January 2020

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While preparing an author-title index to the THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the official publication of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, an organization formed by Dr. J. Gresham Machen and others in 1933. THE BULLETIN was first issued in January of 1936 and continues to this day as the primary newsletter of that organization. I was particularly struck with the thought expressed by the editor in his opening comments (shown in bold type) to this article, found in the magazine’s inaugural issue.


GOD’S KEY-MEN IN WORLD SITUATIONS
His Provisions and Equipment
Isaiah 44:1-8
by Miss Frances Brook 

…In this article Miss Brook emphasizes the thought that God’s key-men are “even His witnesses that He is God.” It was precisely because missionaries failed to realize that it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ, that there was so much evasion of that primary obligation in the Japanese Empire. Missionaries and Christians alike failed to realize that in trial comes priceless opportunity, and therefore, save for a very few, missed a glorious opportunity to testify to the very highest officials in Japan that Jehovah alone is God.

How intimately God speaks in all these passages to His prostrate servant, the captive people in Babylon, the one who is heir to this situation, the people for whom it has been created. What loving personal words, to rouse him from his indifference and apathy! “But thou, Israel,” 41:8. “But now, saith the Lord” 43:1. “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant,” 44:1. And is He any less intimate with us? True power of intercession lies in such close heart intercourse with God!

These verses, Isa. 44:1-8 bring the promise of Pentecost, but not without the foundation of Calvary. How consistent God’s Word is in its oft-repeated revelation. Gal. 3:13 and 14 is the New Testament counterpart, Calvary, thence Pentecost. We must look back at chapter 43:22-28 to get the background of this love appeal, this promise. Verses 18-21 have preceded with their gracious foreshadowing of Pentecost, “a new thing,” a spontaneous, God-given outburst of new life; refreshment and satisfaction just where it might least be expected—”in the wilderness.” Is there anything as “new” as a Pentecostal manifestation of the Spirit? Verses 22-28 describe the spiritual wilderness in which this Pentecostal change is to be enacted. “Things as they are!” A God-weary, God-wearying people. “But thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” No wonder then they had not called, vs. 22. What a heart-breaking statement for God to make, God the Eternal Lover!

Has He never had to say it of us, as He looks down upon our prayerlessness, our apathy? The heart-broken appeal of these verses reminds us of Jer. 2:31. “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel?. . . Wherefore say my people . . . we will come no more unto Thee?” Is it really God speaking? And how tenderly He adds in Isaiah, “I have not wearied thee.”  Prayerlessness, lack of devotion, lack of love, how these things go to God’s heart. Verses 23 and 24 bring this out. God misses our love-tokens. “No water. No kiss. No ointment.” This is its New Testament counterpart, Luke 7:44-46. And from whence did the love gifts come that gladdened our Lord? From the woman whose sins were many and were forgiven. We turn back to Isaiah 43. “But thou has wearied Me with thine iniquities.” God’s love cannot stay on that dismal, heart-breaking scene, it goes on, it must go on to Calvary. “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake and will not remember thy sins.” Sin that has been borne by the broken-hearted sinless One can be blotted out, no more remembered. God invites us to meet Him there. Verse 26 speaks of this. We can put Him in remembrance of the Sacrifice, acknowledge our transgression and be justified. The curse, the reproaches, the devastated Sanctuary, vs. 27-28, all point to a heart condition that has left God out! Sins, sins, sins! No love, no prayer, “Yet now, hear, O Jacob.”

Into this dismal scene God sends the promise of Pentecost, but Pentecost based on Calvary. The outpoured Sacrifice is complemented by the outpoured Spirit. To those who have received the first, the second comes as God’s own answer to the one perfect and sufficient Sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. Calvary looks toward Pentecost. And Pentecost alone can heal God’s heart-break over your sin and mine. “Yet now.” God goes back in these verses, 1 and 2, to His original purpose for His people. It can be attained, it shall be attained. “Fear not, I will pour my Spirit.” For uttermost need, uttermost dryness of soul—Pentecost! God will pour Himself out. The curse absorbed in Calvary’s love-transaction, what is left to give but blessing? Gal. 3:13 and 14.

