May 2020

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Today we are pleased to have as our guest author the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA. It was Dr. Hall who so competently headed up the Calvin 500 celebration just a few years back, a celebration which included the publication of almost a shelf of new works on the life and ministry of John Calvin, with several of those works written by Dr. Hall himself.

Calvin’s Death


On April 25, 1564, sensing the nearness of death, Calvin filed his final will. In it he pled his unworthiness (“Woe is me; my ardor and zeal have been so careless and languid, that I confess I have failed innumerable times”1) and thanked God for mercy. He appointed his brother, Anthony (whose reputation for divorcing an earlier wife due to adultery had been maliciously used to malign Calvin himself), to be his heir, and in his will he bequeathed equal amounts to the Boys’ School, the poor refugees, and his stepdaughters. He also left part of his meager estate to his nephews and their children. To vindicate Calvin against charges of greed, Beza reiterated what Calvin had stated earlier: “If some will not be persuaded while I am alive, my death, at all events will show that I have not been a money-making man.”2 When his will was notarized and brought to the attention of the Senate,3 members of that council visited the declining Calvin to hear his final farewell personally.

Calvin’s importance and relationship to the city leaders may be gleaned from his Farewell Address to the Members of the Little Council.4 The members of this council had gone to his home to hear his advice and to express their appreciation for the “services he has performed for the Seigneurie and for that of which he has faithfully acquitted himself in his duty.” A contemporary recorded his sentiments from April 27, 1564. In that chronicle, the dying Calvin first thanked these leaders for their support, cooperation, and friendship. Although they had engaged in numerous struggles, still their relationship was cordial. Even though he wished to accomplish more, Calvin humbly suggested that God might have “used him in the little he did.” He urged the senators to honor God and to keep “hidden under the wings of God in whom all our confidence must be. And as much as we are hanging by a thread, nevertheless he will continue, as in the past, to keep us as we have already experienced that he saved us in several ways.”

He concluded by encouraging each one to “walk according to his station and use faithfully that which God gave him in order to uphold this Republic. Regarding civil or criminal trials, one should reject all favor, hate, errors, commendations.” He also advised leaders not to aspire to privilege as if rank was a benefit for governors. “And if one is tempted to deviate from this,” Calvin added, “one should resist and be constant, considering the One who established us, asking him to conduct us by his Holy Spirit, and he will not desert us.”

Calvin’s farewell to these political leaders was followed by his Farewell Address to the Ministers on April 28, 1564. From his chamber, Calvin reminded them poignantly: “When I first came to this Church there was almost nothing. We preached and that was all. We searched out idols and burned them, but there was no reformation. Everything was in tumult. . . . I lived here through marvelous battles. I was welcomed with mockery one evening in front of my door by 50 or 60 rifle shots. Do you think that that could disturb a poor, timid student as I am, and as I have always been, I confess?” The farewell address continued to review his Strasbourg exile, the tensions he faced upon return, and some of his experiences with various councils. Calvin concluded by predicting that the battles would not lessen in the days ahead, warning, “You will be busy after God takes me, even though I am nothing, still I know I prevented three thousand uproars that there might have been in Geneva. But take courage and strengthen yourselves, for God will use this Church and will maintain her, and be sure that God will keep her.”

Calvin humbly confessed: “I say again that all that I did has no value, and that I am a miserable creature. But if I could say what I truly wanted to, that my vices always displeased me, and that the root of the fear of God was in my heart, and you can say that what I was subjected to was good, and I pray that you would forgive me of the bad, but if there is anything good, that you conform yourselves to it and follow it.”

He denied that he had written hateful things about others, and he confirmed that the pastors had elected Beza to be his successor. “Watch that you help him [Beza],” exhorted the dying Calvin, “for the duty is large and troublesome, of such a sort that he may be overwhelmed under the burden. . . . As for him, I know that he has a good will and will do what he can.” Further, he requested that senators not change anything in Geneva’s structures and urged them “not to innovate—we often ask for novelties—not that I desire for myself by ambition what mine remains, and that we retain it without wanting better, but because all change is hazardous, and sometimes harmful.” The advice from this leader is filled with layer upon layer of wisdom.

Always sensitive to the calling to lead in many sectors of public life, he concluded with a plea for his fellow ministers to recall how they would affect matters outside the walls of the church, too: “Let each one consider the obligation he has, not only to this Church, but to the city, which has promised to serve in adversity as well as in prosperity, and likewise each one should continue in his vocation and not try to leave it or not practice it. For when one hides to escape the duty, he will say that he has neither thought about it nor sought this or that. But one should consider the obligation he has here before God.”


When Calvin passed away almost a month after making these comments on May 27, 1564, “the whole State regretted” the death of “its wisest citizen . . . a common parent.” He was interred in a common cemetery at Plein Palais, finally finding the anonymity he craved. That, one historian wrote, was characteristic of Calvin in life as in death.5 The widespread notice and sadness at his death should serve to correct any faulty view that his contemporaries either despised him or underestimated his importance. He was mourned, and his large number of friends would keep his memory alive far more than some contemporaries would have predicted.

Source: David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lexington Books, 2003).

1 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin (contained in John Calvin, Tracts and Treatises on the Reformation of the Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1958], vol. 1), cxxv.

2 Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxxviii.3 Beza refers to this Little Council as the “senate.” See Theodore Beza, Life of John Calvin, cxxii.

4 This translation is from an unpublished translation of Calvin’s “Farewell Address,” trans. Kim McMahan of Oak Ridge, TN; originally published in 1999 at:

5 Emile Doumergue, The Character of Calvin (Neuilly, La Cause, 1931), 173.

The “Preliminary Principles” form the introduction to the PCA’s Book of Church Order. The Principles have their origin with the PCUSA Constitution in 1789 and were also adopted into both the OPC and BPC Books of Church Order. The common opinion is that the Principles were authored by the Rev. John Witherspoon. What follows in our post today is a brief excerpt from the first installment in the series “Studies in Presbyterian Government,” by the Rev. David S. Kennedy, which is just about the only commentary I’ve ever seen that deals with the Preliminary Principles. Serving for many years as editor of The Presbyterian, Rev. Kennedy retired from that post in 1926. Rev. Kennedy’s series, “Studies in Presbyterian Government” appeared in serial form in the months following his retirement.

The Form of Government, like every worthy fundamental governmental document, starts out with a statement of Preliminary Principles. Introducing the Form of Government, there is a statement of eight distinct and necessary principles unanimously held by all who subscribe to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church. It is our purpose in this article to set forth and discuss the first two of these principles. Principle I is as follows:

“God alone is Lord of the conscience; and hath left it free from the doctrine and commandments of men, which are in any way contrary to his Word, or ‘beside it in matters of faith or worship’; therefore they consider the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable; they do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and, at the same time, be equal and common to all others.”

We believe this Principle I, has been greatly misunderstood and misquoted. It plainly declares three relations pertaining to the individual’s freedom and obligation in religion:
(1) His relation to God;
(2) His relation to men, and
(3) His relation to the civil power.

In relation to God, the individual is wholly and vitally responsible to God and his Word. “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” A man then is not absolutely free to believe what he pleases. God has spoken, and every man is under obligation to obey him. Christ puts this with great emphasis when he says: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment. He that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” The oft-repeated statement that a man is free and has a right to believe as he pleases is a most fearful and false statement when used in relation to God. With God, belief means life and justification, and unbelief means death and condemnation.

In relation to men, the individual is perfectly free. No man has the right or power according to this principle to tell another man what he must or should believe aside from the teachings of God’s Word or contrary to God’s Word. So far as man is concerned, each individual is free to follow his conscience and conviction of what is true.

Civil authority, in reference to the faith and religion of the individual, has no power save to protect the religious rights of the individual against any attempt to curtail his freedom and to protect the property and other rights of the denomination against the intrusion or misappropriation of the individual.
Unity Where There Was Disunity
by Rev. David T. Myers

This historical devotional and the May 27th devotional deal with the same topic, that of the Old Side – New Side schism in early Presbyterianism. On May 27, we will look at what caused the infant Presbyterian church to divide into two sides in 1741. On this day, May 25, we will look at how they were brought together again in 1758.

What were the points of difference, even though we will wait until the latter date in May to see them in detail? They could be summarized in two words: education and evangelism. The first difference centered around the education of ministers, whether European credentials were required, like from Scotland or England theological colleges, or whether training in schools in the colonies, such as the Log College of New Jersey, was sufficient. The second difference was composed of the issue of the revival meetings of the Great Awakening, and whether permission needed to be sought and given when engaged in them in other presbyter’s parishes. One can immediately see that no doctrines were at stake, but rather differing ways of doing the Lord’s work.

Such differences on these two points accounted for this schism in 1741 which  lasted sixteen years  to 1758.  By then, men and churches who took strong stands in the 1741 schism had either died or moved on. Further, there was on the part of a few ministers who had been most vocal in their affirmations and denunciations during the schism, like the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, a sincere repentance on choice of words used to describe the other side.

