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Pioneer Translator Among Presbyterians

We all know and love the John Newton of “Amazing Grace” fame, but this John Newton, while named after that beloved minister, was a Presbyterian missionary who sailed to India with his wife in the middle nineteenth century.  He was to have a fifty-six year ministry to the inhabitants of that country.

Leaving in 1835, he took along a printing press and countless pieces of literature.  Not only did he learn the language in Panjabi, he prepared a dictionary and grammar for the people. He translated the entire New Testament and a whole series of tracts for his congregations.

He was characterized as being a powerful preacher both in English as well as in the native language.  Yet it was said that he won respect and confidence from his patience and tact in dealing with the masses. There wasn’t any narrow-mindedness in him. He invited the Church of England missions into his field of labor. By that, there was a span of forty years of fraternal relationships which only doubled the spiritual workers in India.

He went to be with the Lord on July 2, 1891, reaping the fruits of his labors on those foreign shores.

Words to Live By: When both character and conduct agree as one in a Christian’s life, you can be sure that the witness for Christ will be amplified to both the glory of God as well as the everlasting good of the unsaved people around us.  Work, dear reader, in both of these areas in your lives.

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This is one of those days where few Presbyterian events seem to have happened. In a previous year we wrote of how John and Louisa Lowrie set sail for the mission field in India on this date. This year, we wanted to discuss something more of Rev. Lowrie’s wife, Louisa. The following brief account is drawn from the Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent (1876), p. 194:—

Louisa A. Lowrie, wife of the Rev. John C. Lowrie, D.D. was a daughter of Thomas and Mary Wilson, of Morgantown, Virginia [later of West Virginia, which became a state in 1863], and sister of the late Hon. Edgar C. Wilson, of the same place. She belonged to the first band of missionaries sent by the Pittsburgh Society to India, and sailed from Philadelphia on May 30, 1833. She died in Calcutta, November 21, of the same year, in the twenty-fourth year of her age.

The annual report of 1834 says of her : “Her desires to devote herself to the spiritual good of the heathen were fervent, and her qualifications for the work were, to human view, uncommon; but He for whose glory she left her native land and bore her feeble exhausted frame half round the globe, was pleased, doubtless for wise reasons, to disappoint her earthly hopes, and require her associates, a few short weeks after their arrival, to consign her to the dust, there to proclaim, as she sleeps in Jesus on India’s distant shores, the compassion of American Christians for its millions of degraded idolators, and to invite others from her native land to come and prosecute the noble undertaking in which she fell.”

Her pastor at Morgantown, Rev. Ashbel G. Fairchild, D.D., prepared a memoir, soon after her death; and few who have seen in it the excellent likeness of that lovely face will ever forget it. Her memory was still affectionately cherished in Western Pennsylvania for many years after. The Women’s Missionary Society of the Presbyteries of Pittsburgh and Allegheny eventually built a house at Mynpurie, India, naming it her memory, “The Louisa Lowrie Home.” It’s purpose was to serve as a dwelling for unmarried women laboring as missionaries at that particular station.

A few years before her death, Louisa Lowrie wrote the following in her journal:—

Saturday, June 11th. (1831).—In reviewing my life for a year past, I find so much for which to praise the Lord, that I feel oppressed with a sense of my ingratitude. Mercies unnumbered have crowned this year, the most blessed of my life. In it, the Lord has changed my heart; and given me to feel that Jesus is my friend; and, as often as I have wandered from Him, He has drawn me back by mercies or chastisements. During the last autumn my way was so clear, the current of my life so smooth, and my path so strewed with flowers, that I almost feared I was not one of those who should “come out of great tribulation.”

In examining my views and feelings, I find that I am very much changed. I can scarcely recognize my former self. Added to a disposition naturally cheerful, I possessed an intense desire for happiness; and perhaps enjoyed as much as was ever felt by an unregenerate heart. But, in the midst of all, I found there was something wanting, without which I could not rest. The Lord gave me to see that this was religion. I sought religion–I tasted of his love; and found that all I had hitherto enjoyed was nothing;—mere negative happiness. I desired to love the Lord with my whole soul. I cared not what should befall me; I only asked holiness of heart. Oh, my God! thou knowest I was sincere; and if I have since murmured against thee, on account of the means thou hast employed to subdue me, forgive I beseech thee—pity my feeble frame! I do not ask theee to lessen my sufferings; I only ask suffering grace.

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In Following the Lord, He Followed His Brothers

Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge [1838-1905]Francis Blanchard Hodge was the seventh child of Dr. Charles Hodge and his wife Sarah, and was born on October 24, 1838, the year after the schism of the Old and New School Presbyterians and a year before his father published the first volume of hisConstitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in America. Frank, as he was called by family members, was named in memory of a favorite nephew of Dr. Hodge’s mother—Francis Blanchard, the son of Samuel Blanchard, of Wenham, Massachusetts. Among life’s tragedies, Francis suffered the death of his mother Sarah when he was just eleven years old. His father remarried when Francis was fourteen.

As might be expected, Francis was educated at Princeton, graduating at the college, and later at the theological seminary. His studies were hindered, however, by an inflammation of the eyes, the result of an accident. Not deterred, much of his learning was acquired by oral instruction, and in spite of the setback, he advanced rapidly. Francis had a fine voice and style of presentation, and was accorded the honor of being Junior Orator, and in turn appointed to deliver the Whig Hall anniversary Oration. Upon his graduation from Seminary, he first married, taking Mary, daughter of Professor Stephen Alexander, of Nassau Hall, as his bride in June of 1863. Then he answered a call to serve as the pastor of a congregation in Oxford, Pennsylvania, a position previously occupied by his brother Wistar Hodge. Francis was ordained and installed in this pulpit on January 5, 1864, and his father brought the charge to his newly ordained son. A copy of this charge is preserved among the papers of Dr. Charles Hodge [cf. Box 21, file 32, in the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Of this first pastorate, his uncle wrote, “Here his intelligence, great amiability and devotion to his parishioners, united with considerable eloquence of voice and manner, obtained for him much popularity and influence. His congregation was augmented in size, and, although chiefly composed of farmers, they were induced to pull down their old building, and to erect a handsome brick structure as a substitute.”

Meanwhile, Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest of the Hodge children, had married and sought an appointment to India as a missionary. After about three years on that field, his wife’s health was failing and her physician said it was impossible for her to remain in India. Returning to the States, Alexander and his family moved back to the home of Dr. Charles Hodge. Archibald soon accepted a call to a small church in Cecil county, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border, but here his support was meager and he had to teach to augment his income. Some time later a second call took him to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he became the pastor of a more prosperous church, serving that church from 1855-1861.

When the Civil War broke out, A.A. Hodge surrendered the Fredericksburg pulpit and managed to take his family and travel through West Virginia and Maryland into Pennsylvania, and finally to the home of Charles Hodge in New Jersey. Without much delay, he soon received an appointment to pastor the Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and afterwards, when a vacancy occurred in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, by the resignation of the Rev. William S. Plumer, Alexander was made professor of theology in that institution. He remained in that post until 1877, when he was called to Princeton, to serve as his father’s associate.

When A.A. Hodge left the church at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the church next called the Rev. Samuel Dod, who served the church for four years, leaving late in 1868. Upon his departure, the church now turned to the Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge with “a call so urgent, and pressed with so much importunity, that, after much hesitation, and with many regrets, he left his friends at Oxford, and settled at Wilkes-Barre.”

There in Wilkes-Barre he found new and admiring friends who were devoted to his ministry, his preaching, and his support. And there he remained as faithful pastor for the next thirty-five years, one of the longest pastorates in the history of that church. Under his leadership, the congregation grew significantly. Two-thirds of the annual church budget was allocated to benevolences. And a new modern building was constructed in the late 1880′s, and dedicated in 1894, free of any debt. Perhaps as an indication of how much he was devoted to the work of being a pastor, it does not appear that he authored any works for publication.

The Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge, D.D. died in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on May 13, 1905. Representing the Presbytery, Dr. McLeod, Dr. Brooks, and Dr. Logan followed the remains to Princeton, accompanied by a large delegation from the Wilkes-Barre Church. The pall-bearers were members of his Church who were also students at Princeton. With services conducted by Dr. Francis Landey Patton, president of the Seminary, the mortal remains of Rev. Francis B. Hodge were laid to rest in the Princeton Cemetery.

