Clarence Edward Macartney

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Even His Name Spoke of Recognition

Born on  this 18th day of September of 1879, Clarence Edward Noble Macartney had one of those names that made you stop and think.  He grew up in  a Covenanter household, with his father, the Rev. John L. Macartney, being a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northwood, Ohio.  As this town was the home of Geneva College, it was no surprise that his father taught at the new college as a professor of Natural Science.  When the college moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the family moved with it.

But the father was not a well man. Plagued with a respiratory problem, he and the family moved to California for the warmer weather. In fact, twice there was a move in that state, and finally on to Colorado in 1896. There were teaching professions along the way for the father.

All this moving brought a series of schools, which did not stop for the young man Clarence during his collegiate years. They included: the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and Yale Divinity School. There was even a stint overseas in several countries. Finally, Clarence McCartney settled down at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under B.B. Warfield, Robert Dick Wilson, and Frederick Loetscher.

The Old School Presbyterian theology called him away from the Covenanter denomination of his father and into the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Ordained soon after seminary, he held pastorates in Patterson, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Macartney was no doubt a conservative in theology.  His Old School Presbyterian training at Princeton Seminary  had guaranteed that, along with his Covenanter background.  And he was to preach that famous sermon, “Shall Unbelief Win?” to counter the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s sermon earlier, “Shall Fundamentalism Win?”

In its early years, he was a member of the board of Westminster Theological Seminary.  One of his favorite professors at Princeton was Robert Dick Wilson, who was at Westminster for one year before death took him. But McCartney was opposed to the starting of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission as well as the Constitutional Union’s calls for a new church, if they couldn’t reform the church from the inside. Eventually, he would resign from the board of Westminster Seminary and remain inside the Presbyterian U.S.A. church, even while Machen and others were censured out of the church.  He would go to be with the Lord in 1957.

Words to live by:  It comes down to a simple question.  What is the definition of an apostate church?  J. Gresham Machen and others certainly believed that when nothing is done in the way of church discipline when essential doctrines of the faith have been denied, as was the case with the Auburn Affirmation, then that speaks of a visible church being apostate. Not one single signer of this affirmation was ever brought up on a charge of heresy. Who were brought up for violation of their ordination vows were conservatives like Machen, Woodbridge, Woolley, McIntire, and yes even a David K Myers, among others.  Pray for the purity of the church and  your church in particular. Don’t ever be silent when the truths of God’s Word, the Bible, are being attacked.  And stand for the faith once delivered unto the saints.


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As we approach the end of the academic year, and seminaries around the country will be sending out their graduates into pulpits, ministries and other pursuits, it seemed good today to revisit the following post from this date in 2012. On a note of encouragement, consider how far we have come in the past 83 years. In 1930, there were arguably just three solidly conservative Presbyterian seminaries—Westminster, Erskine, and the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh. Today there are over thirty. Some are small institutions, others relatively large, all are sending graduates out into the world to take up various positions of ministry in God’s expanding kingdom:—

An Historic Commencement Address

Macartney, Clarence EdwardTalk about history being made!  The first ever commencement address delivered to the  student body of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania took place on May 6, 1930.  The speaker was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Clarence Edward Macartney.  He was a member of the board of this new seminary, besides being known as a conservative in the issues confronting the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

In his address, after looking at the approaching  state of the church from the standpoint of its adherence to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Macartney focused the attention of the students on the very existence of this new seminary.  Listen to his words:

“The founding of Westminster Seminary, therefore, has a peculiar and definite meaning at this critical day in the history of Christianity.

“In the first place, its establishment is a protest against the action of the church in dissolving the Board of Directors of Princeton Seminary, and practically ejecting them for loyalty to the truth.

“In the second place, the establishment of Westminster Seminary is a warning to the Presbyterian Church against the danger of being completely submerged in the tide of neo-Christianity which threatens to engulf the whole Protestant church.  This seminary is a watchman on the wall, proclaiming with no uncertain trumpet that an enemy is in our midst.

“In the third place, the establishment of this seminary is a witness to the Bible as the Word of God, a notification to the world that we believe in the Bible, both as to its facts and its doctrines, and are confident that both facts and doctrines are capable of reasoned, thoughtful, and scholarly defense.

“In the  fourth place, this Seminary is founded as a witness to the saving power of the glorious gospel of the blessed God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.   This Seminary shall stand as a token of our earnest conviction that the gospel of Christ is the alone hope of a lost and fallen race.

“In the fifth place, Westminster Seminary is founded as a token of our faith in the rejuvenescence of evangelical Christianity, and that, as the tops of the mountains  were seen after the deluge, so after the deluge and invasion of unbelief in the Protestant church, when the angry waters shall have perished, those sacred heights of mountain tops of Sinai and Calvary shall again be revealed, and the Church shall again bow in gratitude, adoration, and love before the cross of the Eternal Christ.”

After such a reminder of the need for Westminster Seminary to exist, Dr. Macartney then reminded the students that they have been entrusted with the glorious gospel of the blessed God. It was a sacred trust, he added. He spoke about the temptation to forsake that trust, when standing alone, for example, but he encouraged them to resist that temptation and proclaim that blessed gospel.

Words to Live By: Whether we speak about a theological institution, a church, or a Christian, all of us have been entrusted with the gospel. If we won’t defend it, who will? If we won’t utter it, who will? If we forsake it, how will it be carried out? We have, all of us, been entrusted with the Gospel—it is a solemn and sacred treasure to share with all those around us, whomsoever will hear. And remember to regularly pray for these many schools that train your future pastors and missionaries. Pray that professors and students alike would maintain a godly humility in all their studies, lest sinful pride undermine all accomplishment. Pray that they would not neglect the regular habit of prayer. Pray particularly that even while students, that they would not neglect the joyful duty of sharing their faith with others.

To read the full message by Dr. Macartney, click here.

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