February 2021

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The provisions of God often speedily arrests the success of wicked men.

The following sermon begins with a wonderful treatment on how the seeming triumph of wickedness is always temporary and brief, by God’s mercy and by His sovereign design. This opening section, reproduced below (pp. 3-7 in the original), stands on its own and has an abiding relevance. I think you will find it valuable.

As the title indicates, this sermon was delivered on February 26, 1854, in opposition to the Nebraska Bill, a piece of legislation which threatened to expand the reach of slavery across the developing western states. It is in the second half of Rev. Crowell’s sermon where he turns to specifically address the outrage of this legislation. (page 7-15 in the original publication).

The Wickedness of the Nebraska Bill. A Sermon preached in The Second Presbyterian Church, Orange, N.J., February 26th, 1854, by John Crowell, pastor of the church. (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1854)


The triumphing of the wicked is short.” — Job xx. 5.

That the wicked often do triumph can neither be doubted nor denied. Thus they themselves are able to boast over the righteous, and the righteous are perplexed, and sometimes ready to repine. “I was envious at the foolish” (confesses one long ago) “when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Behold, these are the ungodly that prosper in the world : they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washing mine hands in innocency.”

The text furnishes part of the solution to this perplexing problem of the providence of God.


It is generally short, even with reference to this life, and always with reference to the life to come. I wish to speak of it at present only with reference to this life; and without attempting to discuss fully even this last important branch of the subject, I would briefly offer a single general remark.

The triumph of the wicked man’s success is short.

A moment’s reflection will show us that the success of wicked men and wicked plans is at least as likely to be temporary as that of the righteous and their plans. If it is the common lot of earthly things to be transient and uncertain, no exemption surely can be claimed in favor of wicked plans.

But there are causes peculiar to wickedness, which tend to the speedy interruption of its success.

1. The rival plans of other wicked men.

These will often clash with each other. And as some will prevent the success of their rivals, so they will speedily break in on the career of the prosperous. All wickedness springs from selfishness, which from its very nature tramples upon every object weaker than itself. Success in one instance will excite the desires of other wicked men; will inflame their envy; will teach their ignorance, opening a path which they can easily follow; affording a model for their imitation, and supplying light to guide them on their way. Thus the very success of the wicked man tends to his destruction. “Every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.

The history of wickedness would supply many instances of rivals pursuing, supplanting, destroying those who formerly followed in the rear of another, overwhelming his rival, a little time on the pinnacle of success. One conqueror is seen raising for a moment the shout of triumph, but he himself is soon struck down by a mightier arm. Thus the great battlefield of history presents, to an unpractised eye, a confused and discordant assemblage of nations, costumes, and languages; one banner for a moment waves triumphantly, but soon is trampled in the dust, and another is advanced on high; and this is repeated over and over again, from the most remote period, where the shadows of time almost conceal the vision, down to the spot upon which the strong light of the present age is concentrated—where for a moment Napoleon triumphed and fell. And on the same spot new hosts are assembling for a new and perhaps more extended and fearful conflict than any which the world has yet seen.

The same thing often happens among a less splendid and less lauded class of wicked men. One dishonest man speedily arrests the triumph of another’s success. Some may for a time pursue an iniquitous business with what they call brilliant good fortune, but this will attract others as unscrupulous as they, and their occupation may soon be gone. Let any man adopt unfair practices in a lawful business, and, escaping all the hazards incident to success, rejoice in his gains; he will soon find that others can be equally dishonest and equally adroit, and his triumph in the monopoly of fraud is but for a moment.

2. Success increases the desire of the wicked man, and prompts to new and greater efforts. These often fail, and thus frequently all is lost that had been gained. A wicked career is like a game of chance, where small winnings entice to greater risks, till at length on one venture all may be lost.

Success in wickedness renders a man reckless. It excites his mind, inflames his passions, hardens his heart, and overwhelms his judgment. Thus, being madly impelled upwards on slippery places, by one false step he may be plunged into the lowest depths. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever; they which have seen him shall say, ‘Where is he?’ “

3. There are also many barriers against which success will drive a wicked man, and which will speedily arrest his triumphant career.

I have already said that he will entice and provoke the opposition of rivals in wickedness, who are anxious to share his spoils. But in addition to this, we are told that “oppression makes even wise men mad.” We may add, as equally true, that it makes gentle men fierce, and weak men strong. A tyrant may triumph over a weak and gentle person or nation, but his cruelty, his injustice will be goading the gentleness into opposition, and nerving the weakness into strength. Thus his success is creating the materials for its own destruction.

Success in wickedness also combines opposition. The wicked man seeks to extend the sphere of his triumph and the number of his victims. Thus many will be united against him by common sufferings, and many others, through fear that their turn may next come.

The wicked man must also encounter the sense of justice which is lodged deep in every breast. It exists even in the breasts of the wicked themselves. The ability to distinguish right from wrong is never entirely destroyed by transgression; sometimes, on the contrary, it is increased. Men may be keen-sighted to detect evil in others, though it exists in themselves; yes, in proportion as it exists in them; and the worst may love justice, provided it be not inflicted on their own heads. Thus the opposition of the wicked against the wicked is strengthened when one can plead the claims of justice against the other. When does cruelty revel and riot so fiercely as when the abandoned and the vile, maddened by wrongs, trample down the barriers of law, and take the infliction of vengeance into their own hands? Then the innocent share the fate of the guilty—the pure fall with the corrupt and the infant with the man; then the adroitest executioner and the most rapid stroke are too slow for the work of death; and the nearest lampposts receive their victims; the rivers flow with blood. Then, indeed, it is “the reign of terror” over the land. The very “Furies” of hell are lost spirits, armed as the ministers of justice.

But it is the opposition of the upright and pure which is chiefly aroused by the success of the wicked, and which proves the most effectual barrier against their continued triumph. The strong among the good are alert and determined in defence of the weak. Physical strength is quickly by the side of the feeble; intellectual strength pours forth its treasures in behalf of the ignorant, and moral strength encounters its greatest risks to uphold the innocent.

The provisions of God often speedily arrests the success of wicked men.

All the influences which I have mentioned are parts of His providential arrangement. But, in addition to the ordinary operation of these, we often find God manifestly overruling and controlling them, giving them special efficiency. Sometimes He interferes by an unusual and unexpected agent, or without any visible agency whatever. The only verdict that the strictest investigation can render is, that the mighty have fallen by the hand of God.

The close of the chapter in which the text is found, thus sums up the influences by which the success of the wicked is brought to an end; combining the superintendence of God’s providence with the instrumentality of God : “The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath. This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed him by God.”

To read the remainder of Rev. Crowell’s sermon, click here.

Congo’s African-American Livingstone

Born March 8, 1865 in Waynesboro, Virginia, William Henry Sheppard, a black man, was never a slave. His mother was of mixed-race background, which status made him a free black. His father was an employee of the local all-white Presbyterian church, serving as janitor. Growing up, he was enrolled in the local school for blacks. Showing great resolve, he next enrolled at the Hampton Institute in 1880 in Hampton, Virginia, where Booker T. Washington was one of his instructors. Then graduating from Hampton in 1883, he moved on to the Tuscaloosa Theological Seminary (now Stillman College). After graduation in 1886, he became an ordained Presbyterian minister in the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

Dr. William H. & Lucy G. Sheppard.
Charcoal portrait by Greg MacNair, 2005. Used by permission.
[This portrait hangs just outside the reading room of the PCA Historical Center.]

Becoming a pastor at Zion Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Shepherd found himself restless and applied with the PCUS Mission board to go to the Congo as a missionary. When several applications received only vague rejections, Rev. Sheppard finally traveled to the headquarters and applied in person. Prejudices died hard in the former Confederacy, and this was evident by their initial refusal and final acceptance. He could go to the Congo as a foreign missionary, but only if a white missionary would supervise him. To his surprise, a young white minister by the name of Samuel Lapsley, volunteered to go with him in that position. They sailed to the Congo on February 25, 1890. Despite what the mission board stated at home, these two missionaries soon were treating each other as equals. Arriving at what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they set about founding a mission in a village known as Luebo. Despite contracting malaria numerous times, Shepherd  managed to adapt to the African climate and setting far better than did Lapsley, who died of a fever after only two years on the field, in 1892.