Thus verses 4 and 5 picture the spontaneity of Holy Ghost life to the soul that listens. They picture Spring as it breaks forth from Winter barrenness and hopelessness. And now (contrast 43:22-24) there is deliberate response to the Divine Giver. Can any response be more simple, more safe, more satisfying than the one for which He has so long waited, “I am the Lord’s!” All Heaven is waiting for the soul that is the Lord’s. I Cor. 3:21-23. But why call himself by the name of Jacob? Can any good thing belong there? No, it is the heart confession of failure, utter failure. “What is thy name?” said the Divine Angel to Jacob at his life crisis when God wrestled with him to change him. “And he said, Jacob,” and God said, “Thou shalt no more be called Jacob, but Israel.”

Israel could not be super-imposed on Jacob. Jacob could not grow into Israel. It is necessary to be perfectly honest in our dealings with God. “I am Jacob” with all it stands for—all the weary plotting and maneuvering to outwit and outreach another—all the failure to attain the thing for which I was made and which God was waiting to bestow—I am Jacob. “Thy name shall be called . . . Israel.” “One with whom God has power.” This is the true interpretation of the Hebrew. Hence Jacob’s power with God and men. Here we come upon the secret by which prayerless self-lovers can be made into “the new sharp threshing instrument having teeth,” into God-lovers who can turn other  men’s failures into victory.

No real change is possible in the situation till there is this change in us. How quickly it followed in Jacob’s case when God had His way with him. Gen. 32:26-28 and 33:1-4. Is not this “subscribing with his hand unto the Lord?” I expect from God what heretofore I have looked for from myself. I sign my checks in His name, I am the Lord’s and have the Bride’s privilege to draw on all that is His. So I use it now, and over against Jacob, my heart confession of failure, I dare to write Israel, my new name, the man who at last has room for God, and expects all from Him. Paul says the same in Phil. 3:3, “rejoice in Christ Jesus . . . no confidence in the flesh.” This fits the Divine assurance of 44:6 as an empty socket gives play to the joint, fulness working in emptiness. John saw the same at Patmos and fell at His feet as dead, and He said, “Fear not; am the first and the last.”

And so the God-appointed people come at last to their God-appointed end, verse 7. They are even His witnesses that He is God, verse 8. They live to show forth His praises, 43:21. They are formed for Himself and in no other way can they reach their End. In all helplessness and utter weakness we receive Him. This is Pentecost. And it means a changed people.

“I take the promised Holy Ghost
I take the power of Pentecost
To fill me to the uttermost
I take, He undertakes.”

Pentecost is God’s cure for prayerlessness; God’s answer to Calvary; the place where God meets the man who is resting in the Sacrifice, and life is changed.
The Glory of Christian FellowshipAs the Rev. Dr. William Buell Sprague worked to compile biographies of American pastors, he solicited submissions from other pastors. The famous Princeton Seminary professor Samuel Miller submitted a number of such recollections and among them, this eulogy on the life of the Rev. Alexander McLeod, a most remarkable Reformed Presbyterian pastor. Dr. McLeod died in 1833, the year that the Reformed Presbyterian denomination split. In that division, McLeod’s son, John Niel McLeod, sided with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, a denomination which later merged with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church [1956-1965] to form the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the RPCES merged in with the PCA in 1982, thus making all of that history a part of the history of the PCA :—

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FROM THE REV. SAMUEL MILLER, D.D.Theological Seminary, Princeton. January 30,1849.Rev. and dear Sir : In thinking of the appropriate subjects of the large work on Clerical Biography in  which you have  for some time been engaged, I of course expected you to include a notice of the life and character of the late Alexander McLeod, D.D., of the city of New York.  Few names among the departed have a higher claim to a place in your list, than the name of that distinguished divine.  When, therefore, I was requested, as one who had enjoyed the privilege of an early acquaintance and friendship with him, to make my humble contribution towards embalming his memory, I felt as if an honour had been conferred upon me, which I could not too promptly or cor­dially acknowledge.

