October 2020

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The Rev. George H. Seville wrote this little tract, found among the Papers of the Rev. Albert F. (“Bud”) Moginot, Jr.

Born, 19 March 1876, near Bellevue, PA, he later graduated from the Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, and from Allegheny Seminary (UPCNA), Pittsburgh. He served as a high school teacher for a brief time before taking additional studies at the Moody Bible Institute, in preparation for ministry in China, beginning in 1902, serving under the auspices of the China Inland Mission. While stationed there, he met and later married a fellow missionary, the former Jessie Maud Merritt Greene, in 1905. [Mrs. Seville, mother of Edith Schaeffer, was born 15 Oct. 1874, died on 2 Jan. 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware.]

The couple had four children, all born in China. Three daughters, Janet (Mrs. Ralph M. Bragdon), Elsa (Mrs. Roger B. VanBuskirk) and Edith (Mrs. Francis A. Schaeffer), and a son, John, who died in infancy.

The Seville family returned from China in 1919, whereupon Rev. Seville studied at Gordon College and then served as pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian church, Newburgh, NY, from 1923-1930. From 1931-1935, Rev. Seville served in the publishing department of the China Inland Mission, based initially in Toronto, Ontario and later in Philadelphia, PA. It was during this period that his alma mater Westminster College awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree, in 1932. He was next one of the founding professors at the Faith Theological Seminary, teaching Greek and Practical Theology. Retiring from that service in 1955, this was also about the same time that Francis and Edith Schaeffer founded the L’Abri ministry, and Dr. Seville served as treasurer for the ministry from 1955-1967.  Dr. Seville lived to be 101 years of age, and died on 21 March 1977.

Minced Oaths

Rev. George H. Seville, D.D.

A visiting minister was asked to lead in prayer in Sunday school, and when he had finished, a teacher heard one of her girls whisper, “Gosh, what a prayer!” Such an exclamation seems incongruous in expressing one’s appreciation of a prayer, but a little thought will lead anyone to the conclusion that “gosh” is not an appropriate word for a Christian to use on any occasion whatsoever. When we look into the original meaning of such interjections, we may be surprised that even some Christian people are habitual users of expressions which the dictionary terms “minced oaths.”

A very commonly used interjection is “Gee.” It is capitalized in Webster’s New International Diction­ary and given this definition: “A form of Jesus, used in minced oaths.” This derivation is even more ap­parent when the form “Geez,” now frequently heard, is used. Two other common words and their defini­tions are these: “Golly—a euphemism for God, used in minced oaths; gosh, a substitute for God, used in minced oaths.” “Darn, darned, darnation” are said to be “colloquial euphemisms for damn, damned, dam­nation.” Persons who allow their lips to utter “Gosh- darned” quite freely would be shocked if they realized the real meaning of the word.

A certain minister, professor in a sound seminary, when he was a child was not allowed to use “good­ness,” “mercy,” or “gracious” as exclamations. He was inclined to think the restrictions a family peculi­arity, merely a parental overcarefulness, but now he can see that it had a sound Calvinistic basis. The Shorter Catechism asks, “What is required in the third commandment?” and then gives this answer: “The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordi­nances, words, and works.” Certainly goodness is an attribute of God. That this is so is recognized by Webster in the latter part of his definition: “The word is used colloquially as an exclamation, or in various exclamatory phrases, as “for goodness sake! goodness gracious 1”—the reference being originally to the goodness of God.”

The use of minced oaths is quite contrary to the spirit of the New Testament teaching. For example, our Lord Jesus said: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all. . . . But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one” (Matt. 5:34, 37, R. V.). The phrase “whatsoever is more than these” suggests the mean­ing of expletives, or exclamations: an expletive is defined as “something added merely as a filling; especially a word, letter, or syllable not necessary to the sense, but inserted to fill a vacancy.”