The Plan of Union in 1758 affirmed the method of revivals, such as the New Side Presbyterians engaged in, was proper. It even ascertained that the Great Awakening was a blessed work of the Holy Spirit. Yet there was a recognition that if the authority of local presbyteries and synods forbade the wandering  of evangelists, who came into other fields without even asking permission to do so, that would have to stop.

As far as education was concerned, the candidates for the gospel ministry should be able to both declare the theological basis of their beliefs (such as the Old Side championed) as well as show experimental acquaintance with the gospel (as the New Side emphasized).

A unified Presbyterian church was ready to progress ahead for the challenging years ahead of her, especially in the birth of a new country called  the United States of America.

Words to Live By: As long as union is not accompanied by denials of Christian theology, it is to be prayed for, worked on, perseveringly kept, and greatly rejoiced over as producing stronger instruments for the glory of God and the growth of the church.
Today we conclude our series “Gilchrist in Chile” with a brief testimony and prayer by the Rev. George R.M. Gilchrist, and we also thank his son, Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist, for making all of this available to our readers. May our Lord and Savior be glorified.

25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION — 1961 Message to Iglesia Presbiteriana Nacional de Chile: “My Motive as a Missionary”

The first questions of the Catechism indicates the motive which I have had serving as a missionary.  
WSC Q. lWhat is the chief end of man?  
Ans.  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Romans 11:36 states:  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 
And 1 Corinthians 10:31: Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 
WSC Q. 2 What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? 
Ans. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. 
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 
WSC Q. 3What do the Scriptures principally teach? 
Ans.  The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. 
John 20:31 says:  But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. 
Romans 15:4 likewise:  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

My life’s purpose has been to glorify God through present Jesus Christ as preeminent in all things, as illustrate through the Sacred Scriptures.  Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word, the Truth and the express image of God.  Through Him we are able to know God – His character, His plans and purposes, His holiness, and His justice, and His love.

Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate.  The Holy Bible – the Sacred Scriptures, are the ever-present presentation of God for us here on this earth.  Thus, the Bible is the Written Word, sufficient to give us a complete knowledge of God.

*   *   *

The experiences of 1944 were very bitter for me, nevertheless I give thanks to God for those experiences, for, because of them I was set free from an ecclesiastical denomination which now has almost completely rejected the solid foundation of the Word of God.  I am thankful for that special meeting of the Presbytery of Chile which made me realize the political base of that religious body.  The blessings that I have received after that session which resulted in separating me from the Presbyterian Church, USA, has given me many blessings, and have brought me great peace to my heart, so that I have tried not to feel any rancor in my heart for the men who caused  me so much bitterness and tears.

Furthermore, the richest blessings have resulted in a camaraderie with the men and women who supported me during the trials of the year 1944, and the years following.  I am grateful to God for the true spiritual friendship which we have had with the brethren of the National Presbytery of Chile.  May God continue to bless you all, in the fruitful service which you all have embarked to serve Him.

Understanding the direction in which the Holy Spirit has guided you in these last twenty five years, let us follow Him to grant us even greater blessings in the future.  Let us glorify Him with a greater dedication to the Eternal Word and to the teachings of the Written Word.

*   *   *

I wish to present clearly and simply the way of Salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ and with confidence in Him savior from sin.  For the unbeliever who desires to be saved, a simple exposition of the way of  salvation; and for the believer, an example of how to present the Gospel to the unconverted.  Also, I wish to help believers to appreciate their salvation through Jesus Christ; and to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in mind and heart.

*        *        *        *         *

George Gilchrist’s Prayer of Thanksgiving to God Almighty for His mighty acts on May 18, 1944:

Father in heaven, omnipotent God, I thank You for the memory of the actions of that session of the Presbytery of Chile.

I thank You for the blessings that came to my life as a result of that bitter experience.  I thank You for the bitter tears caused by the companions of those days in the Presbytery.

I thank You for the brethren who joined me in the movement of the Grupo Accion Evangelica.

I thank You for my brother, Olivero Maufras, and pray your richest blessings on him.  Give him health and life to continue his ministry.

I thank You for the faithful brethren who cast their votes in our favor.  I ask Your blessings upon the following brothers:  Henderson, Villa, Rogelio Aracena; and the ruling elders Sanchez, Holmes, Atayat and Francisco Herrera (RIP), and on Bro. Lorenzo.

I thank You for those who voted against us:  commissioners Elmore, Juan Aracena, Florencio Herrera and Pedro Muñoz (RIP); for commissioners Martinez, Vergara, Hernandez and Brackenridge; for misters Silva, Muñoz, Contesse and Ramos; for ruling elders Castro, Almozan, Silva, Gonzales, Villaroel, Ulloa, Lippians, Guajardo, Richard an Rios.