You will no doubt be furnished from another source with all the desirable historical notices concerning his nativity, his education, and the leading events of his literary and ecclesiastical life. On these, therefore, I shall not dwell ; but shall content myself with merely stating my general impressions and esti­mate of his character, as a Man and as a Minister of the Gospel.

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My acquaintance with Dr. McLeod commenced in the year 1801, soon after he had accepted a pastoral charge in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the city of New York, where I then resided. I had never before heard of him; but my first interview with him gave him a place in my mind seldom assigned to one so youthful.  His countenance beaming at once with intelligence and benevolence, his attractive manners and his conversation, though marked with a modesty becoming his age, yet abounding in evidence of intellectual vigour and unusual literary culture, mature theological knowledge and decided piety, made an impression on me which I shall never forget. This impression was confirmed and deepened by all my subsequent intercourse with him.

At the period of which I speak, there was a Clerical Association in the city of New York, which was in the habit of meeting on Monday morning of each week. This Association comprehended most of the ministers of the different Presbyterian denominations in the city. The exercises consisted of prayer, conversation, both general and prescribed, and reading compositions on impor­tant subjects. In this delightful Association I was so happy as to enjoy, for ten or twelve years, the privilege of meeting with Dr. McLeod weekly, and seeing him in company and conversation with the Pastors venerable for their age and standing, in that day; and I must say that the longer I continued to make one of the attendants on those interviews, the higher became my esti­mate of his various accomplishments as a Scholar, a Christian, and a Divine.

Dr. McLeod had a remarkably clear, logical and comprehensive mind. As a Preacher, he greatly excelled.  For, although he seldom wrote his sermons, and never read them in public, yet they were uncommonly rich and instruc­tive, and at the same time animated, solemn, and touching, in their appeals to the conscience and the heart.  As a Writer, his printed works are no less honourable to his memory. His Lectures on the Prophecies, his Sermons on the War of 1812, and his Discourses on the Life and Power of true Godliness, to say nothing of other publications of real value, though of minor size, all evince the richly furnished Theologian, the sound Divine, and the experimen­tal Christian, as well as the polished and able Writer. So great indeed was his popularity in the city of New York, far beyond the bounds of his own ecclesiastical denomination, that several of the most wealthy and respectable churches in the city, in succession, invited him to take the pastoral office over them.  His attachment, however, to that branch of the Presbyterian Body in which he began his ministerial career, was so strong that he never could be persuaded to leave her communion.

After I left New York, on my removal to Princeton, in the year 1813, I rarely visited the city, and almost always in the most transient manner, so that, after that year, I seldom saw Dr. McLeod. I had only two or three short interviews with him at different and distant intervals. In a few years his health became impaired, and not long after so fatally undermined, that he exchanged his ministry on earth for the higher enjoyments and rewards of the sanctuary above.  In the retrospect of my life, I often call to mind the image of this beloved and cherished friend, and dwell upon his memory as that of a great and good man, from my intercourse with whom I am conscious of having derived solid advantage as well as much pleasure.  But I, too, must soon ” put off this tabernacle,” and then I trust we shall be re-united in a better world, and be permitted to study and to enjoy together, to all eternity, the wonders and the glories of that redeeming love, which I have so often heard him exhibit with feeling and with power while he was with us.That  you  and I, my dear Sir, may be more and more prepared  for that blessedness, is the unfeigned prayer of your friend and brother in Christ,SAMUEL

Words to Live By:
What a wonderful privilege and gift is the fellowship that Christians share with one another. Cultivate it wherever you can, and don’t neglect it. It is a beautiful fruit of our union with Christ, that in our belonging to the Savior, so we belong to one another and share with one another all the joys and all the trials of this life. More than that, we share in our common love of a Savior who first loved us and died for us, that we might have fellowship with Him throughout all eternity. Beloved, pray for one another. Pray particularly for your brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer daily because of the salvation which is found in Jesus Christ alone.