James in writing his Epistle repeats almost exactly the words of the Lord Jesus quoted above: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment” (Jas. 5:12). That last word recalls our Lord’s declaration: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). The result of this judgment is given in the following verse, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be con­demned.”

If we try to excuse ourselves by saying that these exclamations slip through our lips unawares, we need to heed the Holy Spirit’s warning in the Epistle of James: “If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth [or, curbeth] not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain” (1:26). Even though we do not intend these minced oaths to bear the meaning the words originally had, we certainly cannot truthfully say that the use of them accords with Christ’s command, “Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.”

James seemed puzzled by the same anomaly that puzzles us, namely, the presence of minced oaths on the lips of Christians. Writing of the tongue as “a restless evil . . . full of deadly poison,” he said: “Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and there­with curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jas. 3 : 8-10).

While no attempt has been made to give a complete list of all the words in the vocabulary of near-pro­fanity, enough has been said to indicate that present- day speech has fallen below that standard which Christ Jesus set for his disciples.

The tendency in the use of expletives is to find the milder ones becoming less expressive of our feel­ings, to discard them, and use stronger ones in their stead. A careless following of others in the use of these common minced oaths will dull our own spiritual sensitiveness, and will weaken our Christian testimony.

To gain the victory in this matter of full obedience to our Lord Jesus, we need to make the prayer of David our daily petition: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psa. 19: 14).

Image source : Sixteenth Annual Catalog of Faith Theological Seminary, Elkins Park, PA, Summer 1953, page 7.

We have two different printings of this tract preserved at the PCA Historical Center, both indicating that the tract was originally self-published; one tract gives Rev. Seville’s address in Wilmington, while the other lacks any address, indicating that it was probably distributed among closer associates and thus this latter example is probably the first printing. Subsequently, the tract was reprinted as “Minced oaths : a vital message for every Christian.” by the Good News Publishing Company, in 1944  and then again by the same publisher in the 1960s. It has additionally been reprinted in at least one periodical: The Projector. (Spring 1989). The tract remains in print to this day, currently available from Bible Truth Publishers [http://bibletruthpublishers.com/minced-oaths-leaflets/george-h-seville/communication-speech/pd5591]

The bulk of Dr. Seville’s published writing, so far as I’ve been able to discover, appeared on the pages of The Bible Today, a publication of The National Bible Institute in New York City. These articles appeared during the years when Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. was serving as president of that school. The PCA Historical Center has a complete run of this periodical from May 1941 to September 1951, and is currently searching for issues prior to May 1941. Dr. Seville appears to have written exclusively on the subject of missionary biography, and the articles included the following titles:

Hugh Adoniram Judson : The Apostle of Burma, 38.4 (January 1944) 75-80.
“And Some, Evangelists” Charles Grandison Finney, 41.3 (December 1946) 563-574.
“And Some, Evangelists” Dwight Lyman Moody, 41.4 (January 1947) 585-597.
“And Some, Evangelists” George Whitefield, 40.9 (June-September 1946) 486-495.
“And Some, Evangelists” Henry Moorhouse, 41.8 (June-September 1947) 719-729.
“And Some, Evangelists” J. Wilbur Chapman, 41.7 (April 1947) 672-681.
“And Some, Evangelists” John Wesley, 41.2 (November 1946) 544-555.
“And Some, Evangelists” Reuben Archer Torrey, 41.5 (February 1947) 608-617.
“And Some, Evangelists” William Ashely Sunday, 41.8 (May 1947) 686-697.
Bartholomew Ziegenbalg : The Apostle of India, 39.2 (November 1944) 42-47.
Christian Friedrich Schwartz : The Founder of the Native Church in India, 39.3 (December 1944) 68-74.
George and Grace Stott : Pioneers in Wenchow, China, 39.1 (October 1944) 14-20.
Glimour of Mongolia, 39.6 (March 1945) 158-167.
James Chalmers, 38.7 (April 1944) 164-171.
James Hudson Taylor, Part I : The Apprentice, 38.5 (February 1944) 120-124. [author’s name not provided]
James Hudson Taylor, Part II : The Master Workman, 38.6 (March 1944) 139-146.
John Evangelist Gossner : the Father of Faith Missions, 40.1 (October 1945) 284-287
John Williams : The Apostle of the South, 39.8 (May 1945) 217-226.
Mary Slessor of Calabar : Pioneer Missionary of Okoyong, 38.9 (June-September 1944) 227-235.
Men We Should Know : Adolph Saphir: Hebrew Christian Preacher, 43.8 (May 1949) 249-258.
Men We Should Know : Albert B. Simpson: Founder of the C. and M. Alliance, 45.3 (December 1950) 68-77, 87.
Men We Should Know : Charles Simeon, Leader of the Low-Church Party, 42.7 (April 1948) 188-192; 42.9 (June-September 1948) 268-273.
Men We Should Know : Francis Asbury, the Homeless Bishop, 44.1 (October 1949) 5-12, 27, 32.
Men We Should Know : George Fox: Founder of Quakerism, 43.3 (December 1948) 77-84.
Men We Should Know : John Nelson Darby, 43.5 (February 1949) 139-144.
Men We Should Know : John Newton: a Brand from the Burning, 42.3 (December 1947) 89-93; 42.4 (January 1948) 103-109. Men We Should Know : Richard Baxter: a Protestant Saint, 43.4 (January 1949) 107-112, 136.
Men Worth Knowing : August Hermann Francke: Pastor, Professor, Philanthropist, 42.5 (February 1948) 137-147.
Men Worth Knowing : Philipp Jakob Spener, 42.1 (October 1947) 27-31; 42.2 (November 1947) 46-50.
Missionary Builders : Guido Verbeck : A Pioneer in New Japan, 40.7 (April 1946) 427-433.
Missionary Builders : John Wilkinson : Founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, 40.8 (May 1946) 475-483.
Missionary Builders : Pastor Louis Harms : Founder of a Unique Enterprise, 40.3 (December 1945) 350-354, 364.
Missionary Builders : Robert Moffat: Builder of the Bechuana Missions, 40.5 (February 1946) 396-402.
Missionary Builders : Robert Morrison: The Pioneer of Modern Missions in China, 39.9 (June-September 1945) 251-258, 264, 267.
William Carey : Founder of a Missionary Society and a Mission, 38.2 (November 1943) 36-40.
William Carey : One of the Serampore Brotherhood, 38.3 (December 1943) 54-59.
William Chalmers Burns: Evangelist and Missionary, 39.4 (January 1945) 89-95; 39.5 (February 1945) 126-129.

Not Every Presbyterian Denomination Operates This Way

The moderator of the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was a ruling elder–the Hon. W. Jack Williamson. Since that time, the PCA has established a tradition of alternating between ruling elders and teaching elders in its nomination and election of moderators for the General Assembly. But this practice remains unusual among Presbyterian denominations. Even within our own ecclesiastical heritage, it wasn’t always so, as Rev. R.C. Reed explains in this review of the PCUS General Assembly of 1914 :

“The Assembly elected a ruling elder to preside over its sessions. The law which makes the ruling elder eligible to the moderatorship of all our church courts is but a corollary of a fundamental principle of Presbyterianism–the parity in authority of all Presbyters. Our church did right to put this corollary into the form of law, and it ought not to suffer the law to lapse into a condition of innocuous desuetude. We cannot be accused of working it overtime. The law was enacted in 1886. It was seven years after that date before it received its first practical recognition in the election of Hon. J.W. Lapsley. Only four ruling elders have presided over our Assemblies in the twenty-eight years since the way was open for them to be honored with this responsibility. Always there is good material among the ministerial members to fill the office, as there was in the last Assembly, and there is never any reluctance on their part to serve, but they, as well as others, allow the propriety of occasionally electing a ruling elder in order to do justice to the principle of parity.”

