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A Christian Patriot Who Suffered During the American Revolution

We are more apt to recognize the New Jersey delegates like the Rev. John Witherspoon, or maybe Richard Stockton, as signers of the Declaration of Independence.  But joining them was one Abraham Clark.

Born February 15, 1726 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, his family was solid Presbyterians in their denominational affiliation.  Baptized as an infant by the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, first professor of the College of New Jersey, he grew up in the thrilling but dangerous days of increasing agitation of separation from England.  With his inclination to  study civil law and mathematics, he became known to his neighbors. Popular as “the poor man’s counselor,” he refused to accept any pay for his helpfulness to his neighbors. He further served them as High Sheriff of Essex County.

But it was as a member of the Continental Congress on June 21, 1776, that he became interested in the issues of liberty and justice. Penning his name to the Declaration of Independence, representing New Jersey, he states that he and his fellow signers knew that “nothing short of Almighty God can save us.”

He knew full well the cost of liberty. To a friend serving as an officer in the Jersey contingent of troops, “this seems now to be a trying season, but that indulgent Father who has hitherto preserved us will I trust appear for our help and prevent our being crushed.  If otherwise, his will be done.” There is no doubt with convictions like this that he saw himself and his country safely within the sovereign providence of God.

His two sons were captured by the British and put into the prison hold of a notorious prison ship called “Jersey.”  Fellow prisoners fed one of the sons by squeezing food through a key hole.  Abraham Clark did not wish to make his personal suffering public, so he told no one about his family stress.  When they found out about it from other sources, the American authorities contacted the British and told them that as they were treating prisoner of war Clark, so they were going to retaliate against a British officers in captivity.  Only then did the brutal treatment of Clark’s sons ease up.

Abraham Clark was recognized as the member of Congress who moved that a chaplain be appointed for the Congress of the  United States. And ever since then, a chaplain has been elected for that spiritual position.

But there were religious responsibilities which Abraham Clark also kept. From October 26, 1786 to 1790, Abraham Clark was a trustee for the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church of which Pastor Caldwell was the minister. Abraham Clark died in his sixty-ninth year on September 15, 1794.

Words to live by:  It was said that Abraham Clark was a Christian, a family man, a patriot, a public servant, and a gentleman. That about covers the sphere of influence which all Christians are to serve both God, the church, and our country. Once, he was offered freedom for his sons from their British captivity if . . . if he turned colors and became a Tory, or become loyal to England.  He responded “no.”  He was convinced, as he said to a friend in a letter in 1776, “Our fate is in the hands of an Almighty God to whom I can with pleasure confide my own. He can save  us or destroy us. His counsels are fixed and cannot be disappointed and all his designs will be accomplished.” Amen, and Praise God!

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It was on this day, July 28, in 1881 that John Gresham Machen was born. For our Lord’s Day message today, the following message from Dr. Machen was first presented before a meeting of the League of Evangelical Students, a campus ministry which Machen had helped to organize in 1925. His words here remain timely for us today.


By J. Gresham Machen
[excerpted from The Evangelical Student, 3.1 (October 1931): 6-10.]

In the nineteenth chapter of the Second Book of Kings, we are told how Hezekiah, King of Judah, received a threatening letter from the Assyrian enemy. The letter contained unpalatable truth. It set forth the way in which the King of Assyria had conquered one nation after another—and could the feeble kingdom of Judah escape?

When Hezekiah received the letter, there were three things that he could do with it.

In the first place, he could obey its behest; he could go out and surrender his kingdom to the Assyrian enemy.

In the second place, he could refuse to read the letter; he could ignore its contents. Like another and worse king, with a far better communication than that, he could take out his king’s penknife and cut it up and throw it bit by bit contemptuously into the fire.

As a matter of fact, Hezekiah did neither of these two things. He took the letter with all its unpalatable truth, and read it from beginning to end; he did not close his eyes to any of its threatening. But then he took the letter, with all the threatening that it contained, spread it open in the presence of Almighty God, and asked God to give the answer.

Now we too, believers in the Bible and in the blessed gospel that it contains, have received a threatening letter. It is not a letter signed by any one potentate, like the King of Assyria; but it is a collective letter signed by the men who are dominating the world of today and dominating to an increasing extent the visible Church. It is a letter breathing out threatenings of extinction to those who hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is set forth in God’s Word.

That letter is signed by the men who are dominating increasingly the political and social life of the world. That was not true fifty years ago, at least not in English-speaking countries. Then, to a considerable extent, in those countries at least, public opinion was in favor of the gospel of Christ. Today, almost all over the world, public opinion is increasingly against the gospel of Christ.

