Lord Prayer

You are currently browsing articles tagged Lord Prayer.

He Seemed But a Little Boy

It was only a year before that Archibald Alexander had been taken under care of the Presbytery of Lexington, Virginia.  He was young and extremely small in stature.  In our day, such a move of spiritual oversight is usually granted by a Presbytery after it has heard your personal testimony, what God has done for you in Christ in your spiritual life, and an expression of your call to the ministry.  In the eighteenth century however, it included all  that, no doubt, and also a sermon preached over the presbytery.

On that occasion in 1890, the month of October, Archibald Alexander stood before the esteemed member of this presbytery.  The fact that a candidate before him had utterly failed to utter anything approaching a sermon, much less give any orderly address, didn’t seem to faze him.  He stood up, without any idea of what he was going to say, and delivered an exhortation which astonished everyone present.    In fact, after that occasion, he delivered “exhortation” after “exhortation” several times a week.

In the spring of 1791, Alexander was examined by the Presbytery of Lexington in his Latin and Greek knowledge.  He had prepared an exegesis upon an assigned topic, and read it to the brethren.  He delivered a speech to the Presbytery as well.  It was then moved that he be assigned a text to preach at the next meeting of the Lexington Presbytery.

At that time, on September 20, 1791, the time had arrived for his proclamation before his elders, both in age and office, on the assigned theme, which was Jeremiah 1:7, “Say not, I am a child.”   And indeed, he seemed but a little boy, but the effect of his trial sermon, quickly put that to rest.  There was authority in the proclamation of the Word of God.  It was no wonder then that at the next presbytery meeting in Winchester, he was licensed to preach the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Words to live by:  If you have an opportunity, attend a Presbytery meeting as a visitor soon, especially one in which a candidate is brought under care, or licensed for the gospel ministry, or ordained by one of our conservative presbyteries.  You will see the care which the church gives to its candidates, that they be sound in doctrine, proficient in the Westminster Standards, and practical in their understanding of their calling.  It will be a day well spent.

Tags: , , ,

From Trash to Treasure.

Presbyterian pastors love to rumage through old books. Browsing through a used bookstore in Houston, Texas, in 1902, the Rev. Samuel Mills Tenney noticed a bound stack of papers set aside in a corner of the store. His curiosity piqued, he asked the store owner and found that the papers were going to be thrown out. Glad to be relieved of what he considered trash, the owner gave the pile of papers to Rev. Tenney, who then carried his prize home for closer inspection.

Back in his study, Rev. Tenney dusted off the papers and began to examine them closer. To his great surprise, he found these were class notes and other papers from around 1845 which had once belonged to Robert Lewis Dabney, from when Dabney was a student in Seminary. Dabney, as most know, went on to become one of the leading theologians of the old Southern Presbyterian Church. “Is this the way our Church treats her great men?,” Tenney asked himself.

This “chance” discovery became the inspiration that led Rev. Tenney to a lifelong obsession to preserve the history of his denomination. His 1902 discovery then led to his founding the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Synod of Texas, which later came to be located in Texarkana. Working without other support, Tenney spent the next twenty-five years gathering an impressive collection of records and memorabilia.

Then in 1926, when the 66th General Assembly of the PCUS met in Pensacola, Florida, that Assembly voted to establish a denominational archives, utilizing Rev. Tenney’s collection as the core of their new archives. The next year, the archives was given its official name, operating as the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Relocation of the archival collections from Texarkana to denominational property in Montreat, North Carolina followed shortly thereafter.

Rev. Tenney continued as director of the Historical Foundation until his death on December 23, 1939.

When the PCUS merged with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in 1983, the merged denomination now had two archives, the other being the Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia. Both institutions continued on, operated by the Presbyterian Church (USA), until early in 21st century, when the decision was made to close the Montreat location. So ended a great cultural institution. The major collections of the old Historical Foundation were relocated to Philadelphia, while arrangements were made to house the congregational history collections at Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.

