Old School

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On April 23, I attended a funeral of a member of my local congregation. She had been a founding member, attending a Bible study before a pastor even showed up to start a church. Virginia Tidball was a lifelong resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She was among the very last of an old tradition: a staunch Southern Presbyterian of the old school. By that, I mean the Old School. That was what her wing was called. It was the Scottish Calvinist wing of the American church. Its last institutional traces disappeared in the 1940’s in the South. In the North, the last of the Old School ministers had been forced out in 1936. On June 15, for the last time, an article on the Presbyterian theological conflict appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The headline announced: “Barring of 3 Philadelphia Pastors Brings Walkout by Presbyterians.” The same page announced: “G. K. Chesterton, Noted Author, Dies.”

When I say she was the last, I mean it. She was like a thread across time to an ancient past. Her father had been a Southern Presbyterian minister. He in turn had studied theology under Robert L. Dabney. For most people, the name “Dabney” does not ring a bell. The textbook writers have done their work well. Robert L. Dabney was the South’s most respected Protestant theologian and the co-founder of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1861. (The founding meeting took place in the home of Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, who oversaw the Southern Presbyterian Church, 1865-98, as Stated Clerk, and whose son Woodrow went first into the field of higher education, then politics.) During the war, Dabney served as both chaplain and aide de camp for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He later wrote a biography of Jackson. He was so completely unreconstructed that in 1867, he allowed to be published his book, written during the war, A Defence of Virginia [And Through Her, of the South]. It included a vigorous defense of slavery, which by 1867 was politically incorrect in the South. He ended his career on the original faculty of the University of Texas, teaching free market economics (still called political economy), blind when he retired in 1894, and also teaching at a Presbyterian seminary in Austin. He died in 1898.

Virginia Tidball was born in 1904, the same year that the last major party candidate for President openly supported the gold standard, the long-forgotten Alton B. Parker, whose defeat by Teddy Roosevelt ended the Old Democracy, seemingly forever. But there were remnants, and Virginia Tidball was one of them.

They still tell the story of the time that John Duncan, the mathematics teacher from Scotland, ended the music portion of the worship service by having the congregation sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After the service, Miss Tidball told him: “I forgive you, for you are not a native of this country.” Whether or not she was speaking of the United States, no one had the courage to ask.

The world she left behind is a very different world from the one she was born into. In the South, Dabney’s name is forgotten. The textbook story of the late unpleasantness, 1861-65, is the victors’ story. The South adopted tax-funded education with a vengeance, thereby turning the region’s children over to the New York textbook publishers long before World War I. A New York-published and edited U.S. history textbook provides a view of Southern history that is as faithful to the facts as Joseph Ruggles’ son was faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which he swore before God that he believed when he became a ruling elder in the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Biographical Sketch, by Gary North [online at http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north100.html; used by permission]

The Papers of Virginia Tidball have been preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

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A Young Pastor Caught in the Middle

boardman01The Old School/New School division of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  officially took place in 1837. But the controversy had been roiling along for many years prior, and by the time that  Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia was organized, in 1829, the controversy was really coming to the fore. The first pastor of the church was Thomas A. McAuley, a New School man who managed to steer the new church into the only New School Presbytery within the Synod of Philadelphia, all to the dismay of the Rev. Ashbel Green and the other Old School men in Philadelphia, who had such hopes for the new church.

But Rev. McAuley only stayed for four years before leaving for greener fields (he went on to found Union Theological Seminary in New York). And in God’s providence, Henry Augustus Boardman was graduating from Princeton right about that same time. Boardman had been born in Troy, New York on January 9, 1808, graduated from Yale and then Princeton, but thought he would prefer being the pastor of a rural church. Instead, he was urged to supply the vacant pulpit at Tenth, and despite some misgivings on his part, finally accepted the call to serve there as pastor.

In a published history of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Allen Guelzo tells the story of the challenges that immediately confronted Boardman as he became the new pastor of the church :

Not that all the qualms in Boardman’s stomach were thereby stilled. There remained the unsettling business of Tenth’s attachment to the New School Second Presbytery. That business was made even more unsettling when on the eve of his ordination and installation the Synod of Philadelphia finally lost its patience with the New Schoolers and ordered the Second Presbytery dissolved. Since this drastic action could not be made final until the General Assembly met the following May, the New Schoolers held onto a brief stay of execution. But that left Boardman in the unhappy predicament of having to seek ordination at the hands of a presbytery that was virtually an outlaw organization; nor could he wait until the following May to see where the chips would fall, since his ordination and installation had been set for November 8, 1833.

Once again, he began to question whether he ought to join a presbytery under such suspicion and when he had such little sympathy with its tenets. “Unquestionably,” wrote Boardman, “it was a controversy which involved both the purity of our faith and the integrity of our ecclesiastical polity. Two incompatible systems of doctrine and two no less irreconcilable theories of ecclesiastical authority and policy” were at stake. In Boardman’s mind, there was no hope of compromise “between those who training had made them decided and earnest Presbyterians and others who had adopted our standards in a loose and general way.” Nor was it, he observed, “a mere war of words, It took hold upon the central truths of the Gospel, such as original sin, the atonement, regeneration and justification.”[1]  Nevertheless, Boardman decided to go ahead with the ordination, a move that was to set a precedent for later pastors of Tenth Church who found themselves with similarly difficult choices. In time, his decision proved wise. Boardman was able to sever Tenth’s connections with the New School Presbytery, and in 1837 the General Assembly removed the thorn of New School Presbyterianism from Boardman’s side by moving to lop all New School Presbyteries off its rolls. Not until 1869 were Old School and New School Presbyterians reunited.

[1] Boardman, Henry A., Two Sermons Preached on the Twenty-fifth and Fortieth Anniversaries of the Author’s Pastorate. Philadelphia: Inquirer Book and Job Print, 1873, p. 31.

[Excerpted from Making God’s Word Plain: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 150 Years (1829-1979).   Philadelphia, PA: Tenth Presbyterian Church, 1979, pp. 45-46.]

Words to Live By:
 Scripture does not promise an easy path in life for the Christian. If anything, we are promised conflict (2 Tim. 3:12). But we also have clear promises of God’s wisdom, as well as the charge to be at peace with all men, so far as we are able. (Rom. 12:18). Through diligent study of the Bible, godly counsel, and prayerful trust in God, we can find our way through life’s challenges.

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The following is a newspaper account of the proceedings of the PCUSA General Assembly of 1837, in which the Old School men effectively excised four New School synods from the denomination. Here in this account is a record of the debate over that action. A Convention of Old School men met in Philadelphia in May, prior to the Assembly, and a Memorial rising from that Convention was presented at the Assembly. The Memorial sought the dissolution of the 1801 Plan of Union, a reinvigoration of sound Presbyterian principles throughout the denomination, and immediate disciplinary measures directed at both men and the inferior courts (presbyteries and synods) charged with holding specified theological errors.

I realize this may be more than some will want to read, but as a record of the history of that event, this account is quite interesting on a number of levels.

The Charleston Observer, Vol. XI, No. 24 (June 17, 1837), pages 93 and 96:—

Page 93


Debate on the Memorial of the Convention, touching the citation of Inferior Judicatories—as reported by the Editor of the Presbyterian.

Mr. Plumer moved to bring up this business under the following resolutions :

1.  That the proper steps be now taken to cite to the bar of the next Assembly such inferior judicatories as are charged by common fame with irregularities.

2.  That a special committee be now appointed to ascertain what inferior judicatures are thus charged by common fame, prepare charges and specifications against them, and to digest a suitable plan of procedure in the matter, and that said committee be requested to report as soon as, practicable.

3.  That as citation on the foregoing plan is the commencement of a process involving the right of membership in the Assembly :


Resolved, That agreeably to a principle laid down, Chap. V. Sec. 9th, of the Form of Government, the members of said judicatories be excluded from a seat in the next Assembly, until their case shall be decided.

He then read from Book of Discipline, Chap. V. 9, on the discretionary right of a church judicatory to exclude one under process from the privilege of deliberating and voting.  Also, from Form of Government, Chap. XII. 5, on the powers of the General Assembly in relation to controversies and errors. Also, from the Book of Discipline, Chap. VII. Sec. 1, sub. Sec. 5 and 6, in relation to powers of review and control.—These quotations went directly to the proof that the Assembly had all the powers of interference contemplated in the resolutions before the house.  When common fame alleged the existence of grievance in inferior judicatories, they had the right of citation and trial, and until this was done, the persons charged might be denied their seat in the Assembly.

Mr. Jessup rose to oppose the adopt of the resolutions, on the ground that they infringed the constitution.  The language of the instrument has not left it to implication, what are the precise powers of the Assembly—they are all specified.  He had no doubt that it had the power to cite Synods to its bar.  This has been exercised ; one Synod (Western Reserve) had thus been cited, had appeared, and had answered satisfactorily.  But Synods, as such, cannot be excluded from this floor ; Presbyteries are represented here, and we cannot reach Presbyteries except by a constructive power.  It is not competent to the Assembly to carry on an impeachment against a Presbytery, for this is the province of a Synod.  The doctrine is advanced that the right of reproving, implies right to cite and try, for how can they be reproved before trial.  When, however, gross irregularities or erroneous doctrines prevail in a Presbytery, a testimony may be borne against them, and they may be reproved.—It is not necessary to this, that a citation should be issued ; this is a power which does not belong to the Assembly, in relation to a Presbytery,as it is expressly delegated to another body.  It is not implied in “suppressing schismatical contentions” that we may arraign Presbyteries or individuals, and try them as if it were for their lives.  Consult your book on actual process, and see to whom is intrusted the power of commencing it. . . .

Mr. Breckinridge regarded the subject as one of great importance, as well as of difficulty.  The speaker who preceded him, had probably given the strongest views which could be given on that side of the question.—What is contemplated in the resolutions, is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Assembly ; nay, they could do much more than this. . . . .

Mr. White.  He admired the talent of the last speaker, but he had, as he himself had acknowledged assumed unconstitutional grounds.  . . . .

Friday Morning, May 25.

Dr. Beman.  In remarking on this subject he noticed the opposite grounds assumed by gentlemen.  One (Mr. Plumer) says, the measure proposed carries out the constitution, and another (Dr. Breckinridge) says, we should proceed on the ground, that necessity knows no law.  He would be led to notice both positions.  The first point he would insist on, was in reference to the power of the Assembly in relation to inferior judicatories.  The question was, had the General Assembly any right to originate process, involving deposition ; he contended that it had not, and he appealed to the Book. . . . .

Page 96


[Debate—Continued from first page]

Mr. Plumer. He differed from Mr. Jessup on the extent of authority vested in the General Assembly.  The 5th sub. sec. of 1st sec. chap. vii. in the Book of Discipline, gives the Assembly ample control over Synods which fail to perform their duty, and the interference is not only justified by the case of the Synod of Kentucky already quoted, but by the settled practices of the Scottish Church, to which we are so greatly indebted for our present Constitution.  [Mr. Plumer here quoted largely from Steuart’s Collections in proof, that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, directly and through their commissions, exercised authority in the suppression of error, by the citation of refractory Presbyteries and Ministers.]  This he deemed very high authority.  He was amused and surprised to hear one gentleman (Dr. Beman) so eloquently contend for the eternal rights of Presbyteries, and he was led to think what could be the meaning of the gentleman.  Were the rights of which he spoke eternal a parte ante, or a parte post?  If it was the former, then the Presbyterian form of government was much more ancient than he had ever imagined, for he had never dreamed of tracing it further back than to the time that Ezra arranged the Synagogue worship ; if it were the latter, that Presbyterianism was to be perpetuated in heaven, then it was singular enough considering the quarter from which it came that we should have the eternally divine right of Presbyterianism so strongly maintained—it was high-churchism of a truth. The gentleman’s metaphors were also remarkable ; first we had a big trumpet emptying its sounds into another trumpet, and it in its turn emptying itself into a dish, and then the dish filled with northern gales and southern breezes, presented to regale the General Assembly.  Such a dish reminded him of an anecdote of a Minister’s servant who was very clever in making inferences ; on one occasion he was asked what inference he would draw from this text, “a wild Ass that snuffeth up the wind at pleasure,” and his answer was, that he would infer that he might snuff a good while before he would grow fat on it.  So he would say of this dish which the gentleman had prepared for the Assembly, in all likelihood they would never grow fat on it.  Having thus disposed of the salmagundi dishes, he would turn to other matters.  It was indeed pleasant to hear it acknowledged by gentlemen on the other side, that there were in the Church two systems of theological views, [Mr. Dickinson explained that he meant two systems of explaining doctrines.]  Well, that is even plainer ; there are two distinct and different systems of explaining the doctrines of religion ; that point is now settled, and it is fully conceded.  Then again he was surprised that the same gentleman from Lane Seminary, should undertake to compare the differences which existed in the Presbyterian Church in 1820, with those now existing.  The subjects of difference were totally different as he should have known, and the points now in dispute were not agitated then.  It was laid down as a principle by all writers on the laws of nations, that when a privilege was granted by one nation to another, every thing was included, which was necessary to the enjoyment of the privilege.  Thus, if an army had permission to pass through a certain territory, it was certainly implied that they might cut down trees to make bridges, if it should be necessary on their march.  So, if the right of citation is given to the Assembly, it includes the right of calling for persons and papers.  They may appoint a commission to carry their citation into effect, and this commission may send for men and papers ; they may require the records of Presbyteries and Sessions.  Mr. Jessup had said, that no power of the Assembly could reach the records of his Presbytery ; but if refused, it would be under the penalty of contumacy, and if this were not so, the whole thing would be no better than a consummate farce ; if testimony could not be demanded, then we might as well go home at once.  It had been acknowledged, that we had the power to reprove, but how could this be done, unless there was some way of getting at the proof?  The changes had been rung on “trampling the constitution under our feet ;” but there were two senses in which the constitution might be brought under our feet.  We might place our feet on it as we would on the rock of Gilbraltar, as a secure foundation, and in this way the brethren who acted with him had it under their feet ; and in another sense, it might be trampled under foot with scorn, the way in which it was treated by some others.  One gentleman had solemnly averred, that the constitution had provided only for process against an individual, and yet there was the Book expressly providing for the citation of judicatories!  It was rendered incumbent on the superior judicatory to take this course, and if it had power to call for records.  He was glad to hear the gentleman from Lane Seminary acknowledge, that reform was necessary, but the remedy he proposed was inefficient : mere advice and exhortation would not do ; the stronger measure which was now proposed, was the only one that was adequate.  Two things he would now state as a tribute to charity; and the first was, that there was no contention between old-school men and Congregationalists as such.  There was no war on New England and its old theology.  When the late Dr. Porter was spending a winter to the south, he was invited to deliver a course of lectures in an old-school Theological Seminary : that was no proof of hostility to New England; and the name of Nettleton and others of similar stamp, was held in reverence by old-school men.  It should be known then, that we wage no war against the Congregationalism of New England or the theology of Edwards. And again, he would say, that we have no contest with other denominations ; we cherish for them the most fraternal feelings, and extend to them our Christian regards.  On the contrary, it is for the orer, the constitution, the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church, that we contend.

Friday Morning, May 26.

Dr. Peters. Tlie first resolution under consideration, proposes the citation of inferior judicatories ; and the proceeding is extraordinary ; it should not be entered on, unless the common fame is definite and attaches to persons.  If the individuals were named who are charge, then we would go the work.  It is most extraordinary that this great court of errors, should lay aside its regular judicial business, to hunt after a criminal ; there is no provision in the book for this.  He would again call attention to the powers of the Assembly as laid down in the form of Government, Chap. XII. sec. 5. and here there was not a word said as to the mode of exercising the power.  Mr. Plumer goes for authority to the Scotch Church, but he would go to the book of Discipline, Chap. VII, 1,2, for the mode.  There it is provided that cases must go from lower to higher judicatories, and the process must be against individuals.  The power of citation is admitted, but it is not for trial, as as you do not know that there will be ground for trial, but merely that the matter may be remitted.  It is for a mere inquiry, to know what they have done or left undone ; then you may issue an order, and if they refuse obedience, then you may cite again for trial, and although the old Book does not exactly specify what is to be done, yet you unquestionably have the right of trial.  There is another way of testifying against errors, if we could only get them within the rules of this house.  He could not consent to cite, because he did not know what judicatories were to be cited, and it was to him an unparalled departure from dignity in this house to go out to hunt for criminals.—As to excluding members from their seats, he thought we were legislating beyond our bounds, when we legislated for another Assembly.  Dr. Baxter has taken the position that the ministers of Congregational churches have no right to seats in this house, and that the measures now before you are a continuation of the work already accomplished ; but he would reply, that the churches formed under the union were lawfully formed agreeably to the stipulations between the Presbyterian Church and the association of Connecticut.  Can we now say that the union was unconstitutional? One half hour before its abrogation, these churches were regular, but now it is said they are irregular ; if so, why not now discipline them and they may yet become regular.  He felt no alarm at the abrogation of the resolutions as they could not affect the churches, which had been formed under the Assembly’s rule.  Your abrogation is a nullity ; it only prevents other churches from being formed on this principle.  You are bound to protect these churches and not rashly and rudely to break up their foundations.  Are you going to exclude ministers because they are pastors of Congregational Churches?  Why a Presbytery consists of all the ministers within a certain district, with a ruling elder from each church, and although one may be a tobacconist, another a book merchant, and a third a seller of cotton and purple, yet you do not interfere or vitiate their standing.  To cut off immediately has been the doctrine avowed on this floor and in the Convention, and it is certainly very convenient to say that because there is a common fame against them, they should be excluded ; this is the shortest way, and therefore, said to be the best.  Mr. Plumer quotes Scotch authority for this, although he has no idea of the rule applying to the South.  We were told yesterday, very logically, that as no system provides for its own dissolution, that therefore, we must adopt unconstitutional measures, lest the Assembly should stultify itself.  He had pleasure in referring to the mere pacific remarks of Dr. Baxter, who supposed that two families under the same roof would come into collision, and that peace would be promoted by a separation.  But divisions cannot be ; the constitution binds us together ; and if any are dissatisfied, they can retire and plant their flag outside.  If, however, a proposition to this effect were kindly made, it would be received in the same spirit ; an amicable division might take place, but we are not to be driven from this blessed constitution.  We have no proposition for division to make, but if it should come from another quarter, he would promote it by any proper means ; for he was persuaded, that the sooner the parties were apart, the sooner the atmosphere between them would be clarified, and they be prepared to unite on higher grounds.

Dr. McAuley, would not commence by stating, as many had, that he had but “a word” to say, and then speak half an hour, which time, however he certainly would not speak.  He was unwell ; and desired only to administer a corrective to some of his friends who quoted authorities from the church of Scotland.  He would read from the “Compend” of the Laws of that Church, to show what was the power of the commissions which are integral parts of the constitution of the Scotch Church.

[Dr. McAuley then read, and commented on various parts of the book for the space of half an hour, to show that the Church of Scotland was in union with the state, and of course, that the acts of that Church were of no authority in interpreting our constitution.]

Dr. McAuley then alluded to the constitution of the Church which, he contended, did not authorize the General Assembly to institute these proceedings.  He went on further to argue, that if this Assembly could exclude members from the next house by these resolutions, the Presbyteries to which they belonged could not even elect Commissioners to the Assembly,—nor perform any of the acts appropriate to the offices of the ministry and eldership.  He hoped there was good sense and loyalty enough to prevent the passages of these resolutions ; which, while he would condemn heresy, he considered an unlawful method of attaining a right end.  That end would be obtained at the proper time, if we adhered to the constitution.  God is long suffering to usward, and he would be so to erring brethren.  Bear with them, and you may reclaim them.

In allusion to Presbyterian Ministers preaching to Congregational Churches, he contended, that this was as proper, as for such ministers to abandon the preaching of the Gospel, to engage in merchandise, or edit mis-called religious newspapers—but who were nevertheless allowed to sit in our judicatories.  Every minister who has taken our Book,—not “for substance of doctrine,” but sincerely and fully, is a duly qualified minister, and may sit in the General Assembly.  I believe, that we may reach errorists another way than by these resolutions.  Every man, who is not a sound Presbyterian, ought to go out from us, or to be turned out.

He did not know, that any of the doctrines specified in the list presented by the Committee on the Memorial, existed in the Church ; and until it was proved, that the ministers who were to be excluded really did hold these or similar errors, they must be allowed all their constitutional rights.

A few words as to common fame.  I am incredulous as to the existence of any common fame.  But, I am asked, “What, have you not read the religious newspapers?”, I look at my book, which defines common fame, and it says, that rashness, censoriousness or malice, in the individual raising a general rumour invalidates it.  It is not common fame at all.  A man may get the control of a religious paper, and use it for the purpose of attacking the character of ministers, and then call this common fame.  But this is nothing but common fame against the propagator.  Such men ought to be censured for publishing such a dreadful common fame.  Before we go forward in this business let us see who common fame is, and what it says.

There is but a paltry gain, as three years will show, to be made by pursuing the plan of these resolutions.  Let us not, for such an end, incur the great expense, which it involves.

There was then a call for the previous question, which was agreed to ; the main question was then put, and the ayes and noes being called, the question was carried in the affirmative, as follows :

Yeas—Platt, Leggett, J.R. Johnson, R. J. Crawford, Wilkin, Frame, Owen, Edwards, Sturges, Goldsmith, Potts, S. Boyd, Lenox, Murray, McDowell, Ogilvie, Dr. A. Alexander, Yeomans, W. Wilson, Woodhull, Junkin, Lowe, King, J. Wilson, Dorrance, Harris, Green, Latta, Fahnestock, Symington, Cuyler, Darrach, Davie, Hamilton, Penny, Breckinridge, Hickson, M.B. Patterson, Creigh, McKeenan, Fullerton, Williamson, Long, J.H. Crier, J.B. Boyd, Hughes, Cook, Annan, Ewing, Slagle, Baird,, Kiddoo, Gladden, J.W. Johnston, Lowrie, Mitchel, Hannah, Stratton, Adair, Tait, McCrackin, Van Deman, W. Patterson, S. Wilson, R. Miller, Beer, McCombs, Torrance, Turner, Crane, Osburn, Golladay, James Coe, Marquis, H. Patton, M.J. Smith, Blythe, Marshal, McKennan, Stafford, J.H. Rice, W.K. Stewart, Bailey, Hopkins, C.S. Todd, C. Stuart, Irwin, A. Todd, Hendren, Morrison, Moore, J. Alexander, W.H. Foote, Baxter, Hart, Anderson, Plumer, Dunn, Graham, Caruthers, McQueen, Potter, Pharr, Andrews, Watts, Dr. Brown, Conkey, Galbraith, Patton, Sloss, Leatch, Hodge, J. Greer, Ross, Simpson, J. Witherspoon, Coit, Leland, Pratt, Howard, Goulding, J.S. Witherspoon, Morgan, D. Johnson, Van Court, Banks, J. Smylie, N. Smylie—128.

Nays—C. Cutler, Southworth, Holt, Burnap, Beman, Hayden, Wickware, Rand, Wood, Griswold, Macgoffin, Porter, Cone, etc.—122.

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Calvary was his hiding place

It must be some sort of record. Think of it! The pastor ministered all sixty-three years in the same church. And those six decades were through some of the momentous years in our nation, to say nothing, of the history of the Presbyterian church.

Gardiner SpringBorn in Newburyport, Massachusetts on February 24, 1785, Gardiner Spring attended Berwick Academy in Maine. He then went to and graduated from Yale University in 1805. Married the following year, he and his new bride Susan moved to Bermuda where Gardiner Spring taught the classics and mathematics. This was only for some income, as his real purpose was to study law. And he was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut in 1808. Receiving a call to the ministry, he went to Andover Theological Seminary for one year and was called to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1810, never to leave its pulpit.

It was an active pulpit for the minister. After 40 years of ministry, it was said that he had preached 6000 sermons, received 2092 into the membership roll, baptized 1361 infants and adults, and married 875 couples. Along the way, he had written also 14 books, at least one of which is still being printed today. If the reader doesn’t posses “The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character,” he is urged to buy one immediately. It answers the question as to how do we know we have eternal life.