The letter of threatening against the gospel is signed also by the men who are dominating the literary and intellectual life of the world. To see that that is true, one needs only to read the popular magazines and the magazines that appeal to persons of literary and intellectual taste; or one needs only to read the books of the day or listen to what comes “over the air”.

The threatening letter is also signed, alas, by the men who are in control of many of the larger branches of the Protestant Church. In the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., for example, to which the writer of this article belongs, four out of eight ministerial members of the Permanent Judicial Commission, which is practically the supreme guardian of the doctrine of the Church, are actually signers of a formal document commonly called the “Auburn Affirmation” which declares to be non- essential even for the ministry the virgin birth of our Lord and four other great verities of the Christian faith; and very slight indeed is the representation of any clear-cut and outspoken evangelicalism in the boards and agencies of the Church. In many other ecclesiastical bodies, the situation, from the Christian point of view, is even worse than it is in ours.

But it is in the colleges and universities and theological seminaries that the threatening letter against the gospel of Christ has been most generally signed. In the faculties of some of our great universities today, you can count almost on the fingers of your two hands the men who believe in the gospel in any definite and outspoken way, and in the student bodies individual believers often seem to themselves to be standing nearly alone.

When we receive this threatening letter, there are three things, that we may do with it.

In the first place, we may obey its behest; we may relinquish our belief in the truth of the Bible; we may simply drift with the current of the times. Very many students in colleges and universities and theological seminaries have made that choice. They came from Christian homes; they are the subject of the prayers of godly parents. But the threatenings and persuasions of the unbelieving world have apparently been too strong for them. They have been unwilling to adopt the unpopular course. And so they have made shipwreck of their faith.

In the second place, we may refuse to read the threatening letter; we may close our eyes to the unpalatable truth that the letter contains. We may say, as so many are saying today, that the Protestant churches of our own country and of the other countries of the world are “fundamentally sound”; we may cry “Peace, peace; when there is no peace”; we may dig our heads like ostriches in the sand; we may refuse to attend to the real situation in the Church and in the world.

I pray God that we may never adopt this method of dealing with the letter of threatening; for if there is one thing that is preventing true prayer today, it is this foolish optimism with regard to the state of the times, this refusal of Christian people to face the true seriousness of the situation in which we stand.

But there is a third choice that we may make when we receive the threatening letter against the gospel of Christ. We may take the letter and read it from beginning to end, not closing our eyes to the threatening that it contains, and then lay the letter, with all its threatenings, open in the presence of Almighty God.

It is to that third choice that the League of Evangelical Students, by its Constitution, is irrevocably committed. The Prologue to the Constitution reads as follows:

“Inasmuch as mutually exclusive conceptions of the nature of the Christian religion exist in the world today and particularly in theological seminaries and other institutions of higher learning: and since it is the duty of those who share and cherish the evangelical faith to witness to it and to strive for its defense and propagation; and in view of the value for this end of common counsel, united effort and Christian fellowship:

“We, the undersigned representatives of Students’ Associations in Theological Seminaries and Schools for the Training of Christian Workers, do hereby form a league organized upon the following principles….”

There we have a clear facing of the situation as it actually is and a brave willingness, despite that situation, to stand for the defense and propagation of the gospel of Christ.

Certain objections are sometimes raised against this method of dealing with the letter of threatening that has come to us today from a hostile world.

In the first place, we are sometimes told, it will discourage the faith of timorous souls if we tell them thus plainly that the world of today is hostile to the gospel of Christ; it will offend Christ’s little ones, men say, if we bid them open their eyes to the real strength of unbelief in the modern world.

But our Lord, at least, never used this method of raising false hopes in those whom He called to be His disciples. He told those who would follow Him to count the cost before they took that step, not to be like a man who starts to build a tower before he has funds to complete it or like a man who puts his hand to the plow and then draws back. He never made it easy, in that sense, to be a disciple of Him (though in another and higher sense His yoke was easy and His burden light); and any faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which is based upon the vain hope that a man can be a disciple of Christ and still have the favor of the world is a faith that is based on shifting sand. No, it is a poor religion which makes a man willing only to walk in golden slippers in the sunshine; and such a religion is bound to fail in the time of need.

In the second place, however, men say that if we face the real condition of the times, we shall be guilty of stirring up controversy in the Church.

No doubt the fact may be admitted. If we face the real situation in the Church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles; for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord Himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.

I do not know all the things that will happen when the great revival sweeps over the Church, the great revival for which we long. Certainly I do not know when that revival will come; its coming stands in the Spirit’s power. But about one thing that will happen when that blessing comes I think we can be fairly sure. When a great and true revival comes in the Church, the present miserable, feeble talk about avoidance of controversy on the part of the servants of Jesus Christ will all be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is really on fire with his message never talks in that feeble and compromising way, but proclaims the gospel plainly and boldly in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ.

