A Plea for Prayer
by Rev. David T. Myers

The member was desperate in his phone call to me. “Be quick,” he said to this young pastor in Edmonton, Canada, “I have three Jehovah’s Witnesses in my living room.” As I drove out to his house, I reminded myself to instruct this member in the text of Scripture (2 John 10) to not allow heresies into your house.

We’ve all had the experience of having members of this cult knock on our doors, looking to hand out their literature and wanting to discuss their views of this and that with us. How interesting then to learn that the man commonly called their founder—Charles Taze Russell [1852-1916]—was of Scots-Irish ancestry and was raised in a Presbyterian church!

The time is the early eighteen hundreds in America. Charles Taze Russell was the second of five children of a Scots-Irish couple who was born in 1852. The Presbyterian family had moved to Pittsburgh and joined the Second Presbyterian Church, Old School of that city. Pastoring that influential church was the Rev. William Howard [pictured at left], who had himself been born in Philadelphia, Pa on July 28, 1814. From every indication we have, he was a faithful preacher of the gospel, confessional in his understanding of the Scriptures, and well liked by the congregation of the church, which sat under his preaching for a quarter of a century.

And it was into this congregation that the Scots-Irish family of the Russells came as members. Young Russell was to remain there until he was a young teenager, when he left the church to join the Congregational Church, and from there went on to begin his connection with what eventually became the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult.

Words to Live By: We can all look back on situations within the church and all to quickly point out sins of omission or commission, most often in others and not enough in ourselves. Was there such sins in Second Presbyterian Church, or with the faithful pastor of that time, which contributed to this young boy’s eventual apostasy? We don’t know the answer to that question. What we do know is that we need to be faithful to the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission in especially the young people of our congregations, in instructing them in Biblical truths, and especially living a holy life before them. And yes, with some of our youth, we have done the above, and they still become part of the world which is at enmity against Christ. Let us be faithful to our God and King, even King Jesus, and pray much for our covenant young children and young people. Let us be faithful to instruct them in the teachings of the Word of God and live a faithful life before them.

Not so many years ago (2011), the OPC celebrated their 75th anniversary, and with that occasion, issued two special books, unique to that occasion. One of these was titled CONFIDENT OF BETTER THINGS, and the opening chapter of this book concerns Paul Woolley, who served as professor of church history at Westminster Seminary for some forty years. John Muether spends several pages in that article discussing Woolley as an author. In all his years at the institution, Woolley never wrote a full-length article for the WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNALthought he did author some ninety-five book reviews for the JOURNAL, and over fifty articles for the PRESBYTERIAN GUARDIANA few of his articles landed in unusual places. An overview of American Presbyterian history was serialized in the REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN ADVOCATEAnd I’ve just come across another article, this one on ministerial training, that appeared in a small publication edited by William Stanford Reid in the early 1950’s. The PCA Historical Center was blessed a few years ago to receive the donation of a nearly complete run of Reid’s magazine REFORMATION TODAY, and this article by Woolley is drawn from that publication.
[If you don’t know of Stanford Reid, I strongly encourage you to locate and read a copy of A. Donald MacLeod’s biography, W. STANFORD REID: AN EVANGELICAL CALVINIST IN THE ACADEMY.

HOW IS A MINISTER TRAINED?

by Paul Woolley
[Reformation Today (Montreal, Quebec) 1.10 (July-August 1952): 3-5]

When Bill Smith first goes to kindergarten, his father and mother take the existing school as they find it. But it interests them, and they think about what is happening to Bill there. As a result, education becomes a very lively topic. Both in Canada and the United States the relation of state support of schools to religious instruction is constantly being discussed. If it is not the policy of the government of Ontario, it is the speech on the subject of President Conant of Harvard that is the subject for comment.

The principles which should guide education at the university level, undergraduate and graduate, have not been as widely considered as those concerned with Bill Smith’s kindergarten. But these principles, too, especially as they affect theological education, are of particular importance to Christians and the Church.