[excerpted from “The General Assembly of 1914” by R.C. Reed, in Union Seminary Review 26.1 (October 1914): 4.]

This change to the constitution of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. was enacted in 1886, as Rev. Reed notes. The overture to enact this change first came from the Synod of Virginia and from the Presbytery of Chickasaw, in 1884. The Minutes of the 1885 Assembly (p. 432) note that:

The Committee on Bills and Overtures reported on the overtures from the Synod of Virginia and from the Presbytery of Chickasaw, which were sent to the last Assembly and referred by it to this (see Minutes of 1884, pages 249 and 250), asking an amendment of the Form of Government in reference to the duties of ruling elders when elected moderators of church courts. Pending the discussion, a substitute was offered by the Rev. P.T. Penick, which was adopted, and is as follows:

That the request contained in these overtures be granted and that the Assembly hereby recommends and sends down to the Presbyteries for their advice and consent thereunto the following:

That to the clause in the Form of Government, Chapter IV., Section 3, Paragraph 2, stating that ruling elders “possess the same authority in the courts of the Church as the ministers of the word,” shall be added this sentence, “When, however, a ruling elder is moderator of a Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly, any official duty devolving upon him the performance of which requires the exercise of functions pertaining only to the teaching elder, shall be remitted by him for execution to such minister of the word, being a member of the court, as he may select.

In the PCA’s Book of Church Order, parity among elders is noted in BCO 8.9 :

Elders being of one class of office, ruling elders possess the same authority and eligibility to office in the courts of the Church as teaching elders. They should, moreover, cultivate zealously their own aptness to teach the Bible and should improve every opportunity of doing so.

Comparing that present text with an overview of how this paragraph has changed over the years:

1. PCA 1973, 9-2, Adopted text, M1GA, Appendix, p. 131
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 9-2, Proposed text, p. 9
3. PCUS 1933, X-§41
4. PCUS 1925, X-§41
and
5. PCUS 1888 (cf. PCUS Minutes, p. 424)

These Ruling Elders possess the same authority and eligibility to office in the courts of the Church as the Ministers of the Word. They should, moreover, cultivate zealously their aptness to teach the Bible and should improve every opportunity of doing so, to the end that destitute places, mission points, and churches without Pastors may be supplied with religious services.

PCUS 1879, IV-3-2
These Ruling Elders do not labour in the Word and doctrine, but possess the same authority in the courts of the Church as the Ministers of the Word.

PCUS 1869 draft, IV-3-2

These Presbyters, as ecclesiastical rulers, possess the same authority with the Teaching Elder.

PCUS 1867 draft, IV-3-2

These presbyters, as ecclesiastical rulers, are of the same rank, and possess the same authority with the teaching elder. And while the titles of bishop, pastor, and minister, belong to the teaching elder by way of eminency, because he excels by reason of his entire consecration to the work, as well as by the superiority of his functions, they also belong to the office of the ruling elder, seeing that, in order to rule with diligence, he must take the oversight of the flock; in order to its protection he must guard and guide it; and in order to discharge the chief duty of his office, he must serve Christ diligently in the exercise of government.

it becomes clear that the provision or recognition for having ruling elders serve as moderators of the higher courts was something which was from the start embedded in the Book of Church Order, even though that field of service was not always recognized or practiced by the Church.

And here concluding, the commentary of F.P. Ramsay (1898), though written in reference to the PCUS BCO, still pertains :

43.–II. These Ruling Elders do not labour in the Word and doctrine, but possess the same authority in the courts of the Church as the Ministers of the Word.

officially (for nothing is here decided as to what others than Ministers of the Word may do unofficially in the Word and doctrine),

but possess he same authority in the courts of the Church as the Ministers of the Word.

May he then be Moderator of a court, and of the higher courts as well as of a Session, seeing that to Moderators are assigned certain duties that only Ministers can perform?
Yes.