Of Lapsley’s death, Rev. Shepherd wrote,

Before this time you will have learned of the Mission’s loss. My friend and brother left Luebo, Jan. 6th, 1892, for the Lower Congo to attend to some business about the transport, and our land. He thought also a change would be beneficial to him, expected to return by the next steamer. I went forth with the people to do some building that our home might be more comfortable. For those two years we have labored as one. We have loved and cared for each other as though we were brothers. We have never been separated only this once, and it grieves my heart that I was so far from him. Oh! that I could have kneeled by his side to catch the last whisper before he slept. [The Missionary, 25.10 (Oct. 1902): 415].

Shepherd learned the language of the natives, which in turn enabled him to discover parts of the Congo where no outsiders had visited. He even found himself in a village of King Luckenga, which presence was in itself equivalent to a death sentence. However, Shepherd’s fluency in the language persuaded the king’s family that he was a reincarnation of one of their dead relatives.

In 1893, Sheppard left Africa to travel to London, England. He met Queen Victoria and was inducted into England’s Royal Geographic Society. Back in the United States, he lectured all over the States. Marrying Lucy Gantt, whom he had met just after he had graduated from the theological institute, they started a family. Expanding the first mission, they started a second Congo mission. When two of their children succumbed in disease, Lucy in 1898 took their third baby back to the United States, where they remained for two years.

In the next year, there was a new challenge. Shepherd began to notice the exploitation of the black tribes under the colonial ruler, Belgium, and specifically King Leopold II of Belgium. In essence, it was slavery in all of its terrible forms, with atrocities right and left. The Presbyterian Church had a spiritual interest in that part of the world, but it also was concerned with these human rights issues. In fact, it sent over a new white missionary to replace Lapsley by the name of William Morrison. Together these two missionaries brought that national colonial government to task, with pressure through the media.

Things were not well spiritually with Shepherd however. With his wife absent from him, he yielded to temptation on a moral plane with three adulterous relationships. Due to his fame worldwide, Shepherd was allowed to return quietly to the United States. Following a period of repentance and restoration, he and his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where for the next 27 years, William Shepherd served as pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church. He died on November 25, 1927 after a stroke.

Words to Live By: None of us is ever beyond temptation, and it may well be argued so much the more so for those greatly used of the Lord in His kingdom work. And so our Savior wisely said it for all time in Matthew 26:41 — “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (ESV)

A final note, reflecting on Mrs. Sheppard’s role in the mission work. She wrote, in 1900 concerning the efforts at that time among the Bakuba people in the Congo:

Just now this people, the Bakuba, are experiencing some trouble. Very recently their king died, and while the people were in a state of mourning another tribe (we believe to have been sent by the State) invaded the capital, killed all of the royal family, and only one heir to the throne made his escape. these Bakuba are a very proud people, and while in a way they are glad for freedom (for their king was very exacting and cruel), they feel very keenly their loss, and feel that they have been very much degraded. They have known no other rule but that of a king for hundreds of years.

This king that had just died would allow neither missionary nor State officer to come to or near his place to settle, closed up all of the paths and prohibited a foreigner, or people working for foreigners, to pass near the place. Had he been less hostile, and showed a more friendly spirit, I’m sure this trouble would not have come upon this people. The king before him was very friendly, and was anxious that a mission should be opened at his place. But at that time the Committee felt that they could not see their way clear to have a work there. During his lifetime had the work been started, I believe all would have been calm and peaceful now. But it is not for us to see and know the future. Even now it is not too late to be of service. While many have been killed, there are thousands remaining. They feel helpless, lost, because their leader, their earthly king, is gone. But, oh, if some one would only come and tell them of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who is a leader indeed!

[excerpted from a letter from Lucy G. Sheppard, dated 7 August 1900, Ibanj, Africa and published in The Missionary 33.12 (December 1900): 52.

For further study:
Primary sources:

William Henry Sheppard collection, 1971-1978, at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL
Abstract: Materials consist mostly of biographical material on William Henry Sheppard, graduate of Tuscaloosa Institute and co-founder of the Presbyterian Congo Mission, and his wife, Lucy J. Gantt Sheppard. Also includes correspondence pertaining to the development of the Sheppard collection (1978), photos of the construction of Sheppard Library, correspondence and programs pertaining to the Sheppard Lecture Series (1971-1973), and list of materials in the college archives pertaining to Sheppard. Correspondents include A.R. Ware, Jr., Sheppard’s nephew, and Max W. Sheppard, Sheppard’s son.

William H. Sheppard papers, 1875-1933, 0.75 cubic feet (5 boxes), at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA.
Abstract: Collection consists primarily of photograph albums and photographs. Photographs document mission stations and churches at Luebo and Ibanche; the Sheppard family; other Presbyterian Church in the U.S. missionaries; and native people of the Bateke, Baluba, Bakuba, Zappo Zap, and other tribes. The collection includes a small number of papers, including correspondence; Sheppard’s reminiscences of his time at the Stillman Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; a pamphlet entitled “How Sheppard Made His Way into Lukenga’s Kingdom”; printed materials about the Congo and King Leopold; hymnbooks in Tshiluba and an unidentified language; and glass and nitrate negatives.

See also reports of the African mission published in The Missionary [Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson], vol. 23, no 2 (February 1890) and following. Copies of this periodical are available in the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

Secondary sources:
• Kennedy, Pagan, Black Livingstone : A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-century Congo. New York: Viking, 2002. ISBN: 0670030368
• Phipps, William E., The Sheppards and Lapsley : Pioneer Presbyterians in the Congo. Louisville, KY: The Presbyterian Church (USA), 1991.
• Phipps, William E., William Sheppard : Congo’s African American LivingstoneLouisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2002. ISBN: 0664502032 (pbk.)
• Sheppard, William H. and S.H. Chester, Presbyterian Pioneers in Congo. Richmond, VA. : Published by Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1917. Note(s): In 1890, the Southern Presbyterian Church appointed William Sheppard, an Afro-American from Waynesboro, Va., and Samuel N. Lapsley, a white man from Anniston, Ala., as missionary companions to the Belgian Congo. Rev. Lapsley died of a “bilious hematuric fever” on March 26, 1892. This is Sheppard’s account of the mission, both before and after Lapsley’s death.
[Reprinted as Pioneers in Congo : An Autobiography. Wilmore, Ky.: Wood Hills Books, 2006. ISBN: 097716361X]

See also:
Lapsley, James W., Life and Letters of Samuel Norvell Lapsley : Missionary to the Congo Valley, West Africa. [Anniston, Ala. : First Presbyterian Church], 1965.

Dissertations and Theses:
• Roth, Donald Franklin, “Grace Not Race” : Southern Negro Church Leaders, Black Identity, and Missions to West Africa, 1865-1919. Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin, 1976. Masters Thesis, xv, 402 p.
• Dworkin, Ira, American Hearts : African American Writing on the Congo, 1890-1915. New York: City University of New York, 2003. Ph.D. dissertation, viii, 243 p. Includes the chapter, “In the country of my forefathers”: William Henry Sheppard and African American missionaries in the Congo.
• Short, Wallace V., William Henry Sheppard : Pioneer African-American Presbyterian Missionary, Human Rights Defender, and Collector of African Art, 1865-1927. Washington, D.C.: Howard University, 2006. Ph.D. dissertation, xxi, 544 p.
• Smith, Alonzo Nelson, The 1909 Trial of William H. Sheppard : Human Rights, International Diplomacy, and African American Concerns in the Belgian Congo. [Washington, DC : s.n.], 1996.

