the waters, a to your wearisome journey, and shall see in that clear glass of endless glory, nearer to the bottom of God’s wisdom, you shall then be forced to say, If God had done otherwise with me than He hath done, I had never come to the enjoying of the crown of glory.

The Minister with the Smiling Face
by Rev. David T. Myers


It was a little child who gave our subject today this title.  It accurately describes the ministry of the Rev. Andrew Bonar in the 1800’s in Scotland.  He was definitely a “people person” as he went among all ages with the life changing message of the gospel.

Born in 1810 in  Edinburgh, Scotland, Andrew was the youngest of three sons.  His minister father died when he was seven.  His older brother took on the responsibility of helping the mother feed all three sons.  She was a wonderful and spiritual mother, rearing his sons in the fear of the Lord.  Andrew did well in school, becoming one of the best Latin students of his day.  He was scheduled to follow his older brother Horatius to the  University of Edinburgh, but delayed his entrance for two years.  Refusing to study theology until he was assured of his own salvation, he spent the time in reading books, such as William Guthrie.  Satisfied that the Lord had saved him, he then entered the University and graduated with honors.

Licensed to preach in 1835, he spent some time assisting another minister in the Church of Scotland before being called to the Collace church in Perthshire, Scotland.  He was the pastor there from 1838 – 1856.  Those of our readers who know the history of the Church of Scotland know that an ecclesiastical separation came in 1843 when the Free Church of Scotland began.  He took a stand, along with his brother Horatius, when he separated from the liberalism of the Church of Scotland.  Evidently his church did as well, for he continued to pastor it.

His pastoral ministry continued in his second and last congregation in Glasgow, Scotland, at the Finnieston Free Church of Scotland.  That congregation grew to over 1000 members during his time there.  He was to stay there from 1857 until his death in 1892.

It was said that he experienced four distinct revivals during his life time in Scotland.  Many of our readers have not even experienced one revival in their churches or denominations.  It was said of him that each hour, no matter what he was doing in that hour, he would stop to pray for those things the Lord laid on his heart.  He was a man of prayer.

He went to be with the Lord on this day, December 30, 1892.  It was said that he called his loved ones to his bedside, read the Bible to them, and then prayed for each one of them.

Words to Live By:
Through any of our Christian book stores, get the Life and Diary of Andrew Bonar.  You will enjoy it immensely.  This author read it while he was in college.  One of the observations he made was that Jesus sang a hymn in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as he realized the future of his time on earth.  Let us, Andrew Bonar observes, keep our friends from sorrow as long as we can.  In the face of difficulties, sing to the Lord if you have a dread of what is coming. Don’t brood over it, but sing to the Lord.

by Rev. David T. Myers.

With the settling of the American colonies, scattered congregations and groups of people ready to be gathered into churches, together with the small number of ministers anxious for mutual encouragement and guidance, inevitably brought about the need and occasion for the formation of the first Presbytery on these shores. The specific occasion came in due season, with the call for the ordination of Mr. John Boyd to become pastor of the church of Freehold, New Jersey.

John Boyd, a native of Scotland, came as a probationer [i.e., a man licensed to preach though not yet ordained], probably at the solicitation of his countrymen, who, fleeing from persecution, had settled in Monmouth between 1680 and 1690.

Boyd was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on this day, December 29, in 1706, at the public meeting-house, before a numerous assembly. The original minute book of the Presbytery is preserved at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Regrettably though, the first leaf of that book, comprising the first two pages of the Minutes, was lost long ago. We can only speculate as to the content of those first two pages, but we can try to speculate intelligently. Page 3 of the Minutes begins with the end of a sentence which appears to be concerned with the subjects of Mr. Boyd’s trial for ordination. The last half of this broken sentence is as follows: “‘De regimine ecclesiae’ which being heard was approved of and sustained, and his ordination took place on the next Lord’s day, December 29, 1706.”

Of course, we will always wonder what else we could now know if we only had those first two pages. At whose call and by whose authority was this Presbytery convened? Did they consider and adopt the Westminster Standards as their system of faith and government? The best supported opinion is that by this time Francis Makemie’s leadership had become obvious. For one, his trip to the old country for the purpose of bringing additional ministers back to the colonial churches, and the success of that trip, was probably well known. So it seems likely that it was Makemie who convened the meeting.

The Freehold congregation had apparently written asking how Mr. Boyd should be ordained, and so it was Mr. Makemie who arranged for a meeting in the spring of 1706 for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements for his ordination, with Boyd’s ordination trials to take place at what became the inaugural meeting of the new Presbytery in December. The record is somewhat unclear, particularly as to why the delay in settling Rev. Boyd. That took place in May of 1708, with the presbytery requesting the congregation to consent to his preaching every third Sabbath at Woodbridge. But he died later in 1708, and while his tomb remains to this day, Makemie—who also died that same year—and other ministers, most of them, lie in unknown graves.