When, however, a Ruling Elder is Moderator of a Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly, any official duty devolving on him, the performance of which requires the exercise of functions pertaining only to the teaching Elder, shall be remitted by him for execution to such Minister of the Word, being a member of the court, as he may select.

The Minister must be a member of the same court, so that he may be under the control of the court. It is to be observed that by a court consisting of the Word, men may be appointed to ministerial functions, and are subject to the control of the court, the power of government extending over the Church and its officers in all their functions. It is also to be observed that the Moderator is appointed to a special work by a court, and is answerable to the court appointing him. It is further to be observed that there is no fundamental principle requiring that the Moderator shall be of this or that class of Elders; but, since, as a matter of conveniency and prudence, certain ministerial functions are, in the detailed regulations of the Form of Government, assigned to the Moderator, the principles of the system do require either that these regulations should be abolished, or that Ruling Elders be kept out of the position of Moderator, or that a special provision, such as this, determine the assignment of ministerial functions. Provision is made elsewhere as to the Moderator of the Session.
[F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order(1898, p. 55-56), on IV-3-2 :]

Truly there is nothing new under the sun. This from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVEROctober 8, 1836:

MORALS! KNIVES!!

The practice of carrying knives and Pistols in our peaceable community prevails to an alarming extent, and should be expressly prohibited by an act of the Legislature as unlawful weapons. Lord Ellenborough it will be recollected, caused a law to be passed making it a capital offense to stab, wound, or maim, with felonious intent; and if we cannot check a fierce and furious spirit in other sections of the country, means, strong and effectual means must be adopted to prevent it here. Persons must not misunderstand their rights—they must not suppose because this is called a free country that it is not, or was not a country of laws—of order and good government. Carrying Knives and Pistols is illegal, because it may lead to a breach of the peace. A man armed at all points with deadly weapons is more apt to get into broils and difficulties than he who is unarmed, for he feels confident of his own strength, and in a sudden ebullition of passion the dagger may be fatally used. They should be abolished by Statute : there is no necessity to carry them, and they are dangerous to the peace, the safety, and the character of the City.

Now this is wrong in a city constituted like ours, and the subject should occupy the attention of our public authorities, and above all convictions for stabbing should be followed by strong and severe punishments.—New York Evening Star.

It is strange that Intelligent Editors should live in the midst of scenes of immorality for years, comment upon them in every paper, and in all aspects, and yet should let their philosophy be perpetually on the surface. What harm in carrying knives by the gross, if there is no disposition to use them? Is it the habit of carrying private arms, or the habit of cherishing those feelings which make arms pernicious, that is to be censured? If Quakers should arm their whole sect, who would fear evil? And why? Quakers do not drink, don’t gamble, do not haunt theatres, nor horse races, nor sporting clubs.—Now if the good citizens of New York would let alone the knives and pistols and dirks and fall upon the evil morals of their vagrant population, if they would purge out their grog shops—maintain the influence of religion over the community, visit theatres less and church more, we should soon hear as little about the danger of carrying “knives,” as we did forty or fifty years ago. And their political papers, if they would cease to laud the theatre, to puff demoralizing scenes, would find less need of bewailing the consequences. As it is in the morning they bid god speed to strong causes of vice and immorality; and in the evening they bemoan their natural and inevitable results. This is double handed folly.

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 10.41 (8 October 1836): 162, columns 3-4.]

Off by a few days of the calendar, but this sermon presented as our Sunday post, brings a message we do well to be reminded of from time to time.

Time to Dust Off a Great Sermon

Dr. Samuel Miller

This fits nicely with our intent to bring a sermon on each Lord’s Day. On this day, October 13th, in 1826, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller brought the following message at the installation of the Rev. John Breckinridge as collegiate pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. Reproduced here below will be the opening portion of the sermon, and if you would like to read the entire sermon, a link to an online edition will be provided at the end of this post.

Dr. Miller’s text at the installation was:

II Corinthians X.4.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.

