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“To God’s Glory” : A Practical Study of a Doctrine of the Westminster Standards.
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn.

THE SUBJECT : Respect for Authority.

THE BIBLE VERSES TO READ : There are too many to list. We recommend you study the verses given in the Larger Catechism, Questions 123-133.

REFERENCES TO THE STANDARDS : Confession of Faith, XIX.6 & 7; Larger Catechism, Q. 123-133; Shorter Catechism, Q. 63-66.

Not long ago a person said to me, “As long as you think a law or a rule is wrong, it is alright to disobey it.” The person was serious. This is the reasoning used today by many people. This is the reasoning that is propagated by so much of the media today. This is the reasoning so many of our young people are taught today.

Whether you are thinking of the relationship of the citizen toward the state, or the worker toward his boss, or children toward their superiors, or the congregation toward the man called of God to preach His Word, you will discover that lack of respect for authority is the prevalent approach of today.

This dangerous philosophy has even reached into churches that call themselves evangelical. There seems to be a popular tendency to ignore many times the Word of God. Too many feel they have a perfect right to make their own rules. The Fifth Commandment speaks very clearly to any person following this false philosophy.

The Almighty, Sovereign God knew that respect for authority was very important. He knew that if a family, a nation, an economy, a church was to carry out its duties in this world there must be some clearly laid down rules. Therefore, He emphasized proper respect for authority in His Word time and time again.

Our Lord told us in His Word, “Obey them that have rule over you.” This thought is presented time and time again in the Bible. He knew that a lawless society would soon become a mob and a mob becomes a group of people out of hand, a law unto themselves.

What has caused the loss of respect for authority? What has caused this new philosophy to become such an important part of the thinking of many? Such questions could not be answered fully in the short space available, but a suggestion can be offered as to what is happening in many churches in this regard.

First, there is the move away from the authoritative preaching of the authoritative Word. The widely evangelical view of subjectivism is rapidly replacing Objective Revelation (God’s Word) in many churches. The emphasis today in so many churches is that of more involvement, more dialogue and less monologue. What is being bypassed is that faith does not just “happen” but it comes through the means of grace. Too many are forgetting Shorter Catechism Question 88 and its definition of the means of grace : “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Sacraments and prayer…” The need of the people to hear the authoritative Word any time it is proclaimed is great and dare not be bypassed. This is a basic reason for the lack of authority in other areas.

Second, there is the philosophy used by many professing believers that motivates them to move away from any position of unpopularity before others. It is difficult to be popular today and insist upon rightful authority as parents, or teachers, or elders, or whatever their authority might be, decide to close their eyes to certain portions of Scripture in order to keep their popularity. They forget that to break a principle of Scripture is to court disaster as a person and for whatever the cause in which the person is involved.

There is a principle of Scripture involved here that all professing believers need to be reminded of as they seek to walk before the Lord. The Bible states, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12). Certainly believers are not to court persecution but neither are they to expect otherwise if they are walking before the Lord as they should. And sometimes walking before the Lord involves having authority over others and making use of that authority in love.

Third, respect for authority will only come when respect is due. This means that those in authority, whether it be civil, home, school, or church, must command respect because of their walk with the Lord. The example set by those in authority must be Biblical in all ways.

How many times have those under authority seen inconsistencies? Broken promises, lack of separation from the world, unconcern for the church and Bible study, neglect of loving concern for fellow-believers, are just some of the things that could be mentioned as inconsistencies with God’s Word.

If respect for authority is going to return as an integral part of churches who are committed to the Reformed Faith, then those in authority must read again and obey those commands listed in the Larger Catechism, Questions 129 and 130. This is where the change must begin. Respect for authority will be much easier if those in authority live in a way that will command respect. Take heed, civil servants, parents, teachers, elders!

So ends Rev. Van Horn’s study. To approach the issue from a different angle, we might turn to the Diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Laneway and his entry for this day, January 22, 1801. The sovereignty of God and His rule over all creation is the ground and basis of all authority. For “He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” (Dan. 2:21, KJV).

Here Rev. Janeway reflects on how the sovereignty of God should affect our lives as Christians :

“I seem to take pleasure in the sovereignty of God. Surely it is right, He should reign. My soul rejoices in his unlimited and uncontrollable dominion. The last week, it was my desire, and my endeavour, to commit my all into the hands of God; to give my time, talents, reputation, yea, and life also, to him, that he might dispose of them according to his sovereign pleasure. I see that this is necessary to enable me to discharge my duties impartially, boldly, and faithfully. Once I thought something of myself, as to the ministry, but now I see that I am nothing. Lord, who is sufficient for this great work? Men would have me preach smooth things. But, I trust, I dare not thus endanger their souls, and my own soul. Let me never seek popularity at the expense of duty. Let me never preach myself, but Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour. Teach me, oh God, how to proclaim thy truth. Make me to feel its solemn power. Oh! for compassion to the souls of men, and zeal for thy glory. How long, oh Lord, shall I pray for these.”

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Feed My Sheep!

Several years ago on this day, January 11th, our post concerned the pastoral charge brought by the Rev. John Mathews in 1818, at the ordination and installation of the Rev. Wells Andrews as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, Virginia. In particular, we focused on the concluding exhortation to the congregation to pray for their new pastor.

We return to that pastoral charge today, but now look at another section of this sermon, where Rev. Mathews examines, by way of contrast, the several types of pastors who are in reality wolves feeding on the sheep. In his charge to the pastor, Rev. Mathews begins with a quick summary of some of the chief requisites of one who would enter the ministry. He must of course be able to speak, and to speak well; he must exhibit sound judgment and common sense; must be one who has the benefit of learning and particularly must be acquainted with theology. All these are requisite, but Mathews concludes that above all, piety is the chief requisite, and it is here that he then brings out the contrasting patterns of false shepherds—those who in reality feed themselves, not the sheep—and so Mathews provides us with a useful set of categories or types of that error. This section of the sermon concludes with a brief portrait of the true under-shepherd of the Lord’s people :—

The chief qualification, however, for usefulness, in the pastoral office, is piety; genuine, fervent. The powers of darkness never wielded, against the cause of Christ, a more dangerous weapon than an irreligious clergyman; especially if the garb of morality conceals from public view the base infidelity of his heart. His learning and talents only render him the more dangerous. His ministrations can only increase the torpor of spiritual death among the flock committed to his charge.

In him the love of religion can have no place; he must, therefore, be influenced by some selfish and mercenary motive. Perhaps the revenue of the church, his yearly salary, is all the reward he desires. Or if ambition should be his ruling passion; if he thirst for literary fame, then he will permit his hearers to sink quietly down to perdition, provided they depart with the language of adulation to his vanity on their lips. Or perhaps he claims to be distinguished as a man of zeal; then no sacrifices, not even compassing sea and land, will be too great to gain proselytes. His learning and talents will be employed in biting and devouring those on whom his efforts prove ineffectual. But if he can succeed in teaching the shibboleth of his party, and drill his followers in all the routine of external forms, then his work is accomplished, and he expects his reward.

From such a scourge, may the Lord, in mercy, preserve His Church! and send her pastors after His own heart, who shall feed her children with knowledge and understanding, whose experimental acquaintance with religion will qualify them to guide others in their passage from death unto life; whose temptations, and sorrows, and trials will qualify them to sympathize with their people when tempted, afflicted and distressed; whose acquaintance with the Saviour, whose hope in His mercy, will dispose them, in the most inviting terms, to recommend him to others as a willing and all sufficient Saviour; whose closets will often witness with fervor and humble importunity of their private devotions for the success of their ministry; whose people, though they perish in unbelief, will yet be constrained to confess that they were solemnly and repeatedly warned! to flee from the wrath to come!

Words to Live By:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?—Ezekiel 34:1-2

Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.—Ezekiel 34:23-24

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.—John 10:11, 14-15, KJV.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.—John 21:17, KJV.

For Further Study:
The full pastoral charge can be accessed here:—
The duties of the pastoral office : a sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, at the ordination of Wells Andrews, January 11, 1818, before the Presbytery of Winchester.

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He Gained the Martyr’s Crown

The enemies of the Covenanters had very long memories. Long after sermons were preached or actions taken, the authorities in Scotland remembered words and actions against them. Such was the case with a young minister by the name of Hugh McKail.

A child of the manse, from Bothwell, Scotland, his pastor father was one of those forced out of his pulpit and parish when he refused to conform to Prelacy.  Little is known of young Hugh’s early days, but he did go to Edinburgh for education. There he was soon marked out as a young man of exceptional ability. For that, upon graduation, he was chosen to be a chaplain and tutor of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir James Stewart. In that Covenanter home, he would sit at the feet of those in leadership positions in the church and learn of the dire situation facing both the church and the state.

In 1661, he applied to the Presbytery for licensure in the ministry. Preaching in a variety of situations, he was quickly recognized by his hearers for his great ability in the Word of God. However, his ministry soon came to an end as it became obvious that he wouldn’t compromise his convictions, just as his father before him.  Preaching his last sermon in a church in Edinburgh, he had a sentence in it which marked him for remembrance by the Prelate forces of his day. He said, “the Church is persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church.” The identification was obvious to all in the pews that day.

Forced to leave his beloved Scotland, the young twenty-six year old would spend the next three years in Holland. On his return to Scotland, the situation had not improved any and there was a spark of rebellion in the air. That spark was ignited, as my post on November 28 indicated, at the Battle of Rullion Green. Hugh McKail was among the nine hundred in the Covenanter ranks that day. But his own physical weakness removed him before that great battle arrived, and he traveled to Edinburgh instead. There he was arrested by the authorities, not so much for his Covenanter attachments as for his statement made in that Edinburgh church some years before.

Interrogated in prison, he was placed in the Boot, a fearful torture device which all but crushed his leg while he remained silent in voice. He was ordered to die by hanging on December 22, 1666. His exact words that day of death have been preserved through the ages. They were:

Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Could Hugh McKail have compromised his convictions and avoided suffering and death? Certainly, and many did. But this young man  was reared by a parent who by his example remained steadfast to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. With such an example like that, it is no wonder the young minister was given over to sacrifice, in loyalty to both the Living and Written Word, come what may to his physical body. Addressing all parents reading these posts on Presbyterian history: Your life preaches all the week. Are those in your family being helped or hindered to follow the Living and Written Word?

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knoxJohn

No Wonder He Was Weary.

Our post today, an account of the death of John Knox, is taken from the essential biography written by Thomas McCrie:—

Monday, the 24th of November [1572], was the last day that he spent on earth. That morning he could not be persuaded to lie in bed, but, though unable to stand alone, rose between nine and ten o’clock, and put on his stockings and doublet. Being conducted to a chair, he sat about half an hour, and then was put in bed again. In the progress of the day, it appeared evident that his end drew near. Besides his wife and Richard Bannatyne, Campbell of Kinyeancleugh, Johnston of Elphingston, and Dr. Preston, three of his most intimate acquaintances, sat by turns at his bed-side. Kinyeancleugh asked him, if he had any pain. “It is no painful pain, but such a pain as shall, I trust, put end to the battle. I must leave the care of my wife and children to you (continued he,) to whom you must be a husband in my room.” About three o’clock int he afternoon, one of his eyes failed, and his speech was considerably affected. he desired his wife to read the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. “Is not that a comfortable chapter?” said he, when it was finished. “O what sweet and salutary consolation the Lord hath afforded me from that chapter!” A little after, he said, “Now, for the last time, I commend my soul, spirit, and body (touching three of his fingers) into thy hand, O Lord.” About five o’clock, he said to his wife, “Go, read where I cast my first anchor;” upon which she read the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and afterwards a part of Calvin’s sermons on the Ephesians.

After this he appeared to fall into a slumber, interrupted by heavy moans, during which the attendants looked every moment for his dissolution. But at length he awaked as if from sleep, and being asked the cause of his sighing so deeply, replied, “I have formerly, during my frail life, sustained many contests, and many assaults of Satan; but at present that roaring lion hath assailed me most furiously, and put forth all his strength to devour, and make an end of me at once. Often before has he placed my sins before my eyes, often tempted me to despair, often endeavoured to ensnare me by the allurements of the world; but these weapons being broken by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he could not prevail. Now he was [sic] attacked me in another way; the cunning serpent has laboured to persuade me that I have merited heaven and eternal blessedness, by the faithful discharge of my ministry. But blessed be God who has enabled me to beat down and quench this fiery dart, by suggesting to me such passages of Scripture as these, What hast thou that thou hast not received? By the grace of God I am what I am : Not I, but the grace of God in me. Being thus vanquished, he left me. Wherefore I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ, who was pleased to give me the victory; and I am persuaded that the tempter shall not again attack me, but, within a short time, I shall, without any great bodily pain or anguish of mind, exchange this mortal and miserable life for a blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.”

He died in the sixty-seventh year of his age, not so much oppressed with years, as worn out and exhausted by his extraordinary labours of body and anxieties of mind. Few men were ever exposed to more dangers, or underwent such hardships. From the time that he embraced the reformed religion, till he breathed his last, seldom did he enjoy a respite from these, and he emerged from one scene of difficulties, only to be involved in another, and a more distressing one. Obligated to flee from St. Andrews to escape the fury of Cardinal Beatoun, he found a retreat in East Lothian, from which he was hunted by Archbishop Hamilton. He lived for several years as an outlaw, in daily apprehension of falling a prey to those who eagerly sought his life. The few months during which he enjoyed protection in the castle of St. Andrews were succeeded by a long and rigorous captivity. After enjoying some repose in England, he was again driven into banishment, and for five years wandered as an exile on the continent. When he returned to his native country, it was to engage in a struggle of the most perilous and arduous kind. After the Reformation was established, and he was settled in the capital, he was involved in a continual contest with the Court. When he was relieved from this warfare, and thought only of ending his days in peace, he was again called into the field; and, although scarcely able to walk, was obliged to remove from his flock, and to avoid the fury of his enemies by submitting to a new banishment. He was repeatedly condemned for heresy and proclaimed an outlaw; thrice he was accused of high treason, and on two of these occasions he appeared and underwent a trial. A price was publicly set on his head; assassins were employed to kill him; and his life was attempted both with the pistol and the dagger. Yet he escaped all these perils, and finished his course in peace and in honour. No wonder that he was weary of the world, and anxious to depart; and with great propriety might it be said, at his decease, that “he rested from his labours.”

The Life of John Knox, by Thomas McCrie, p. 130.

Words To Live By:

it is the Lord God who raises up His faithful, humble servants and employs them in powerful ways to advance His kingdom. Pray that He would yet again shake the kingdoms of this earth with the fervent preaching of His glorious Gospel. Our God has done this time and again in the past, and He can and will so move yet again. Are you so praying and watching expectantly?

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 49 — Which is the second commandment?

A. — The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exod.20:4-6)

Q. 50. — What is required in the second commandment?

A. — The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word. 

Scripture References: Deut. 12:32; Deut.32:46; Matt. 28:20.

Questions:

1. Both the first and second commandments have to do with worship. In what way do they differ?

The first commandment has to do with the object of worship, the true and living God; the second commandment has to do with the means of worship, and the manner in which we worship Him.

2. What are these means of worship?

The means of worship are the ordinances which God has appointed in His word.

3. What are these ordinances?

The Larger Catechism lists these as “prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word, the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing to Him.” (Q. 108)

4. How are we as Christians to receive these ordinances?

We are to receive them by approving them and embracing them; observing them by doing what is required in them; keeping them pure and entire by keeping them from corruption.

5. What does it mean by not making any graven image?

It means that we are not to attempt to represent God through material objects nor to worship Him through the use of such imagery.

THE JEALOUS GOD

” … for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5). The word Jealous has changed in meaning somewhat since it was written. For the original word meant “zealous” and signified “righteous zeal.” It is the teaching that He alone has a claim upon the love of His people. 

There are really two senses in which this description of God can be taken. In a good sense He is zealous for His people. He will watch over them, He will protect them, He will defend them against all enemies. His people, who are His through faith in Jesus Christ, are very dear to His heart. As He looks down on His people, sees them in their attempts to walk with Him day by day, He has a tender feeling toward them. He does so want them to get into the stride of walking with Him, never running ahead nor behind, taking each step with a moment by moment knowledge that they are kept in His love. Whatever happens to His people happens to Him, He feels it, has a true feeling of empathy for His children.

There is another sense in which this can be taken. In this sense God is jealous for His people. He is jealous in that He does not want them to worship graven images, or worship false gods, or scurry after those things that would draw them from Himself. It is as if He cannot bear to have a rival in any way. He does not want His children to follow after anything-good or bad-that would hinder their worship of Him. Our love, our highest adoration must be given to Him only.

Daily we need to examine ourselves to see whether or not w. are following hard after Him. There are so many ways that our love can be drawn away. It is good for us to remind ourselves time and time again that He is a jealous God and keep ourselves free from entanglements. We should never give Him cause to be jealous. We should be praying, moment by moment, that He will keep us so close to Him that we will sense the very second our love for Him is being cooled by things contrary to His will for us. If we will but do this He will be jealous of us instead of jealous for us. And then blessings will flow from Him to us, all to His glory.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vo!. 4 NO.47 (November 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

 

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