If we do adopt this method of dealing with the present situation in the Church and in the world, if we spread the threatening letter of the adversaries unreservedly before God, there are certain things that God tells us for our comfort. When Hezekiah adopted that method in his day, God sent him Isaiah the son of Amoz, greatest of the prophets, with a message of cheer. But He has His ways of speaking also to us.

In the first place, he tells us for our comfort that this is not the first time of discouragement in the history of the Church. Often the gospel has seemed to superficial observers to be forever forgotten, yet it has burst forth with new power and set the world aflame. Sometimes the darkest hour has just preceded the dawn. So it may be in our time.

In the second place, He tells us that even in this time of unbelief there are far more than seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to the gods of the hour. In these days of doubt and defection and hostility, there are those who love the gospel of Jesus Christ. And how sweet and precious is our fellowship with them in the presence of a hostile world!

It is to be God’s instrument in giving that comfort that the League of Evangelical Students exists. It is founded to say to students on many a campus who are tempted to think that they are standing alone in holding to the gospel of Christ: “No, brethren, you are not alone; we too hold humbly to the truth of God’s Word, and we hold to it not through a mere shallow emotionalism but because to hold to it is a thoroughly reasonable thing, of which a real student need not for one moment be ashamed.”

In the third place, God tells us not to be too much impressed by the unbelieving age in which we are living now. Do you think that this is a happy or a blessed age? Oh, no, my friends. Amid all the pomp and glitter and noise and tumult of the age, there are hungry hearts. The law of God has been forgotten, and stark slavery is stalking through the earth —the decay of free institutions in the State and a deeper slavery still in the depths of the soul. High poetry is silent; and machinery, it almost seems, rules all. God has taken the fire of genius from the world. But something far more than genius is being lost—the blessing of a humble and virtuous life. There was a time, twenty-five years ago, when we might have thought that Christian living could be maintained after Christian doctrine was given up. But if we ever made that mistake, we must abandon it today. Where is the sweetness of the Christian home; where is the unswerving integrity of men and women whose lives were founded upon the Word of God? Increasingly these things are being lost. Even men of the world are coming to see with increasing clearness that mankind is standing over an abyss.

I tell you, my friends, it is not altogether an argument against the gospel that this age has given it up; it is rather an argument for the gospel. If this be the condition of the world without Christ, then we may well turn back, while yet there is time, to that from which we have turned away.

That does not mean that we should despise the achievements of the age; it does not mean that we should adopt the “Touch not, taste not, handle not” attitude toward the good things or the wonders of God’s world which Paul condemned in his day; it does not mean that we should consecrate to God an impoverished man, narrowed in interests, narrowed in outlook upon the marvellous universe that God has made. What it does mean is that we should pray God to make these modern achievements not the instruments of human slavery, as increasingly they are threatening to become, but the instruments of that true liberty which consists in the service of God.

But the deepest comfort which God gives us is not found even in considerations such as these: it is not found in reflections upon God’s dealings during the past history of the Church; it is not found in our fellowship with those who love the gospel that we love; it is not found in observation of the defects of this unbelieving age. Valuable are all these considerations, and great is the assurance that they give to our souls. But there is one consideration that is more valuable, and one assurance that is greater still. It is found in the overwhelming glory of the gospel itself.

When we attend to that glory, all the pomp and glitter of an unbelieving age seems like the blackness of night. How wonderful is the divine revelation in God’s Word! How simple, yet how majestic its presentation of the being of God; how dark its picture of the guilt of man; how bright against that background its promise of divine grace! And at the centre of all in this incomparable Book there stands the figure of One in whose presence all wisdom seems to be but folly and all goodness seems to be but filthy rags. If we have His favor, little shall we care henceforth for the favor of the world, and little shall we fear the opposition of an unbelieving age.

That favor is ours, brethren, without merit, without boasting, if we trust in Him. And in that favor we find the real source of our courage in these difficult days. Our deepest comfort is found not in the signs of the times but in the great and precious promises of God.

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The Perseverance of the Saints, Illustrated, Proved and Applied

Shepard Kosciusko Kollock was born at Elizabeth, New Jersey, on June 25th, 1795. His father was an officer in the Revolutionary Army, and greatly admired the personal and military character of the Polish leader Kosciusko, and so gave that name, together with his own, to his youngest son. Shepard graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1812, at the age of seventeen and with high honors. After studying theology with his brother-in-law, the Rev. John McDowell, and his brother, Dr. Henry Kollock, Shepard was subsequently licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of South Caroline, in June of 1814.