His Arts course
The theological student studies the liberal arts before he turns his attention specifically to theology. This is to acquaint him with the world in which he lives so that he may learn how to think and have materials, facts, with which to think. There is no use in trying to apply theology to an unknown world and to unintelligible people.

In order to be effective the arts course must consider the world and the points of view in it as broadly and as understanding^ as possible. One can never learn anything about communism and how to oppose it, for example, if one never sees the positive things which it has accomplished and by means of which it attracts people to support it. At the same time, there has to be a standard of judgment. For the Christian that basic standard ought to be the Bible.

Question of right and wrong
The greater knowledge of the Bible the arts student has, the greater wisdom he will show in thinking about the world in general. He needs to know as much about the Bible as possible when he enters the university and he ought to be constantly using the Bible as a touchstone. In the liberal arts course, however, the student will find that many of his studies concern subjects about which there is not an absolute right or wrong for all times and all places. To talk technically for a moment, they belong to the realm of the adiaphora. For example, no one form of government is always best everywhere on earth.

In Canada and the United States democracy is best, but it would be foolish to introduce full democracy overnight into Afghanistan. It requires preparation. So if the Canadian student became Emir of Afghanistan next Monday, he would not be sinning if he failed to introduce full democracy on Tuesday morning. If, however, he became Premier of the government of Canada on Monday and tried to introduce the governmental methods of Afghanistan on Tuesday, he would be sinning for the short period that the attempt would last.

Bible and theological training
As soon as the liberal arts student has finished that course and begins to study theology, he faces quite a different situation. Now he is studying the Bible itself or, at least, he should be. For the study of protestant theology should always be basically the study of the Bible. When one studies the Bible, one is always studying something about which there is a basic right and a basic wrong. The Bible is God’s Word and one understands it aright or else fails to understand it.

There is no real comparison between the study of theology and the study of any other subject, but the subject which comes closest to it is medicine. Medicine seeks primarily to teach methods of keeping the body healthy. Theology seeks primarily to teach methods of keeping the spirit healthy. A medical student therefore selects a school where a view of medicine is taught that he considers basically sound. He takes his full course there and then tries to study other systems in the light of what he has learned. A medical student who is not a Christian Scientist would not take his basic course at a school for Christian Science practitioners and then do graduate work at the School of Medicine at McGill. He would go first to a faculty such as McGill and then try to understand the healings of Christian Science in the light of what he had learned at McGill.

Test of theological school
1. Scriptural
The situation for a theological student is not entirely dissimilar. If he is a Protestant Christian, the wise procedure is to go to a seminary which accepts the basic authority of Protestantism, the Bible, as trustworthy. At such a seminary he will take the full basic theological course in order to have a sound foundation for his thinking and his practice. Later, as he meets other religions and other forms of theology, he may wish to study them intensively. But he will have a standard of comparison, the Bible and its system of thought. The system of doctrine taught in the Bible is not an adiaphoron, it is basic to Christianity. It is the form of theology with which all students should begin. Seminaries differ rather widely in multitudinous respects. Their usefulness can very largely be judged by an examination of these elements.

2. Scholarly
The basic point of view represented by the teaching in a seminary should be consistent, integrated and sound. The teaching of each department should fit in with that of the others to make a unit that taken together has logical consistency. It ought to cover the field adequately. It ought to be based on principles that flow from the source of final authority, the Bible. It should make a well-rounded whole. This does not mean, however, that points of view inconsistent with that presented are not considered. They should be considered and be considered fully. Only thus do error and truth fall properly apart.

The faculty of the Seminary is its most important asset. Its members need to be men of earnest sincerity, thoroughly informed concerning both the foundations and the latest developments of modern scholarship in their respective fields, and able to transmit knowledge and stimulate thinking by wise and appropriate teaching methods. They need to know what is going on in their fields whether they agree with the conclusions or not, they also need to be convinced of their own presuppositions. And they must know how a student can best be made acquainted with the field. Some modern pedagogy is silly, some is sound. Without curbing full freedom of discussion, it is the teacher’s opportunity to make clear the factors that result in a conviction concerning the truth. A theological teacher who has outgrown the conception of truth is largely useless.