For Further Study:
One of Rev. McLeod’s more notable works, Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, is posted on the PCA Historical Center web site in PDF format. This same text is available elsewhere on the Internet, but this particular edition faithfully retains the pagination of the original 1802 printing line for line, and may be used for citations. Additionally, annotations have been added in a light gray text to illuminate some of Rev. McLeod’s references.





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The Rev. William E. Hill, Jr. is particularly remembered as a faithful pastor, as the founder of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and as a leading voice in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America. The following article was written by Rev. Hill and published in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL about three years after the formation of the PCA. [in volume. 34, number 39 (28 January 1976), pages 7-9.]




We Need Revival!
Not more organization and programs, but the dividends of Spirit-filling—

byWilliam E. Hill, Jr.
[1880-1983]

We of the Presbyterian Church in America have come through a traumatic experience. New churches have been formed, enduring birth pains sorrowfully yet joyfully.

Some churches have been able to gain their freedom from earlier connections without difficulty. Others have suffered. Ministers and members whose heritage stretches back for generations in one denomination which was their lifelong home now find themselves in a new one. For some, the transition has been relatively easy. For many it has been exceedingly difficult. Some churches and ministers have endured bitter persecution.

However, now that the agony is over, there is joyful elation, very much akin to the joy experienced by people in the early Church as recorded in Acts 2-3. They “ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” So, also, some have been enabled by the Spirit to rejoice that they were ‘‘counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.”

We are free at last. This is good, but we are compelled to raise the question: So what? And the “so what?” reminds us that the early Church, after the traumatic experience and joyful elation, still found dangers to be encountered (Acts 4-5). For some, disillusionment was ahead. As in the case described in the epistle to the Hebrews, we face certain definite dangers of disillusionment.

We also face another danger—having escaped one ecclesiastical strait- jacket, we proceed to put ourselves into another, not quite so bad but nonetheless real. We face dangers of infighting among ourselves. We have our hyper-Calvinists, our moderate Calvinists, and our charismatics, our premillennialists and our amillennialists, each a little bit concerned about what the new denomination will do to them.

Looking at the situation after our third General Assembly, we raise the question: Does the PCA need revival? Some may say, “That is a silly question—we are already in revival.” This I question. Some may suggest that we need doctrinal instruction. Others may say we need
to perfect our organization and outreach.

It seems to me, however, that what is most desperately needed in the PCA is real revival. Of doctrinal identification we have enough. Of ecclesiastical machinery we have too much. Of debating fine points we are weary. Now the question is or should be: How in the world are we going to meet the needs of many of our small, struggling groups? This is a big question.
Indeed, how are we going to find ministers to pastor these people? Another big question. The answer to all these questions, I believe, is revival. Without it we will degenerate into an ecclesiastical machine, grinding out materials, spewing forth pronouncements, fussing over theological distinctions, and languishing in barrenness and sterility.

The primary mark of real spiritual awakening for any people or any individual is repentance. On the Day of Pentecost there was real repentance with people crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” as their “hearts were pricked” by the Spirit-filled preaching of the apostles. In the revival at Ephesus (Acts 19-20), the people confessed their sins openly, publicly burning the instruments of their sins. Paul recounted in Acts 20 how he had preached with a twofold thrust, the first of which was “repentance toward God” (Acts 20).

Indeed, even back in the early days (Acts 3:19) Peter preached repentance, calling out to the multitudes who were listening, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Years later Peter was still calling upon church people to repent, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” (I Pet. 4:17).

I have seen very little sign of any repentance in all of the struggle to form the PCA and I see little sign of repentance even now after the third General Assembly. No, we have not had revival. The fundamental sign of revival is lacking and we will not have revival until we see repentance, on the part of those who know the Lord and of those who are coming to Him by conversion.

We preach, but where is repentance? As a matter of fact, there is precious little preaching on the subject of repentance. We have plenty of talk about doctrine and plenty of talk about discipline, but mighty little about repentance.

