September 2020

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Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistable Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

You’ve probably seen this acronym, designed to teach some of the main tenets of Calvinism. But where does it come from? Who first used it? Covenant College professor Ken Stewart published an article in 2009 in which he investigated the origin of this device. He states:

“The one clear source drawn on by Steele and Thomas which did employ the TULIP acronym was Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932). Evidently then, Steele and Thomas were not the originators of TULIP but only among its most successful popularizers; the acronym has a shadowy history extending back to Boettner’s utilization of it, and perhaps beyond…Yet Boettner claims no originality in introducing [the acronym]. It might be fairly inferred that he has found [it] already in circulation.”

And in fact TULIP had been in use as a teaching device, since perhaps at least as early as 1905, when the Rev. Cleland Boyd McAfee used the acronym in a lecture before the Presbyterian Union, meeting in Newark, New Jersey. According to William H. Vail, writing in The New Outlook [vol. 104 (1913), p. 394], in an article titled “The Five Points of Calvinism Historically Considered,” Vail states that:

“Some eight years ago I had the privilege of hearing a popular lecture by Dr. McAfee, of Brooklyn, upon the Five Points of Calvinism, given before the Presbyterian Union of Newark, New Jersey, which was most interesting as well as instructive. To aid the mind in remembering the Five Points, Dr. McAfee made use of the word Tulip, which, possessing five letters, lends itself nicely to the subject in hand, especially as it ends with the letter P, as will be seen later.”


Cleland Boyd McAfee was born on this day, September 25, 1866, and he may well have been the originator of the famous T.U.L.I.P. acrostic used to teach some of the main tenets of Calvinism. His parents were John Armstrong McAfee and Anna Waddle (Bailey) McAfee. Cleland’s father was the founder, in 1875, of Park College, located in Parkville, Missouri. Cleland had four brothers and one sister, and all the McAfee children were educated at Park College. [I’m all for homeschooling, but how many parents start colleges?]. Graduating from Park, in 1884 with the B.A., he then prepared for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York, graduating there in 1888. Cleland earned his Ph.D. at Westminster College (also in Missouri) in 1892. Thereafter he returned to Park College, where he served as professor, choir director, and chaplain for nearly twenty years. Concurrently during these years, he also served as Stated Supply and later Associate pastor of the Presbyterian church in Parkville.

In 1901, Dr. McAfee answered a call to serve the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Three years later he removed to the Lafayette Avenue Church of Brooklyn, New York. It would have been during this latter pastorate that the above lecture was delivered, where Mr. Vail heard Dr. McAfee use the TULIP acronym. From 1912 to 1930, Dr. McAfee was professor of systematic theology at the McCormick Theological Seminary, in Chicago. and for the last six years of this ministerial career, he served as head of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, 1930-1936. This would have been during the time of the controversy over the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, founded in part by Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dr. McAfee’s last years were spent traveling and lecturing. “He was resting between lecture trips” when he died on February 4, 1944 of a heart attack.

Among the honors accrued during his life, he had served as moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1930. A prolific author, Dr. McAfee also composed a number of hymns, most notably “Near to the Heart of God,” a hymn written not long after two of his nieces had died of diphtheria.

Words to Live By:
The TULIP acrostic, while useful, is only an inadequate summary of the theology espoused at the Synod of Dort, much less that of the theology known as Calvinism. Properly understood, the theology known by the nickname of Calvinism is simply a full-orbed understanding of what the Bible teaches. In that light, a mere five points cannot summarize the whole, or even the crux of Scriptural doctrine. Are you a student of God’s Word, the Bible? Regular, daily time in the Bible is crucial to your spiritual health.

But his delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate, day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:2-3, KJV)

Attendance and participation in the courts of the Church—those meetings of the Session, the Presbytery and the General Assembly—always involve some level of personal cost and expense for each attendee. For some the cost is greater than for others. This is one reason why the meetings of Presbytery and General Assembly move regularly from one location to another, so that inconveniences are averaged out over time for all the officers of the Court.
All of this is nothing new. There have always been those who questioned the expense, and perhaps not without good reason, each in his own situation. But as you will read, there are also good and compelling answers urging upon Commissioners their full participation at the Courts of the Church.

For The Charleston Observer.

Mr. Editor.—Is it my duty to travel between four and five hundred miles, at an expense of at least fifty dollars [at least a month’s wages in 1836], for the sole purpose of attending Synod, when in all probability its business would be as well conducted without as with my presence? And in so doing I should be necessarily absent from the people of my charge two, if not three Sabbaths?
—A Member of Synod.

REPLY.—We answer, 1. Should every member of Synod conclude from similar premises that it was not his duty to attend, there would be no meeting at the time and place appointed, and of course no business done.

2. One member frequently changes the entire complexion of a meeting; and no one has a right to suppose that his presence is a matter of indifference.

3. If the member can afford the expense it will be money well laid out, and if not, his people should aid him. The time occupiied in going and returning, may often be profitably employed. The journey may be of advantage to his health. In conference with his brethren he may receive a new impulse in his Christian course, and be better prepared to labor with effect among his people on his return; so that neither he nor they will be losers by his absence.

4. When he was set apart to the work of the Ministry, he was expected to make many sacrifices for the good of the cause. And if his brethren to whom he has solemnly promised subjection in the Lord, did not regard attendance upon the Judicatories of the Church as important, they would not have exacted an apology or excuse for non-attendance.

5. Instances are exceedingly rare that a Minister has ever cause to regret the sacrifices which he has made in attending the Judicatories of the Church. On the contrary he most usually feels himself amply repaid for all the sacrifices which it has cost him.

6. The present crisis of the Church seems to demand more than ever a full attendance both of Ministers and Elders, cost what it may. [In 1836, the Old School/New School debate was raging in the PCUSA, and the momentous split of the two factions came a year later]

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, vol. 10, no. 39 (24 September 1836); 154, column 4.]

Home School Education in the Nineteenth Century

They are still being used today!  McGuffey Readers, that is.  But what an important force they have had from the early days of our land up to the present.  In a day when modern textbooks are known to tear down what is right about America and Christian values, the McGuffey Readers would instead reflect the values of hard work, industry, honesty, loyalty, Sabbatarianism, and temperance, or in other words, exactly what is needed today in our modern society.

Their name comes from William Holmes McGuffey, who was born on September 23, 1800.  From an early age, he demonstrated a prodigious command of both languages and literature.  Educated by his mother in their home and schooled in Latin, as was the practice then, by a Presbyterian minister, William committed large passages of the Bible to memory.  Eventually he studied at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) which was an early Presbyterian college.  He graduated with honors from the college in 1826.

William McGuffey was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church, and although we cannot find his name associated with any local church, he preached regularly, delivering some 3000 messages by his own account.  His ministry was in education, serving as president and professor at five different colleges and universities.

He would be remembered primarily for his Eclectic Readers, though afterwards those readers were more commonly called by his name, and they had a profound influence on American public education for over two centuries.  He died in 1873, but like the prophets of old, being dead, he yet speaks through these remarkable readers for young ages.

Words to live by:  The proverbs of old told us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV – Proverbs 22:6)   That is as true today as it was when it was first written down in holy Scripture.  The Hebrew word for “train up” speaks of “across the roof of.”  It referred to the practice of birthing when the midwife would spread the olive juice across the roof of the mouth of the just born infant, teaching that infant how to draw milk from the mother’s breast.  It therefore came to mean “create a desire for.”  Christian dads and moms, you are to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit to create a desire for spiritual things in the hearts and minds of your children.  By being faithful to do this, you can then claim the general promise of this favorite text.

Over at Presbyterians of the Past, my good friend Barry Waugh posts more or less weekly, and has graciously allowed me to present his latest blog here today. And as we try to tie things to the calendar date, I can’t pass up noting that Rev. Milledoler had the distinction of being born on September 22nd (1775) and dying, 77 years later, on that same date.

Philip Milledoler was born in Rhinebeck, New York (about a hundred miles north of New York City), to John and Anna on September 22, 1775. John had emigrated from Berne, Switzerland and married Margaret Mitchell, March 9, 1760. Margaret’s ancestors emigrated from Zurich, Switzerland. The family had moved from New York to Rhineback anticipating the conflict with Great Britain regarding independence. John’s brother-in-law was Captain Crowley of the Massachusetts Artillery and when he moved to Boston to lead his troops in battle, the Milledolers sent eight-year-old Philip along so he could access better schooling opportunities. He returned home after a few years of study and as a young teenager he attended a Methodist meeting and became a Christian. His studies continued with a classical teacher named James Hardie and the boy made sufficient progress to join the freshman class of Columbia College in 1789 at the age of fourteen. Columbia was founded as King’s College in 1754, but after the Revolution it reopened with its new name. He was a good student graduating with honors in May 1793; he presented his graduation oration on natural philosophy. The German Reformed Church on Nassau street served by John D. Gross, D.D. was his church home.