3. Practical
The admission requirements of a theological institution reflect the level of its teaching. If they are proper, the students will be prepared intelligently to enter into the discussion of the work and to understand the presentation. Discussion by the group is an important element in theological teaching. For this reason, it is important that the student have adequate preparation in knowledge and also in the art of discussion.

The seminary prepares for the ministry. A minister must be a man who can intelligently deal with the spiritual problems of every walk of life. If his education in arts is narrow, he has no background upon which to develop his theology, he has little understanding of the ultimate problems of human beings, who are both rational and emotional. Nor, of course, can he understand why and how theology has developed as it has.

Another important element in this immediate connection is a diversified character of the student body. Discussion is more illuminating, more facts are available, if the students represent a wide range of national backgrounds, if they have attended many different colleges, if they represent varied types of childhood training. A minister ought to begin to meet his problems in the seminary, not only after he has become a pastor.

Seminary Objective

A seminary can never teach everything. What does its curriculum try to accomplish? If it hopes to include everything, it will be a failure. The seminary curriculum can only transmit the basic tools and skills which the minister needs. It should teach the original languages of Scripture and how to use them in ascertaining the meaning of the text. It should teach the basic principles upon which the text is approached; it should set forth the broad outlines of the system of truth which emerges from the study of the text. It will show the fundamental means of applying these truths to the needs of the people. And it will point out what has happened in the past when they have, and when they have not, been applied. Only after all this has been done is it important to master the latest techniques of propagation such as radio and television. The content must be in hand before it can be determined how best to present it.

The most important element of material equipment in a seminary is the books of the library. They are the basic tools. They must include the fundamental tools, many of them old but indispensable. They should also include the latest theological developments. They will need to be in many languages, and if the student is wise he will early acquaint himself with Latin, German, French and Dutch or as many of them as he can. The books must be accessible. If the student cannot see them on their shelves, he will miss many of them.

Other physical equipment in the way of classrooms, dormitories and a campus is useful but relatively much less important.

There is no ideal seminary in existence, but some approximate it much more closely than others. In every case, neither faculty nor students may rest on their oars. There is still ground ahead to be reached.

Last week we finished the final question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 107, as explained and applied by the Rev. William Smith. Our posting of those entries was drawn from a rather rare little work that, to our knowledge, has never been reprinted.

But now we must make a decision. Where to go next? Our practice on the Lord’s Day has been to set aside Presbyterian history and post things that would draw our hearts to worship. And while we take a bit of time to make that decision, for today we would like to sample a wonderful little book that would be great to have for morning devotions. I’m speaking of A Basket of Fragments. Notes for Revival, by Robert Murray McCheyne, and please do consider getting a copy. Our post for today provides the first half of this powerful evangelistic sermon:

High Time to Awake Out of Sleep.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom. 13:11).

In these words, Paul tells believers that it is waking time; and I would just tell you, dear friends, that same. It is high time for you to awake out of sleep. There  is a condition among Christians which may be called sleeping; like the ten virgins, they slumber and sleep. Ah! I fear there are many sleeping Christians among you. It is waking time, believer. Do you know what o’clock it is? You do not seem to know how near sunrise it is.

I will now show you what it is to be sleeping Christians. It is to be one that has come to Christ, yet has fallen asleep in sin. Like the Church at Ephesus, they have left their first love. They do not retain that realization of the Christ’s preciousness—that freshness of believing. They have forgotten the fresh grasp of a Saviour. Si it is with some among yourselves. You may have seen your sins; yet you have lost that fresh conviction of sin you once felt so deeply. You do not see such a beauty in Jesus. The more we look at Him, just the more we would look again. Earthly things pall upon the taste; but it is not so with things divine—they grow sweeter the oftener you use them. So every time you look at Jesus, He grows more precious. The rose is sweet, yet it loses its smell; but the lovely Rose of Sharon grows sweeter and sweeter. Earthly apples lose their taste; but the apple-tree does not so—‘Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love’ (Song. 2:5). Sleepy Christians, you have lost taste for the apples. Oh! Is it not time for you to awake out of sleep? Believer, if you sleep on, you will soon doubt if ever you have come to Christ at all.