After preaching for three years in South Carolina and Georgia, Rev. Kollock received a call to serve the Presbyterian church in Oxford, North Carolina, and it was only at this point when he was finally ordained, by the Presbytery of Orange, on May 2nd, 1818. However, not long after this, he accepted an appointment as Professor of Rhetoric and Logic at the University of North Carolina, prompting him to resign his pulpit.

In 1825 he became pastor of the Presbyterian church in Norfolk, Virginia, and continued there for about ten years, thereafter returning to New Jersey and for three years he was engaged as an agent for the Board of Domestic Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. From about 1828 to 1848, Rev. Kollock was the pastor of the church in Burlington, and his final pastorate was in Greenwich. At last, worn out by a life of faithful labors, age and increasing infirmity, he resigned and came to live in Philadelphia in 1860. Death came at last on April 7, 1865.

Dr. Kollock was a successful minister of the Gospel in all his charges, and a gentleman of culture of no common order. His Hints on Preaching without Reading, and Pastoral Reminiscences, were translated into French and published in Paris. He also contributed several valuable articles to the Princeton Review.

Kollock’s work, The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, Illustrated, Proved and Applied, by first published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1835 and was later included in volume one of the series commonly known under the title, Presbyterian Tracts. In lieu of our Words to Live By section, we reproduce a portion of that work here today, for those who might want to read further:–


In every age the Church has been pained by beholding persons whose professions were high and specious, declining from the truth, returning to the world, and again indulging in the lusts of the flesh. Such examples tend to afflict humble believers, and to fill them with apprehensions that their own state is unsafe, and may terminate in destruction. To prevent such an inference, the Scriptures, whenever they predict, or relate, the apostacy of those who had once “the form of godliness,” immediately subjoin, as a source of consolation, an assurance that the real children of God shall be preserved from defection.
Thus the Saviour (Matt. xxiv.) foretelling the appearance of those who should come in his name, and “deceive many,” intimates that the elect shall not be deceived.
Thus Paul (2 Tim. ii. 19.) mentioning the apostacy of Hymenaeus and Philetus, probably eminent teachers in the Church, adds, lest believers should suppose that their own condition was uncertain, and their own faith liable to be destroyed: “nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his”—”they that are built upon the foundation of his unchangeable love and purpose shall never be overthrown.”
Thus also the apostle John (1 John ii. 19.) having mentioned that many anti-christs were in the world who were generally apostates, adds: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us;”—as if he had said, ‘Whatever plausible appearances they make, they prove, by becoming apostates, that they were hypocrites; for if they had been true believers, renewed by grace and vitally united to Christ, they would have persevered in communion with us; but they went out that they might appear to the world in the real characters of false-hearted professors.

Such is the spirit of the language of Scripture, and in these, and other similar passages, is plainly taught the doctrine of THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.

It is a doctrine which lies at the foundation of all the hope which the believer enjoys; it inspires confidence in danger, comfort in sorrow, succour in temptation, and is an “anchor to his soul,” amidst tempests the most violent.

Let us inquire what reason we have to receive this doctrine as the truth of God.

In making this investigation we shall arrange our reflections in the following order:

I. We shall definitely state the question at issue, and show what we mean when we maintain the final perseverance of the saints.

II. We shall establish the doctrine by arguments.

III. We shall answer the principal objections against it.

When we say that the saints shall finally persevere, we mean not by the word saints those who, having made a profession, and possessing a semblance of religion, are regarded by others as pious; or those who are confidently esteemed by themselves as godly; or those who are only federally holy—by external consecration to God, as were the people of Israel. We grant that all these may finally and entirely apostasize. But by saints we mean those, and those only, who have really been born again; who have been brought from a state of enmity against God into a state of reconciliation and love; who have been justified, accepted and adopted; who are animated by the Holy Spirit, that dwelling both in Christ and them, forms an intimate union between him the head, and them the members.

When we say that such persons shall not finally and entirely fall away from grace, we do not mean that their graces may not languish and decline. The question is not concerning the decay, but the loss of grace; not concerning sickness and debility, but total death. A person may faint away, showing no signs of animation, while a principle of life remains; and spiritual life may undergo so violent a shock as to be brought apparently to the very verge of death, and yet not be extinguished.

Neither do we mean that the acts of grace shall never be interrupted; but only that the spirit and habit of it shall never be lost. We grant that the saints may fall into many and great sins; but we maintain that, through the presence of God cherishing the principles of spiritual life once implanted, they shall never so sin, as to fall into that state in which they were before conversion, and of the children of the Holy One, become the children of the devil. They may fall into transgressions that deserve perdition, but God will excite their repentance, animate their faith, enliven their hope, and thus keep them in his covenant and love.