God Omnipotent, I thank You for the congregations and groups which separated themselves from the old Presbytery:  Santisima Trinidad, Rancagua, San Javier, Talca, Constitucion, Curico, Linares, San Carlos, Chillan, Monte Aguila, Yungay, Trupan and Concepcion.

I thank You for the organization of the National Presbytery and for all that the Presbytery signifies for the dedication of the ministry, sacrifices, and the blessings which they have experienced during these first twenty five years of service.

I pray especially for the richest blessings be poured out over the future of the Presbytery; and upon other brothers in Christ who have been faithful in the preaching the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray all this in the name of our wonderful Lord.  Amen.

Both articles translated from GRMG’s Journal (Spanish), by Paul R. Gilchrist.  (April 11, 2020)
by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist.

At a court hearing, the presbytery and the Union Evangelica packed the hearing with false witnesses who told the judge:  “Chile Mission was just a circle of missionaries who met from time to time for mutual inspiration. The Presbytery of Chile was merely a representative of the PCUSA for the purposes of evangelization, education and humanitarian efforts.  The Union Evangelica was an incorporated society for the purpose of holding properties that were loaned to any religious body that cared to ask for their use, — for example, the Salvation Army….the Presbyterian Church used properties in scattered parts of the country.”  A missionary told the judge:  “The Union Evangelica has no relation whatever with the Presbyterian Church USA, nor is it responsible to it.”  Another missionary said:  “It is not true that the Union Evangelica is the legal body that in Chile represents the Presbyterian Church of North America.”  An elder stated: “The Union Evangelica and the Presbytery … have certain things in common in some of their activities, — this is the only relation between them.”

George Gilchrist wrote that in the case of the property of El Divino Redentor of Linares, there is no doubt as to the rightful owners.  “The property was bought by the recently organized congregation on its own initiative and entirely by its own efforts.  … [N]ot a cent was asked for from the Board, nor from the Mission, nor from the missionaries, nor from the churches, nor from members of the churches.  A loan was asked fro from Presbytery’s Building fund, but the loan was denied although Linares had paid its quota to the fund.  All legal documents and fees were paid by the congregation.  The property was merely bought in the name of the Union Evangelica.”
One missionary had assured the congregation that the property was in “friendly hands.”  Another was quoted as saying, “We can afford to be generous.”  The congregation said, “If the Union Evangelica and the Presbytery and the Mission have taken our property, it is because God has something better for us.”  They consoled themselves in Hebrews 10:30:  “For you not only showed sympathy with those who were imprisoned, but you even submitted with joy when your property was taken from you, being well aware that you have in your own selves a more valuable possession and one which will remain.” (Weymouth).


Letters were written to all of the organizations involved but no answer was given, not even an acknowledgement of having received the letters.  Missionary G. B. Dutton was the only one who had the Christian decency to answer that a letter had passed through his hands to the Executive Committee of the Chile Mission.   Gilchrist kept his promise to the congregation that he would guarantee the funds.  He sold his 1937 Ford and gave the amount to the church.

On April 9, 1947 the Union Evangelica sent a delegation from Presbytery of Chile to take over the property.  On hearing they were coming the congregation quickly went and stripped the property of everything movable.  When the delegation arrived, the property was vacated.  The Presbytery’s delegates “were not satisfied with robbing the property from the congregation but even threatened a lawsuit to recover the furnishings.  How proud the powerful and wealthy Presbyterian Church USA must be to have taken away the humble property of a consecrated congregation on the mission field.”  Gilchrist then adds:  “On the 30th of April, [1947] the faithful little congregation moved into a new property that the Lord had wonderfully prepared for them.  Their first act was to inaugurate the new building with a week of special evangelistic meetings.”

Post Script:

At a meeting celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in August, 2009 in which the PCA was represented by Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist among others, he met the nephew of elder Horacio Gonzales who was the principle mover in the reorganization of the Presbytery back in the 1930s and all the way through to the infamous May 18, 1944 meeting and beyond, including the disciplinary action against Maufras and Gilchrist.  The nephew, a Clerk of Session of one of the current churches of Chile Presbytery, shared with Paul a son of George Gilchrist that his uncle in later years expressed remorse for that action in 1944, saying “it was the worst decision he had ever made.”  Perhaps even more interesting is that the Iglesia Presbiteriana do Brazil has been loaning several pastors to fill the pulpits of the Chile Presbytery for several years now.  They have had a tremendous influence in restoring biblical preaching in those churches, and hence in the presbytery.

Our story concludes tomorrow with a devotional by Rev. George R.M. Gilchrist.

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