Chaplain Howell

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“To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

wsc1647_title_pageThe Christian Faith According to the Shorter Catechism is the title of a small booklet published in 1950. Authored by Dr. William Childs Robinson, the work had first appeared in serial fashion on the pages of The Southern Presbyterian Journal. Reproduced here is Dr. Robinson’s short but eloquent introduction to his subject :—

The Shorter Catechism is the work of the Westminster Assembly of Divines which [initially] met at the call of Parliament in Westminster Abbey, London, on July 1, 1643, and continued in session for six years. The Assembly was composed of about a hundred and fifty English ministers and lay assessors and eight Scottish ministers and elders. They met to bring the worship, the doctrine, the government and the discipline of the Churches of Great Britain into closer conformity with the Word of God.

The Shorter Catechism is the final and finest work of that great Assembly. The work on the Catechism was undertaken early but in its final form was approved last. All the fine Lutheran and Reformed Catechisms from the days of the Reformation were at hand to draw upon. In the Assembly itself there were at least a dozen members who had written catechisms. Calvin’s Catechism, one by Herbert Palmer, a member of the Assembly, and a Manual by Archbishop Ussher influenced the work. In addition to Palmer, “the best catechist in England,” Dr. John Wallis, the mathematician, and Rev. Samuel Rutherford of Scotland seem to have shared in the preparation of this work. Our Shorter Catechism ranks with Luther’s Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism and is described as “one of the three typical Catechisms of Protestantism which are likely to last to the end of time.”

The purpose of the authors of the Catechism was to frame the answer, not according to the model of the knowledge the child has, but according to what the child ought to have. Thus it is a pre-eminently instructive work. It places thoughts in the mind and heart of the child which grow with him, which indeed help the child to grow in wisdom and in grace. Thomas Carlyle, the great Scottish thinker, said: “The older I grow, and I now stand on the brink of eternity—the more comes back to me the first sentence in the Catechism which I learned when a child, and the fuller and deeper its meaning becomes: ‘What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.’ ”

Words to Live By:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.—Matthew 6:33, KJV.

Image source: Title page of a facsimile of the first edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, as ordered by the House of Commons on November 25th, 1647 to be printed for their use. This facsimile was published in London by the Publication office of the Presbyterian Church of England, in 1897. A copy of this work is preserved at the PCA Historical Center. To view this book online, click here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Chaplain Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice

The Union chaplain was assisting the medical staff in the sanctuary of College Lutheran church on that chaotic day of July 1, 1863.  Hearing shots outside on Chambersburg Street, he said to the surgeon working on one of  the 140 wounded Union men inside, “I will step outside for a moment and see what the trouble is.”  Walking through the door with Sgt. Archibald Snow, they both saw a Confederate soldier at the bottom of the church steps demanding them to surrender.  Chaplain Howell began to explain that he was a non-combatant, when the Southern soldier let his rifle finish the conversation.  Chaplain Howell fell dead on the top step of the church.

Horatio Howell was the Presbyterian chaplain of the 90th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.  He had graduated from Lafayette College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  After marriage with Isabella Grant in 1846, he served a couple of Presbyterian churches before entering the Federal army on March 13, 1862.  His reason was the wickedness of slavery, then being practiced by the Southern states.  He believed that this practice of slavery would “reduce to the condition of brutes those whom God had created in his own image, and for whom Christ had died.”

He was the  regimental chaplain for the 90th Pa. Volunteer Regiment at this battle, which was  mauled on Oak Ridge of the battlefield by Southern troops of Robert Rodes.  He was 42 years of age when he died, and  buried on the church grounds of what is now Christ Lutheran Church.  After the battle, his remains were shipped to Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1889, in the first monument to honor a fallen Union chaplain, members of the Survivors Association of the 90th Pa. Volunteers along with personal friends of the lamented chaplain erected a memorial featuring an open bronze book at the foot of  the front stairs of the Lutheran Church.  Located on the same spot as the Confederate soldier who fired the fatal shot, the moment reads, “In memorium  Rev. Horatio Howell  Chaplain 90th Pennsylvania Vol. was cruelly shot dead on these church steps on the afternoon of July 1, 1863  “He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou lifteth me up above those that rise up against me.” 18th Psalm  43 verse,  “he being dead yet speaketh” 11 Hebrews, 4 verse.”

Also on this date:
July 1, 1643 marks the first gathering of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, considered by many to be the greatest gathering of theologians of all time.

Words to Live By: Armchair “generals” in later days point out that the chaplain’s uniform in the Civil War was an officer’s coat and a dress sword.  This appearance thus confused the Confederate soldier who obviously had a chaotic day in this first day of the battle of  Gettysburg.  It is difficult to rationalize in split seconds time what could or should be our action when our life depends on it.  We need pray much for those of our citizens and fellow members who are fighting on far flung battlefields who are  in harm’s way, that God will providentially guard His people and protect them from harm.  And pray for their loved ones at home, and serve with love any of them who may be near you in location.

Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 15 – 17

Through the Standards: The second commandment: Sins forbidden

WLC 109 — “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; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them, all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by traditions from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony, sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.”

WSC 51 — “What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbids the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.”

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