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Good Words on an Anniversary Occasion

The PCA Historical Center actively collects, funds permitting, published histories of Presbyterian churches. There is a great deal of history too often overlooked in these volumes. In particular, good and encouraging words are often to be found on the opening pages of these histories.

It was on this day, November 10th, in 1895, that the Rev. David O. Irving brought an historical discourse in observance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bethel Presbyterian Church of East Orange, New Jersey. His opening words in this discourse are a good example of the value of this otherwise overlooked literature:

Anniversary occasions should be times of great joy. Songs of praise and gratitude should be heard as we celebrate our religious birthdays. Although the sorrowful is mingled with the joyful, as we regret out mistakes and mourn over the beloved fellow-workers now gone to their reward, yet we can rejoice in the Lord as we meditate upon His loving kindness and tender mercies toward our Church. This retrospect should also strengthen our trust in God as we trace His leadings and blessings, for we become more assured that He who has guided us in the past will not neglect us in the coming days. Our history can also be read for encouragement and inspiration, as we trace the humble beginnings of religious work in this community up to our present attainments. Our eyes are so often turned to the future that we sometimes forget that much can be learned from the past. Every church ought to have its history clearly and fully written so that every member may make no mistake by overlooking certain well defined facts which enter into the individual character of that particular church. As we, therefore, glance over the past and trace God’s goodness in our Church’s growth, may this view increase our trust in God, our regard for each other and our zeal for the future.

But let us turn the pages of our history with a sense of humility rather than of self-glory. We are not to bring before us figures and comparisons to feed our pride and conceit, for our progress has been owing to Divine grace and goodness, and not wholly dependent upon our faithfulness and zeal. God often uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty, so that there is no need of boasting. As we become somewhat encouraged over the retrospect and prospect, let us remember our own mistakes and neglects. If we, as members of this Church, had been more faithful, liberal, devout and earnest, would we not have accomplished greater results than we now behold? But we cannot alter the past. We can only read the facts as history–“time’s slavish scribe”—records them, and allow them to make their own impressions upon us.

Words to Live By:
“There are multitudes who go in and out, who count the Church as theirs, who gather from her thought, knowledge, the comfort of good company, the sense of safety; and then there are others who think they truly, as the light phrase so deeply means, ‘belong to the Church.’ They are given to it, and no compulsion could separate them from it. They are part of its structure. They are its pillars. Here and hereafter they can never go out of it. Life would mean nothing to them outside the Church of Christ.”
Rev. Phillips Brooks, D.D.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Psalm 84:10-11, ESV.

Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.”
Ephesians 2:20-21, KJV

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