Of the new Presbytery, George Hays observed in his work Presbyterians (1892):

“Presbyterianism thus grew out of the soil and of the necessities of the case. It did not begin at the top as it had done in France and Scotland, but began at the bottom and by degrees rose to strength. Now Synods are constituted by the act of the General Assembly, and Presbyteries are organized by act of Synod. Then Presbyteries were by the necessity of the situation. In 1717, the Presbytery divided itself and constituted a Synod above it; and in 1788 the Synod divided itself into subordinate Synods and created itself a General Assembly. There is no good reason to believe that this first Presbytery adopted any standards for their own guidance. It looks as though they came together assuming the Westminster Standards as authoritative without any special adoption in this country. They adopted the ordinary parliamentary law as their method of action. They did not even adopt a name, as Presbyteries now have names. It was simply “The Presbytery”; not of Philadelphia, nor of New Jersey, nor of Maryland. There was no other, and when it was spoken of there was no ambiguity. When, in 1716, the Synod was constituted by dividing the General Presbytery into four, these were simply named First, Second, Third, and so on. It was a day of great demands for activity, and of small resources of men and means to meet the requirements. This first meeting at Freehold was the only meeting which was had outside of Philadelphia. That city was so central and so accessible that the early Presbyteries always met there. So, with three exceptions, did succeeding Synods and General Assemblies, all the way down to 1834. The three men who were present at this ordination of Mr. Boyd were Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, and John Hampton. The original members of the first Presbytery included these three, with George Macnish, John Wilson, and Nathaniel Taylor.”

Words to Live By:
Jesus promised that He will build His church. The promise is sure. And it is the Lord our God who sovereignly draws His people into the Kingdom as Christ is lifted up by the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.—Ps. 127:1, ESV.

Alexander John Forsyth (28 December 1768 – 11 June 1843) was a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman who invented the percussion ignition.[1]

Gunsmiths like Joseph Manton invented more reliable forms of ignition, like the tube lock in 1814. The artist Joshua Shaw designed what is recognized today as the percussion cap, which he patented in the United States in 1822, since Forsyth had threatened his rivals in Britain with legal action. These new forms of ignition proved popular among hunters during the Regency period, who had their old reliable flintlocks converted.[2]


He was educated at King’s College, Aberdeen, and succeeded his father as minister of Belhelvie in 1791.[3]

While hunting wild duck, he was dissatisfied with his flintlock fowling-piece due to its long lock time (the delay between the time the trigger is pulled and the time the main charge of gunpowder begins burning); by the time the pellets actually left the barrel, the target animal could hear the noise from the trigger being pulled and have time to either fly, dive, or run before the shot reached it.[2] He patented his scent-bottle lock in 1807; this was a small container filled with fulminate of mercury[4]

During the Napoleonic Wars Forsyth worked on his design at the Tower armories. But when a new Master General of Ordnance was appointed he was dismissed; other experiments had had destructive results and the new master general did not wish to see Britain’s mainarsenal destroyed.

Napoleon Bonaparte offered Forsyth a reward of £20,000 if he took his invention to France, but Forsyth declined. The French gunsmith Jean Lepage developed a similar form of ignition in 1807 based on Forsyth’s design, but this was not pursued.

Engraved and Gold Inlaid Double Barrel Pellet Lock 16 Gauge Forsyth & Co. Style Shotgun


Estimated Price: $4,500 – $6,500

Description: Engraved and Gold Inlaid Double Barrel Pellet Lock 16 Gauge Forsyth & Co. Style Shotgun Before the invention of the percussion cap in 1822, there was a variety of detonating material that was used. This example used a drum to dispense a single pellet, which was then detonated by the hammer. The lock plates were reengraved with “FORSYTH & Co/PATENT” and they feature scroll engraving at the rear and as stated are fitted with self primers ahead of the hammers. The scrollwork extends to the hammers. The twist barrels have a solid rib which has also been reengraved and gold inlaid with the name “FORSYTH & Co LONDON”. The rib is fitted with a silver blade front sight. Each barrel bolster has been reengraved, two inlaid gold bands one at the front and rear of each bolster. The trigger guard has a pineapple finial. The half stock has a checkered wrist, single barrel wedge, pineapple forend insert, silver thumb escutcheon, cheekpiece and flat buttplate. Length of pull is 13 7/8 inches. Alexander John Forsyth (1768-1843) was a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman who is best known for inventing the roller primer percussion system and manufactured hunting arms for nearly twenty years. The consignor notes indicate that this gun was purchased from the William G. Renwich Collection in 1974 and is considered a Forsyth fake using the very rare John Jones locks of which only ten have been recorded. A similar lock design and discussion on copies and fakes can be found in Early Percussion Firearms by Lewis Winant on page 62. A letter reproduced in Forsyth & Co.: Patent Gunmakers on page 198 notes “In this lock the hammer is clearly a copy of the early form of Forsyth, the only difference being the striker head which is formed with a hardened face…” Manufacturer: English Model: Side By Side BBL: 31 inch solid rib Stock: walnut Gauge: 16 Finish: brown/casehardened Grips: Serial Number: NSN Class: Antique Condition: Good as refinished, altered and embellished. The barrels retain 70% of the refurbished brown twist with a smooth gray patina on the balance. The action components retain traces of case colors. There is some minor pitting with extensive pitting on the trigger guard. The stock is very good with a number of minor handling marks, some chipping and some worn checkering. The engraved Forsyth name and gold inlays are nicely done; however they are not authentic to this shotgun. Mechanically fine.




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