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The season of General Assemblies and Synods is upon us, June being the month when most of the American Presbyterian denominations convene in their national meetings—and so this seemed a good time to look over a little tract from the late 1840’s titled “Ten Reasons for Being a Presbyterian. We will look at one reason each day, as offered by our anonymous author, working from an original copy of the tract, which is pictured below on the right. On the cover of the tract is this quote from the great Swiss historian, J.H. Merle d’Aubigne:—

“The great thing in the Church is CHRIST, the blood of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Christ among us. The great thing is Christ, but there is also advantage in a certain government of the Church of Christ. I am a Presbyterian, not only of situation, but of conviction and choice. Our Presbyterian way is the good middle way between Episcopacy on the one side, and Congregationalism on the other. We combine the two great principles that must be maintained in the Church—Order and Liberty; the order of government, and the liberty of the people.”—Merle d’ Aubigne.

ten_reasons_for_being_a_PresbyterianTen Reasons for being a Presbyterian.

1. I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that in Doctrine, in Discipline, in Government and Worship rests so entirely on the Word of God. The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Presbyterians. In all matters, whether of faith or practice, holy Scripture is supreme and sufficient. To this rule all creeds and confessions, canons and articles, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be brought for examination: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.“—(Isaiah viii. 20). It is not “Thus saith antiquity,” nor, “Thus saith tradition;” nor, “Thus saith the Church;” but to the Presbyterian the sole authority is, “THUS SAITH THE LORD.”


2.
I AM A PRESBYTERIAN—because I know of no Church that maintains more firmly, and sets forth more faithfully the leading doctrines of the Word of God. The unity of the Godhead, and the trinity of Persons therein—the utter depravity and helplessness of mankind in consequence of the fall—the recovery and salvation of the Church by the Redeemer—the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Atonement, and all His mediatorial work and offices—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Conversion and Sanctification of the sinner—the sinner’s interest in the finished work of Christ, and his Justification by Grace through Faith alone—the Second Advent of Christ to Judgment—the Resurrection of the dead and the eternal separation of the righteous and the wicked—these are among the truths embodied in the Confession and Catechisms of our Church, taught in her schools, and preached from her pulpits. And our Church has specially been privileged to maintain the truths relating to the deep things of God;—the covenant of redemption entered into by Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the foundation of the world; the salvation blessings secured in Christ as covenant head and surety, and flowing down to the Church through Him; the communication of these covenant-blessings by the Holy Spirit, together with the whole doctrines of free grace,—the sovereign, distinguishing, free grace of God.—(Eph. i. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. i. 9; 1 Cor. iii. 11; Eph. ii. 8.)

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The Strange Testimony of an Irish Presbyterian
by Rev. David T Myers

When my fellow editor, Wayne Sparkman, asked me to present this biographical post of a character from the eighteenth century, and sent me some material from which to write it, one sentence jumped out of the sentences about this Presbyterian minister.  That sentence was that “he was suspended for contumacy.”

Now, lets face it, the word “contumacy” is not a word which we use every day, or even every month.  According to Webster, it comes from the Latin which means “rebellious.”  Thus, it is “stubborn resistance to authority, specifically  willful contempt of court.”  And the “court” here means the church court, like the Presbytery.  In that sense, it is found in the PCA Book of Church Order, in the  Rules of Discipline, chapter 32:6 and 33:2, 3 to speak of those who refuse to either appear or answer the charges of a church court.  And that is what  happened to our character today, the Rev. James Martin.

The facts are that James Martin was born in Ireland in 1725, educated in Scotland, studied theology in the Antiburger Divinity Hall, class of 1749, and ordained in Bangor,  Ireland, in 1753, and received by the Presbytery of Pennsylvania, at Pequea, Pennsylvania, on August 1, 1775.

Certainly  he was not known then as a contumacious minister.  The certificate which accompanied his transfer to America stated that “he was for many years a member of the Associate Presbytery of Moira and Lisburn, in Ireland, and behaved soberly and inoffensively, suitable to his character as a minister and Christian.”  The written draft went on to state that “he departs with an unblemished reputation” with nothing to hinder his admission as a member of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania..

And so he ministered the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ in the counties of Franklin, Adams, Cumberland, and Northumberland in Pennsylvania.  He also ranged far south in the “states” of Virginia and North Carolina.

From what little we can ascertain, he declined the spiritual authority of the Presbytery in 1777.   They disciplined him with suspension of his ministry credentials.   Yet it is odd that  we read of his continuing ministry with spiritual profit to  members in Presbyterian churches until his death on this day, June 20, 1795.  What gives?

Words to Live By:
We can only surmise that his continuing ministry after his suspension by the Presbytery meant that there was a spiritual repentance and restoration as a Presbyterian undershepherd.   That is possibly, given biblical repentance, but as our Book of Church Order states, “he (must)  exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heal the wound made by his scandal.” (Rules of Discipline, 34:8.)  While the court which brought about the censure has the ultimate responsibility to do that,  all of us Christians need to be ready as Paul puts it in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (KJV)  The case of “overtaken” speaks of being overtaken suddenly by a sin.  In addition, the word “restore” is a medical one.  It spoke of a bone out of joint, which was to put back tenderly and resolutely by those  who are spiritual.   Are you available and able to become that kind of spiritual helper to restore a sinner who is repentant to the visible church of Jesus Christ?

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“Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy”

The day is lost to history, even church history. Not one book has it listed down. But we know the month and the year. It was April in 1661 in Ulster, or Northern Ireland.

On some day of that month of April then, in the year of 1661, faithful and godly Presbyterian ministers in what we know as Northern Ireland, or Ulster, were ejected from their pulpits, their manses,  and their salaries by the Church of England. They were the first Presbyterian  ministers to suffer this ejection in the three kingdoms of Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland. Why were they thrown out first? Some have answered that the old form of church government, to say nothing of worship, were still the norm in Ulster. It was just a matter of time before the Anglican church would lay down the law, so to speak, and eject Presbyterian ministers from its pulpits. In both England and Scotland, that church form and worship had been abolished by the Parliament, with even the Common Book of Prayer replaced, at least for a time.

But on one day in April, 1661, close to seventy Presbyterian ministers were ordered to obey the crown of England, or leave their pulpits. There was no gratitude for what they had accomplished for the Savior in previous years. In many cases, they and their Scottish followers had come into the area, reworked the barren fields into plots of industry and farming, repaired the churches which had fallen into disrepair from years of neglect, and even revived the people of the land to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But with all this material and spiritual success, the thought of Presbyterian doctrine and government being preached and lived in Ulster didn’t set right with the Anglican folks. So these faithful ministers were banned from five separate Presbyteries and their local churches, and their parishes. Only seven Presbyterian ministers conformed to prelacy and kept their pulpits, their parishes and their incomes.

It was a sad day for the Presbyterian church in Ireland.

Words to Live By:
The names of those who were ejected from Ulster’s churches and presbyteries are still recorded in the record books of the Presbyterian Church. Their witness for the truths of God’s Word still stands. Beloved, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you obeyed the Gospel call and put all your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ? Then know too that if you truly are now a Christian, that God has called you to a life of holiness, set apart to His glory. There may well be a great cost some day for obeying this Gospel call, but that cost will pale in comparison to all that God has in store for His dear children.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”—Philippians 2:12-13

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A Sweet Majestic Man Showed me the Majesty of God

Our title was a description of the preaching of the Rev. Robert Blair at St. Andrews in Scotland by an English merchant who heard him on the Lord’s Day one time. It spoke volumes about our post’s figure on this day. But it doesn’t do him full justice, as he ministered also effectively in Northern Ireland.

Robert Blair was born in 1593 to John and Beatrix Blair, the youngest child of six children. His father, a man of prayer, would die of tuberculosis when he was but five. He was able in God’s providence to go to the University of Glasgow in 1608. Becoming a school teacher in the same city, he has the oversight of 150 pupils. In 1616, after becoming acquainted with the principles of the university, he began to teach on the college level in Philosophy and Greek. It was during this time that he was encouraged to preach the Word and prepare of his life calling. A change of administrators at the school to Episcopalian brought an end to his association with that university. After considering a number of possibilities, an invitation to Ulster was made and accepted.

His arrival in Bangor, Ulster, or Northern Ireland, brought him to the same issue from which he left Scotland. The official church in Ulster was the Church of Ireland and Episcopalian in government and practice. Blair was a convinced Presbyterian. So the present Anglican bishops, with the encouragement of Archbishop Ussher, proposed and carried out his ordination by the laying on of hands of Presbyterian ministers in the land. That took place on July 10, 1623.

Blair’s first pastorate was large, with over 1200 members. He began to proclaim the Word of God four times a week with home visitation for the purpose of helping his educational backward people understand the Scriptures. It was said of him that he was the greatest instruments for preaching the gospel in the North of Ireland! Certainly, he was an outstanding Reformed minister just as that time who shaped the Scot-Irish in the land in Presbyterianism.

About eight years later, his ministry was brought to a sharp end with the bishops of the Irish Anglican church seeking to gain control. From that time in 1631 to 1638, he was to be suspended from the gospel ministry by the Anglican authorities, then reinstated, then suspended again by the bishops. Finally he, and three other Presbyterian ministers sought to flee to America with a hundred lay people. Tragically, that trip was not successful and they were forced to return to Ireland. Finally, he went back to Scotland, where he preached for 23 years as a pastor to the church of St. Andrews. It was there that the merchant of our title spoke of him. At last, he answered his Lord’s call, laying down his labors and entering upon his eternal rest in 1666. He died at Aberdour on 27 August 1666, and was buried in the parish churchyard.

Words to Live By:
The circumstances may be different, but today’s under shepherds of Christ’s flock have many trying times in their calling. This is why this author, who was a pastor for thirty-five years himself in Canada and the United States, frequently speaks of the importance of lay people to pray for their pastors. Scripture is clear. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 states, “But we request of you . . . that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give your instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB)

For Further Study:
The Life of MrRobert Blair, minister of St. Andrews, containing his autobiography, from 1593-1636 : with supplement of his life and continuation of the history of the times, to 1680

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Josiah Welsh had cried out at the moment he entered glory, “O victory, victory, forevermore,” on June 23, 1634. He was only thirty-six years of age.  But what he had accomplished for Christ in those short thirty-six years was remarkable.

Born in 1598 in Scotland, he was of good Presbyterian stock! How could this not be said when we acknowledge that his mother was one of John Knox’s—yes, that John Knox—daughters. Elizabeth was the third daughter of the great Reformer from his second wife. So that made our topic of today’s post the grandson of John Knox. In addition, his own father John Welsh was a Presbyterian minister as well.

Josiah studied first at Geneva, Switzerland, much as his grandfather had done.  Then he returned to Scotland to study at St. Andrews. He even taught some at the University of Glasgow. He evidently moved to Northern Ireland, or Ulster, due to his opposition to papacy. Yet God moved in two men as the helps of that move.

Humphrey Norton was an English Puritan layman who first employed Joshua Welsh as the chaplain for his household. This was followed by the Rev. Robert Blair, the first Presbyterian preacher in Ulster, who had come over himself from Scotland to Ireland.

It was said that Josiah Welsh had “outstanding spiritual qualities” which enabled him to settle down as the pastor of Templepartrick, Ireland in 1626. While many of his fellow Scottish Presbyterians under-shepherds who moved to Ireland accepted Church of England parishes under the bishops of that land, Josiah Welsh did not and labored without the benefit of membership in an organized presbytery.

It was said of Josiah Welsh that he possessed an ability to preach directly to the consciences of his people in the pew. He was a fervent preacher of the Word which was backed up by a godly lifestyle. One of three famous revivals in Ulster, called the Six Mile Water Revival, occurred under benefit of his preaching to the Irish populace.

Words to Live By: There is an old saying which states “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Certainly this was true in the life and ministry of John Welsh. Question? Is it true in your life, dear reader? Talk to your pastor to see what biblical counsel he might impart to you on how it might be your life testimony as well.

 

 

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