When we say that the saints shall persevere, we mean not, that considered in themselves, and with no strength but their own, they will be able to stand. We rest the certainty of their perseverance on the assistance of the Spirit, and the support of God. In themselves, they are weak, unable to begin, to continue, or to finish the life of holiness; but according to the divine covenant and promises, they “are kept by his power through faith unto salvation.”

Neither do we assert that grace, considered in itself, is absolutely incapable of being lost. It is one thing to affirm that it shall not be lost, and another thing to affirm that it is in its nature absolutely incapable of being lost. We know that the world shall no more be overwhelmed by a flood, but we at the same time admit that it is susceptible of being drowned. We therefore ground the perseverance of the saints, not upon the firmness and unchangeableness of grace, as it subsists in the creature, but upon the love, the power, the wisdom, the faithfulness, and the covenant of Almighty God. [emphasis added.]

Attending to these distinctions and limitations, we have a proper view of the doctrine before us. It may be conveyed in the following proposition:

All who are truly regenerated and vitally united to Christ, though weak and frail in themselves, shall be so protected and kept by the power of God that the habits of grace shall never be entirely lost, nor the principle of spiritual life totally extinguished; and although they may fall into sins, yet they shall never fall from their interest in the covenant, but shall be renewed to repentance, and be at last brought, by a steady perseverance, to eternal salvation.

This is the sum of the doctrine before us. We proceed

II. To establish its truth.

To continue reading The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, by the Rev. Dr. Shepard K. Kollock, click here.[this is a short tract, only twenty pages in length.]

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This Day in Presbyterian History: 

Good Providence Sums Up His Calling

Reared outside the prairie town of Lemmon, South Dakota, David Peterson would travel to many war-torn countries around the world before his calling as an Army chaplain would be over.  But that thirty-year career did come to an end on September 1, 1995.  For the next thirteen years, he led the Presbyterian Church in America Mission to North America Chaplain Ministries as its Coordinator.  Currently he is the chairman of the International Association of Evangelical Chaplains, which assists foreign nations in developing and training of chaplains.

A key highlight of an adventure filled life and ministry for this Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary graduate was his experience as the Senior Military Chaplain for General Norman Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War.  He was present in the underground bunker in Saudi Arabia when the first United States bombers were to take off for Baghdad, Iraq around midnight.  The general had gathered his staff together, including Col. Peterson.  Before the order was given to start the war, he asked his chaplain to say a prayer.

Chaplain Peterson prayed the following prayer on that momentous night: “Our Father, on this awesome and humbling occasion, we are grateful for the privilege of turning to you, our Sovereign and Almighty God.  We believe that, in accord with the teaching of your word and revelation, we are on a just and righteous mission.  We pray for a quick and decisive victory. Your Word informs us that men prepare for battle, and we have.  But victory rests with the Lord.  Therefore we commit our ways to you and wait upon the Lord.  In the name of the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.”  Those military men affirmed the words with their response of Amen.

Let it be said that Chaplain Peterson suspected that this would be coming.   He had talked with the General for a time that very night.  Just before going to the bunker, there was a time when this PCA minister was alone by himself, waiting for the general to go to the underground bunker.  At that time, David Peterson composed his spirit and quickly wrote down some Scriptural texts and prayer requests on a three-by-five card.  Thus, when the time to pray came in that war room, he was ready to intercede with the God of war for the souls of the men who would enter into a battle that very night,  to say nothing of the victory over the enemy.

Just a few years later, in 1999, Chaplain Peterson would write:

During a recent missions conference, someone said to me, “As long as our nation is not in a significant war, people are not concerned about the military and therefore not concerned about the chaplaincy.” Reluctantly, I must admit that there is some truth in that statement. There is a tendency for the citizens of our nation to take our freedom for granted. Today, very few American citizens are aware of the historical role the military has played in our society and why it is important to continue having a strong force. Nor do we give much thought to the role and impact our chaplains have in the ministry to our military force and their families.

Words to live by: One of the more comforting doctrines of God’s Word is the doctrine of divine providence.  Sometimes the word providence was used in earlier times as a synonym for God Himself.  But properly used, it simply signifies, as our Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter 5 that “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence.”  If we could as Christians simply live our lives in the full knowledge of, and trust for, that doctrine, how much we would live more comfortably  in this present world.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 4 – 6

Through the Standards: Parts of worship

WCF 21:5
“The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the  heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be  used in a holy and religious manner.

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