Also on this day:
Hayes T. Henry, director of the Pearson Mission to the Cherokee Indians, 1955-1968, and founding pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Tulsa, OK, was born on this day in 1912.

Rev. Moginot died in December of 2011, at the age of 88, just about a year after the death of his beloved wife Vivian. He was born in 1923, was educated at William Jennings Bryan College and Washington University, and then prepared for the ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. Upon graduation, he was ordained in the Bible Presbyterian Church and installed as associate pastor to Francis Schaeffer in 1948, right about the time that the Schaeffer’s were preparing to move to Switzerland to begin a ministry of church planting and children’s ministry. Bud’s wife Vivian served as Dr. Schaeffer’s secretary. The picture on the cover of the funeral bulletin dates from about that time with the Schaeffers.

From 1948 to 1973, Rev. Moginot was the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alton, Illinois. He then stepped away from pulpit ministry to serve from 1974 to 1993 at Covenant Theological Seminary. In the latter years of that term, he also began to be active as a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol. I think he was especially proud of that ministry, serving in that capacity right up until about a year before his death. But it was probably his term of service as Pastor of Visitation at the Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church where Bud really hit his stride. He began that work in 1991, and continued faithfully until forced into retirement by a brain aneurism. Rev. Moginot led many to Christ and pointed everyone to his Savior.

Bud Moginot also served as the Stated Clerk for Missouri Presbytery from 1982 to 1995, and from what I can tell, the dear brother never threw anything away. He was the kind of guy that archivists love! Regrettably, not everything has been found in the best shape. Some things were stored in the basement; some things were stored in the attic. Neither location is suited to preservation. But in all, some thirty boxes of documents were retrieved from Bud’s house. An initial sorting of the papers was done at that time, and now finally the better work of arrangement and description has begun in earnest. Much of the material concerns the Missouri Presbytery, as you would expect. But unexpected jewels keep turning up as well. Hopefully we can find time to share some of those things later this year.

Words to Live By:Bud and Vivian loved the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully all their years. They did not have much in the way of earthly wealth; their treasures were stored up in God’s kingdom. You don’t have to have a lot of money to serve the Lord. You don’t have to be a standout in any of the ways by which the world judges success. God calls us to simply remain faithful. Keep looking to Christ as your Savior, clinging to the Rock of your salvation, for He is your All in all. And know that the Lord will use you and your gifts in His kingdom.

Augusta County Presbyterians call for independence
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was simple and direct. The mass meeting of people from the Virginia county of Augusta in Stanton chose two delegates to represent them in Richmond, Virginia in the Virginia Convention. One was Thomas Lewis and the other one was Samuel McDowell. That these delegates would faithfully be the representatives of them, the following written instructions were given to them: “Many of us and our forefathers left our native land, and explored this once savage wilderness to enjoy the free exercise of the rights of conscience and of human nature. Those rights we are fully resolved with our lives and our fortunes inviolably to preserve; nor will we surrender such inestimable blessings, the purchase of toil and danger, to any ministry, to any Parliament, or to any body of men upon earth by whom we are not represented and in whose decision, therefore, we have no voice.” These people and delegates were almost all adherents of the Presbyterian faith. How had they come upon it? The only answer is that men of God of Presbyterian convictions were sent by the Holy Spirit of God to teach and train them in the principles of liberty, both spiritually and temporally.

The name which comes to our mind and hearts is that of John Craig. He is described as the first permanent pastor in this county of Augusta, Virgina. Consider the challenges of being an under-shepherd during the years of 1740 and afterwards. Every Lord’s day morning, Pastor Craig would walk five miles to the place of worship. In one hand, he would carry his Bible. In the other hand would be a rifle, for protection against the Indians of that territory. All the men of the congregation brought the same two objects to the worship – a Bible and a rifle. At ten o’clock in the morning, they would be seated to hear the sermon, on rude benches, which would last two hours til the noon time. A break for lunch would then be held, with each family sitting under the trees to partake of their meals. After this break, at one o’clock, the worship would begin again with the same sermon, and continue until sunset.