The second mark of revival is true stewardship. ‘‘Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32). Now just where do you find this in the PCA? We talk about the “financial crisis” and how to meet it through General Assembly action which likely will be purely materialistic, not spiritual.

Shame, thrice shame upon us that we should be so low in spirituality and our leaders so utterly lacking in spiritual power that we have to resort to the help of the world to raise money for the Lord’s work and to instruct our people in Biblical stewardship.

Shame! Thrice shame upon us! Lord, help us! We do need revival! Whenever the Church has to call upon the world for help in its work, there is something wrong with the Church—spiritual power lacking, the Word of God ignored.

The third sign of true revival is the filling of the Spirit. Where do we find this in the PCA? On the Day of Pentecost the people were “filled with the Spirit.” Our Presbyterian doctrine tells us (reflecting the Scripture) that we “receive” the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit has applied to us the redemption purchased by Christ; and further, that we grow in the Spirit. But here in the book of Acts is something not directly referred to in our Presbyterian doctrine—the “filling of the Spirit.” In some cases, the book of Acts refers to men as “filled with the Spirit,” but in other places it refers to a specific action at a specific time when men experienced the filling of the Spirit.

The indwelling of the Spirit is continuous in the Christian but there are special times, I take it from these passages of Scripture, in which the Spirit takes complete possession of us and fills us. This results in a stronger faith, in greater boldness to witness, in greater power and effectiveness in witness, in a different attitude toward material things, in a greater power for those who preach, and an increased joy and fellowship among Christian people (Acts 4:31).

Indeed, we are commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). All of this is a mark of true revival. Personally, I have heard just as little about the “filling of the Spirit” in the PCA as I did in the Presbyterian Church US. Do we really have in the PCA men who can be called “filled with the Spirit”? I hope we do, but I haven’t heard anybody speaking about it.

If we had a real filling of the Spirit, would there not be men among us evidently “full of the Spirit” and would there not be more talk about it? Is the reason, possibly, that we need real revival to create within us a deeper spiritual discernment, spiritual expectation, zeal, eagerness, and effectiveness in witness?

In the fourth place we need revival because truly spiritual churches should grow by making converts, not just by accepting transfers. We have seen churches springing up. We have seen churches growing. But we’ve seen mighty little of growth by conversions.

Just by looking at the figures for 1974 on additions by profession, one can tell that our churches are not growing by the method God ordained by which churches should primarily grow: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

Additions to our churches have not been, for the most part, by conversion. We need the kind of revival that will bring people in great numbers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we need churches that grow by converting. A few churches here and there are exceptions; they do grow primarily by converting, but possibly you could name them on the fingers of one hand.

A fifth characteristic of revival, particularly if it is revival among Reformed people, should be a respect for the Lord’s day, the Christian Sabbath. Just where do we find this? I travel all over the Southland and beyond. I go into hundreds of churches but rarely do I run across anyone who has a high sense of regard for the sanctity of the Lord’s day, except at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday or possibly Sunday evening—if their church happens to have an evening service.

Our people use the Lord’s day to travel, to run around and find entertainment, or to visit their kinfolk and friends. They take Sunday newspapers, patronize stores that stay open on Sunday, buy gasoline on Sunday, take vacations on the week-end, neglect the house of God on His day, and the prophet remains silent nor bothers even to set them a good example. Nothing short of real revival will correct this situation.

In the Old Testament, God told the Jews that the Sabbath would be a sign to the nations around them that they were God’s people. This was a primary way by which they could testify to the heathen world around them. We Christians are utterly failing in testifying to the heathen all around us that we have a Lord who arose from the dead on the first day of the week, because  for most of us it’s just more or less like any other day.

The world sees us and passes on without even pausing to stop, but they mutter, “These folks are in just as big a hurry to get to the lake or the seashore or the mountains as we are.” So far as I can tell, the PCA is no different from the others. We do need revival.

Another characteristic as well as result of revival is living by the Word of God which we profess to believe. We brag about taking our doctrine from the Bible, but in many ways we completely ignore the Bible in our living.

