Ashbel Green

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“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

THE SUBJECT : Biblical Tolerance

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : Matt. 12:30; Matt. 6:24; Matt. 6:16; I Cor. 15:34; Isa. 55:7.

REFERENCES TO THE STANDARDS : Confession of Faith : I.10; XVIII.3; XXX; XXXIII.3; Larger Catechism : Q. 5; 75; 81; 109; Shorter Catechism : Q. 3; 36.

The attitude of Biblical tolerance is one of the most difficult to cultivate today. In this land the idea of toleration for religion, especially as it applies to the religion of the other person, is the popular belief to follow. Constantly it is proclaimed in the media that one religion is as good as another. Even within the evangelical realm we sometimes hear the stereotyped words : “After all, we’re all trying to get to the same place.”

Those who are committed to the Reformed Faith hear the same refrain, only it is a bit different. “Toleration,” to those not committed to the Reformed Faith, takes on the cloak of, “You Calvinists must be tolerant of those that disagree with you.” This even comes at times from those who give lip service to the Reformed Faith. It is as if there are two different truths, two different ways to believe, and one is almost as good as the other. 

It must be recognized that there is a wrong kind of intolerance. This is the type that is without compassion, without concern for those who disagree. This has been practiced by many throughout the ages. It has even reached that of hate for one’s opponents. This is not Biblical. This is sin.

There must be both a positive and negative testimony for the Truth. We must be positive as we proclaim the Doctrines of Grace. We must be faithful to all the doctrines. We must be faithful to proclaim the doctrines in all their magnificence. We must be careful we do not overemphasize one or two to the exclusion of others. We must be positive, not only in our beliefs regarding the Doctrines of Grace, but also in our practice of them. Our doctrine and our polity must be consistent.

There is another side and we dare not ignore it. Our proclaiming of the Truth will also be negative. There are many who will denounce this thought. Their approach is that we will turn people off with a negative approach. Though they would not accept the theology of “Positive Thinking” they will insist upon the practice of it when it concerns doctrine.

The problem with this type of thinking and resulting practice is that it is not Biblical. Note Question 109 of the Larger Catechism :

Q. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion . . .”

There is no way we can stand for the truth of God’s Word and not oppose whatever stands in opposition to it. Truth is not Truth until it is distinct from error. Therefore, it is necessary to point out the error. Many times it is not easy to do so. Especially it is not easy when the title of “trouble-maker” or “narrow-minded” is branded on you by those who have sold out to a tolerance that is not Biblical.

We must be as narrow-minded as the Bible itself. Therefore we who believe the Reformed Faith is the correct interpretation of Biblical truth will not be quiet regarding positions taken that are contrary to it. As we discover error we must refute error.

Our Lord was intolerant about many things. He would not tolerate such things as hypocrisy or self-centered living. Without doubt he was intolerant regarding sin. And unbelief is sin. When it is uncovered by the searchlight of the Word of God it must be faced.

The facing of error in love is a difficult task. It is difficult because priorities become involved. Some say love should rule over defending the faith and therefore we must be tolerant. Others say defending the faith should rule over love and therefore we must be intolerant. Is it not possible that both are wrong?

Our Lord Jesus Christ defended the faith in love. He knew it must be defended. He knew His Bride would have to be militant before it could be triumphant! But the responsibility of His children to be militant must be saturated with love. Not love for the error involved, but love for those involved in the error. But that love must never motivate us to compromise in any way as we stand for God’s Word.

The point to be made is that we are to defend the faith we say we believe. We have already drawn the line by our profession. Part of our being true to our profession is being intolerant of error. That is Biblical tolerance.

 

 

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Pride the Great Enemy of My Soul

Our post today comes from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, who served as associate pastor alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green at the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, beginning in 1799 and remaining at that church until 1828. I have found some pastoral diaries to be among some of the richest Christian reading, and I hope you will 

February 1, 1801. Sabbath.

J.J. Janeway “I perceive that pride is the great enemy of my soul. Often it prevents the enjoyment of God, and enlargement of heart. I must be emptied before I am filled. Alas, that my soul is so foolish and sinful as to indulge in pride. Were I more humble, I should have more communion with God, and more comfort. I think He is humbling me. Blessed be His name, that I, in any measure, see the sin of pride, and the importance of humility, and that I labour in any degree to suppress the rising of pride, and pray with any ardour for humility. I feel my insufficiency for the work of the ministry. But I look to Him, who hath promised:        

‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’

Blessed be God, that I feel a confidence that Jesus will aid me, and teach me how to preach His precious gospel.   I thank Him for past aid.”

Rev. Janeway’s biographer continues:

He frequently complains of his insufficiency for his great work, and seems ready to sink beneath the burdensome responsibility. He clings to the promise, and holds to the anchor. “I feel my insufficiency for my ministerial labors. How shall I go in and out before my people?” are remarks often occurrent.

About this time, a painful trial disturbed, and for years harassed his mind. Bitter and deep seem to have been his sorrows—painful his exercises. In the excess of his conscientiousness, and the lowliness of his humility, he doubted his standing in the affections and esteem of his people. He was young, and stood along side of an accomplished veteran in the service of Christ. His shrinking spirit doubted his qualifications for his great work, in a great city.

We shall not interrupt the narrative, by such large quotations from different years in his journal, which exhibit these painful struggles. They are noted here, in their chronological order, and will occur again, in recitals from his journal, and quotations from letters received from esteemed and distinguished friends, until years after God’s providence made his duty plain, and released the bird from the snare of the fowler.

“My mind is sometimes troubled with thinking about my standing in the affections of my people. I at times, think that I occupy the place of one better qualified for this important station.”

In the second church of our communion on the continent, with such distinguished men for his hearers, his well-known modesty shrunk. But when Philadelphia ceased to be the capital of the Union, and these notables removed, he still doubted his acceptance with the mass of the people; and yet, even then, had he won his way to the hearts of the people, and in a subdued sense, like his gracious Master, it might be said, “the common people heard him gladly.” His kindness to the poor, his open-handed charity, gave him, though he knew it not, a vigorous hold on their love. We shall have frequent occasion to recur to this again, and see it as it doubtless was presented, as part of the discipline of his life, to quicken the graces of his meek and quiet spirit.

Words to Live By:
Here was a true proof of real humility, to have won his people’s hearts by way of honest, real ministry as a faithful shepherd of the Lord’s people. It is the discipline of a faithful pastor’s life, that he will strive to possess and exhibit a servant’s heart, freely spending himself for the lives of his people. In this, Christ is glorified.

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The Means for Revival at a Presbyterian College
by Rev. David T. Myer

Ashbel Green [1762-1848]In the Life of Ashbel Green, available on-line, we have a summary of the means of a biblical revival which took place at the College of New Jersey, of which Ashbel Green was its president. Prior to this revival, only twelve students out of one hundred and five were counted as professors of the Christian faith in the college. The report to the trustees of the college is too long to be reproduced here, but a succinct summary can be given to the divine means used, which means are remarkably up-to-date for professing Christians in our day and age. They are:

          1. The revival came “chiefly, in the study of Scriptures,” which were “accompanied with comments on the portion read, and a practical application of the leading truths contained in it.”

          2. Dr. Green continued to write that “under the divine blessing, it has served to enlighten and instruct the youth in their duty; it has rendered their minds solemn and tender beyond what they were themselves aware of at the time, it has given them a deep reverence for the truth of divine revelation, it has gratified them to hear preaching with advantage, and at length, revealed truth has, we trust, been powerfully and effectually applied to their consciences, by the Spirit . . . .

          3. The Presbyterian clergyman/college president went on to write of “their attendance at public worship” for the second means, as “favorable to their religious improvement.” He went on to state “the modes of conducting public worship must be considered as being a powerful instrumental cause, both in producing an awakened attention to religion at first, and in cherishing it through the whole of its progress.

          4. The effect of moral discipline, Dr. Green observed in this report to the trustees, “has been manifestly favorable to this revival.” Evidently, three students had been dismissed from the student body for conduct unbecoming to the biblical base of the college. The effect of that was used by the Spirit of God to impress upon the students the importance of godly living.

          5. Lastly, Dr. Green commends the few pious youth (remember only 12 students in the whole college) who prayed for revival and then happily sought to impress upon their fellow students the claims of Christian living upon their lives.

The entire report is a remarkable survey of revival in the early eighteen hundreds at this Presbyterian college. What stands out to this author is that there is nothing new under the sun, so to speak, for their day or for ours. All of our Presbyterian entities – colleges, seminaries, local churches, sessions, boards of deacons, presbyteries, and yes, even general assemblies, have access to the same means mentioned in this report to the college trustees.

Words to Live By:
The Psalmist David gave us our marching orders via a prayer for revival of ourselves and those of our relationships in Psalm 85:6 “Will You not Yourself revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?” Personalize this text . . . by praying it for yourself, for your family, for your local congregation, for your Presbytery, and yes, for your General Assembly!

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Ashbel Green’s Editor and Friend

Joseph Huntington Jones, D. D., the brother of Judge Joel Jones, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on August 24th, 1797. He graduated at Harvard University, in 1817. For a time he was employed as Tutor in Bowdoin College, Maine. He completed his theological studies at the Princeton Theological Semi­nary; was licensed as a probationer, September 19th, 1822, by the Presbytery of Susquehanna, and was, by the same Presbytery, ordained as an evangelist, April 29th, 1824.

On June 1st, 1824, he began his labors in the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury, New Jersey, and was soon installed as pastor of that church. Here he labored with very great success. At the same time he also supplied the feeble church at nearby Blackwoodtown, which shared the blessing enjoyed by that of Woodbury. In 1825 he was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church at New Brunswick, New Jersey. Here he remained for thirteen years, proving himself to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” His ministry was honored of God by at least three seasons of religious awakening.

In 1838 he became the pastor of the Sixth Presbyterian Church, in Phila­delphia, and continued so for twenty-three years, his efforts being crowned with a manifest blessing. From 1861 to 1868 he was Secretary of the Relief Fund for Disabled Ministers, in which capacity he did a noble work, for which he deserves the lasting gratitude of the Church. He died on December 22d of 1868.

Dr. Jones was an exemplary Christian, an in­structive preacher, a faithful pastor, an interesting writer, and a gentleman of great urbanity of manner and suavity of disposition.

Of his principal work, often referred to as The Effects of Physical Causes on Christian Experience,’’ Dr. J. W. Alexander wrote, “It is a valuable and entertaining book.” Rev. Jones must have been a close friend and associate of the Rev. Ashbel Green, for it was to Jones that Green turned for the task of bringing Green’s autobiography to the press. Rev. Jones also wrote a history of the 1837 revival at New Brunswick, and several sermons of his were published as well. These are his works found on the Internet:

Something to Ponder:
The great Princeton professor, Samuel Miller, wrote a brief introduction or testimonial for that earliest work of Rev. Jones, Outline of a Work of Grace. In addition to our interest in Miller’s basis thesis here unveiled, it is also important to note the honesty of his method, with an expressed readiness to receive evidence “either for or against the affirmative of this question.”

“There is one question which you may, possibly be better able to answer now, than you were during the delightful excitement of that memorable scene. And that is, whether the solemn dispensations of Providence, experienced by the inhabitants of New Brunswick some time before, had any perceptible connexion with the spiritual benefit then enjoyed? I refer to the severe visit of cholera which you suffered in 1832, and the tremendous tornado, which did no much mischief in 1835. I have for many years taken much interest in the inquiry, whether seasons of great sickness and mortality, and other extraordinary and overwhelming seasons of temporal calamity, are ordinarily employed by a sovereign God as a means of reviving religion. Every new fact, either for or against the affirmative of this question, is highly interesting to me.”

What do you think of Dr. Miller’s question, whether God ordinarily uses seasons of great sickness and mortality as a means of reviving religion? Have you seen evidence of this, or have you seen evidence to the contrary? Answers may well hinge on Miller’s use of that word, “ordinarily.”

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Ashbel Green [1762-1848]The Danger of Education without Christian Orthodoxy & Piety

Chosen to serve as the eighth president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), Dr. Ashbel Green left the Philadelphia church which he had served for twenty-five years and moved in October of 1812 into the president’s house on Nassau Street in Princeton. His inaugural address in November dealt with “The Union of Piety and Science.”

Green had become firmly convinced that education, in itself, could be dangerous if it were not securely rooted in Christian orthodoxy and piety. Like Samuel S. Smith, his immediate predecessor in the office of president, Ashbel Green was loyal to John Witherspoon’s legacy; but, unlike Smith, he believed that the heart of Witherspoon’s commitment was his doctrinal views and his concern for revivals and Christian conduct. Green gathered the three faculty members for a day of prayer on November 16 and wrote down a list of goals for himself. The first three of his resolutions were:

1st … to endeavour to be a father to the institution. . . .

2d. To pray for the institution as I do for my family . . . and especially that [God] may pour out his Spirit upon it, and make it what its pious founders intended it to be.

3d. To watch against the declension of religion in my own soul . . . to which the pursuits of science themselves may prove a temptation.

The Presidents of Princeton University, 1747-1902

Colonial Era:

Jonathan Dickinson, 1747
Aaron Burr, Sr., 1748–57
Jonathan Edwards, 1758
Samuel Davies, 1759–61
Samuel Finley, 1761–66

Revolutionary War Years:

John Witherspoon, 1768–94

Nineteenth Century:

Samuel S. Smith, 1795–1812
Ashbel Green, 1812–22
James Carnahan, 1823–54
John Maclean, Jr., 1854–68
James McCosh, 1868–88
Francis L. Patton, 1888–1902

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