Philip Milledoler believed he was called to be a minister, so he began theological studies in preparation for examination and ordination. Pastor Gross instructed him in theology, but Philip turned to Columbia College’s John Christopher Kunze for instruction in Hebrew. Kunze was from Germany, had studied at the university in Leipzig, and then taught in the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Columbia. Gross was getting on in years and suffered from the weakness of age, so he was looking to retirement from his church ministry. The prime candidate to succeed him was Milledoler, and Gross knew it. While the two were on a trip to the meeting of the German Reformed Synod in Reading, Pennsylvania, Gross informed Milledoler that the church wanted him to be the next minister. Though reluctant, he agreed to accept the call, was examined during the synod meeting, and ordained May 21, 1794. Gross continued on for a time to ease the transition when Milledoler accepted the unanimously approved call issued May 6, 1795. The call required that he should preach in German three-quarters of the time and English the other quarter. Once ministry began he realized the situation was more difficult than expected and there were unanticipated problems in the congregation. But helping him through his work was Susan Lawrence Benson whom he married March 29, 1796.

Milledoler was facing some difficulties ministering to his congregation, but the specifics of the problems were not given in the sources. However, the issues may be indicated by the stipulation regarding preaching in German and English. The German Reformed Church, as the Reformed Dutch and Lutherans, struggled with maintaining its ethnic-linguistic identity while desiring to assimilate in the United States as Americans ministering to non-German people. The older church members tended to hold to the ways and language of their homeland, while the generations born in America were growing up in their country with its language and culture as their own. If this was the problem Milledoler faced, and it likely was, it led to his accepting the opportunity to visit Philadelphia and preach to the Pine Street Presbyterian Church which was without a pastor due to the recent death of John Blair Smith from yellow fever during the epidemic of 1799. He accepted the invitation and his preaching was appreciated greatly resulting in a unanimous call from the church issued August 11, 1800. The call was accepted and the Milledolers moved to Philadelphia in October. The situation for him was a good one, but it seems his former church could not agree on a candidate to replace him, so it extended a call for him to return three successive times over the period of a year. One of the calls was even delivered by his father to drive home the point. He turned them all down. Whatever led to his decision to leave the German Reformed Church, he knew without a doubt that he did not want to deal with it again.

Milledoler was enjoying a good ministry in Pine Street Church until he developed a problem with his head that he believed indicated the need to relocate to a different climate so he could recover his health. In February 1805, the Reformed Dutch Church in Harlem, New York (named for Haarlem in the Netherlands, New York was originally New Amsterdam), presented him a call having heard of his impaired health and desire to leave Philadelphia. While on his way to Harlem he was told by an acquaintance in New York that the Collegiate Presbyterian Churches, in particular the one on Rutgers Street (see regarding this church, John Rodgers, 1727-1811), was in need of a minister. In the end, it was not the Reformed Dutch but the Presbyterians who benefited from his visit because in August he accepted the Rutgers Street call. The Pine Street Church was reluctant to let him leave, but it recognized the severity of his health problem and acquiesced. During his installation service, November 19, 1805, the sermon was preached by the minister of the Wall Street Church, Samuel Miller. Milledoler had transitioned from one Calvinistic denomination, German Reformed, to another, the Presbyterian Church.

The Rutgers Street Church ministry returned him to familiar New York while alleviating his health problem. His work extended beyond the local church to his presbytery, synod, and general assembly. Even though he had been in the Presbyterian Church for only eight years, he was respected enough to be elected moderator of the Assembly in 1808. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) convened in First Church, Philadelphia for its annual gathering and Milledoler received the gavel from retiring moderator Archibald Alexander. A good bit of the Assembly’s time was spent deliberating theological education because the denomination was working through the complexities of establishing a seminary. Possibly the biggest issue was where it would be geographically with each of the nation’s sections appealing for a site conveniently located for its use. Education was a subject near to Milledoler’s heart and one he would have an important part in as the years passed. When he returned to Philadelphia for the General Assembly the following year his retiring moderator’s sermon was delivered from Matthew 24:45-47.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

Milledoler was a very popular minister based on the number of pastoral calls he was offered, several of which have been left out of this biography because they went unaccepted. But one unaccepted call came from his previous ministry in Philadelphia. Archibald Alexander had resigned from Pine Street Church in the summer of 1812. The issue of theological education had been resolved by the General Assembly by locating the seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Alexander became the first professor. Milledoler would have been returning to familiar and friendly ground if the Pine Street offer was accepted, but he turned it down. The reason is not given but fear his health problem would return may have contributed to his decision. But then another opportunity came when the Collegiate Dutch Church of New York offered a call. He wrestled with the decision and William B. Sprague notes that one of the factors contributing to his decision was the doctrinal controversy in the Presbyterian Church over Hopkinsianism and the New England Theology. Milledoler left Rutgers Street with a good legacy as is indicated by the 604 individuals admitted to membership during his tenure, August 1805 to May 1813. Sprague commented further that Milledoler’s ministry at Rutgers Street was “an almost constant revival of religion during nearly the whole period of his connection with it.” The Collegiate Dutch Church call was accepted, and his ministry began June 6, 1813.

Swiss-American Pastor Milledoler had grown up German Reformed, been converted through Methodism, pastored Presbyterian congregations, and become a minister in the Reformed Dutch Church. Not only was he changing denominations, but another change, a tragic one, was the death of Susan, July 3, 1815, but then he married Margaret Steele shortly thereafter. In July 1823, Milledoler and Gardiner Spring of the Brick Church in New York were appointed members of the commission to visit missionary stations at Tuscarora, Seneca, and Cattaraugus in the area south-southeast of Buffalo. It was a goodly trip to a rugged area. Their journey took about six weeks and when they returned a large public meeting was held in New York so their report could be heard. Even though it was a Presbyterian trip for the purposes of the denomination’s ministries, hearing about such trips was popular among the general public, just as was seen on Presbyterians of the Past in the account of James Hall’s trip to the Mississippi Territory and his diary of the journey. Milledoler’s next ministry would involve a change from pastoral to educational work.

Just as the PCUSA had resolved its ministerial education problem with Princeton Seminary, the Reformed Dutch resolved the same problem with the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick. In 1825 the seminary’s founder John Henry Livingston passed away in January and Milledoler led his funeral service. His death left New Brunswick without a Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, so Milledoler was appointed by the Reformed Dutch Church Synod to succeed Livingston. Added to his duties was the presidency of Rutgers College, which shared the campus with the seminary. In 1840, he retired from both positions but continued to supply pulpits and help out with denominational work when he could.

The Milledolers were both weakened with age but Margaret had been declining in health for a number of years such that everyone expected her to be the first to pass away. Philip was feeble but getting along well until an intestinal problem led to his death in the matter of a few days. He died on Staten Island on his birthday, September 22, 1852, in the home of his son-in-law, Hon. James W. Beekman. Margaret was sick in bed in the same house and died the next day. They had a common funeral with the sermon delivered by his seminary colleague, John DeWitt. The two were buried in a single grave. Philip Milledoler was the father of ten children—six children were born to Susan, and four to Margaret.

Given the multi-faceted life of Philip Milledoler it is not difficult to understand why he was an honored minister. In 1801 he was chosen Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Church and in 1802 he joined Ashbel Green and others on the Standing Committee of Missions of the General Assembly. In 1805 he was honored with the Doctor of Sacred Theology by the University of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the organizing convention for the American Bible Society in 1816; he also delivered to the society an address in 1816 and another in 1823. During the challenges of Princeton Seminary’s first year, 1812-1813, he was on its board of directors. One aspect of his extended work which is not commonly found in the lives of subjects for Presbyterians of the Past is his participation in organizing the Society for Evangelizing the Jews; he was the society’s president from the date of organization. He was an active member of the United Foreign Missionary Society from its formation in 1817 as well as its corresponding secretary.

The following brief account concerns the small controversy over the ecclesiastical views of Jonathan Edwards. There is a separate account, to the same conclusion, originally told by Dr. Archibald Alexander and then related by the Rev. R. J. Breckinridge on the pages of the Philadelphia magazine, The Presbyterian. [perhaps I can retrieve that article soon]. But for now, this account comes from a September issue of The Christian Observer, 1850 :


In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Erskine of Scotland, President Edwards , (whom Robert Hall calls, “the greatest of the sons of men,”) gives the following statement of his views in respect to Presbyterianism :—

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian Form of Government. As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to Presbyterian Government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of Church government in this land, and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things.”

Such were the views of many pastors in New England, twenty-five years ago—and such we presume, are the views of many at this time, notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Bacon, the Independent and others, to create and waken up prejudice against Presbyterianism.—It is very natural for an agitator, a man of progress, or of loose views in theology, to prefer some type of Independency. Without a Session to advise with him in the spiritual oversight of the Congregation, he can (if a manager) have his own way in controlling everything in his church. If a careful and discreet ruler, he may acquire more power in his charge as an Independent, than he could hope to gain as a Presbyterian minister.—Amenable to no permanent judicatory for the doctrines which he teaches, he can follow the impulses of his own nature, and teach all the contradictions and transcendentalism found in Dr. Bushnell’s book without losing his place or influence in his church and association.

But if it be desirable that the members of the Church should be duly represented in the administration of its spiritual government,—if the pastor should have responsible counselors, well acquainted with the Church, and all its interests and peculiarities, to aid him in this work, the Presbyterian form of government is to be preferred. It is equally important as a shield to the minister in many cases of discipline, as well as to render him duly responsible for his personal and official conduct, teaching, and character.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX, No. 38 (21 September 1850): 150, columns 2-3.]

The question now, of course, is did that letter survive? Where are Erskine’s papers, including his correspondence, and which institution preserves that collection?

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