For instance, I go into hundreds of homes, and seldom do I find a home that is disciplined according to the Word of God with the husband and father taking his rightful place as clearly delineated in the Scriptures, the wife taking her rightful place in “submission,” and the children in “subjection.” I’m sorry to say that in too many homes of ministers, elders and deacons where I visit, the children are brats.

Then in the area of money and material things we do not discipline ourselves. We are grabbing just like the world. Our children are growing up to think that the dollar is the most important thing because they see this in their parents. We’ve never learned to discipline ourselves. Quite naturally, we don’t discipline our children. The world looks on and says, “That fellow is living for the same thing I am—to get money,” and the world sneers.

In the area of sex purity we depart continually from the Scriptures in exposing our young people to the filth so often displayed on the television. The way our young people dress and the slavish way our women follow the styles are geared to sex appeal and designed by pagan people.

Among Presbyterians I hear a good deal of talk today, particularly from those of the Reformed faith, about Christian liberty. Oftentimes all kinds of questionable practices, just like those in the world, pass in the guise of Christian freedom. Our sessions and boards of deacons have too many divorced and remarried members, to say nothing of ministers in the same situation. How then do we expect the Church to exercise discipline?

In the area of our motivation, the ego is too often quite as prominent in us as it is in people of the world, though our Lord said, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself.” Self seems to reign in the actions and motives of most people. Indeed, we have a hard time getting along together; feuds, bitterness and ill will abound, and paralysis results because someone’s ego is not surrendered to the Lord.

Real revival results in unity of mind and heart. We have had a great deal of this unity in the PCA but is it growing thin now? Are tensions building up in behind-the-scenes maneuvering? Are pulling and pushing beginning to be evident? It broke out into the open one night during the second General Assembly; however, it is heartening to recall the fine spirit present at the third General Assembly.

May God grant to us a fresh filling of the Spirit in real revival that it may be clearly seen that we are “of one mind and one heart” as were the disciples after the filling of the Spirit.

Do we need revival? As far as I can see, there is but one answer. Yes indeed we do! Above all else in the Presbyterian Church in America we need revival. Without it, I am personally fearful for the future. With it, there are great things ahead for the PCA in the service of the kingdom of God, if the Lord tarries. More than we need organization and programs, we need revival.

If we have revival there will be no problem about finances, no “money manipulation,” no tugging and pulling and competition between various departments of the work. If we have revival our struggling churches will have adequate funds to provide buildings for the glory of God, not great cathedrals and beautifully ornate churches but simple meeting places which are useful in the service of God.

If we have revival our missionary force will be doubled, tripled, quadrupled and the witness of our missionaries will be increasingly effective. If we have revival it will shake some of our churches to their foundations. It will revolutionize some of our members and send them out to witness.

Revival will galvanize some of our pastors into action. It will revolutionize things in many of our homes. It will cause our churches to bring new members on profession of faith, “the Lord adding daily.” It will cause our ministers to speak with “great power” (Acts 4:33).

Revival is more desperately needed than anything else in the PCA. I need revival! Don’t you? Let us pray the prayer of Habakkuk (3:2), “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Also the prayer of the psalmist (85:6), “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Then will be sounded forth effectively from our pulpits, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Then we will hear with great power, “The Spirit and the bride say come; let him that heareth say come, let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him come and partake of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

EDWARD PORTER HUMPHREY, D.D., L.L.D., was the eldest son of Rev. Dr. Herman and Sophia Port Humphrey, and was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, January 28, 1809, and he died in Louisville, Kentucky on December 9, 1886.

He was from one of the oldest English-American families.  The first of his ancestors in England were those who followed William the Conqueror from Normandy in 1066.  Dr. Herman Humphrey, the father of Dr. E. P. Humphrey, was for twenty-two years president of Amherst College.  One can trace in the father’s character and career a marked similarity to the character and career of his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. E. P. Humphrey.  Both were eminently successful in the pulpit and in their services among the people.  Both were distinguished teachers, excelling in clearness of mind and in lucidity of statement.  Both were wide in their sympathies, counting nothing beyond them when their fellow-men were concerned.  Each after retiring from active service lived to enjoy the honors and esteem of those whom they had served so faithfully, and yet each was, to the quiet close of an eventful life, untiring in all the labors of which his constitution was capable. One might write of Dr. E. P. Humphrey as was written of his father, “As the years went on the position accorded him in the town was phenomenal.

