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As Francis Schaeffer said, in the Kingdom of God, there are no little people. Rev. and Mrs. M.A. Pearson were two selfless servants in God’s vineyard, unknown to most, who labored in near poverty in order to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Cherokee nation. 

Missionary to Cherokees Called Home to Be With Lord

Mr. & Mrs. Manford Alpheus PearsonThe Rev. M. A. Pearson, minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church and missionary for many years to the Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, went to be with the Lord on Friday, May 6, 1955.

Mr. Pearson worked among the Cherokee Indians as a missionary from 1911 until his retirement in 1953.

Manford Alphaeus Pearson was born in Waverly, Kansas, June 26, 1876, graduated from Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1903, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1906. From his graduation from Princeton until he entered the mission field, he was a local pastor, having been ordained by the Presbytery of Neosho (PCUSA), on September 19, 1906, whereupon he served as Stated Supply from 1906-1907 for PCUSA churches in Altamont and Mound Valley, Kansas. From 1907 to 1910, he served other PCUSA churches throughout Kansas, in Chetopa, Toronto, Liberal, Seiling and Helena. Finally, in 1911, he began his life’s work with the Cherokee Indians, working initially under the auspices of the PCUSA’s Board of Home Missions. laboring with the Cherokee Indian Mission in Oklahoma.

Rev. Pearson withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1922 due to the prevailing modernism of the denomination. From 1922-1939, he continued his work with the Cherokee by associating with the Gospel Missionary Union out of Kansas City, Missouri. He was later received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, of the Presbyterian Church of America (later the OPC), on November 2, 1936, and subsequently was among those who in 1938 left to form the Bible Presbyterian Synod.

Mr. Pearson, during the last few years of his ministry with the Cherokees, translated parts of the Old Testament, then the Gospel of John, and later the New Testament into their language. The Cherokees had the Bible, but their copies were wearing out and the Bible Society did not plan to print more. Moreover, there were some 400 errors in the translation. For these reasons, Mr. Pearson made the new translation in Cherokee.

Upon his retirement, he moved to the East and was a resident in “Evening Rest,” the Bible Presbyterian Home for the Aged in Delanco, New Jersey. While there he made a number of recordings for use in the Cherokee Churches he had established where as yet there was no missionary or minister to take his place. On May 6, 1955, Rev. Pearson died suddenly of a heart attack while a guest at the Bible Presbyterian Home in Delanco, N.J.

Pictured above right, Rev. M.A. Pearson and his second wife, Ella (Cooper) Pearson. Rev. Pearson’s first wife, Martha (Smith) Pearson, had died in 1933.

Upon Rev. Pearson’s death, an obituary was printed on the pages of The Christian Beacon, which included the following memorial from the BPC Minutes of synod:

“His funeral was held in the tablernacle of the Bible Presbyterian Church of Collingswood, N.J. Dr. McIntire stated that he had known Mr. Pearson all the years of Synod. Mr. Pearson often stated that he had belonged to Synod before the formation of our Synod. He was a real scholar. He had done a great work of translation in the Cherokee Old and New Testament. From 1911 on he had worked among the Cherokee Indians. He was stalwart for the faith. Mrs. Pearson showed Dr. McIntire Mr. Pearson’s prayer list which he kept in an old shoe box. It contained a detailed card filing system of B.P. Ministers, Independent Board missionaries, regional officers of the I.C.C.C. and many others connected with the whole sphere of our work with notes and clippings concerning each. He had a great burden of prayer for our movement. Synod then stood for a season of prayer led by the Rev. Charles E. Richter.”

[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, May 12, 1955]

I can only wish that someone had thought to preserve that old shoe box full of prayer lists and cards. What a testimony it would bear.

Words to Live By:
A poem greatly loved and much quoted by Mr. Pearson is Annie Johnson Flint’s “He Giveth More Grace.”

He giveth more grace when the burden becomes greater.
He sendeth more strength when labors increase.
To added affliction he addeth His mercies,
To multiplied trials—His multiplied grace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When strength seems to fail ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto man;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

For Further Study, see the Records of the Pearson Mission to the Cherokee, preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

Works published by Rev. M.A. Pearson:

The Gospel of John the Apostle. [Westville, Okla.], 1948. Cherokee; 83 p.; 19 cm.  Note: Cherokee version by M.A. Pearson together with the King James Version in English. Includes English note on pronunciation. In the syllabic script elaborated by S.A. Worcester.

[Genesis]. New York : American Bible Society, 1953. Cherokee; 400 p. 13 cm.  Note: Title on title page in Cherokee. English title from p. [3]. “Cherokee O.T. parts”–Title page verso. Includes: Genesis, Exodus, selections from Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah, and Jonah. Translated by M.A. Pearson. Text in syllabic script elaborated by S.A. Worcester.

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As we approach the end of the academic year, and seminaries around the country will be sending out their graduates into pulpits, ministries and other pursuits, it seemed good today to revisit the following post from this date in 2012. On a note of encouragement, consider how far we have come in the past 83 years. In 1930, there were arguably just three solidly conservative Presbyterian seminaries—Westminster, Erskine, and the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh. Today there are over thirty. Some are small institutions, others relatively large, all are sending graduates out into the world to take up various positions of ministry in God’s expanding kingdom:—

An Historic Commencement Address

Macartney, Clarence EdwardTalk about history being made!  The first ever commencement address delivered to the  student body of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania took place on May 6, 1930.  The speaker was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Clarence Edward Macartney.  He was a member of the board of this new seminary, besides being known as a conservative in the issues confronting the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

In his address, after looking at the approaching  state of the church from the standpoint of its adherence to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Macartney focused the attention of the students on the very existence of this new seminary.  Listen to his words:

“The founding of Westminster Seminary, therefore, has a peculiar and definite meaning at this critical day in the history of Christianity.

“In the first place, its establishment is a protest against the action of the church in dissolving the Board of Directors of Princeton Seminary, and practically ejecting them for loyalty to the truth.

“In the second place, the establishment of Westminster Seminary is a warning to the Presbyterian Church against the danger of being completely submerged in the tide of neo-Christianity which threatens to engulf the whole Protestant church.  This seminary is a watchman on the wall, proclaiming with no uncertain trumpet that an enemy is in our midst.

“In the third place, the establishment of this seminary is a witness to the Bible as the Word of God, a notification to the world that we believe in the Bible, both as to its facts and its doctrines, and are confident that both facts and doctrines are capable of reasoned, thoughtful, and scholarly defense.

“In the  fourth place, this Seminary is founded as a witness to the saving power of the glorious gospel of the blessed God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.   This Seminary shall stand as a token of our earnest conviction that the gospel of Christ is the alone hope of a lost and fallen race.

“In the fifth place, Westminster Seminary is founded as a token of our faith in the rejuvenescence of evangelical Christianity, and that, as the tops of the mountains  were seen after the deluge, so after the deluge and invasion of unbelief in the Protestant church, when the angry waters shall have perished, those sacred heights of mountain tops of Sinai and Calvary shall again be revealed, and the Church shall again bow in gratitude, adoration, and love before the cross of the Eternal Christ.”

After such a reminder of the need for Westminster Seminary to exist, Dr. Macartney then reminded the students that they have been entrusted with the glorious gospel of the blessed God. It was a sacred trust, he added. He spoke about the temptation to forsake that trust, when standing alone, for example, but he encouraged them to resist that temptation and proclaim that blessed gospel.

Words to Live By: Whether we speak about a theological institution, a church, or a Christian, all of us have been entrusted with the gospel. If we won’t defend it, who will? If we won’t utter it, who will? If we forsake it, how will it be carried out? We have, all of us, been entrusted with the Gospel—it is a solemn and sacred treasure to share with all those around us, whomsoever will hear. And remember to regularly pray for these many schools that train your future pastors and missionaries. Pray that professors and students alike would maintain a godly humility in all their studies, lest sinful pride undermine all accomplishment. Pray that they would not neglect the regular habit of prayer. Pray particularly that even while students, that they would not neglect the joyful duty of sharing their faith with others.

To read the full message by Dr. Macartney, click here.

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“He Went About Doing Good”

Our subject today is the Rev. James A. Bryan, known affectionately as “Brother Bryan.” To introduce him, I would like to take the liberty of quoting from the opening three paragraphs in Dr. David Calhoun’s recent article, which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of PRESBYTERION:

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]“For years James Bryan walked the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, ministering in the name of Jesus to the people of the fast-growing city–not only to respectable people but also to gamblers, drunkards, and prostitutes. He was the pastor of Third Presbyterian Church, a downtown church surrounded by African Americans, poor white families, Jews, and immigrant workers from Italy, Hungary, Greece, and other countries. Bryan knew the people of Birmingham and they knew and loved him. They called him “Brother Bryan.” To him all people, black and white, native-born and immigrants, poor and rich, were his brothers and sisters.

“James Alexander Bryan was born near Kingstree, South Carolina, on March 20, 1863, two years after South Carolina seceded from the Union. His parents were poor in money, but rich in faith. Every morning and evening the family gathered to sing a psalm or hymn, to read a passage from the Bible, and to kneel in prayer. At his little country school James studied reading, writing, arithmetic–and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. At the town’s Presbyterian church he listened to good sermons. A visiting preacher who made a deep impression on the young boy was Hampden C. DuBose, a student at Columbia Theological Seminary who, during a summer vacation, supplied Bryan’s home church. DuBose became a missionary to China, where he preached, planted churches, and successfully fought the opium trade.

“Bryan studied at an academy in Raleigh and at the University of North Carolina, where he was known for his ability as a public speaker. He went north to Princeton Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry, arriving in September 1886 with $1.85 in his pocket. The piety of the slim young Southerner earned him the nickname “the saint,” spoken not in mockery but seriously by his fellow students. Bryan loved his professors–William Henry Green, Alexander McGill, Caspar Wistar Hodge, and B. B. Warfield–and loved his studies, especially those in Bible and preaching. In Princeton Bryan worked at the Negro church on Witherspoon Street, teaching Sunday School and often leading the Wednesday prayer meeting. Here among black friends he was at home. Years later when his Princeton Seminary class gathered for its fortieth reunion, Bryan slipped away from the festivities to preach to the people at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.”

[To read the full article by Dr. Calhoun, please contact Presbyterion Editor, Covenant Theological Seminary, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO 63141. The annual subscription rate for the journal is $8.50 per year, or you may be able to secure a copy of that issue through Inter-Library Loan.]

Recently I was able to locate and purchase a copy of Brother Bryan’s sermons for addition to the PCA Historical Center’s research library. Apparently this was one of three volumes that were published between 1900 and 1930. Few copies have survived. The first was a slim volume of 53 pages, then another of 72 pages, which we have in photocopy, and the last, our recent accession, is a booklet of 111 pages. From that last booklet, I have selected one sermon to post here today, to give a better sense of Brother Bryan’s ministry and also because this particular sermon has some additional biographical insights:

(March 26, 1927)

Prayer to God is the lifting up of the soul to God. It is the pouring out of the heart unto God, our Father, in adoration, praise, confession and submission.

Someone asked the question, “What is the need of the Christian Life?” Another person answered, “Love for Jesus Christ.” We know this is true. You cannot love anyone unless you are acquainted with them. You cannot love Christ unless you are well acquainted with Him. You become acquainted by reading the Bible and especially by communing with Him in prayer. The people whose lives have counted for the most in the world have been people who were intercessors unto God.

Think a minute of Moses, how he interceded for God’s people, who had forgotten God. He spent 40 years in the school of prayer in the desert of Midian. It was his prayer life that made his life powerful. Prayer to God is asking what we wish, expecting to receive the things according to God’s will. We go to our Heavenly Father knowing that He will not withhold from us the best things for us.

Think of Elijah praying to God, the heaven’s being shut for three years and six months. I can hear him praying for rain and the heavens opened and the rain came. God’s people in the time of Samuel sent for him and begged that he not fail to pray for them.

Is your life a life of prayer? We have a great many church workers in this country but we need more church prayers. Praying is not saying your prayers. Christ taught us to enter our rooms and pray to our Father in secret. Christ teaches us to pray always.

Paul writes, pray without ceasing. Then he says: “I exhort first of all the prayers, supplications, intercessions be made for all people.” Do you enjoy praying? How much time a day do you spend in prayer? How many people have you on your prayer list? I am sure that I cannot meet the trials, the temptations, the burdens, the sorrows of life, without spending much time in prayer.

Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do I spend the ealry hours of the morning in prayer to God.” If you haven’t anyone else to pray for, pray for the writer of this note.

The calls come thick and fast, day and night. I have just returned from a cottage over the mountain, a father dying in one room, mother and children in sorrow, in the other. Pray for hundreds in that condition. The phone has just rung bringing the news of old people in a certain section of this city, unable to work, without food or fire. Pray to God that He will supply the needs of hundreds; that He will heal thousands of broken hearts. “There are lonely hearts to cherish, while the days are going by. There are weary souls that perish, while the days are going by.”

If Christ felt the need of spending whole nights in prayer and rising before day and going to the mountainside to pray, do you not feel the same need? Certainly you do. Christ is praying for us now. He is the only advocate between God and man. He presents our case to the Father. One of the sweetest recollections that I have of my earthly father is this: he took me to Charleston, S.C., when I was a small boy. Late at night when everything was still in the hotel, I heard a voice; in the dim moonlight that shone through the window I saw my father on his knees. I heard him praying for me. I think of that scene most every day and think of the prayer that I heard him offer. Maybe our children do not need so many material things but they need our prayers and they need to be taught to pray. You cannot have a spiritual life, without prayer.

Will you not pray more? Will you not pray for your own city, for every man, woman and child, that Christ may take His rightful place in every life? Pray that all of the people will be intercessors unto God.

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