One of Pastor Craig’s sermon has been kept in written form. It had, for the readers who are pastors, fifty-five divisions in it. No wonder this was a sermon for a day, instead of just an hour. We might wonder whether there was any spiritual fruit to his labors, yet the truth is that multitudes were brought into the kingdom of God. He is described as a man whose heart was always full of tenderness.

John Craig would live until 1774, just two years shy of the American Revolution. Yet his proclamations of the gospel and presentation of the Word was to bear fruit in the call for Independence by the descendants of his congregations in Augusta County, Virginia. The Augusta County Presbyterians voted for independence from England on February 22, 1775.

Words to Live By: The faithful preaching of the whole counsel of God will eventually bring spiritual fruit in the hearts and lives of those who receive it.

I often come across the most interesting and useful things while searching out a patron’s request for some article or other material. For context, this article was written in the midst of those years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. Strong’s audience would have been many of the very men who were considering leaving the old Southern Presbyterian denomination in order to form a new, faithful Church. And in an interesting aside, Dr. Strong chose not to join the PCA and he remained in the old Southern Presbyterian Church.

A History Lesson
by ROBERT STRONG [1908-1980, and pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973]

[The Presbyterian Journal, 27.42 (12 February 1969): 9-11.]

The struggle for the faith in the Presbyterian Church USA has been protracted. I grew up in that church and was ordained in it years ago when it was called the “Northern Presbyterian Church.” Thus I knew at first hand the issues as well as some of the people involved in the conflict.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the strife deepened in intensity in the twentieth century and came to a climax in the 1920’s. Awareness of the rising tide of unbelief, and resistance to it, occurred in a spectacular way:

In 1923 the General Assembly endorsed adherence to five cardinal points of doctrine: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, His mighty miracles, His substitutionary atonement and His bodily resurrection.

In reaction came the Auburn Affirmation, so-called because men of Auburn Seminary were its authors and from Auburn, New York it was distributed to gain additional signatures. In time, these amounted to 1100 names.

Cause and Effect

The Auburn Affirmation was in two parts: The first was an attack upon the right of the General Assembly to single out certain doctrines when the Northern Presbyterian Church was already committed to a system of doctrine as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This was specious logic. This was illogic! This was evasive action.

In the second part of the Auburn Affirmation, an attack was made specifically upon the doctrine of verbal inspiration. It was alleged that this doctrine was harmful!

The other doctrines were treated in a way to suggest that a man in good standing might follow a different interpretation of the virgin birth, of the miracles, the Cross, the empty tomb, from the position set forth in the General Assembly’s deliverance of 1923.

The effect was to say that the General Assembly’s statement which was, of course, in the historic Christian and Presbyterian tradition, was only one of several possible interpretations. The effect was really to call into question these doctrines as historically stated and received. The issue was out in the open.

The center of traditional Presbyterianism had been Princeton Theological Seminary, but some of those connected with Princeton were sympathetic with the liberalizing trend in the Northern denomination. They agitated for and secured General Assembly reorganization of Princeton’s administrative set-up.

In the Northern Church, the Assembly has full control of the seminaries and must approve even the bestowing of the professorial dignity upon a man. So the General Assembly could and did reorganize Princeton.

Instead of two boards, one to deal with temporal matters and one to deal with theological training, the seminary was reorganized to have but one board. And on that board two Auburn Affirmationists were named.

This was the signal to Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, the famous Old Testament scholar, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, the famous New Testament scholar, Dr. Oswald T. Allis, assistant to Dr. Wilson, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, beginning on his career of instruction in theology and apologetics, and John Murray, an instructor in the seminary, to take alarm. They resigned from the faculty.

Others, like Parks Armstrong, a great defender of the faith in the New Testament field, and Casper Wistar Hodge, a solid theologian in the Hodge tradition, remained with Princeton Seminary.

The five men who resigned became the nucleus of the faculty of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. A number of prominent Presbyterian ministers and laymen associated themselves with these leaders as the board of trustees of the new seminary. According to its charter, the seminary would be forever free of ecclesiastical control.