To awake out of sleep, then, is to see that divine things are realities. When you are half asleep, you see things imperfectly. Ah! You are not affected by divine realities. Now, what is it to awake out of sleep? To awake out of sleep is to see sin as it is—your heart as it is—Christ as He is—and the love of God in Christ Jesus. And you can see all this by looking to Calvary’s cross. Oh it is an awful thing to look to the cross and not be affected, nor feel conviction of sin—nor feel drawn to Christ! Oh I do not know a more sad state than this! Oh pray that you may be wide awake! Dear friends, our life is like a river, and we are like a boat sailing down that river. We are drawing nearer and nearer to the shores of eternity. Some of you have believed for forty years. Ah! Your salvation is nearer than when you first believed. Your redemption draweth nigh—the redemption of your whole soul—your complete redemption. And the time is coming when we will get it—you will be saved, and then the last stone will be put on with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace! Unto it.’ Then will the crown be put upon your heads for you will be more than conquerors.

Dear friends, I do not know how far the day is spent. This is a dark, dark time; but the day is breaking—the shadows are fleeing away. The river Euphrates is drying up—that shows the day is breaking. The Jews, God’s ancient people, are being brought in, and that shows the day is far spent.

And it is also high time for unconverted men to awake out of sleep. O sinners! You are fast asleep, you are lying dormant—dead! O sleepy souls! It is high time you should awake! Do you know what angels said when they went to and fro upon the earth? They told the Lord, ‘Behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest’ (Zech. 1:11). Ah! You are fast asleep. God has given you the spirit of slumber. Do you not remember the message to Amos: ‘Woe to them that are at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1)? And that is the case with many of you. When you come to this house, you are in a place where Jesus has called sleepy souls, and where He has been found of very many. O sleeping souls, it is high time for you to awake! You are living in a dream. Every Christless man will find at last that he has been dreaming. Ah! The time is coming when you shall find that your following after gold is but a golden dream. And is there no pleasure in a dream? Who has not felt that there is pleasure even in dreams? But, Ah! You must awake. Like a man condemned to die (and many of you are condemned already), he dreams of home, of his wife and children; of freedom and pleasure; but, ah! He awakes by the toll of the death-bell, and he finds that—behold it was but a dream! Now, unconverted men, you are taking a sleep; but, like the man, you will awake form a bright dream to a bitter reality.

Dear friends, I often think when I look at your houses as I pass along, and when I look in your faces, that ministers are like watchmen—they see the fire and they give the alarm. Many of you are in danger as one in a burning house. Sometimes you wonder at our anxiety for you. Sometimes you say, ‘Why are you so harsh?’ O poor soul! It is because the house is on fire. Oh then, can we speak too harshly?—can we knock too loudly at the door of your consciences? I remember what a woman once told John Newton on her deathbed: she said ‘You often spoke to me of Christ; but oh! You did not tell me enough about my danger.’ Oh! I fear many of you will tell me the same. Oh! I fear many may reproach me on a deathbed, or in hell, that I did not tell you oftener that there was a hell. Would to God I had none to reproach me at last! God help me to speak to you plainly! It is high time to awake out of sleep, sinner: for now your damnation slumbereth not. Dear friends, it is now more than three years since I first spoke to you, though it just seems like a day since I first came beseeching you to be reconciled to God—beseeching you to come to Jesus. Every day that passes is bringing you nearer to the judgment-seat. Not one of you is standing still. You may sleep; but the tide is going on, bringing you nearer death, judgment and eternity.

Our selection for today is Dr. David W. Hall’s review of a sermon by the Rev. Charles Chauncy:—

“Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God”
by Charles Chauncy (May 27, 1747)

Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) was one of the most influential pastors in Boston during his life. He received his theological training at Harvard and served as pastor of First Church for nearly 60 years. He wrote numerous pamphlets between 1762-1771 against the British proposal to impose a Bishop in America. This sermon preached in 1747, addressed to rulers (the Governor, the council, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives), called them to be just and frequently to recall their subordination to God. Original punctuation has been preserved. He drew upon an often used text from 2 Samuel 23—a passage that was a slam dunk for pastors comparing candidates to unchanging norms. He began: “there are none in all the Bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their public capacity, of more solemn importance.”

Viewing these as the last sentiments of David, Chauncy’s outline was:

  1. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.
  2. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
  3. The whole will then be applied to the occasions of the day.

In his first section, an apology for government in general, Chauncy observed: “Order and rule in society, or, what means the same thing, civil government, is not a contrivance of arbitrary and tyrannical men, but a regular state of things, naturally resulting from the make of man, and his circumstances in the world.” Human sin necessitated this. As both Calvin and Madison had noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” While government in general was ordained by God, the particulars could and did vary.

Government was “not a matter of mere human prudence, but of moral necessity. It does not lie with men to determine at pleasure, whether it shall or shall not take place; but, considering their present weak, exposed and dependent condition, it is unalterably right and just there should be rule and superiority in some, and subjection and inferiority in others: And this therefore is invariably the will of God; his will manifested by the moral fitness and reason of things.”

However, under the second head, the manner of rulers was prescribed. The first quality (and the one with the most discussion in this sermon) was for ruler to be just. One of Chauncy’s full elaborations of justice was:

They should do it by appearing in defense of their liberties, if called in question, and making use of all wise and suitable methods to prevent the loss of them: Nor can they be too active, diligent or laborious in their endeavors upon this head: Provided always, the privileges in danger are worth contending for, and such as the people have a just right and legal claim to. Otherwise, there may be hazard of losing real liberties, in the strife for those that are imaginary; or valuable ones, for such as are of trifling consideration.

They should also express this care, by seasonably and faithfully placing a proper guard against the designs of those, who would rule in a despotic manner, to the subversion of the rights naturally or legally vested in the people.

They were to be just in their use of power (not encroaching due liberties) and also just in regard to “the laws by which they govern.” He articulated this second rung of justice as “They should not, when upon the business of framing and passing acts, suffer themselves to be swayed by any wrong bias, either from self-will, or self-interest; the smiles or frowns of men greater than themselves; or the humor of the populace: But should bring the proposed laws to a fair and impartial examination.” He warned against “framing mischief by a law.” Just rulers would also punish evildoers and maintain honest economic standards.

Surely with the book of Proverbs’ admonition toward just weights and measures in mind, Chauncy also applied:

And if justice in rulers should show itself by reducing the things that are bought and sold to weight and measure, much more ought it to be seen in ascertaining the medium of trade, as nearly as may be, to some determinate value. For this, whether it be money, or something substituted to pass in lieu of it, is that for which all things are exchanged in commerce. And if this, which is of such universal use in the affair of traffic, be a thing variable and uncertain, of one value this week, and another the next, it is difficult to conceive, how justice should take place between man and man, in their dealings with one another.

Justice also called for right execution of laws and for the appointment of just persons to carry out those just laws. Justice was called for in terms of debt—not a light matter; and justice was to be a guarantor of liberties. Not only could liberties be threatened by those of high office, but Chauncy also warned about excessive populism: “The men who strike in with the popular cry of liberty and privilege, working themselves, by an artful application to the fears and jealousies of the people, into their good opinion of them as lovers of their country, if not the only stanch friends to its interests, may, all the while, be only aiming at power to carry every thing according to their own sovereign pleasure: And they are, in this case, most dangerous enemies to the community.”

A ruler could, thus, err in many ways. The standards for office were high, according to the Hebrew standards and to those of early America. Chauncy put it this way:

If it is their business to act as executioners of justice, they must faithfully inflict the adjudged sentence: In doing of which, though there may be room for the exercise of compassion, especially in the case of some sort of debtors; yet the righteousness of the law may not be eluded by needless, much less fraudulent delays, to the injury of the creditor.

In fine, whatever their trust is, whether of less or greater importance, they must exercise it with care, fidelity, resolution, steadiness, diligence, and an entire freedom from a corrupt respect to men’s persons, as those who are concerned for the honor of government, and that its laws may take effect for the general good of the community.

He charged the General Court to apply themselves to these standards of justice. He further reminded his listeners that they were responsible to God, specifically telling them “that they are accountable to that Jesus, whom God hath ordained to be the judge of the world, for the use of that power he has put into their hands.” The latter part of this sermon provides a discussion of the fear of the Lord, with the injunction that rulers were to keep that in mind in their activities and decisions. This aspect was salutary as follows: “But no restraints are like those, which the true fear of God lays upon men’s lusts. This habitually prevailing in the hearts of rulers, will happily prevent the out-breaking of their pride, and envy, and avarice, and self-love, and other lusts, to the damage of society; and not only so, but it will weaken, and gradually destroy, the very inward propensities themselves to the various acts of vice. It naturally, and powerfully, tends to this: And this is the effect it will produce, in a less or greater degree, according to the strength of the religious principle, in those who are the subjects of it.”

Chauncy’s sermon wraps up with specific charges to the rulers to apply these standards. Somehow, I doubt that the need for fear of God as discussed above, or the requirement to be just, has been altered by time or circumstance.

A printed copy of this sermon is available in my 1996 Election Day Sermons and is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era(Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). The sermon is online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N04742.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

It was an astonishing request by the Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Unable to join the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War due to an abundance of volunteers, a captain in the western part of Pennsylvania had requested Secretary Cameron for permission to raise an independent regiment for the war effort. To Captain (and later Colonel) Leisure, the Secretary had responded to the question with “Yes, Captain, if they will be men that will hold slavery to be a sin against God and a crime against humanity, and will carry their Bibles into battle.” Carry their Bibles into battle? What military recruiter today lays down that requirement? The good captain answered “I have no other to bring.” And with that, what became known as the Roundheads, the One Hundreth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment came into existence in 1861.

From a love of their country, some 1400 men from the counties of Washington, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Mercer, and Westmoreland in western Pennsylvania, all of them being Psalm-singing Presbyterians and Covenanters, entered the Union war effort to fight for their country. They were to fight in some of the bloodiest contests of the entire war, engaging the Confederates at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Appomattox. During this time, they kept their biblical faith.

In Horatio Hackett’s book “Christian Memorials of the War,” we read the following account of a chaplain’s worship service on page 28: “It was my lot to meet the Roundheads, officers and men, for the first time in the house of God, the Sabbath after I landed in Beaufort, December twenty-second. The chaplain of the regiment, Rev Robert A. Brown, of Newcastle, Pa, lay ill of fever at that time, and the colonel had invited me to preach to them at the usual hour of morning worship. The appointment was made accordingly; and at bell-ringing the colonel marched his men, nine hundred strong, into the Baptist meeting-house, under arms, and with measured tread; but quiet and reverent, as became the place, the service, and the day. It was an impressive spectacle. The soldiery, intermingled with members of other corps, filled the entire area of the lower floor, and most of the spacious galleries, which projected on either side. At the end stood, close crowded together, groups of ‘colored people.’ There, listening to the word of God, or rising in prayer, or singing, after their ancient metrical version, some of the Psalms of David, the Roundheads joined in worshiping the God of their Fathers, – their God and our God, – just as they had been wont to worship, in their several sanctuaries, with kindred and friends at home.”

Their service brought casualties to their ranks, with nearly as many dying of disease as from the wounds of war. And at the end of the war, on this day, July 24, 1865, they were mustered out, to go home to their loved ones and friends, mindful of their faithful service to God and their chosen country.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes our convictions of faith brings us into difficult days associated with conflict. Our faithfulness to God doesn’t end on those occasions with regards to God and His Word. It continues to persevere in difficult days as well as peaceful days. Let us be faithful to bring God’s Word, the Bible, with us everywhere we go, but especially in our hearts. In fact, prepare today, or continue today, by memorizing significant texts and chapters of God’s Word. In that way, you will have this means of grace available for your spiritual needs when you need its comforting words.

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: