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Don’t Be Misled By Popular Bible Teachers

You would have thought that the writer could be trusted. Hadn’t the Notes he had published, covering all the New Testament books and some of the Old Testament, been received by over one million readers? Surely, such a response by the Christian public meant that his words were doctrinally sound.  But these books were not doctrinally sound, and neither was their author, who was a minister in the Presbyterian Church, namely, Albert Barnes.

By now, hopefully, our readers know something of the Old School – New School Division in the Presbyterian Church in the 1830’s in our nation. The Plan of Union with the Congregational Church, which had been entered into in 1801 was abrogated in 1837.  A key leader of the New School Presbyterian branch was the Rev. Albert Barnes.

Albert  Barnes was born on December 1, 1798 in Rome, New York.  After schooling at Fairfield Academy, he entered Hamilton College in New York.  At this time, he was a skeptic in  matters of Christianity.  After reading however an article by Dr. Chalmers on Christianity, he became a Christian.  After graduation from Hamilton College in 1820, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated from there in 1823. He had as his professors Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge. Ordained by the Presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1825, he went to a Presbyterian Church as its pastor for five years until 1830. The bulk of his pastoral ministry however would be spent at the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1830 – 1867.

The latter span was the height of the division between the Old School and New School branches of the Presbyterian Church, and Albert Barnes was a key to the division. He took the New School slant in denying the imputation of Adam’s sin to mankind, and therefore the denial of original sin. He affirmed, in contrast to the Westminster Standards, that free will was within the picture of salvation for every sinner.

If he had been simply the pastor of a local church, these denials would have been bad enough. But Albert Barnes was also the author of the Notes on the Bible which were being received by over one million readers all over the globe. Thus his heresy was wide-spread to the church at large. Twice, he was brought up for heresy by those in his presbytery. But he was not convicted by the same church, though once he was suspended briefly.

To his credit, Albert Barnes also worked for the abolition of slavery and on behalf of the Temperance crusade. He would have eye problems near the end of his ministry in Philadelphia, and he died in 1870. Before he died, the Old School and New School re-united, though the reunion was opposed by his former professors from Princeton Seminary.

Words to live by:  Just because a person graduated from all the “right” schools and seminaries doesn’t cause that individual to be acceptable to a pulpit. Careful examinations must be done to make sure that his convictions agree with his words. Ordination vows are only as good as the men who make up the Presbytery in which the person resides. The Presbytery is committed with the duty of guarding the historic Christian faith, insuring that those who take those vows are equally committed to this same faith. Pray faithfully for the elders of the church—both teaching and ruling elders—that they will remain true to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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A Warm Hearted Generous Irishman
by David T. Myers

Our famous person today is James McKinney. Besides being described as our title puts it, he was the founder, under God, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, as Rev. Carlisle puts it in an article, The Life and Times of Rev. James McKinney. Certainly, both Rev. Glasgow and Rev. William Sprague testify that for scholarship and eloquence, he was not only the greatest man in the Covenanter church, but also he was a great man among men of that age. All of these accolades should cause us to want to know more about this servant of God.

Born on this day, November 16, 1759 in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of Robert McKinney, James studied in the preparatory schools of his upbringing. Entering the University of Glasgow, Scotland, he spent four years before graduating in 1778. He stayed on in the area to study both theology and medicine. Licensed by the Reformed Presbytery of Ireland in 1783, and ordained by the same church court, he was installed in two congregations in County Antrim, Ireland. One year later, he married Mary Mitchell, from which union came five children.

He was faithful in administering the Word and Sacraments for ten years in these two Irish congregations. Known as a bold and fearless advocate of the rights of God and man, a sermon on the “Rights of God” made him a marked man by the British government. Indicted for treason by the latter, he escaped to America in 1793, with his family joining him later. From Vermont to the Carolinas, he ministered to Irish societies tirelessly, forming some of them into congregations. In 1797, his family joined him in the new land.