Words to Live By:
I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” (2 John 4, KJV)

What a joy, what a great blessing it is to see our children walking in the faith, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a commandment to walk in the truth of the Gospel. Let us so live, and serve as an example to our children, trusting the Lord for their salvation.

Sources:

Image: Stoddard, Dwight J., Prominent Men: Scranton and Vicinity, Wilkes-Barre and Vicinity,… Scranton, PA: The Tribune Publishing Co., 1906, p. 202.

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rayburnIt was on this day, January 5, 1990, that the Rev. Dr. Robert Gibson Rayburn died. Dr. Rayburn had most notably served as the first president of the Covenant Theological Seminary, from its inception until 1977. Previously he had served as president of Highland College, Pasadena, California, as an Army chaplain, and as pastor of churches in Nebraska, Texas, Illinois and Missouri.

The following message is excerpted from Koinonia: The Organ of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Roorkee, U-P, India, vol. 4, no. 2 (April 1978), pages 1-3.

The Place of Preaching

by Dr. Robert G. Rayburn

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in his recent book called Preachers and Preaching states in the opening paragraph his conviction that “the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” He then goes on to say that the primary task of the Church, and of every Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.

I would like to go a step beyond Dr.Lloyd-Jones’ statement and say that not only for the Christian minister, but also for every individual Christian the preaching (proclama­tion) of the Word of God itself is, next to his worship, his primary task.

We live in a day when evangelicals are placing more and more stress on the social implications of the gospel. One cannot read the Scriptures without agreeing that those implications are there. But such implications do not give us the direction for our primary emphasis.

Our Lord Himself has given us the great example and pattern for our lives. He was deeply concerned with the physical and material need of men. He performed many miracles of healing.  He never ignored the physical needs of those who came to Him for help.  But He did not come to heal the sick, to open the eyes of the blind, or to give soundness to the limbs of crippled men. He came to save the lost.  His own words were:  “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19 : 10). That which He considered primary is clearly evident when the four men brought their sick friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof of the house. The Lord was preach­ing there; He was undoubtedly preaching about saving faith in Him. When He saw the faith of the four men His first words to the paralytic were, “Son, your sins are for­given.” This was the matter of first impor­tance. Then, however, when questioned by the scribes about His power to forgive, He said, “That ye may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home,” and the man was healed.  Salvation was first; healing second.

Not only, however, do we learn of the primacy of preaching from our Lord. It is evident in ths lives of the Apostles, and also in the practice of the early Church. As soon as the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost they began not to heal the sick nor to aid the poor, but to preach the gospel of salvation. Peter’s great sermon on that occasion is preserved for us in part. It must be pointed out that as soon as people began coming to Christ and being converted by the thousands, the authorities did everything they could to stop these men from preaching.  There was not a word of complaint about the miracles of healing they had performed.  Thev were forbidden to preach!  “Speak no more henceforth in His name” (Acts 4:18 and 5:40)

In Acts 8 we read that there was a great persecution. This came, of course, because of their preaching! Then they were all scattered, except the Apostles, and “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word”. This was not the Apostles; it was the company of believers. They were not preaching in a formal way from a pulpit as our pastors do today. Theirs was the kind of preaching which every earnest Christian is responsible to carry on.

We speak a great deal about witnessing today. We usually mean giving our own personal testimony concerning the Lord’s work in our hearts. This is important, but something more than this is before us in Acts 8. The believers were telling the good news of salvation through Christ. Every one of us must be equipped to convey clearly and forcefully the message from God which we call the gospel.

It is not enough for us just to study the Bible and learn what its message is. To understand its fulness requires a lifetime of study. But the very heart of the message is the divine program of redemption, of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To preach this message clearly, simply, appealingly, accurately and faithfully is the responsibility of every believer and we all should make sure we are prepared for this high task. True preaching ought not only to instruct the hearers in Biblical truth, but it also should bring men and women face to face with their own need in the light of the realities of sin and guilt, salvation and eternal  life and then it should appeal to them to trust God and obey Him. Many who read these words will never be called of God to be professional preachers.  However, if you are a true believer and are obedient to Christ you will have a great desire to obey Him with respect to preaching the gospel and you will take steps to perfect your knowledge of and ability to declare the gospel.

If you are concerned to please God in your preaching you will be careful to make your preaching pre-eminently evangelistic. By this I mean that you will be continually presenting a Saviour to sinful men. No ordained minister has a nobler function than this. Jesus came to save sinner’s, to preach the gospel to the poor. To be evangelical one does not need to be traditional, but he must be informed and intelligent.

Remember that the Gospel is not a nice message for some men. It is an absolute necessity for all men! Why? Because of human sin, sorrow and suffering, not because of social inequalities and the frustrations and failures of human relationships. That which is behind all social problems of every age is sin. The message that we preach then must be a message which offers salvation from sin. We do not need to prove that there is sin in the world. Conscience, experience, and history prove that well enough. What is necessary, however, is convincing men who want to deny it that their own sinfulness is so severe that their only hope is receiving the salvation God has provided through the shed blood of His Son.

In trying to convince men of their sin it is not wisest to pick out such sins as drunken­ness, dishonesty and adultery to get men to see their personal sinfulness. Emphasizing such sins may leave some without any sense of guilt. What we must show men is the secrecy, the subtlety of sin, its ability to appear attractive and harmless. Our Lord’s most severe words were not addressed to the drunkards nor to the adulterers, but to people who were respected for their outward moral­ity and religiousness, while their hearts were unclean. To be more concerned with per­sonal success, prosperity and pleasure than bringing glory to God, that is sin! To harbor in our hearts attitudes of antagonism and animosity for others, and a willingness to see them lose out if we can gain by their loss, this is evil! Anything which is contrary to the holy character of God is sin.

Of course, if we are to be truly evangelical we must be able, having aroused men to a consciousness of sin, to make clear and win­some the nature of salvation by showing them the love of God the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because man is a helpless, hopeless sinner, salvation, if it is a true and adequate salvation, must make him right with God. If he sees himself in his sin he must also see how completely God has provided the remedy for his sin through the blood of His Son.

If you are going to be faithful to your task of preaching the Gospel, a few worn cliches will never serve adequately to present to dying men the wonders of God’s great salvation. May you give yourself whole­heartedly to the task of being prepared to preach with power.

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Behind a Frowning Providence

William Cowper’s great hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” has a verse in it which says, “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.” The Rev. John Lowrie and his wife Louisa, as missionaries to India, would experience this frowning providence in a personal way.

John Cameron Lowrie, D.D. [16 December 1808 - 31 May 1900]Called by the Lord to the great mission field of  India in 1832 while still a student in seminary, John Lowrie was ordained upon graduation by the Presbytery of New Castle in March of 1833.  Taking twenty-four year old Louisa as his bride, they then traveled with another couple to New Castle, Delaware.  After a season of prayer, they boarded the sailing ship “The Star,” which departed on May 30, 1833.

A trip of this magnitude across the ocean normally took four to five months as they were dependent upon the winds. Louisa Lowrie was ill during the entire voyage, and it was hoped that as soon as they reached land in Calcutta, India, that she would make good progress to health once again. However, upon reaching the field, she grew worse and worse, and finally died on November 21, 1833. Talk about a frowning providence.  A young consecrated life was taken away.

Her husband John, while still greatly bereaved, next had to deal with the subsequent illness of the couple who had traveled with them. The Western Foreign Missionary Society which had sent all of them out in the first place, encouraged this latter couple to return to the States. But on the return trip, the husband died and was buried at sea. Thus John Lowrie was left alone, bereft of friends in this strange land of India. Yet he was determined, despite his grief, to do something of the Lord’s work before he too left the country. Forced to wait for another seven months, he used the time well to learn the language. Then he took passage to Lodiana, India, a thriving city near the Punjab border, where the East India Company had a great military station, arriving November 5, 1834.

For the next four years, he established a mission school and  a Presbyterian church in India.  During this time, he had the friendship of several Christian laypeople from the military station.  Repeated attacks of malaria fever, however, brought him low several times,  until he was forced to return to the States in 1838.  For the rest of his life, until 1900, he ministered in administrative affairs in the office of the mission society which sent him and his wife out in the first place.

Words to Live By: William Cowper’s last verse reads, “Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.” Frowning providence may be made plain here, or hereafter in heaven. Our place is to trust God now, despite what comes our way, resting in Him.

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