Many Christians, and especially those in our Southern states are aware that it was Gardiner Spring who authored the resolutions in 1861 to place the Presbyterian Church (Old School) solidly behind the Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln. That action split the Presbyterian Church into two — North and South Old School. We will consider on May 16 the pros and cons of that resolution.

For now, consider the following words in a letter of Gardiner Spring, just nine years after he had begun his ministry at Brick Presbyterian. On occasion of his birthday, he wrote:

gspring02“Still in this world of hope! In defiance of all sins of the past years, and a guilty life, I am permitted to see another birthday. I have been often surprised that I am suffered to live. Blessed be God, I am not afraid to die, and often more afraid to live. I am an abject sinner, and it will indeed be wonderful grace if I ever sit down with Christ at the Supper of the Lamb. That grace is my strong refuge; Calvary is my hiding place. I hope in the grace and guardianship and faithfulness of that omnipotent Redeemer, to be kept from falling and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. This text has often comforted me, when I have been afraid of trusting in the divine mercy. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ It affords me unutterable pleasure to feel that I am not denied the privilege of laying my own soul beneath the droppings of the same blood I have for nine years recommended to my dying and guilty men.”

Words to Live By: We should take the opportunity which a birthday gives to us, as well as other proverbial milestones in our lives, to meditate on the grace of God in Christ in our lives, as well as the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit is doing within those lives. You might even keep a notebook or journal in which you write down your observation of God’s many providences and blessings. Such a journal can be a great blessing when faith may falter, and it can be a wonderful testimony to your children and your children’s children.

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Despite Your Weaknesses—Often Because of Your Weaknesses—God Can Use You.  

It has always been an issue with some of the covenant people of God that they often cannot relate a particular time when they came to a saving relationship with Christ.  Such was the case with a young man by the name of Eleazer Whittlesey, who moved from Bethlem, Connecticut, to Pennsylvania in the mid 1700’s.

We don’t know much about his background, either his parents or what spiritual influences he had from any church.  He showed up to meet Aaron Burr in Newark, New Jersey by a recommendation from a man named Ballamy.  The infant and later Princeton Seminary was located there, with Pastor Burr as its second president.  The latter clergyman noted that he was “not converted in the way” that many of the Presbyterian clergy of his day thought was necessary.  In fact, President Burr spoke of  having “some doubt” of  his spiritual experience.  He went on to state that “he has met with others of God’s dear people, who cannot tell of such a particular submission as we have insisted on, though the substance of the thing may be found in all.”  However, Rev. Burr placed Eleazar under his pastoral care and believed that he was making good progress in learning.  He ended his thoughts by stating that “I trust the Lord has work for him to do.”

Seven years later, Eleazer would graduate from Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey, to which the new college has moved.  He was licensed by the New Castle Presbytery soon afterwards.  We could find no record of his ordination however.  In 1750, he began to supply vacancies, of which there were many at this time in American Presbytery history.  Yet while  doing that “with zeal and integrity,” Eleazer complained of “melancholy”  which kept  him from being able to study or make preparation for sermons in the pulpit.  His days, he acknowledged, were often spent in “painful idleness.”

In 1751, Whittlesey settled in what is now York County, Pennsylvania, where  he began to preach in a log church in Muddy Run.  Faithful in labor in all the neighboring settlements, it was said that he formed the Slate Ridge and Chanceford Presbyterian churches, composed of Scots-Irish  people.

In 1752, he left a pastor’s house one cold day to travel to the Muddy Run church.  On the way, he became ill with pleurisy, and died about a week later on December 21, 1752.  His last words were “O  Lord, leave me not.”

Words to Live By: We remember the apostle Paul who had “a thorn in the flesh,” and prayed earnestly that it might depart from him. ( 2 Corinthians 12:7, 8)  God answered his request with the word “My grace is sufficient for you, for power in perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor 12;9) God can use us for His kingdom despite our bodily and mental weaknesses.   Remember that, Christian.

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