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“I am killed; but don’t tell your mother.”

His epitaph, composed by the Rev. William Arthur of Pequea, read as follows:

In memory of
THE REV. DR. JAMES LATTA,
Who died 29th January, 1801, in the 68th year of his age.
By his death, society has lost an invaluable member;
Religion one of its brightest ornaments, and most amiable examples.
His genius was masterly, and his literature extensive.
As a classical scholar, he was excelled by few.
His taste correct, his style nervous and elegant.
In the pulpit he was a model.
In the judicatures of the Church, distinguished by his accuracy and precision.
After a life devoted to his Master’s service,
He rested from his labours, lamented most by those who knew his words.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
And their works do follow them.”

lattaJamesHaving read that assessment of the man, it might easily be said, “There were giants in those days.” James Latta was born in Ireland in the winter of 1732, migrating to this country when he was just six or seven years old. Ordained an evangelist by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in the fall of 1759, he was later installed as pastor of the Deep Run church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1761. He remained in this pulpit until 1770. resigning there to answer a call to serve the congregation of Chestnut Level, in Lancaster county, PA. One account notes that “the congregation at that time was widely scattered and weak. The salary promised in the call was only one hundred pounds, Pennsylvania currency, which was never increased, and rarely all paid.” Friends prevailed upon him to educate their sons, and the school he reluctantly started prospered, until the Revolutionary war brought things to a close, with many of the older students joining the army.

Odd Now to Consider:
On the 28th day of May, 1762, the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia was set off by the Synod from the Presbytery of Philadelphia. This consisted of five ministers, of whom Mr. Latta was one; and they were all strenuous advocates of what was called the Old Side. It appears from certain dissents and protests, in 1766, when an ineffectual attempt was made in Synod to reunite the two Presbyteries, that this Second Presbytery had been formed on the elective affinity principle, as its members professed to be conscientiously opposed to the practice of examining candidates for the ministry on their experimental acquaintance with religion, which the Synod had approved of; and had declared that sooner than remain in a Presbytery which pursued that practice, they would break off from all connection with the Synod.

During the war, Rev. Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia, and after the war, he returned to his pulpit in Chestnut Level. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. convened in 1789. Two years later, Rev. Latta was honored to serve as the Moderator of the third General Assembly, in 1791. Latta continued as the pastor of the Chestnut Level congregation until the time of his death, in 1801.

More on his Death:
Dr. Latta laboured on in the ministry, until very near the close of life. In December, a month before his decease, he attended a meeting of his Presbytery at New London, twenty miles from home. The circumstances of his death, as related by one of his daughters, were as follows:—Riding to church one Sabbath with his daughter Mary, he was thrown from the carriage, and falling on his head, he was somewhat stunned. He observed to her,—-“I am killed; but do not tell your mother.” He proceeded to church, preached with some difficulty, and returned home. He soon after fell into a sleepy, comatose state, until his daughter, the next day, alarmed, related to her mother what had happened. Help was immediately called in, but in vain. He continued a few days, almost insensible, and then died.

Words to Live By: Rev. Latta’s biographer says of him, that as a preacher, he was faithful to declare the whole counsel of God. While he comforted and encouraged true Christians, he held up to sinners a glass in which they might see themselves; but, in addressing them, he always spoke as with the compassion of a father. The doctrines of Grace were the burden of his preaching.”  God give us faithful pastors who will minister the Word of God in Spirit and in truth.

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Gerstner01Dr. John Gerstner, the esteemed Professor of Church History at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, for many years persisted in his allegiance to his denomination. Despite the urgings of friends, he continued to hope for better days for his Church. But finally when one matter in particular came to the fore, the conclusion was inescapable, and Dr. Gerstner drafted the following statement [emphasis added to highlight the noted date]:—

THE APOSTASY OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
by Dr. John Gerstner

The United Presbyterian Church in The United States of America became apostate, officially on January 26, 1981 turning away from adherence to the Lord Jesus Christ by permitting in its ministry a denier of that same Lord Jesus Christ.  This was done by the decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly of The United Presbyterian Church in The United States of America.  It upheld National Capital Union Presbytery’s approval of Mansfield Kaseman for ministry.  The Synod of The Piedmont had become apostate for the same reason, July 8, 1980.  At Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly levels, Mr. Kaseman had been shown to be guilty of denying or refusing to affirm at least four essentials of the Christian religion:  the sinlessness, bodily resurrection, vicarious atonement, and deity of Jesus Christ.

Documents of the six trials, two each by Presbytery and the Permanent Judicial Commissions of Synod and General Assembly (1979 and 1980) are available for those who would inform themselves in depth. This paper concentrates on the 1981 decision of The Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly which finally, officially, produced the legal and constitutional apostasy of The United Presbyterian Church denomination.  First, after brief statement of the evidence and argument that Mr. Kaseman did indeed deny or refuse to affirm indispensable Christian doctrine, we present second, a somewhat longer critique of The Permanent Judicial Commission decision of January 26, 1981 substantiating our grave charges that in defending apostasy it made The General Assembly apostate. We then third, explain why this apostate action makes the whole denomination apostate and why, fourth, if The General Assembly does not effectively repudiate this apostasy or begin the process of repudiation, every Christian is obliged to separate from the non-Christian denomination. We conclude with an appendix in the form of a proposal for action at The 193rd General Assembly meeting at Houston, Texas, May 19-27, 1981 which may be taken if apostasy is not there repudiated.

I.  The Case Against Kaseman

The substance of the complainants’ case against the National Capital Union Presbytery can be briefly stated.  First, the complainants charged that Mr. Kaseman denied or would not affirm the sinlessness of Christ.  If Christ was not sinless He could not be the Savior of the world.  He would need a Savior Himself.  The only response from Kaseman’s defenders was that he was thinking of sinlessness in the sense of frustration.  There was no denial that Mr. Kaseman would not affirm Christ’s freedom from all sin.

Second, Mr. Kaseman refused to affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The complainants pointed out that according to I Cor. 15:17, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (NASV)  Paul was speaking in that chapter about the bodily resurrection of Christ.  There is no other kind of resurrection than bodily because the soul never does die. The only response ever received was that Kaseman did affirm the “resurrection” (not bodily resurrection). The complainants never denied that Mr. Kaseman affirmed a non-bodily resurrection whatever that may mean.

Third, Mr. Kaseman specifically denied the doctrine of the “vicarious atonement”. No one can question that without Christ’s atonement for our sins there is no possible salvation. The only response that came from the defenders of Mr. Kaseman was that there are other metaphors beside the concept of substitution that describe the death of our Lord.  That never was at issue either. The defenders never questioned the allegation that Mr. Kaseman did deny the “vicarious atonement” which is absolutely essential whatever else may also be essential to the doctrine of the atonement.

Fourth, this whole trial first came about in National Capital Union Presbytery when in March of 1979 Mr. Kaseman was asked if he believed that Jesus Christ was God and he answered, “No, obviously No.  God is God.” Much discussion followed and much was said and reported in the secular and religious press during the following two years but never did Kaseman ever deny this apostate statement.  The Presbytery’s Committee of Representation never said anything to justify Mr. Kaseman.  It was once irrelevantly contended that he merely meant to say that Christ was more than God, being man also, but Christ’s humanity was never an issue either.  Kaseman denied that Jesus Christ was God. He has never denied the denial.  In the second trial before the National Capital Union Presbytery when the same question was put to Mr. Kaseman he refused to answer with a categorical negative as he had before. He also refused to take back his previous statement so that it still stands on the record. He did say at the second interrogation that Jesus Christ is one with God and affirmed belief in the Trinity.

The affirmation (which apparently satisfied the majority of Presbytery) that Christ was one with the deity did not amount to an affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ.  The proof of that is the explanation which Mr. Kaseman offered for denying that Jesus Christ is God.  If Jesus Christ were God, he asked, how would he answer the death of God theologians: Who was then minding the universe? This only served to show that Mr. Kaseman did not even understand the doctrine of the Incarnation, much less believe it. He apparently thinks that the doctrine of the incarnation means that God ceased being infinite and omnipresent and became finitized and temporalized in a human being! Having such a grotesque misconception, Mr. Kaseman could not possibly believe that Christ was or is God.

All of these most grave charges have been repeatedly proven by complainants as the documents of the various trials clearly illustrate. They have complained against the National Capital Union Presbytery for its approving Mr. Kaseman in spite of his demonstrated apostasy.  Neither the Committee of Representation of the Presbytery nor any of the higher courts that have heard the case have ever refuted these charges.  In some instances, including the final trial, there was no attempt to do so.  This refusal or inability was in spite of the fact that the complainants have charged apostasy and pled with the higher courts if they could not refute the charges, to set aside the Presbytery’s decision and discipline all courts which have approved it.

  1. The Permanent Judicial Commission of The General Assembly Decision of January 26, 1981

The final court at the final hearing, (the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly in the hearing January 24, 1981), falls far short of saving our Church from the apostasy charged. Actually it itself, by tacit compliance, became guilty of the same apostasy. All that the supreme court of our denomination did was affirm how orthodox our Confessions are, while at the same time upholding Presbytery and Synod in approving a man whose unorthodoxy, in at least four essentials of the Christian faith, had been demonstrated.

First of all, . . .

Those interested in reading the entirety of Dr. Gerstner’s treatment of this issue may write to the PCA Historical Center for a digital copy. Address your mail to [archivist (AT) pcahistory /DOT/ org]

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A Young Pastor Caught in the Middle

boardman01The Old School/New School division of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  officially took place in 1837. But the controversy had been roiling along for many years prior, and by the time that  Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was organized, in 1829, the controversy was really coming to the fore. The first pastor of the church was Thomas A. McAuley, a New School man who managed to steer the new church into the only New School Presbytery within the Synod of Philadelphia, all to the dismay of the Rev. Ashbel Green and the other Old School men in Philadelphia, who had such hopes for the new church.

But Rev. McAuley only stayed for four years before leaving for greener fields (he went on to found Union Theological Seminary in New York). And in God’s providence, Henry Augustus Boardman was graduating from Princeton right about that same time. Boardman had been born in Troy, New York on January 9, 1808, graduated from Yale and then Princeton, but thought he would prefer being the pastor of a rural church. Instead, he was urged to supply the vacant pulpit at Tenth, and despite some misgivings on his part, finally accepted the call to serve there as pastor.

In a published history of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Allen Guelzo tells the story of the challenges that immediately confronted Boardman as he became the new pastor of the church :


Not that all the qualms in Boardman’s stomach were thereby stilled. There remained the unsettling business of Tenth’s attachment to the New School Second Presbytery. That business was made even more unsettling when on the eve of his ordination and installation the Synod of Philadelphia finally lost its patience with the New Schoolers and ordered the Second Presbytery dissolved. Since this drastic action could not be made final until the General Assembly met the following May, the New Schoolers held onto a brief stay of execution. But that left Boardman in the unhappy predicament of having to seek ordination at the hands of a presbytery that was virtually an outlaw organization; nor could he wait until the following May to see where the chips would fall, since his ordination and installation had been set for November 8, 1833.

Once again, he began to question whether he ought to join a presbytery under such suspicion and when he had such little sympathy with its tenets. “Unquestionably,” wrote Boardman, “it was a controversy which involved both the purity of our faith and the integrity of our ecclesiastical polity. Two incompatible systems of doctrine and two no less irreconcilable theories of ecclesiastical authority and policy” were at stake. In Boardman’s mind, there was no hope of compromise “between those who training had made them decided and earnest Presbyterians and others who had adopted our standards in a loose and general way.” Nor was it, he observed, “a mere war of words, It took hold upon the central truths of the Gospel, such as original sin, the atonement, regeneration and justification.”[1]  Nevertheless, Boardman decided to go ahead with the ordination, a move that was to set a precedent for later pastors of Tenth Church who found themselves with similarly difficult choices. In time, his decision proved wise. Boardman was able to sever Tenth’s connections with the New School Presbytery, and in 1837 the General Assembly removed the thorn of New School Presbyterianism from Boardman’s side by moving to lop all New School Presbyteries off its rolls. Not until 1869 were Old School and New School Presbyterians reunited.

[1] Boardman, Henry A., Two Sermons Preached on the Twenty-fifth and Fortieth Anniversaries of the Author’s Pastorate. Philadelphia: Inquirer Book and Job Print, 1873, p. 31.

[Excerpted from Making God’s Word Plain: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 150 Years (1829-1979).   Philadelphia, PA: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 1979, pp. 45-46.]


Words to Live By:
 Scripture does not promise an easy path in life for the Christian. If anything, we are promised conflict (2 Tim. 3:12). But we also have clear promises of God’s wisdom, as well as the charge to be at peace with all men, so far as we are able. (Rom. 12:18). Through diligent study of the Bible, godly counsel, and prayerful trust in God, we can find our way through life’s challenges.

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pcusa_publication_houseWhile THIS DAY IN PRESBYTERIAN HISTORY is sponsored by the PCA Historical Center, we have from the start taken a wider scope in the subjects covered here, not limiting ourselves to just the denomination known as the Presbyterian Church in America. The larger history of American Presbyterianism provides the context for our own specific story. Then too, while we could limit ourselves just to PCA subjects, our denomination is very much a conglomeration of churches drawn from nearly every other American Presbyterian denomination, and so it seems fitting to draw on the wider history of American Presbyterianism. Lastly, as Christians, it seems appropriate to lay claim to the history of other believers in our tradition—to find opportunities to praise God for the efforts of men and women of an earlier time who called Jesus their Lord and Savior, who faithfully served in His kingdom, and who were also known as Presbyterians.

In that light, we turn our attention to today’s story. Presbyterians have alway placed a high value on an educated ministry, and so too have placed great emphasis on education in the Church. In turn, this leads to the need for a means to publish, to provide the tools of education, not to mention literature for evangelism, the publication of confessional Standards and the various documents of church government.

In the early years of the United States, the American Tract Society fulfilled some of these needs for a number of Protestant denominations. But with a concern to maintain doctrinal standards, many in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America began to call for the Church to have its own means of publication. The first Board of Managers to oversee these publications met late in 1833, with the Reverends Ashbel Green, William M. Engles and Dr. A.W. Mitchell among those serving in this capacity.

Tracts formed the core of their early efforts, with the first four tracts (treatises, really) issued in 1835. Dr. Samuel Miller’s book-length work, Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ was issued as Tract no. 1. A printing of the Westminster Shorter Catechism was issued as the fifth “tract.” With further growth of the Board and its work, by 1838 the effort was expanded and the Board of Managers matured into the Board of Publication of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. In time, greater funding allowed further expansion of the work, until at last the ministry outgrew rented space and needed its own home.

In 1848, a property on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia was located and purchased at a good price. But their new home had only been occupried for just a few months when, on January 6, 1849, the entire building was destroyed by fire. Insurance covered some of the loss, with support from churches and generous donors making up the rest. The building was rebuilt both larger and better, and the work went on. In fact, other aspects of the young denomination’s work also found a home there—the newly founded Presbyterian Historical Society, organized in 1852, being one such tenant.

Words to Live By:
Our Lord has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. But that truth does not mean that a given ministry or agency of a denomination is for all time. The Church of Jesus Christ will go on until His return, but denominations and their agencies change over time. Some become corrupt and hollow. Some disappear altogether, while still others by God’s grace continue to hold fast to the proclamation of the Gospel. Our faith rests not in any denomination, its agencies, or its ministers. Our faith and trust can only rest on the Person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and His finished work upon the cross. To God, and to God alone be all glory.

Image source: Above right, an engraved rendering of the Presbyterian Board of Publication building at 821 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, as found facing page 20 in Willard M. Rice’s work, History of the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work. (1888).

Where Are We Now?
To eliminate any confusion, we should note that the publication arm of the old Southern Presbyterian Church was known as the Presbyterian Committee of Publication. So, to distinguish the old North from the old South, it was “Board” for the Northern Presbyterians (PCUSA) and “Committee” for the Southern Presbyterians (PCUS).

Looking at some of the NAPARC denominations, the PCA’s primary publication agency was known as Christian Education and Publication, but has more recently been renamed as the Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM). Their stated mission is “to assist leaders in the local church as they make disciples (Matthew 28:19) among children, youth, and adults in the congregation. In 2014, the PCA General Assembly changed our name from Christian Education and Publications (CEP) to reflect better the broad nature of the ministry of discipleship in the local church. We seek to help by connecting people to people and people to resources. We do this through consultation, training events, conferences, and resources available on the website. Our hope is that God will use the ministry of CDM to help PCA members experience the great blessings of a connectional church as we seek to partner together to fulfill the Great Commission.”

[We note that the PCA Bookstore still retains the “cep” lettering in its URL address: https://www.cepbookstore.com]

In the OPC, it’s The Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that oversees publications, and their ministry statement is as follows: “The Committee on Christian Education seeks to encourage, equip and assist the OPC by providing Reformed resources and training to help OP members grow in grace, aid ministers in effectively fulfilling their calling, enable officers to wisely serve the church, aid in biblically Reformed evangelism, and instruct those in the broader church.” [The OPC’s Committee for the Historian also publishes a number of titles].

For the RPCNA, their Board of Education and Publication “uses the media of print and music to promote, encourage, and defend the Reformed faith and testimony of the denomination. Publications include the Reformed Presbyterian Witness, a monthly denominational magazine, and other praise and testimony materials, including The Book of Psalms for Singing, Bible studies, pamphlets, and recordings. The Board also provides resources to assist presbyteries and congregations in their educational, youth, and conference programs. The publishing and distribution arm of the Board is called Crown & Covenant Publications.”

In the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, their primary publications are handled as a ministry of their Central Services agency, while their Board of Christian Education Ministries operates the ARP Bookstore and publishes Adult Quarterly Sunday school curriculum materials, as well as sponsoring retreats and other activities.

And finally, we should also mention the joint effort of the OPC and PCA, known as Great Commission Publications, which is concerned with publishing curriculum and worship materials. GCP is perhaps best known as publisher of The Trinity Hymnal.

 

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A Marked Influence in Ecclesiastical Matters
by David T. Myers

breckinridge_SamuelFor the next two years, your two authors will feature a number of posts about the remarkable Breckinridge family, a family which, for our purposes, began with Alexander Breckinridge who had moved to Philadelphia around 1728, eventually relocating to the colony of Virginia. Members of the Breckinridge family were prominent as ministers and theologians and church leaders and politicians in nation and state, and soldiers and businessmen and women, and more often than not, they were Presbyterians in conviction and practice. Today, on the date of his birthday, November 3, 1828, we focus in on Samuel Miller Breckinridge.

Son of John Breckinridge, who was a Presbyterian minister, young Samuel had as his mother that of Margaret Miller, the daughter of the Rev. Samuel Miller, yes, that Samuel Miller, who was an early professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary. So it is no wonder that her maiden name became his middle name, as in Samuel Miller Breckinridge.

Samuel was educated at Union College, New York and Centre College, Kentucky, and finally at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, New Jersey [later renamed Princeton University in 1896]. He completed his studies at the graduate law school at Transylvania University at Lexington Kentucky.

Settling in St. Louis, Missouri, he represented the city and county in the Missouri Legislature for one year in 1854 – 55. He continued to move up in important positions in the state as he was elected the judge of Circuit Court in 1863. In the same year, he was chosen a member of the State Convention.

We might be tempted to think that he only had an influence in political matters, but his membership in the Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri was recognized when that local church elected him to serve as a ruling elder in 1871. Three years later, he served as a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church when it met in the city. He became a member of the Committee of Fraternal Relations, and was appointed to try and meet with the elders in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, formerly the Presbyterian Church of the Confederacy.

His church position continued to give him opportunities within that denomination as he was a member of the General Assembly’s Committee on Revision of the Book of Discipline in 1878, and he continued to serve as a commissioner at the General Assembly as it met in 1881 and 1883.

A description of him was that he was a model Christian gentleman, wise in counsel, with a marked influence in ecclesiastical matters. He died in 1891.

Words to Live By:
May it be said of all of us that we either are having or will have a marked influence in ecclesiastical matters. Your local church may indeed need that at this time in her history. As the post Christian century continues in our land, we will certainly need that characteristic more and more in the local and national areas. Pray for it if you don’t have it now, or pray for an increase of that character. The Holy Spirit will bless you in it, and give you many opportunities to use it in the days in which we live.

Image source: Page 97 in the Encyclopædia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, including the Northern and Southern Assemblies, by Alfred Nevin. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Encyclopedia Publishing Co., 1884.

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