When the Presbyterian Church in America was founded in 1973, there were subsequent discussions about housing our denominational records and archival collections at Montreat, under a cooperative agreement. Thankfully that arrangement was never realized. Instead, in 1984, Dr. Morton Smith, then Stated Clerk of the PCA, stood before the Twelfth General Assembly and made his case for a PCA Archives. The Assembly approved his motion. This was at a point when the PCA still did not have central denominational offices for its agencies, and so Dr. Will Barker, then president of Covenant Theological Seminary, offered free space for the Archives in the Seminary’s library. We’ve been there ever since, though we’re rapidly outgrowing our current facility.

Words to Live By:
There are a number of reasons why a denomination needs to maintain its own archive. But far and away, the most important is that these records stand as a testimony to what the Lord has done in our midst. I like to think of the Historical Center as a “Hall of Testimonies,”— witnesses to the reality of the Gospel and the fact that Jesus Christ changes lives.

He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered.” — (Psalm 111:4a, KJV)

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” — (Psalm 145:4, KJV)

Tags: , , , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History

A Potential Schism Halted by a Compromise

Initially there was no real problem with the written standards for the Presbyterian Church in America. Ministerial students were simply tested for their learning and soundness in the faith.  But a controversy in the mother country soon changed this.  So the question arose, should teaching and ruling elders be required to subscribe to the subordinate standards of the Westminster Assembly in their entirety, or just for their essential truths?  The fact that so many officers were still in the process of emigrating to the colonies made this a relevant question for the infant church to resolve.

Conscious of the potential for schism, on September 17, 1729, Jonathan Dickinson became the main proponent against the total subscriptionist party in the church.  His argument was simple.  He believed the Bible was the sufficient rule for faith and life.  Subscription must be adhered to it and to it alone, not to some man-made summary of it, as good as it might be.

The total subscriptionist side also believed the Bible was all-sufficient for doctrine and life, but were equally convinced that the Westminster standards of confession and catechisms offer an adequate summary of the Old and New Testaments.  To receive it and adopt it in its entirely would stop any heresies which may invade the church from either within or without the church.

At the synod in 1729, Dickinson and his followers won the day with what has become known at the Adopting Act of 1729.  The document stated that on the one hand, there was a clear requirement to receive and adopt the Westminster Standards.  However, if an elder, whether teaching or ruling elder, had an exception to those standards, he was to make known to the church or presbytery his exception.  The latter body would then judge whether the exception dealt with essential and necessary articles of doctrine, worship, or government. If it did not, then he could be ordained without official censure or social ostracism.

The entire body of elders gathered at the Philadelphia Synod gave thanks to God in solemn praise and prayer that the resolution of this potential schism had been averted and unity was maintained in the infant Presbyterian church.

Words to live by:  It is always good that disunity should be avoided and unity be maintained.  But at what cost, is the question?   The compromise here looked good on the surface.  But presbyteries and synods and assemblies are made up of fallible men who can, sadly, declare that the basic truths of the Christian religion are not necessary to be held, as is the case now with several liberal Presbyterian bodies.   Obviously, much prayer must be made for those who instruct and rule over us, that God’s Spirit will keep the visible church pure in both faith and life. The true key to doctrinal unity springs from a daily awareness of our own sinfulness, from hearts broken before the Lord in godly humility, Seeking the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone.

See also, The Meaning of Subscrption, by Rev. Benjamin McKee Gemmill.

Through the Scriptures: Ezekiel 22 – 24

Through the Standards:  The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Shorter Catechism

WSC 105  “What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A.  In the fifth petition, (which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) we pray, That God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History

Amazed by What he Accomplished in Life

The seals and the whales in Alaska were disappearing fast for the native people up in Alaska.  So the Rev. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary, travelled to Siberia to purchase reindeer to be introduced in Alaska for food, clothing, and transportation.  He would eventually bring over 1300 of them, and train the natives how to care for them.

Sheldon Jackson was born in 1834 in Minaville, New York. He graduated from Union College (1855) and Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1858. The following year he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

After marriage of Mary Voohees in 1858, they applied to the Presbyterian Foreign Mission board for passage in Siam or Columbia, but we turned down—get this!—for “lacking in physique.”  Jackson was only five feet tall.

So Rev. Jackson and his wife began their ministry, teaching in a Choctaw Indian boarding school in what was later Oklahoma, beginning on September 16, 1858.  He spent only one year there, contracting malaria, which greatly weakened his health.  But he was not done serving his Lord.

Until 1877, he ministered in  ten states and territories of the West.  How was this possible?  He simply followed the westward extension of the railroad, coming to a make shift town, visiting every house witnessing of Christ, seeing converts, organizing them into small missions and churches, and move on to the next railroad town.   He organized over 100 missions and churches, including several educational institutions, in this way.

But it was in Alaska that his greatest work for Christ took place, especially among the native Alaskans.  The Lord opened up this territory in a unique way.  A close friend of President Benjamin Harrison, Jackson was appointed the First General Agent of Education in Alaska, and told to educate the native tribes of the territory.  He followed the practice of using contracts to accomplish it, only his contracts were with religious denominations.  In all, he divided up the vast area and  invited in the Baptists, Anglicans of Canada, Methodists, Moravians, Congregationalists, Quakers, Lutherans, Covenant, Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, to join the Presbyterians already starting schools in the territory.  It worked admirably until 1893 when Congress began to get uneasy about subsidizing religious bodies  for their work of education!

He also laid the groundwork for the territory to be recognized at a state later on in history.  His critics were amazed at what he had accomplished, and among those accomplishments, of traveling over one million miles for the Lord.  He passed away in 1909, but not before being elected as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1897.  With all his official governmental service, he was still the evangelist, having preached over 3000 sermons on missions.

Words to live by: There is a monument on a bluff in Sioux City, Iowa, which was erected by the Presbytery of Iowa in 1913.  It commemorates the prayer meeting which the Rev. Sheldon Jackson held with two other home missionaries. They looked out to the unchurched west, and went out to win those western areas for Christ.  It is this writer’s conviction that the church today needs to look around, see their spiritually lost cities, towns, and neighborhoods, and go out with a renewed zeal to take the gospel message to them. Only such a conviction as that, will result in another spiritual awakening so desperately needed for our land.  Will you be one of the ones who will pray for this?  And go too?

Through the ScripturesEzekiel 19 – 21

Through the Standards:  The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Larger Catechism

WLC 194 — “What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A.  In the fifth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt: we pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin, accept us in his Beloved; continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness; which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offenses.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Practice of Repentance

With little action by Presbyterians in America on this day, we turn on this day, September 15,  to Shorter Catechism No. 87 which asks and answers “What is repentance unto life?  A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

The last catechism we considered, which was on September 4, and dealt with the definition of saving grace, and this one on repentance, are linked in that they are twin graces.  Faith must precede repentance however in the order of nature. The writer to the book of Hebrews said in chapter 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (ESV) Saving faith comes first, but repentance unto life is so closely connected with it in the sinner’s experience, that we may not be able to separate them in a concise way.

Repentance is unto life. The Messianic Jews in Acts 11:18 rejoiced that as a result of Peter’s ministry to the Gentiles, “God had granted repentance that leads to life.” (ESV)  Further it is “a saving grace,” in that it is the free gift of God. The previous text in Acts 11 speaks of “God granting repentance.”  He is the author of repentance.

Repentance comes first from the knowledge of sin and in particular his sin.   It is “out of a true sense of his sin” that repentance comes. A true repentant, under the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, views sin, and his sin, not only dangerous to his soul, but also odious because it is contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God.  Further, repentance  is followed by “an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.” Because of who Christ is, and what He accomplished in our redemption, we as sinners can have the mercy of God upon us.

The two ingredients of repentance include first “a grief and hatred of sin,” and our sin in particular. The godly sorrow of the penitent is for his sin committed against God, as rebellion against his rightful authority, as a violation of His holy law, and certainly as an ungrateful return for all His goodness. It includes a hatred of sin. The Psalmist David stated in Psalm 119:128 that he hated “every false way.”  As a result of this, the repentant person “returns from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”  True repentance results in actions which are now pleasing to God.

Words to live by:  Repentance includes small sins and great sins. It includes general sins and particular sins.  We need to include confession of sins in every prayer we pray to the heavenly Father. Confession attests the sincerity of repentance. There must be a complete change of mind and manner of life in biblical repentance.

Through the Scriptures: Ezekiel 15 – 18

Through the Standards:  The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Shorter Catechism.

WSC 104 — “What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A.  In the fourth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,) we pray, that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.”

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: