August 2012

You are currently browsing the archive for the August 2012 category.

This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First Governor of Delaware

The first governor, or at that time called the president of Delaware, was a Presbyterian physician in Wilmington, Delaware.  Born on February 21, 1721 in Ulster, Northern Ireland, John McKinly came to Delaware in 1742.  While his education and particularly his medical background is hard to trace, nonetheless he soon became a popular physician in Wilmington. Marrying Jane Richardson, they both became prominent members of the Presbyterian Church.

He served any number of city, county and state offices, until he was elected by the General Assembly to become the first governor of the Delaware colony.  The fact that he was from Ulster, and thus a Scot-Irish Presbyterian, made him acceptable to the Presbyterians from New Castle County.  However, the fact that he was a moderate and not entirely in favor of independence from Great Britain, made him popular with the Anglicans from Kent and Sussex County in Delaware.  This background, while a good compromise in political circles, did not save him from being captured by the British after the Battle of Brandywine.  He would be a prisoner of war until 1778, when he was exchanged for the royalist son of Benjamin Franklin.

After that experience, even with promises of support, he never entered politics again.  He died August 31,1796, and was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery.

‹ Governor McKinly’s gravesite, in the Brandywine cemetery.

Words to live by:  The only reference we  have to him being a Presbyterian is the statement that he was “a prominent Presbyterian.”  That can mean almost anything and have very little to do with his spiritual testimony.  Usually, in those days, a person couldn’t be buried in the Presbyterian cemetery unless they were members in good standing in a Presbyterian church.  And people who joined the membership of a Presbyterian church in colonial times had to have a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ coupled with a credible profession of faith by their works.  So arguing from the latter to the former, we can hope at least that his was a genuine faith with a conviction of Presbyterian doctrine, government, and life.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  Proof texts of religious worship in general:

Philippians 4:6
“Do not by anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God.” (ESV)

John 14:13, 14
“Whatever you ask in my name I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (ESV)

Romans 8:26
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (ESV)

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:  A Unique Product of the Great Awakening

In these devotionals before, we have written several times on the ministry of David Brainerd to the native Americans in the land.  Some of you may be familiar with the work of John Eliott among the same people in pre-Revolutionary days.  Others of early Christianity, including many Presbyterian clergy, saw in their existence an opportunity to spread the gospel.  But no where was there such a ray of hope than in the person and work of the Rev. Samuel Occom, a native American himself.

Born in 1743, of the Mohegan tribe, he was one of the first converts from among the native American tribes during the First Great Awakening.  It was said that his mother had first come to knowledge of Christ herself after contact with the revivalist preachers of the New Side Presbyterians.  Then Samuel Occom himself, at age 16, came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministry of a Great Awakening preacher named Davenport.

Samuel sought out a Congregational minister  by the name of Eleazar Wheelock for the purpose of being discipled by him.  The latter had an Indian classical school in his own home.  Samuel entered Wheelock’s school and stayed there four years, studying the biblical languages as well as theology.  He began to minister to his own people in New England and Long Island.  While in Long Island, he married a Christian Indian, and to this couple, ten children were born.

On August 30, 1759, Samuel Occom was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Long Island.  His trial sermon was given on Psalm 72:9, “They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.”   It was received and  he was received as a Presbyterian minister.

With the purpose of raising support for Rev. Wheelock’s Indian charity school, Samuel Occom went to England, where he took the nation by storm.  Thousands came to hear this converted Indian minister, with the result that 12,000 pounds were raised for the Indian school. Even the king of England gave a large amount of funds.  Samuel Occum preached over 300 sermons while in England.

Upon arriving back in the colonies, events began to sour considerably.  Promises of support for Samuel’s family while he was absent from them were not fulfilled. Further, plans to establish an Indian school were dropped, with the money raised from the trip going to support an all-white school.  That later school is known today as the Ivy League educational institution, Dartmouth College.  It is said, given the circumstances, that Samuel could be listed as a co-founder of Dartmouth.  Samuel Occom, however,  was decidedly against the beginning of this ninth educational facility in the colonies, as it was taking money away from the strengthening of an all-Indian school.

Samuel Occom went up to New York and established the first Christian Indian settlement known as Brothertown, New York.  It later was moved to Wisconsin.  Samuel Occom went to be with the Lord on July 14, 1792.

Words to live by:  The early Presbyterians in our country had a desire to see the first inhabitants of America become Christians and reach their own people with the gospel.  The fruition of this desire was seen in Samuel Occom.  However, they could have treated their new converts is a better way. Certainly, what the Rev. Wheelock did to Occam was born out of sinful covetousness and theft, both directly forbidden in the tenth and eight commandments of the moral law.  The latter should have been disciplined by his church for those sins.  That Samuel Occom continued to minister after that in evangelism, is remarkable and a testament to the saving grace which was in his life.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Chronicles 27 – 29  

Through the Standards: Conditions of acceptable prayer

WLC 185 — “How are we to pray?
A.  We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

What a Novel Idea!

This contributor has been involved in several church plants himself as well as participating in Presbytery church planting efforts in the Presbyterian Church in America.  So when a mission church, or for that matter, an organized church begins anew in a new building, there can be no better beginning service than that of a prayer meeting.   And yet that is exactly what happened in West Chester, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1956.  Moving into a new structure for their smaller congregation, the first service was a prayer meeting.

And to be sure, united prayer before the Sovereign God was needed for that Pennsylvania congregation. For that very same year, the national denomination of the Bible Presbyterian Church had a sizeable schism which could very easily have weakened what God’s Spirit  had already been accomplished in this city and church.  But God was faithful in giving wisdom to the congregation, enabling them to stay independent of the whole issue for a while.

The church had begun in 1938 as a core group of faithful and committed Christians left the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. over the apostasy in that once great church.  Beginning with just a nucleus of Christians, they were able to begin a church role of thirteen members, with help from pulpit supplies from Faith Theological Seminary.  They began as the Independent Church of West Chester.  One year later, they affiliated with the Bible Presbyterian Church.  Faithful pastors proclaimed the whole counsel of God and the church grew.  Evangelistic outreach was begun in the town, and people began to respond to the gospel.

Eventually, they affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Since 1982, they became a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Their allegiance to the Bible as God’s Word, inspired, inerrant, and infallible, remains the same since they began as a local church of Jesus Christ.

Words to live by:  There is a slogan which American business have often used, sometimes even painted  on the shell of a building, which said, “Build it, and they will come.”  That probably isn’t always the case, so it is more of a hope than anything else.  But in the framework of God’s church,  with the faithful proclamation of the Scriptures, the everlasting gospel, coupled with the sovereign God,  it is true, as this local church in West Chester Pennsylvania has experienced in the almost 75 years of its witness.  Praise  God for faithful churches, true to the faith once delivered unto the saints.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Chronicles 24 – 26

Through the Standards: Lawful and unlawful subjects of prayer    

WLC 184 — “For what things are we to pray?
A.   We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, our own or others, good; but not for anything that is unlawful.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Moral Law

Presbyterians must have still been on vacation during the latter days of August as there is very little national Presbyterian history recorded on these last days, including today August 28!  So following up our recent post in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we look at another catechism which really goes along with it, namely, question and answer number 40.  It reads, “What did God at first reveal to man  for the rule of his obedience?”  And the answer reads, “The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.”  The next answer in the Catechism tells us that this moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

The moral law, definition wise, is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience. (See Larger Catechism no. 93)  As such, it applies to every part of our being, body and soul.  It instructs us to perform duties of holiness to God and righteousness toward man, especially those of the house of faith.

Now it is easy for us — for you and for me — to glibly say those words in the above paragraph.  And yet, we immediately understand that it is utterly impossible for us to fulfil this moral law personally, perfectly, and perpetually.  If anything, this law immediately convicts us of our sinfulness.  And yet it clearly reveals the person and work of the Lord Jesus who kept this law personally, perfectly, and perpetually.  It was this which was imputed to us, even as our sinfulness was imputed to Jesus on the cross of Calvary.  We then seek to conform our lives to this moral law, not to gain salvation, but rather with a thankful spirit to all He has done for us.

Words to live by:  The moral law is summarized up for us in Exodus 10:1 – 17.  Choose any faithful Bible version you wish, and make it your aim to memorize the Ten Commandments, or review them from memory if you have done so before.  All Christians should have on their hearts and tongues an understanding of the moral law of God.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Chronicles 24 – 26

Through the Standards: Lawful and unlawful subjects of prayer in the catechisms       

WLC 183
“For whom are we to pray?  We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth; for magistrates, and ministers, for ourselves, our brethren, yea, our enemies; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Westminster Confession Approved by Church of Scotland

You may ask upon reading the title of this contribution, why are we thinking about adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when the whole This Day in Presbyterian History blog deals with Presbyterian history in the United States?  And that is a fair question.  But it is quickly answered by two considerations. First, this Reformed standard—The Westminster Confession of Faith—was, with few changes, the subordinate standard of all the Presbyterian denominations in the United States.  And second, the Scots-Irish immigrants who came over to this country in its earliest days held strongly to this Reformed creedal statement.

The Westminster Confession of Faith was formulated by the Westminster Assembly of divines (i.e, pastors and theologians) in the mid-seventeenth century, meeting at Westminster Abby in London, England.  To the one hundred and twenty divines, primarily from the Church of England, were added nine Scottish divines from the Church of Scotland.  While the latter were seated as non-voting members of that Assembly, still their presence was felt in very effective ways during the six-year study that produced this confessional standard.

When it was adopted by the Parliament in England, it then went to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where it was adopted without amendment on August 29, 1647.  It then became the summary of the teachings of the Old and New Testaments which was adopted by both the teaching and ruling elders, as well as the diaconate in each local church, in every Presbyterian and Reformed church deriving from that tradition. Small changes have been made by conservative Presbyterian bodies in our United States which do not affect the overall doctrinal contents of the Confession. The majority of those changes were made in 1789. You can ask your pastor for more information about those changes.

The historic importance of this document is one reason why we have daily reference to it in this devotional guide, as we seek to make our friends more knowledgeable of its magnificent statements.

Words to live by: Most of the Presbyterian denominations do not require their lay members to take vows which speak of their adoption of these historical creedal standards in order to join the church.  Yet a careful study of, and acceptance of this Confession of Westminster will give you a solid foundation for understanding the doctrine and life of the Word of God.  We urge you to do so, perhaps asking for a class in your church on it, or just studying it yourself for your personal and family benefit.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Chronicles 20 – 23

Through the Standards:  Lawful and Unlawful Subjects of Prayer, according to the Confession

WCF 21:4
“Prayer is to be made for things lawful; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter: but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.”

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: