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A Desire to Effect a Reformation

J.J. JanewayThe Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

When the new year of 1800 opened, the Rev. J. J. Janeway was found on its threshold with a strong desire to “effect a reformation” in his heart and life. He wrote in his diary, “On examination, it is found that early rising, fervency in devotion, religious reflections in company, humility, courage, disinterested benevolence, and much engagedness are particularly worthy my attention in this reformation. May God enable me to reform. Amen.”

It was not a short-lived expectation or goal for Rev. Janeway. He persisted. On June 26th of that same year, he wrote in his diary:

“This day I spent in fasting and prayer for the blessing of Almighty God on my ministry. I have read the Scriptures; meditated and prayed. Confession of sins has been made. I have entreated God to bestow on me courage, wisdom, prudence, ardent piety, circumspection, a feeling sense of the importance of divine truth, compassion for the souls of men. I have prayed that I may propose divine truth with clearness, illustrate it with wisdom, and urge it with affection and energy; that I may be furnished for my work abundantly; that I may be a wise, faithful, able and successful minister of the Lord Jesus.”

Words to Live By:
An able, effective, and pointed prayer for any pastor. And in a similar way, for any and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. May each of us press closer to know the Lord, to seek His face, to draw near to Him day by day. Read the Scriptures. Dwell upon their meaning and pray. Confess your sins and ask God to give you what is needed for this day, to live to His glory.

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It seems good to change the pace every now and then. For one, these posts need not be lengthy, particularly when they are as substantive as this that follows. Today’s post is a communion meditation drawn from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858], who was first associate pastor under Dr. Ashbel Green and later pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Janeway also served for many years as a director of the Princeton Theological Seminary. This is a brief entry, but powerful. I hope you will read it over more than once.

J.J. JanewaySabbath, February 18, 1809.

“This day, in company with many of my fellow-Christians, I commemorated the dying love of our Lord Jesus Christ. I endeavoured, though imperfectly, to make preparation for the ordinance. During the first part of Divine service this morning, I felt dull and unaffected, but by seeking the Spirit’s aid, my heart began to be moved. At the table, my thoughts were collected, and I felt ability to meditate on the sufferings of my Lord. I was enabled to confess my sins, and mourn over them, and ask pardon. I trust that I transacted in faith, and had communion in the body and blood of Christ, as I received the sacred symbols as his body broken for me, and his blood shed for me, and entertained a comfortable confidence that I should derive nourishment and strength from this heavenly meat and drink. I enjoyed the presence, I think, of my Lord, and felt some strong emotions of admiration at his condescending to suffer for me, an unworthy and hell-deserving wretch; and I presented my requests with a holy freedom and earnestness. My prayers embraced a variety of objects, and related to my several wants, to my wife, family, relatives, ministry, people, country. On the whole, it was good for me to be at the Lord’s table; and I trust that my soul has received nourishment and strength. Blessed be my Lord and Saviour! Oh, pardon the sins of my holy things !”

[Memoir of the Rev. Jacob J. Janeway, D.D., (1861)p. 153-154.]

Words to Live By:
Does your heart hunger and thirst to know the Lord and to know Him better? When your thoughts are dull and unaffected, seek the Spirit’s aid. Draw near to the Lord and enjoy His presence. Let your mind dwell upon all that He has done for you. Let your prayers be full of praise to the King of glory.

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The following short quote comes from the Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway, a biography compiled by Janeway’s son, Thomas L. Janeway. Jacob Jones Janeway was a noted Presbyterian pastor, situated in Philadelphia in the first half of the nineteenth-century, serving first as associate pastor under Ashbel Green. A close friend of Dr. Samuel Miller, Rev. Janeway was also a key supporter of Princeton Seminary in its early years.
Much of this biography is drawn from diaries kept by Rev. Janeway, and in this particular quote, we find him reflecting on the close of the year and looking forward to the new. His reflections are made the more poignant in that during that year past, he and his wife had suffered the death of a child. By God’s grace and mercy, most of us have probably not lost loved ones in the past year, but the sum of the quote is otherwise an admirable reflection, worthy of review.
So often we conclude a post with a “Words to Live By” comment. Lest we take away from the impact of his words, his reflection is so labeled:—  

J.J. JanewayWords to Live By:
SABBATH, January 6, 1811. ” It has pleased the Lord to prolong my life. How many thousands have died during the last year! but my life has been spared. How many thousands have languished in sickness! but I have enjoyed health. How many millions have lived the year out under thick Heathenish darkness! but I have enjoyed the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. How many who, although they hear the gospel calls and invitations, yet have been living in a state of sin and condemnation! But I have. I trust, been enabled, by free and sovereign grace, to spend the year in a state of peace and friendship with God, and in hope of a blissful immortality. Oh, to grace, how great a debtor! I mourn over the sins of the last year, and beseech grace to spend this more than any heretofore to the glory of God. This year finds us one less in family. It has pleased Almighty God to remove our dear babe from us. We bow to the stroke of Divine Providence.”

[Excerpted from Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway (1861), pp. 177-178.]

Afterthought: The above quote, excepting perhaps the last few sentences, might be a good one to write out on a card and place in your Bible, for frequent reflection through the year.

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Learning to Wait Upon the Lord.

The Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway [1774-1858] was an early Philadelphia pastor who served initially as an associate alongside the Rev. Ashbel Green. Rev. Janeway was also a close friend and supporter of the early Princeton Seminary faculty.

In October of 1829, Dr. Green decided to accept a call to serve as president of Princeton College, and the people in his Philadelphia congregation, out of respect to his views of duty, made no opposition. Along with this pastoral bond, a union of the colleagues of thirteen years was to be dissolved. Never had there been variance, but always peace, friendship, and harmony. The junior pastor invoked God’s blessing upon his departing friend, and thus it was that Rev. Janeway wrote in his diary:—

October 25, Sabbath.

J.J. Janeway“This day I stood before my people as their sole pastor. Last Tuesday, Dr. Green was dismissed from his charge. Thus a connection which has subsisted between him and me for almost fourteen years has been dissolved. My burden is great, my station very responsible. I feel its importance and my own insufficiency. I am meditating on the promises, and endeavour to trust in God for all needed aid. He hath said, ‘Lo, I am with you always! My grace is sufficient for you. I will never leave nor forsake you!’ Precious promises ! May my faith be strong! What may be the Lord’s will, I know not. I am praying to know it. Sometimes I think of retiring from this place, in the expectation of becoming more useful by having more time for study. The Lord direct me and preserve me from error. When I touched on the dissolution of our connection, my soul felt, and my voice faltered. I have loved my colleague, and he has loved me. May our friendship be perpetual!”

A separation of the two churches was under discussion. As the one in the Northern Liberties had increased, and was now able to sustain the gospel, Dr. Janeway was in favour of the movement. It drew from the people in the new church, expressions of the most ardent attachment, and they urged as their chief objection, their unwillingness to leave his pastoral care. The Presbytery confirmed the separation, and dissolved the pastoral relation. Dr. Janeway was appointed to organize the First Presbyterian church in the Northern Liberties. Fourteen years and more had he served them, and he was honoured of God in building up the church, by increase in the number of their worshippers, and in bringing souls into his kingdom. When he announced to them that he was no longer their pastor, a great sensation was produced, and in the afternoon he laboured to show that the new arrangements were for their good; and finally, to soothe their feelings, it was required by them, that he should continue to preach with them, in exchange with the minister whom they might call. Deeply gratifying to his feelings was the affection manifested, and long was his memory precious among those who heard the gospel from his lips.

” God has given me,” he writes about this time, ” a very conspicuous station. But my ambition is to have a people that love me, and if it were the pleasure of God, I think I could without reluctance, retire from my present charge to one in the country. What avails being known, except deriving from it opportunity for doing good? May I be humble, active, diligent, successful, useful.” So much was his mind exercised on the subject, that after much prayer, it seemed to him to be his duty to resign his charge, though he decided to wait until the ensuing spring. As far as he could see, his mind decided, for reasons which satisfied him then, to seek a place more retired, and where he hoped to live in the hearts of a rural population. He did not fail to confer with his venerable preceptor, and lay his heart bare. In reply, he received the following letter [from Dr. Green], which, for its excellent spirit and Christian friendship, and as exhibiting a specimen of that excellent and holy man, we insert:—

” With much attention and tender concern I have read your last esteemed letter. I enter fully into your meaning, and I think I know your feelings and views. They are, I hope, correct and proper. The desire you cherish may be well founded; and as such, it will meet with the Divine approbation. But let me remind you, that it is usual with the Lord in His divine providence, to make His children wait for the accomplishment, even of those designs which He Himself has excited. In this way, they learn to live by faith, and exercise patience, which last is one of the most difficult to learn and practise, of all the Christian graces. Let what passes in your mind remain there undisclosed, at least for the present; what you impart to me is sacred and secret, but it will not be advisable as yet, to intimate any fixed design of this kind to your people, because it might alienate your best friends, and until the Lord opens another door it would expose you to very unpleasant consequences. Wait for the Lord and upon the Lord in his time, which is always the best. He will help and provide for you, and perhaps sooner than you may anticipate. In the meantime be not discouraged nor uneasy; read the 37th Psalm, exercise trust and confidence in your covenant Lord—all will be well. But remember, a good place is better than a bad change; but, if a change for the better can be effected, it will be a matter of praise and gratitude. It is sufficiently known among your faithful friends, that you contemplate, if practicable, a removal; they will be mindful of you, and do all they can to meet your wishes.”

[excerpt from The Life of Dr. J. J. Janeway, D.D., pp. 185-186.]

Words to Live By:
A pastor once counseled another, “If you don’t know what you should do, stay where you are until you do. I am convinced that God has important work where you are; see it and enter into it zealously until God clearly shows you the next move.”
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).

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It was on September 24th, in 1757, that Jonathan Edwards made his decision to accept the offer to become the third president of the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University). While the school was decidedly Presbyterian in its affiliation, Edwards was commonly known as a Congregationalist. But two separate accounts exist, contending that Edwards did in fact affirm the Presbyterian form of government.

The first of our articles appeared in an issue of the Philadelphia-based newspaper, The Presbyterian. In this letter, the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green had originally written to R. J. Breckinridge, editor of the Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine. Our access to the letter comes from its republication on the pages of The Presbyterian. 

Ashbel Green, “President Edwards a Presbyterian,” The Presbyterian (12 January 1839): 201.

Philadelphia, Nov. 12th 1838

EdwardsJonathanRev. and Dear Sir:—I have recollected, since I last saw you, that the fact has already been published, which I then mentioned to you in conversation;—and in regard to which you requested me to furnish you with a written statement. In the Christian Advocate, the 10th volume–the volume for the year 1832, and in the No. for March of that year, page 128—after having mentioned a class of Congregationalists, who, in my estimation, were eminent for genuine piety, I added as follows:—”We should have put down here, the name of the great President Edwards; but he was, in sentiment, a decided Presbyterian, and left a manuscript in favor of Presbyterian church government; as his son, the second President Edwards, distinctly admitted to us not long before his death. Beside, the elder Edwards was either a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, at the time of his death, or would soon have been so, if his lamented decease, shortly after his becoming President off the College at Princeton, had not prevented.”

The admission referred to in the foregoing extract, was made in consequence of an inquiry put, by me, to Dr. Edwards, as he and I were walking together to the place of meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, then in session in this city. I do not recollect the year. I had heard a report, which I think must have come either from my father or from my colleague Dr. Sproat,–both of whom were contemporaries and admirers of the first President Edwards–that he had written a tract, or an essay, in favor of Presbyterian church government; and I was glad to take the opportunity which at this time offered, to ascertain from his son the truth or fallacy of the report. The inquiry resulted in the distinct admission that the report which I had heard was true.

I spoke to Dr. Edwards, of printing the tract or essay, in question; but he did not seem to favor the idea, and I forbore to press it. He said, that the manuscript referred to, was among several other unpublished papers of his father, which, as I understood him, were then in his hands. Into whose hands they have passed, since the death of Dr. Edwards, is unknown to me.

Respectfully and affectionately, Yours,

Ashbel Green

*     *     *     *
The second item appeared on the pages of The Christian Observer, in 1850. It relates a letter that President Edwards wrote to Dr. Ebenezer Erskine, of Scotland and provides a quotation from that letter, thus: 
PRES. EDWARDS, A PRESBYTERIAN.

In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Erskine of Scotland, President Edwards , (whom Robert Hall calls, “the greatest of the sons of men,”) gives the following statement of his views in respect to Presbyterianism :—

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian Form of Government. As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to Presbyterian Government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of Church government in this land, and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things.”

Such were the views of many pastors in New England, twenty-five years ago—and such we presume, are the views of many at this time, notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Bacon, the Independent and others, to create and waken up prejudice against Presbyterianism.—It is very natural for an agitator, a man of progress, or of loose views in theology, to prefer some type of Independency. Without a Session to advise with him in the spiritual oversight of the Congregation, he can (if a manager) have his own way in controlling everything in his church. If a careful and discreet ruler, he may acquire more power in his charge as an Independent, than he could hope to gain as a Presbyterian minister.—Amenable to no permanent judicatory for the doctrines which he teaches, he can follow the impulses of his own nature, and teach all the contradictions and transcendentalism found in Dr. Bushnell’s book without losing his place or influence in his church and association.

But if it be desirable that the members of the Church should be duly represented in the administration of its spiritual government,—if the pastor should have responsible counselors, well acquainted with the Church, and all its interests and peculiarities, to aid him in this work, the Presbyterian form of government is to be preferred. It is equally important as a shield to the minister in many cases of discipline, as well as to render him duly responsible for his personal and official conduct, teaching, and character.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX, No. 38 (21 September 1850): 150, columns 2-3.]

A Small Learning Opportunity:
On occasion you may hear the term jure divino Presbyterianism. That phrase is a short-hand for the idea—or better, the doctrinal conviction —that the Presbyterian form of church government is the only form of church government taught in the Scriptures.

In the history of the Christian Church, there have been basically only three forms of church government found, though with some variations within each form.
The Episcopal form of church government is hierarchical, and typically has one or more archbishops overseeing bishops, who in turn oversee rectors, who are placed over congregations. Some of the Episcopal variations include the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church and the Methodist Church
With the Congregational form of government, each congregation is autonomous. Though congregational churches often form associations, the local church always retains its autonomy. Variations on this type include Baptist, Congregational, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.
And finally, the Presbyterian form of church government, which is distinguished by a series of courts, rising from the local level to the national level: Session – Presbytery – Synod – General Assembly. At each of these levels, both teaching elders (ministers) and ruling elders (non-ordained laity) sit as equal members.
Session: The pastor(s) and ruling elders of a congregation comprise the Session and govern an individual congregation.
Presbytery: Pastors and a representative number of ruling elders from each of the Presbyterian churches in a specified region comprise the Presbytery, and conduct the business of the Church on a regional level.
Synod: This court is comprised of several Presbyteries, and thus covers a larger region. Smaller Presbyterian denominations do not typically have the Synod structure, or may only meet nationally as a Synod, in which case they do not use the General Assembly structure.
General Assembly: The highest court of a Presbyterian denomination, this body meets as a national or trans-national court, with its members again consisting of elders, both ruling and teaching, sitting as representatives of the churches in the denomination.

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