As long as man retained his primitive innocence, he loved truth, and was ever ready to give it a cordial welcome. But the moment he fell from God and from holiness, truth became painful, and, of course, odious to him. He felt that he could no longer listen to it as a friend, speaking peace; but must henceforth regard it as an enemy, which could deliver no other than a hostile message. Accordingly, when we read that the holy and happy tenants of Eden had become rebels by eating the interdicted fruit, the next thing we read of is, that, on hearing the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, and I hid myself.

From that fatal hour, all efforts to impress moral and religious truth on the minds of men, have been, properly speaking, a WARFARE; that is, in whatever direction they have been applied, they have never failed to meet with resistance. As all men, by nature hate the truth as it is in Jesus; and as all men, quite as universally, are opposed to the spirit and the demands of the gospel obedience; it follows that all attempts to procure the reception of the one, or to enforce the practice of the other, must be made in the face of hostility : a hostility not, indeed, always equally bitter in its hatred, or gross in its violence; but still real hostility, which nothing can appease but a surrender of Jehovah’s claims to the inclination of the rebellious creature. Hence, whenever the banner of truth and righteousness is raised in any place, opposition never fails immediately to arise : and however unreasonable its character, or revolting its aspect, in the view of the truly spiritual mind, it usually bears away the multitude, and would always do so, did not Divine power interpose to prevent it. The human heart, left to itself, is ever ready to bid welcome any plausible flatterer, who will “prophecy deceits,” and say, in the language of the first deceiver, “Ye shall not surely die.

Of the truth of these remarks, we have a striking example in the history of the church of Corinth. The apostle Paul had laboured in the ministry of the Gospel in that city for a considerable time; and his labours had been crowed with success. Numbers were added to the professing people of God. Soon after he left them, however, a false teacher came among them, who appears, from various hints dropped by the apostle, to have been a man of honourable birth; of fine talents; of polished education; and of great skills in all the arts and refinements of Grecian eloquence. He was evidently, also, as such impostors commonly are, a man of lax principles; ever ready to accommodate his doctrines to the pride, the prejudices, and the corrupt passions of those whom he addressed. This artful deceiver, on the one hand, set himself with peculiar bitterness against the apostle; found fault with his birth and education; alleged that his bodily presence was mean, and his speech contemptible; and insinuated that he was really no apostle. On the other hand, he boasted much of his own origin, learning, eloquence, and other accomplishments, and endeavoured to persuade the people of Corinth that he was, in every respect, Paul’s superior.

Unhappily, the situation of the Corinthian church at this time was peculiarly favourable to the views of such an impostor. In consequence of the surrounding wealth and luxury, and the remarkable exemption from persecution which it had for some time enjoyed; a large number of its members were deeply tinctured with a worldly spirit. In fact, the church there seems to have been full of professors who were far from having either the knowledge, the steadiness, or the spirituality which became them. No wonder, therefore, that this false teacher found admirers and followers. He raised a considerable party, which gave much trouble to the friends of truth, and which, for a time, threatened the peace, if not the existence of the church in that city.

The inspired apostle, in the passage of which our text make a part, seems to be directly addressing this false teacher and his adherents, and repelling some of the insinuations which he had made against himself. In reply to the charges,–that he was destitute of the credentials of an apostle,–and that he had none of those decisive and energetic means of resisting opposers, and supporting his authority, which they supposed a teacher sent from God ought to exhibit; the apostle declares,–Though we walk in the flesh, that is, though we inhabit mortal bodies, and are compassed about with fleshly infirmities;–yet we do not war after the flesh–or according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God to the pulling down of strong holds.

In the passage of holy scripture before us, there are two points which demand our particular notice, viz.

I. The WEAPONS which the apostle employed, and to which alone he gave his sanction; and,

II. The GREAT EFFICACY of those weapons : they were MIGHTY THROUGH GOD.

I. Let us first contemplate the WEAPONS which the apostle speaks of himself as employing. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

The word carnal means fleshly. It is opposed in scripture to spiritual or holy; and is generally employed by the inspired writers to designate the principles of our depraved nature. Thus, when it is siad, that the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7); and that to be carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6);–the language is evidently meant to express the dominion of that corrupt disposition which mean bring with them into the world, and on which the sanctifying grace of God has not yet taken effect. Of course, by the phrase, carnal weapons, is meant, such weapons as our corrupt nature forms and furnishes. In other words, it is intended to designate all those means of recommending and propagating religion which the great Author of that religion has not prescribed, but which the wisdom of this world has invented. Such weapons have been employed in all ages. They are the favourite weapons of carnal men : or rather, they are the only weapons which such men are either qualified or disposed to employ. But they are not confined to carnal men. Even some of those who sincerely love the Saviour, may be, and have been, betrayed into the use of means for promoting his honour, which may well deserve to be styled carnal, and which, in themselves, are not less carnal, or the less criminal, because they are employed by good men. In short, every method, of propagating truth, or of recommending duty, either real or supposed,–which unhallowed principles suggest, or unhallowed motives prompt, or which, in one word, is not in conformity with the Word and Spirit of God, may be pronounced a carnal weapon, the use of which our text indirectly, but most solemnly, forbids.

But it may not be unprofitable to specify, a little more in detail, some of those means which are frequently resorted to, for the professed purpose of propagating religion, and which evidently belong to the class proscribed by the apostle in the passage before us.

And at the head of the list, may be placed PERSECUTION, whether in its more gross and violent, or in its more mitigated forms. By the former, you will readily understand to be meant all those cases in which the “secular arm” has interferred to enforce the claims of a particular religious denomination, or of a particular set of opinions, by fire and sword,–by fines and forfeitures,–by racks and chains, and banishment, and all the various penalties which oppressive governments, civil and ecclesiastical, have so often, and so grievously inflicted. By the latter are intended all that molestation, abuse, or temporal inconvenience, of whatever kind, which have been heaped upon men on account of their religious opinions. The narrative of these inflictions, and of the diabolical fury with which they have, in countless instances, been executed, forms one of the most melancholy chapters in the history of that which calls itself the Church of God. A narrative the more unspeakably revolting, from the fact, that the most shocking atrocities which it displays, were perpetrated in the name, and by the alleged authority, of a God of mercy, and from a professed regard to his glory! Before this enlightened audience I need not say, that persecution for conscience sake, in all its forms, is one of the greatest absurdities and abominations that ever disgraced the Christian world :–that it is contrary to reason, to justice, and to humanity, and certainly not less contrary to the word of God, and to all the radical principles of our holy religion.

To the same interdicted class of weapons, we may refer all CIVIL ESTABLISHMENTS OF RELIGION. Whatever may be their form, or the degree of their rigour : whether they are intended to operate by force, by fear, or by allurement : whether we consider them as a tax on error, or as a bounty on faith; as a legal provision for instructing the people in what the civil magistrate (who may be an infidel or a heretic) chooses to say is truth; or as a convenient engine in the hands of government, for reaching and controlling the popular mind : in all cases, they are unhallowed in their principles, and pernicious in their tendency : calculated to generate and encourage hypocrisy; to corrupt the Christian ministry; to make the care of souls an affair of secular merchandise; and to prostrate the church of God, with all its officers and ordinances, at the feet of worldly politicians.