Westminster Seminary opened its doors in 1929. The seminary drew increasing numbers of students and my own enrollment occurred in the fall of 1933.

Incidentally, I had the inestimable privilege of being a student of }. Gresham Machen, a magic name and a most interesting personality. I digress to note that Prof. Machen was a character! Sometimes he would lecture his classes at a furious pace, with his head against the blackboard, writing the Greek alphabet in small letters. Once in a while he would go up the stairs on hands and knees.

On occasion he would stand on a chair, continuing his lecture with no change of expression. He was such a skilled lecturer he didn’t need to resort to tricks and devices. 1 guess it was just an expression of a facet of his character — it bespoke the non-conformist. He was a great stunter at student events and was ever being called on to give recitations.

Machen was a great scholar. His books are classics. I will continue to be personal by saying that when I was attending theological school in California, I found in an atmosphere of modernism there a true friend, Machen’s book, The Origin of Paul’s Religion. I think it is his very greatest; I rate it higher than bis Virgin Birth of Christ.

Machen’s Influence

Machen was also an ecclesiastical activist. Many criticize him for that. They think he should have been content to dominate the theological scene by his writings, lectures and classroom instruction. It’s an open question.

As things moved along in the Northern Presbyterian Church, Machen took a still more active part. It wasn’t enough that he had led in the organization of this new seminary which was having increasing influence and would, through the years, send a perfect stream of conservative men into the Northern Presbyterian ministry as well as into other churches.

Machen was compelled to be active also in the ecclesiastical issues in other departments of the life of the Church. He took a great interest in world missions and offered an overture to the General Assembly asking that it study the Board of World Missions and institute corrective procedures. The modernist Pearl Buck was a case in point. Everyone knew how far removed from evangelical Christianity she stood, but she served in China as a missionary of the denomination.

Machen’s overture was turned down overwhelmingly. General Assemblies have a habit of not criticizing their own agencies — that’s one of the problems in our own Church. You just can’t get the Assembly to pass actions critical of their own boards. That has long been characteristic of Presbyterian ecclesiastical practice.

Machen and others then took the step, which to this day is debated as to its necessity or wisdom, of organizing the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Some Southern Presbyterians were put on the board. This was window-dressing, for it was a Northern Presbyterian effort.

Charles Woodbridge was brought home from the Cameroons to be the executive secretary of the board. Several missionaries resigned from the official Board of the Presbyterian Church to accept membership under the Independent Board. The Northern Presbyterian leaders began to realize that here was a threat.

In 1934 at the instigation of Lewis Mudge, then Stated Clerk, the General Assembly passed a mandate whose language included such astounding declarations as this: a member of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is as obligated to support the official programs of the church as he is to take the Lord’s Supper. That’s assuming a very extreme position!

Conform, Or Else!

The mandate’s thrust was against the Independent Board and called upon those who were members of the Board and missionaries under the Board to resign or face ecclesiastical penalties. Now such a mandate is distinctly in opposition to Presbyterian polity, for our system is to work from the bottom up. You go from the session to the presbytery, to the synod, to the General Assembly.

But here was the General Assembly arrogating to itself the right to tell individual ministers and lay members of the denomination to disassociate themselves from an independent agency working in the field of world missions. The argument of course was that this was competitive with the official Board.

Now what did the presbyteries do? They fell into line in almost all cases. Charges were filed against J. Gresham Machen, J. Oliver Buswell of Wheaton College, Carl McIntire, and Charles Woodbridge. On and on and on went these cases of process. The focus of interest was, of course, the case against Dr. Machen. He was a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick.

A Footnote

Here is an interesting ecclesiastical footnote. Because he lived in Philadelphia, Machen had sought to be transferred from New Brunswick presbytery in the Synod of New Jersey. He had asked for a letter of transfer to Philadelphia presbytery and it had been acted upon.

The Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Philadelphia had not sent back to New Brunswick that little coupon on the bottom of letters of transfer reporting a minister has been received into the membership of the new presbytery.

On the strength of that clerical failure, New Brunswick claimed and exercised supervision of Machen and entered into the exercise of jurisdiction by formal process of trial. I went from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, where I was serving, to all three of the sessions of the Machen trial.

It was a travesty. He was forbidden to raise any question of jurisdiction. He was forbidden to raise any question of constitutionality. The trial proceeded on the narrow question: Will you obey the General Assembly’s order? I can still hear Machen saying,

“I cannot do that, it is against conscience; it is in effect to put the command of the General Assembly above my conscience and to make an ecclesiastical order superior to the Word of God. I cannot obey the order.”

The outcome was foregone. He was found guilty of disobedience, of violation of his ordination vow to be subject to his brethren. Now let this sink in. Machen was the greatest Biblical scholar of the century, a noble figure, an eminent figure. He was suspended from the ministry of the Gospel, forbidden to preach, forbidden even to go to the Lord’s table.

Similar condemnations were handed down upon other members of the Independent Board. These things were appealed to synod. Synod upheld the presbyteries. At last the appeals came to the 1936 General Assembly at Syracuse. I went to that meeting to be in at the death and sat in the balcony and watched the proceedings unfold.

Asserting that the General Assembly had the right to order the affairs of the whole Church, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly found in behalf of the Synod of New Jersey, which had found in behalf of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. The sentence of suspension from the ministry was affirmed.

This became the signal for action. Machen resigned from the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church. Other pastors resigned also, standing with Machen’s position that the Church had become officially apostate by subordinating the Word of God to the commandments of men.

These men laid plans for the formation of a new denomination and in June, 1936, in downtown Philadelphia, the first General Assembly of the then-named Presbyterian Church of America was constituted. Dr. Gordon H. Clark, a name familiar to all who have done any reading, nominated Dr. Machen to be the first Moderator of the new denomination.

For men like me, just out of seminary, it was a terrible issue to confront. What should we do? After a summer of agony, I decided that I would stand with Machen. I didn’t do this blindly; I sought to reason it through, suffer and pray it through. Many young men whose ecclesiastical careers were thought promising laid their heads on the ecclesiastical chopping block and, believe me, our heads were cut off!

Most of us called congregational meetings, announced our intention to resign and asked what the congregation wanted to do. The Willow Grove congregation, which had tripled in those two or three years I had been there, decided, two to one, to stand with its young minister. We left the property and met on the third floor of the Legion Hall for three years until we could buy ground and build a meeting house.

That was happening here and there over the country. Instead of calling it a split, call it a splinter. We were meeting in store fronts, rented halls or wherever temporary lodging could be found.

The Northern Presbyterian Church sued us at law over our name. The judge ruled the name must be changed. An awkward name was selected, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. As just a young pastor I was selected Moderator of the 8th General Assembly — we were a bunch of amateurs trying to build a denomination but making many, many mistakes.

One reason for the mistakes was that in 1937 the great, illustrious, the almost indispensable Dr. Machen was taken by death. Troubles compounded after that. There was a split between the majority in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the McIntire group. Then Charles Woodbridge was wooed away from his place of significant leadership in the OPC.

We had a heavy setback in what is called the Clark case. Unable to endure the pettiness shown toward Dr. Clark, man after man went into the old U.P. Church or the Southern Church. A great pool of ministerial talent was lost from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

These sorts of things are not matters that happened in a corner. No man is an island, and no church should be considered an island. What happens anywhere will affect us everywhere.

The things that went on in the North were a tocsin heard in the South. Maybe they served, in God’s providence, a purpose in our region. Perhaps the events just recalled helped to alert Nelson Bell and Henry Dendy and their colleagues so that they organized the Presbyterian Journal. It is certainly to the Journal that we owe the great victory of 1954-55 when we turned down union with the UPUSA Church.

Perhaps those influences that led not only to the Journal but also, at last, to other institutions, like the Reformed Seminary, account for the faith in our Southern Church. Many of these things which show the conservatives alert and determined and willing to act have resulted from the stand taken earlier in the North by men of conviction.

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