In connection with many families his relationship was truly patriarchal.  Their homes, their tables, their gardens with all they contained of bounty or fruitage were as open to him as if each had been his own.  The sick and the dying watched eagerly for his coming, and for the comfort of his ministrations, and when some heavy sorrow fell with crushing weight upon a household the most natural cry seemed to be: `Send for Doctor Humphrey.’”

Dr. Edward Porter Humphrey’s youth was spent in Connecticut. He was prepared for college at the academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in 1828 he graduated with honor from Amherst College.  In 1831-32 he was principal of the academy at Plainfield, Connecticut.  During this time he pursued his theological studies, and in 1833 graduated at the Andover Theological Seminary.  His inclination led him to begin his ministry in the Southwest, and during the year 1834 he labored in connection with the Presbyterian church in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

In 1835 he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian church in this city.  He gave himself completely up to work in the interest of his church for eighteen years, and his influence was felt, not only in its rapid and permanent growth, but also in a marked degree throughout the city, and in the entire denomination to which he belonged.

Dr. Humphrey, as early as 1852, was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the then Old School Presbyterian Church, and his sermon, called “Our Theology,” preached at Charleston, S. C., as retiring Moderator, was circulated by the Presbyterian Board of Publication for many years after.  Dr. Humphrey preceded Dr. Stuart Robinson as pastor of the old Presbyterian church on Third street, between Green and Walnut, which was afterward converted into a theater, and is now known as the Metropolitan building.  His eloquence, when pastor of this church from 1835 to 1853, won him great fame.  His discourse at the dedication of the Cave Hill cemetery, in 1848, was rich in eloquence and classical learning, and strong in that faith in immortality which he taught at all time.

In 1852 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Hanover College, Indiana.  In 1853 he was appointed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, professor in Princeton Theological Seminary.  This he declined, but soon after he accepted the professorship of Church History in the Theological College in Danville, Ky.  It was during the latter years of his residence in Danville, 1851-66, that the exigencies occasioned by the bitter and disastrous civil strife called into prominence many of his distinguishing characteristics.  Among these were his unwavering loyalty to the National Government, together with a magnanimity and conciliation of spirit which were potent influences in hastening the return of concord and amity, both in society and in the church. In 1866, in response to an urgent appeal, he returned to Louisville to take temporary charge of a new church made up of many members of the old Second Church, of which he had been pastor for eighteen years.  The new organization was called the College Street church.  His health, which had begun to fail, rapidly improved on his return to Louisville, and he became permanent pastor of the new church.  Under his ministry it became one of the largest and most influential congregations in the city.  In 1871 his Alma Mater, Amherst College, conferred the degree of L.L. D., on him.  He continued his labors as pastor and preacher until 1880, when he retired from the active duties of his pulpit and was succeeded in the new and handsome church, which his congregation had built, by Rev. Dr. Christie.

After his retirement he engaged in literary and theological work, and spent the remainder of his life among the people to whom he had devoted himself in his early manhood.  The positions which Dr. Humphrey occupied demanded rare qualities and gifts, and with these he was peculiarly endowed.  His preaching, so distinctive as a simple and earnest presentation of the Gospel, enhanced in attractiveness by convincing argument and impassioned eloquence, made him distinguished as an ambassador of Christ.  As a theological teacher his knowledge of history, sacred and profane, and his unique methods of imparting truth not only stimulated the imagination of his pupils, but gave them the philosophy of the subject and stores of definite information.  His life covered a period in the Presbyterian church in which great questions of policy and theology were considered, and his power in the discussion of vital subjects, together with the clear and calm judgment he brought to bear upon them, impressed itself with controlling influence upon the great assemblies of the church.

His power was always the greater because of his kindly nature.  In advocating measures which seemed to him of great importance one felt that his fervor was inspired by the strength and courage of his convictions rather than by any personal considerations.  He was a man greatly beloved by his ministerial brethren and all who knew him, and while zealously devoted to the Presbyterian organization known as the “Old School” so long as it remained separate, he was no less earnest in his work for the unity of the Presbyterian church throughout the land, and foremost in promoting it in special crisis in later life.  His theology was always conservative and fully deserved the eminence be attained by a long life devoted to a cause he loved.  Dr. Humphrey was of slender figure and of about medium height.  His face was expressive of high intelligence.

His general appearance, in spite of his stature, was striking.  His voice, until near the end, was strong and clear, but even as he advanced in years he still retained his powers as an orator.  His last few years were spent with the family of his youngest son, but he was ready on all occasions to assist with his knowledge and experience all who applied to him.  He took the liveliest interest in the College Street Presbyterian church, of which he had been pastor, and the members of that congregation are among those who will most keenly feel his loss.  His last public appearance was at the funeral of the late James F. Hubner, when he assisted in conducting the service.

Excerpted from Kentucky: A History of the State, by Perrin, Battle, and Kniffin, 8th ed. (1888). — http://www.rootsweb.com/~kygenweb/kybiog/jefferson/humphrey.ep.txt

One great resource for Presbyterian biography is Alfred Nevin’s 1884 publication, The Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America: Including the Northern and Southern Assemblies. This is a huge volume of about 1250 pages, and copies can occasionally be found on the used book market or on eBay.


Today we will focus on Jonathan Trumbull Backus, D.D., LL.D., son of E.F. Backus, who was born in the city of Albany, New York on this day, January 27, in 1809. His lower level education took place at the Albany Academy and he later graduated from Columbia College in New York City, in 1827. From 1827 to 1830, he attended Princeton in preparation for entering the ministry and he concluded his theological studies at Andover, 1830-1831 and New Haven, 1832.

He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York in 1830 and then was ordained by the Presbytery of Albany and installed as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, New York, in 1832.

As an aside, we have to mention that First Presbyterian Church was organized in 1760, but left the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. denomination in 1977, later affiliating with the Presbyterian Church in America in 1989. In 2010 this congregation marked its 250th anniversary, and it is today one of the five oldest churches in the PCA. An important volume on the history of the church was published on that occasion. A brief synopsis of the church’s history is available here. The Rev. Larry Roff is a former pastor of the church, though he is perhaps better known across the PCA as the organist for the worship services at General Assembly each year. Rev. Mark J. Dunn is the current pastor at First Presbyterian.

Rev. Backus continued as the pastor of First Presbyterian for forty-one years, until 1873, by which time his own health had so weakened that he could no longer properly fulfill his duties as pastor. He died on January 21, 1892, having not quite reached the age of 83.

Honors accorded to Rev. Backus during his life included the honorary degree of Sacred Theology Doctor, awarded to him by Union College, Schenectady, NY, in 1847. He was a commissioner to General Assembly seven times and he actively served the Church on a number of important committees. To mention just one of those committees, he served on the Committee which prepared the Presbyterian Hymnal, working alongside the Rev. Joseph Duryea in the preparation of that volume, published in 1874.

Of particular note, Rev. Backus was unanimously elected Moderator of the first reunited General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1870. Nevin’s Encyclopedia says of Rev. Backus that “In the discharge of his duties in this high office he gained the commendation of all his brethren, for the impartiality, suavity, and dignity with which he presided over the deliberations of the Assembly.”

Words to Live By: Some pastors serve important, historic churches. Others labor in small, relatively unknown places. But wherever the church, regardless of its fame or lack thereof, godly pastors are called to serve because of the people in their churches, because those lives matter. They—we—are the Lord’s chosen people, a holy nation. We are each of us made in the image of God, and now called according to His purpose, a people for His possession. Your life matters, regardless of your station in this world, because you have been called to serve the King of Kings and the Lord of all creation.

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