Again; all HUMAN INVENTIONS IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD are liable to the same general charge. The object of these, in every age, has been to consult carnal prejudices, and to accommodate carnal feelings : of course, they are carnal weapons. When, therefore, professing Christians began, soon after the apostolic age, to introduce into the church rites which the Saviour never instituted, for the purpose of assuaging the enmity, or conciliating the affections of Jews and Pagans : when they borrowed, from either or from both, without scruple, and without the smallest warrant, as they fancied an inducement—the smoking incense; the worshipping toward the East; the bowings; the adoration of images; the purgatorial fire; the merit of bodily maceration; the celibacy of the clergy; the splendid garments; the holy days; the exorcisms; the processions, and all the endless array of superstition; insomuch that, as early as the close of the fourth century, the venerable Augustine complained that, “For one institution of God’s they had ten of man’s, and that the presumptuous devices of men were more rigorously pressed than the Divine prescriptions;”–who can doubt that they were chargeable with employing carnal weapons? And when Christian churches or individuals, at the present day, aim to allure the gay and the worldly, by pomp and splendour of ceremonial, by that studied address to the senses in the public service of the sanctuary, which the primitive and purest periods of Christianity never knew; who can doubt that they also lay themselves open to the same charge? They undertake to be wiser than God; they employ means, which, however well intended, can result in nothing but mischief. The church has no power to “decree rites and ceremonies.” If she had, there would be no other bounds to the multiplication of them, than the every varying, and ever teeming figments of human vanity or caprice. To claim such a right, is rebellion against her Master. To exercise it, is systematically to introduce superstition and complicated corruption into his sacred family.

Further; even ECCLESIASTICAL CONFESSIONS AND FORMULARIES may be so perverted as to become carnal weapons.

We will leave the sermon at that point. If you would like to continue reading, click the sermon title below, and proceed to page 14 of the PDF file:

Christian Weapons Not Carnal But Spiritual: A Sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, in the City of Baltimore, October 13, 1826; at The Installation of The Reverend John Breckinridge, as Colleague with the Reverend John Glendy, D.D. in the Pastoral Charge of the Said Church.

Also available on the Log College Press web site:
Christian Weapons Not Carnal But Spiritual.

Post by Rev. David T. Myers.

We have more than once made reference to the diary of David Brainerd in this historical devotional guide.  Often times it filled a date in which no other Presbyterian person, place, or event had occurred, so this writer was thankful for that.  But it also set forth the true example of an individual who by his own statement wanted to wear out his life in God’s service and for His glory.  How scarce are they found today in Christ’s church!

Talk about a Christian who, by all reports, was skinny and sickly. No modern missionary agency, whether for overseas or in our own country, would even approve of one like this for missionary service. So the very fact that he was a missionary in the first place to native Americans had to be of God. There simply was no other reason for it.  God was in the whole plan as well as the details of the plan.

From his ordination to his death was approximately three years.  As his inscription on his tombstone reads, “Sacred to the memory of the Rev. David Brainerd, a faithful and laborious missionary to the Stockbridge, Delaware, and Susquehanna Tribes of Indians.”  And yet his influence to them doesn’t really tell the whole story. His diary has caused countless in every century since that time to open themselves up to the call of God upon their lives.  He life and ministry had stood the test of time, and a stream of workers for the kingdom of God have been sent forth to the nations of the world with the gospel of Christ.

His closing days were precious in more than one way.  After discovering that he had tuberculosis, he spent his months in the home of America’s greatest philosopher, Dr. Jonathan Edwards, in Northampton, Connecticut.  While there, Dr. Edwards youngest daughter, Jerusha, a mere teenager, took care for him in an atmosphere of spiritual love.  Whether they were engaged has never been proved, but there was a loveliness in that relationship which brought words like “we will spend a happy eternity together,” on the day he died, which was October 9, 1747. That eternity came sooner than later, as Jerusha contracted the same dread disease, and died a year later.  They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Northampton.

Words to live by:  If you have never, dear reader, read the Diary of David Brainerd, it is available on both the web as well as books still being published today.  Open your heart to the words of this young man who died at age 29.  Not only will it convict you of your need for more holiness, but give you a sense of urgency to take the gospel to those unsaved loved ones, friends, and strangers, as David Brainerd did in his day.  And who knows? Maybe it will send you to far off shores as a missionary, as it had done for so many since that time in colonial America.

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