In 1798, in a new location in Philadelphia, he organized, with Rev. Gibson, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America. He himself took charge of two congregations, one of which was Duanesburgh, New York. His broader ministry took him to other locations, as he and another minister visited the southern areas of this new land, to, and this is interesting, to seek to convince the churches of the land to abolish slavery from their thinking and actions.

In 1802, he resigned his pulpit at Duanesburgh, New York to accept the call of Rocky Creek, South Carolina. Soon after that, however, he died on September 16th, 1802.

Words to Live By:
A warm hearted generous Irishman! We may not be identified as Irish, but every reader is to be warm hearted and generous in our relations to our congregation and the neighbors in which we live and move as Christians. Too often we are anything but warm hearted and generous! Try instead Ephesians 5:31, 32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

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Princeton [i.e., the College of New Jersey] graduates its first class

The history of early Presbyterian education is substantially the history of Princeton College. When Mr. Tennent died in 1745 his school was closed. Yet such had been its usefulness that the Synod of New York immediately, in 1746, took steps to perpetuate that institution of learning. It was located first at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and Jonathan Dickinson was its first president. The students, except those of the village, boarded in the family of the president. Dr. Dickinson died shortly, and the school was removed to Newark in order to be placed under the care of Rev. Aaron Burr, so that he might accept the presidency without resigning his pastorate. The first class of six young men graduated November 9, 1748.

In 1753 Rev. Gilbert Tennent and Rev. Samuel Davies were appointed by Synod to visit England and solicit aid for the college. In the face of very great prejudices against them and the theology which they represented, after a year’s canvass in England, Scotland and Ireland, they had secured widespread sympathy and public endorsement of the enterprise. They succeeded, financially, far beyond their expectation. The total sum raised must have approached, if it did not pass beyond, twenty-five thousand dollars.


Words To Live by:

Presbyterians have always sought and promoted an educated, thoroughly trained pastorate. The challenges presented by the world, the flesh and the devil require that much. Moreover, the Gospel ministry is not to be entered into lightly, and deserves our best efforts. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.—Deut. 6:5. If this command is true for believers, how much more so for those who would shepherd the Lord’s people?

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Not the Optimus Prime, but Maybe Close.

PrimeSIBorn in Ballston, New York on this day, November 4, 1812. He obtained his college education at Williams College, graduating there in 1829. After a brief delay, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary as part of the Class of 1833 and was later ordained by the Presbytery of Albany, June 4, 1835, being installed as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in his home town of Ballston. Rev. Prime remained in this pulpit, 1835-36, and then answered a call to serve the Presbyterian church in the town of Matteawan, New York, about one hundred twenty miles south of Ballston.

Prime remained at Matteawan from 1837-1840, when the opportunity arose to serve as the assistant editor of The New York Observer. This paper was one of many Christian newspapers published in that era, and here Rev. Prime truly began his life’s work. In this capacity he labored from 1840-1848, stepping away from the post only for a few years, 1848-1849, to serve as Secretary of the American Bible Society. Thereafter, Prime took on the role of lead editor of The New York Observer, and remained at this post from 1850 until his death in 1885. By that time the paper had become something of a family business, with his brother and his son running the paper after his death.

Rev. Prime proved to be a prolific author and a valuable contributor to the wider culture. He founded the New York Association for the Advancement of Science and Art, served as president and trustee of Wells College and also as a trustee of his alma mater, Williams College. Honors conferred upon him during his lifetime included the Doctor of Divinity degree from Hampden-Sydney College (1854). Rev. Prime passed away on July 18, 1885, while residing in Manchester, Vermont. Time does not today permit me to list his many publications, some of which can be found on the Web, here.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes we start out in life headed off in one direction, only to find that the Lord brings our way, entirely unexpected, a change for the better. It was a common expression among the Puritans that the Lord never removes one blessing, but what He gives a greater. The God whom we serve purposes only to bless His children. There are times when that blessing may not seem like a blessing, but God always has in view what is best for us, and we can find rest in knowing that He is good and that He loves us, not for who we are, but for who we are in Christ our Savior.

 

 

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We continue this week with the remainder of Chapter VII of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE, by the Rev. Robert P. Kerr (1883). Please keep in mind that the author here is speaking of the organization of his own Church at that time. There are many differences today for most of the Presbyterian Churches in this country. For one, only the PC(USA) has the Synod level court; the PCA, OPC, EPC and other conservative Presbyterian denominations do not employ the Synod structure.

II. THE PRESBYTERY.

This is the most important assembly of the Church, because it has the most work to do. It has charge of all the congregations in a certain district, and is composed of all the ministers and one elder from every church in that district. [Ed.: This limit of one ruling elder per church was for the PCUS; it may or may not be the case with our modern Presbyterian denominations]. Quotation is made from the same excellent authority as before for a description of the functions of this body, and also the Synod and the General Assembly :

“The Presbytery has power to receive and issue appeals, complaints and references brought before it in an orderly manner; to examine and license candidates for the holy ministry; to receive, dismiss, ordain, install, remove and judge ministers; to review the record of the church Sessions, redress whatever they may have done contrary to order and take effectual care that they observe the constitution of the Church; to establish the pastoral relation, and to dissolve it at the request of one or both of the parties or where the interests of religion imperatively demand it; to set apart evangelists to their proper work; to require ministers to devote themselves diligently to their sacred calling and to censure the delinquent; to see that the lawful injunctions of the higher courts are obeyed; to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the church; to visit churches for the purpose of inquiring into and redressing the evils that may have arisen in them; to unite or divide churches at the request of the members thereof; to form and receive new churches; to take special oversight of vacant churches; to concert measures for the enlargement of the Church within its bounds; in general, to order whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under its care; to appoint commissioners to the General Assembly; and, finally, to propose to the Synod or to the Assembly such measures as may be of common advantage to the Church at large.” [compare the PCA’s Book of Church Order, chapter 13, paragraph 9, which is closely similar]

III. THE SYNOD.

This assembly has under its care all the Presbyteries in a large district, corresponding, usually, in America, with the area of a State—for example, the Synod of New York or the Synod of North Carolina. The Synod is usually composed of all the ministers and one elder from every congregation in its bounds; but, in some branches of the Church, Synods are allowed to choose between this plan and that of having its members appointed by the Presbyteries under its care.

“The Synod has power to receive and issue all appeals, complaints, and references regularly brought up from the Presbyteries; to review the records of the Presbyteries and redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to take effectual care that they observe the constitution of the Church, and that they obey the lawful injunctions of the higher courts; to erect new Presbyteries and unite or divide those which were before erected; to appoint ministers to such work, proper to their office, as may fall under its own particular jurisdiction; in general, to take such order with respect to the Presbyteries, Sessions and churches under its care as may be in conformity with the Word of God and the established rules, and may tend to promote the edification of the Church; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church within its bounds; and, finally, to propose to the General Assembly such measures as may be of common advantage to the whole Church. It shall be the duty of the Synod to keep full and fair records of its proceedings, to submit them annually to the inspection of the General Assembly and to report to it the number of its Presbyteries and of the members thereof, and, in general, all important changes which may have occurred within its bounds during the year.”

IV. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

This is the highest authoritative assembly of the Church. It meets annually, and has charge of all the Synods in its division of the great Presbyterian sisterhood. It is composed of an equal number of ministers and elders, appointed by the Presbyteries. If a Presbytery has more than twenty-four ministers on its roll, it may send two ministers and two elders, and in some branches of the Church may go on increasing the number of its delegates by two for every twenty-four ministers in its membership. There are many General Assemblies, representing many bodies of Presbyterians, and all independent of one another.

“The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts* [*In some branches of the Presbyterian Church cases of minor importance are not allowed to come before the General Assembly, but the Synod’s settlement of them is final.]; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the constitution, in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Synods; to take care that the inferior courts observe the constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Synods; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint ministers to such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations according to the rules provided therefor; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of the majority of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Synods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constituents of those courts and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole Church; to correspond with other Churches; and, in general, to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth and holiness through all the churches under its care.” [compare the PCA’s BCO chapter 14, paragraph 6, which is similar.]

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