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Man Knows Not His Time.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”—(Psalm 90:12, KJV)

It was on this day, January 19th, in 1812, that the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller delivered a sermon “at the request of a number of young gentlemen of the city of New-York who had assembled to express their condolence with the inhabitants of Richmond, on the late mournful dispensation of Providence in that city.” A terrible event, the tragedy caught the attention of the young nation, and throughout the Church, not a few pastors addressed themselves to various aspects of the horrible fire. [See a partial list at the end of the sermon text, below.] By way of background, as Dr. Miller himself relates in a note suffixed to his sermon:—

“On the night of December 26, 1811, the theatre in the city of Richmond, Virginia, was unusually crowded; a new play having drawn together an audience of not less than six hundred persons. Toward the close of the performances, just before the commencement of the last act of the concluding pantomime, the scenery caught fire, from a lamp inadvertently raised to an improper position, and, in a few minutes the whole building was wrapped in flames. The doors being very few, and the avenues leading to them extremely narrow, the scene which ensued was truly a scene of horror! It may be in some degree imagined, but can never be adequately described!—About seventy-five persons perished in the flames. Among these were the governor of the State; the President of the Bank of Virginia; one of the most eminent Attorneys belonging to the bar of the commonwealth; a number of other respectable Gentlemen; and about fifty females, a large portion of whom were among the Ladies of the greatest conspicuity and fashion in the city.”


In Dr. Miller’s sermon, the first two major points of his sermon are much more in keeping with what we might expect. However, in his third division of the sermon—the moral applicationMiller uses the occasion to speak out against the theatre as an institution. In this, he echoed a common sentiment among Christians of his day, who generally opposed the theatre and the profession of acting.

For those with the time and interest to read, the text of Dr. Miller’s sermon follows.


Lamentations 2:1,13: How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth, the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger! What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? For thy breach is great like the sea; who can heal thee?

THE prophet Jeremiah lived in a dark and distressing day. Religion, among his countrymen, had sunk to an ebb awfully low. The body of the people had become extremely licentious in principle, and corrupt in practice. And a holy God had visited them with many tokens of his righteous displeasure. By fire, by famine, by pestilence, and by the sword, he had taught them terrible things in righteousness; until, at length, wearied with their iniquities, he delivered them into the hands of their enemies, by whom they were, as a people, nearly destroyed.

Over this melancholy scene of guilt and suffering the Prophet composed his Lamentations. And never were scenes of misery, and feelings of anguish, painted with a more masterly hand. Never were the pathos and tenderness, as well as the force of grief, more strongly displayed. As one of the ancient Fathers beautifully expresses it, “every letter appears to be written with a tear, and every word to be the sound of a broken heart; and the writer a man of sorrows, who scarcely ever breathed but in sighs, or spoke but in groans.”

Having been requested, on this occasion, to address my audience with reference to a late awful calamity, well known to you all, which had destroyed many valuable lives, and has covered a sister City with mourning; I have chosen the words just read as the foundation of what shall be offered. May the great Master of assemblies direct us to such an application of them as shall be profitable to every hearer!

How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto earth, the beauty of Israel! What shall I take to witness for thee? What thing shall I liken unto thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O daughter of Zion? For thy breach is great, like the sea; who can heal thee?

Without staying, at present, to explain in detail the several parts of this passage, I shall only observe, that by the daughter of Zion, and the daughter of Jerusalem, we are to understand, by a figure common with this Prophet, the inhabitants of the Jewish capital, in which Zion stood; or rather the Jewish nation, the covenanted people, the visible Church of God, under the Old Testament economy. Of course, what the Prophet applies to that afflicted city, may, without impropriety, be applied either to the whole, or any part of a community, who call themselves a Christian people; or who are embraced even by the most lax profession, within the pale of the visible Church.

We may therefore consider the text first, as a devout acknowledgment of the hand of God, in the afflictions which the Prophet laments;—secondly, as an expression of sympathy with the afflicted;—thirdly, as pointing to the moral application of the calamities which he deplored.

I. There is, in the passage before us, a devout acknowledgment of the hand of God, in the affliction which the prophet laments. How hath the LORD covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger! How hath the LORD cast down the beauty of Israel!

The doctrine, that the providence of God extends to all events, both in the natural and moral world; that nothing comes to pass without either his direct agency, or, at least, his wise permission and control; is a doctrine not only laid down in the plainest and most pointed manner in scripture; but also one which results from the perfections and the government of God when admitted in almost any sense. If there be a general providence, there must be a particular one. If God govern the world at all, he must order and direct everything, without exception. Yes, brethren, if it were possible for a sparrow to fall to the ground without our heavenly Father; or if it were possible for the hairs of any head to fail of being numbered by the infinite One; in short, if it were possible that there should be anything not under the immediate and the constant control of the Governor of the world; then it would follow that some things may take place contrary to his will; then prayer would be a useless, nay, an unmeaning service; then Jehovah would be liable, every moment, to be arrested or disappointed in the progress of his plans, by the caprice of accident. But, if none of these things can be supposed without blasphemy, then the providence of God is particular as well as universal. It extends to all creatures, and all their actions.—Is there evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it? No; the devouring fire; the overwhelming tempest; the resistless lightning; the raging pestilence; the wasting famine; and the bloody sword, even when wielded by the vilest of men, are all instruments in the hand of God for accomplishing his will and pleasure. And as the providence of God is actually concerned in every thing which befalls individuals or communities; so he requires us to notice and to acknowledge that providence in all his dispensations towards us. Not to regard the work of the Lord, or not to consider the operation of his hands, he pronounces to be sin; and denying his agency in the works of providence, he expressly condemns, as giving his glory to another.

While, therefore, we deplore the heart-rending calamity which had fallen upon a neighboring city, let us not forget, or place out of sight, the hand of God in the awful scene. It was not the work of chance. A righteous God has done it. His breath kindled the devouring flame. Not a spark of the raging element rose or fell without his providential guidance: not a victim sunk under its destroying power, without the discriminating and immediate hand of sovereign Wisdom. He ordered and controlled all the circumstances attending the melancholy scene. He doth not, indeed afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. But still affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground. What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil also? The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!

II. The Language of the mourning Prophet, while it notices and acknowledges the hand of God in the calamities which it deplores, at the same time expresses the tenderest sympathy for the sufferers. This is indicated in every line of our text and context: and it is the feeling which ought to be cherished upon every similar occasion.

To sympathize with suffering humanity, however that suffering may have been produced, is a dictate of nature, as well as demanded by the authority of our common Creator. Thou shalt weep with them that weep, is a divine precept. When one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it. Thus it is in the social as well as in the physical body. Thus it is in domestic society. And thus it ought to be in the large family of a city, a state, or a nation. When one part of a nation is afflicted, all the rest ought to feel for it. When, therefore, any of our friends or neighbors, or any of the most remote portions of the same associated family are visited with any signal calamity, we are bound to consider it not only as a solemn lesson addressed to the whole body; but also as calling upon us to feel for, and sympathize with them; as they, under like circumstances, ought to sympathize with, and feel for us. When this is not the case, one great design of Jehovah’s judgments, which is to instruct and to impress a whole people, by the calamities of a part, is, undoubtedly, speaking after the manner of men, opposed and defeated.

The melancholy dispensation of providence which we this day deplore, is one pre-eminently calculated to interest the feelings, and to excite the tenderest sympathy of very mind. How shall we speak of a scene of such complicated horror? The heart sickens at the dreadful recital! When our beloved relatives die on the bed of disease, the event is solemn, and the bereavement trying; but it is the course of nature; and the frequency of the occurrence disarms it of more than half its terrors. When our friends and neighbors fall in battle, the stroke is painful; but the soldier is expected, by himself and by others, to be in danger of such an end. When those who sail on the mighty deep, are dashed on the rocks, or swallowed up in the merciless waves, we mourn over the catastrophe; but when be bade them farewell, we remembered that they might never return.

But how shall we describe a calamity which has plunged a whole city into agony and tears? A calamity which, to the number and the importance of its victims, added all the circumstances of horror which can well be conceived, to overwhelm the mind! How sudden the burst of destruction! How unexpected its approach, at such a place, and at such a time! What complicated agony, both to the sufferers and to the survivors, attended its fatal progress! But I dare not attempt further to depict a scene from which the mind revolts with shuddering!

Is there a Husband or a Wife who does not feel for those who saw beloved companions writhing in the merciless flames, and sinking in the most dreadful of all deaths, without being able to afford them relief? Is there a Parent who does not feel for those agonizing fathers and mothers, who saw their endeared and promising children torn from them in an hour of unsuspecting confidence and mirth? Is there a Brother or a Sister who does not sympathize with those almost frantic survivors, who were compelled to abandon to their cruel fate relatives dear to them as life? Is there a Patriot who does not feel for the fatal stroke which snatched an amiable and respectable Chief Magistrate from the bosom of a beloved family, and from the confidence of his fellow citizens? Is there a mind capable of admiring the attractive, the interesting, and the elegant, who is not ready to drop a tear over youth, beauty, genius, learning, and active worth, all sinking together in one smoking ruin? Is there a heart alive to the delights of society, and the endearments of friendship, who does not mourn over the melancholy chasm, which has been made in the social circles of that hapless city?—O Richmond! bereaved and mourning Richmond! What shall we say unto thee? How shall we comfort thee? Thy breach is great like the sea; who can heal thee? None but that God who has inflicted the stroke! O that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, that we might weep over the slain of the daughter of thy people!

III. We may consider the passage before us as pointing to the moral application of the calamities which it deplores. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Madness Rules the Streets

Samuel Clark Aiken (1791-1879) was born in Windham, Vermont on the 21st day of September, 1791. Educated at Middlebury College and Andover Theological Seminary, he served the First Presbyterian Church of Utica, New York for seventeen years before answering a call to serve the only Presbyterian church in Cleveland, Ohio. The remainder of his years were spent serving the Old Stone Church, from 1835 until his retirement in 1861. He died in the first hour of the first day of the first month of 1879, at the age of 88. While serving faithfully and efficiently as the pastor of the church, Rev. Aiken was also quite active in civic affairs, while also addressing a number of societal issues.

Here today we present the opening portion of one of Rev. Aiken’s sermons. In this sermon, he addresses the growing problem of prostitution in America in the 1830’s. As then, so today it seems we think that such things cannot be spoken of in polite society, and that in turns becomes a shielding cover for the problem. His description of Paris in the early nineteenth-century sounds all too familiar. Rev. Aiken’s sermon is wrapped in some of the typically elaborate nineteenth-century style, but cut past that to read the crux of what he is saying. That encumbrance aside, you don’t hear sermons on such subjects today. Why is that?

Moral Reform: A Sermon delivered at Utica, on Sabbath evening, February 16, 1834.

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” – Proverbs 7:27.

What a picture this book gives of the crime of lewdness! The painter threw upon canvas the reality as it existed three thousand years ago, and it worthy of notice, that since that period it has undergone no essential change. I question, whether in the infancy of the world, and in the days of ignorance that followed, this vice was generally more prominent or prevalent, even among gentiles, than it is at present moment, in some towns and cities in these United States.

I make no apology for bringing this subject before a Christian congregation. I give no pledge to hold my peace, even after speaking once, unless the friends of virtue pledge themselves to act.

As one set for the defence of religion and public morals, I acknowledge my error in having remained silent so long. I am happy to make the confession; for, with my present convictions of duty, whatever may be the views of my respected fellow-laborers in the ministry, until I expose the nakedness of this vice, and sound a note of alarm in this community, I can never say with the apostle, that “I am pure from the blood of all men,” and, that “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

My office out of the question, I hold no parley with that morbid fastidiousness which trembles and shrinks from any open and manly effort to cure the evil. Nor have I the least regard or veneration for that artificial and sickly delicacy, which, for ages, has bound the friends of virtue in fetters of iron, and charmed them into a most fatal silence and apathy. I believe it to be in part the creature of a false education, and in part the wily policy of the devil, to maintain his empire of pollution, by assuming so great and over-weening a regard for purity, as to be unable to endure the disclosures of vice. To cover up, to cover up, is the master policy of the prince of darkness. “He that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Well fitted to sustain and advance his nefarious purposes, is the doctrine, coolly and deliberately advocated by the friends of virtue, yes, and by the pimps of vice also, that here is an immorality not to be spoken of in public. We may contemplate it in pictures, in books, in caricatures, as drawn by the moralist, the satirist, and the artist; we may see innocence seduced and ruined, and the villain walking the street and receiving the courtesies of the virtuous; we may know that haunts of crime are standing by day and night under the shade of our church-steeples; we may see our sons and daughters entering them, never to return, and in secret lamentation spend the residue of life, and finally sink in sorrow to our graves; we may see that cloud of wrath gathering over our land, which overthrew Sodom, the nations of Canaan, Babylon, and Nineveh; we may hear the dark waters rumbling beneath our feet, and breaking up the foundations of personal, domestic, and civil happiness; in short, we may see the monster invade the sanctity of the church, and plant his foot upon the very altar of God; but we must say nothing; we must do nothing. The habits of society–the claims of modesty demand silence, forbid action. Our lips are hermetically sealed, while the heart is bursting with anguish! The principle is absurd and cruel; unnatural, irrational, and anti-Christian. True virtue spurns its aid. Unaffected, native, heaven-born delicacy contemns the simpering smiles of the serpent, which, under the pretence of great regard for virtue’s cause, allows the young and beautiful of our land to rush in untold numbers, unheeded and unwarned, down to the bottomless pit.

I have not come here to portray the evils of lewdess as they exist in our cities. Were it proper or practicable, I have not the vanity to believe it to be within the compass of my talent to do it. Nor is the genius of Milton, or the pencil of Raphael competent to the task. It is a mystery of iniquity that must, to a great degree, remain hidden till the judgment, because it beggars description.

These remarks are not made on the strength of report. The Providence of God once placed me as a missionary in the city of New York. In company with the friends of humanity, I have visited the abodes of abandonment to attend upon the dead, and to preach the gospel to the living; and I should as soon think of drawing a picture of hell itself, as giving a complete view of one of its outer courts.

Were it my object to depict the demoralising influence of the crime of lewdness upon society, perhaps it could not be done better than by holding up the history of France, in the days of her pollution and blood. “In that reign of infidelity and terror,” says an eloquent writer, “it should never be forgotten, that contempt for the laws of chastity, and breaking loose from the legalized restraints of virtue, were the order of the day, and of the night. A republican or infidel marriage was in derision, and, by the vile themselves, denominated the sacrament of adultery! Prostitutes were enthroned–borne in triumph–and even worshipped as the goddesses of reason and the guardians of public morals and happiness. Lust and rapine, hand in hand, waded through clotted blood in the streets of Paris. Thus, when the ten commandments, and especially the fourth and seventh, were publicly abrogated in France, the mighty God stood aloof, and a scene of proscription, of assassination and woe ensued, unparalleled in the annals of the civilized world. In the city of Paris, there were, in 1803, eight hundred and seven suicides and murders. Among the criminals executed, there were seven fathers who had poisoned their children–ten husbands who had murdered their wives–six wives who had poisoned their husbands, and fifteen children who had assassinated their parents! Within eighteen months after the abrogation of the marriage covenant, in that reprobate kingdom, twenty thousand divorces were effected. In the space of ten years, three millions of human beings, as is computed, perished by violence, in that land of infidelity and lust.” [Waterman’s Address to the friends of moral reform in Providence.]

France discarded the Bible. The Almighty withdrew His restraining hand, and permitted a nation to try the experiment of living without religion. Human passions broke loose from moral responsibility, and flowed in torrents of pollution and blood. The world stood aghast, and trembled at the spectacle, and the result stands out in bold relief upon the records of that ill-fated kingdom. Let us mark it well, and remember the fearfl denunciation of Jehovah: “Ye shall not commit any of these abominations, that the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations which were before you.”

The whole tribe of libertines are so many vultures upon the body politic. Religion, patriotism, domestic peace, and public tranquility, are strangers to their bosoms. There is nothing lovely, nothing valuable on earth with which they are not at war. Beauty, health, reputation. The marriage covenant–that strong defence and glory of society–and all the tender sympathies and relations of social life, wither and die under their blighting touch. One house of abandonment in a community, is worse than the cholera. The noxious miasma perpetually issuing from it, poisons all the fountains and streams of life. It is impossible to estimate its baneful influence upon private and public morals. If the fire consumes your dwelling or merchandise, it is a loss which industry and economy will restore. If the pestilence removes our friends to another world, it permits them to leave behind a good name. If the pirate seizes upon his victim, he either kills or sends him adrift upon the high seas. If the robber or assassin enters a shop or family, they can at the most only take a little property, or the lives of a few individuals; and when the deed is committed, public indignation stands ready to burst upon them, and to hand them over to justice. But the libertine–more horrible than the pestilence, the pirate, the robber, or the boa-constrictor–rushes from his ambush, throws his deadly coils around his victim, not to give repose in death, but to bury alive in the grave of infamy. In what a fearful condition must be that town or city, where such demons in human shape collect and roam at large! Where is safety or happiness in the midst of such prowling wolves, and especially, when the public mind is overawed by their number and reputed respectability, and no voice dares utter a complaint . . .?

To read the entire sermon, click here.

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Living in an Abnormal World

May 15th marks the death of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, in 1984. Dr. Schaeffer and Dr. Robert G. Rayburn were close friends who had gone through many challenges together, as Dr. Rayburn relates here in the following eulogy, delivered in memory of Dr. Schaeffer. What is not told here in Rayburn’s eulogy is how they both faced death in the early 1980’s, both men having been diagnosed with cancer, and how Schaeffer continued to prove himself a constant friend, writing to Rayburn to encourage him. About three years before his own death, Dr. Schaeffer wrote, upon hearing of a recurrence of Rayburn’s cancer:—
“Living this way has one advantage and that is we have had brought into sharp focus the reality of what is true for everybody from conception onward and that is that we are all mortal in this abnormal world.” 

Dr. Robert G. Rayburn’s Eulogy for Francis Schaeffer:

schaeffer02My first contact with Francis Schaeffer came at a very critical time in my life. I had just suffered an experience which had a shattering effect upon me. I had been tried and deposed from the ministry of the denomination in which I was born, reared and educated and in which I had served as a chaplain on the battlefields of World War II. I was still in the uniform of my country when the sentence of deposition was pronounced upon me by my presbytery. Actually, I was declared guilty and deposed from the ministry for thinking about doing something which I had never done! No word of proof was ever introduced into the trial which established the fact that I had violated my ordination vows. My “guilt” was established entirely on my admission that I had written a letter in which I indicated deep distress over the growing liberalism in my denomination and confessed that I had seriously considered leaving it.

It would be difficult for anyone who had not passed through the experience of being stripped of his ministerial standing and told he was not welcome in the church he had sought to serve faithfully to understand what a traumatic incident this was in my life. The details of that episode in my life do not belong here. What is of deep significance to me is the fact that although he had never known me personally, when Francis Schaeffer learned of the action of my presbytery, he came to see me traveling the considerable distance from St. Louis where he was pastor of a growing congregation to Texas where my trial had been held and where I was endeavoring to decide what my future ministry was to be.

Although Francis had never personally experienced the shock of ecclesiastical censure, I was impressed almost immediately with the fact that here was a man who seemed to have grasped the reality of genuine Christian empathy. He could and did “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

He was quite willing for me to share with him the details of the event which had both grieved and humiliated me. He understood my pain. At the same time he kept reminding me of the never-faiiing love of the Lord and of His promises never to forsake those who are His very own. He reminded me that I had preached to others the never-failing grace of God and gently called me to that implicit trust in God which I had entreated others to demonstrate in their lives. I had never before experienced such an amazing combination of deep understanding based upon genuine Christian love and absolute loyalty to the sure word of Scripture. Francis and I sat alone for several hours sharing our thoughts. We continued this fellowship as we went for a long walk together. From that day on we were close friends!

Another aspect of Francis Schaeffer’s character became clear to me when it came time for me to be examined for reception into the presbytery of the small denomination in which he was a teaching elder. His personal vital interest in me had been a major factor in my decision to seek membership in the Bible Presbyterian Church, yet I realized that there were some potential doctrinal problems. I had come under the strong influence of Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer while doing my graduate work at Dallas Seminary and had embraced a substantial amount of his dispensational theology, enough so that I could be granted a degree from the seminary. I had been uneasy about certain points of doctrine in the dispensational system but had resolved to work out my problems in further study when I returned to the pastorate. I shared my concerns with Francis and discovered in him a wonderful willingness to be patient with my lack of precision in some areas of doctrine. On long walks together he questioned me carefully and thoroughly on all of the major doctrines of Presbyterianism as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, and because I held firmly to such distinctive doctrines as infant baptism and the so-called five points of Calvinism, he assured me that he felt I could come to more fully understand the unique facets of Covenant Theology as a member of the presbytery and that he would use his influence in the presbytery to bring about my reception. There was both kindness and patience manifest in his attitude.

It was not long before I had justified his confidence by embracing thoroughly the Reformed doctrine of the Westminster Standards in all details. I have asked myself many times since whether I would have the same patience and understanding with a young minister seeking admission to my presbytery that Francis Schaeffer manifested with me.

It was not long after I became a member of the Bible Presbyterian Church that a crisis developed and a division occurred which had profound effects upon the lives of both Francis Schaeffer and me. He had resigned his pastorate in St. Louis and had gone to Europe to work with children, thinking that this kind of evangelistic activity provided perhaps the best hope of exerting a strong influence on European society and bringing back a powerful evangelistic witness in the Protestant churches of that continent. I had been summarily and involuntarily called from my pastorate to return to the army chaplaincy and had spent several months on the battlefields of Korea where God had richly blessed the preaching of the Word.

Returning to civilian life I accepted the presidency of a small struggling college in Pasadena, California, which had been established by energetic minsters and laymen in my own denomination. The school was independent of denominational control, but I was assured by the board of trustees that it was founded to further the purposes of my denomination. This was a vital challenge.

As I once again became able to be active in the courts of my church, I began to be troubled by several things which were taking place, particularly in our participation in two small interdenominational councils of churches on both the national and world level. A discussion of these issues is not necessary here. It is of interest, however, that when I wrote to Francis about these concerns, he answered immediately assuring me that he was deeply troubled about the same matters, and he was looking at our church and its activities from a European perspective. In our correspondence we continued to share items from both continents which troubled us. Our principal concern was the honor of the Lord and the realization that He could not bless us as we needed to be blessed unless our denominational programs were conducted in complete accord with the high standards of the Word of God.

In the providence of God the Schaeffers returned to the States for a few weeks, and we invited Francis to come to preach the Word of God in southern California. Then we made arrangements to drive together across the continent to South Carolina for the annual meeting of the Synod of our denomination. I had been elected by the Synod the previous year to a place on the church’s delegation to the American Council of Christian Churches. Sensing my responsibility in this position, I had made serious inquiries into the activities of this association, and the more I learned the more disturbed I became. On our trip across the country we shared the information we had acquired, Schaeffer on the international scene with the work of the International Council of Churches, and I on the national activities of the American Council. We heartily agreed that the church must be aroused to the need of purifying its witness.

Since I was an official delegate of the denomination and therefore had the obligation to report my findings to the Synod, it was obvious that I had the responsibility to alert the church to the problems and sound a warning concerning the need for reform in certain areas if we were going to experience the blessing of the Lord. Neither Francis nor I had expressed any desire for anything but a recognition of the problems and a change in some of the policies of the council. Both of us were convinced that the testimony of these interdenominational councils was valuable and much needed. The changes we desired were to bring the work more fully under the blessing of God.

After I gave my report to the Synod, however, a wave of accusations against Francis Schaeffer and me swept over the church. It came largely from Dr. Carl McIntire in his paper The Christian Beacon, but his charges were echoed by those in the denomination who accepted his analysis of the situation without carefully examining the facts which had been presented.

It was then that i learned how completely lacking in a vindictive spirit Francis Schaeffer was and how forbearing he was in the face of false charges. He was denounced as having plotted with me to take over the denominational leadership. He was accused of putting me up to formulating the report which I had given so that it would enhance his leadership in the church and in the International Council. None of the charges had any basis in fact. It was a blessing to me, however, to observe how unconcerned Schaeffer was in defending himself. His continuing concern was to remove from the church any activities which did not reflect the glory of the Lord. As we prayed together in the fellowship of our long journey, our concern was entirely for the spiritual well-being of the church which both of us loved.

The tragic results of the bitter denunciations which were hurled against Schaeffer and me need not occupy our attention here. Dr. Schaeffer returned to Europe where fortunately he was beyond the reach of anyone who might want to punish him for being implicated with me in disturbing the church. The Bible Presbyterian Church at its Synod voted decisively to demand some changes in the policies of the American and International Councils. It was not long, of course, before Dr. McIntire led a small group of his followers out of the church and formed another denomination using the same name. Our denomination changed its name to avoid confusion and soon merged with another small denomination and became the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, which was blessed with steady growth and in recent years has merged with the Presbyterian Church in America. In all of this progress Dr. Schaeffer’s influence has been strongly felt as in his correspondence as well as his occasional trips to the U.S.A. he has encouraged ministers and laymen alike to demonstrate their loyalty to the Scriptures and their love for one another.

When it came time for my two daughters to go to college, it was the desire of their mother and me for them to have an opportunity to gain a good command of a foreign language and to be exposed to European culture with all of its refinements in music, art, and literature. Because of the closeness of the friendship which had developed between Francis Schaeffer and me, I felt free to ask him for a special personal favor. We were unwilling to send our young daughters to one of the European universities where they would be subjected to pagan influences with little or nothing to encourage them in their Christian lives. Knowing that the Schaeffers had opened their home high in the Swiss Alps for a ministry to young people from all over the world, I asked them for that special care for our daughters as they studied at the University of Lausanne which would make it possible for them to spend their weekends with the Schaeffers. To this they responded with happy agreement and the assurance that our daughters would be treated as their own. Both of them feel a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. Schaeffer as do we. Their lives were enriched and their spiritual discernment deepened by their months of fellowship in the Schaeffer home.

As the Lord blessed the faithful witness of the Schaeffer’s at L’Abri and more and more troubled young people began to feel the impact of the life and teachings of this godly man and his wife, he began to be well known in many parts of the world. Young men and women whose lives had been radically changed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit during their time at L’Abri began returning to their homes and joining the evangelical churches and spreading the word of God’s amazing work through the ministry of the Schaeffers.

It was one of the blessings of my personal friendship with Francis Schaeffer that I was able to interest him in widening his influence by coming to teach at Covenant Theological Seminary on a regular basis for a few weeks every two years. This he did for some time to the great blessing of our student body and the faculty as well.

He became something of a celebrity in the Christian world and because of his enthusiastic endorsement of Covenant Seminary, we began to receive student applications from many men who had become Christians or had their Christian commitment deepened at L’Abri. Indeed, we soon found that Dr. Schaeffer was our most effective recruiter of seminary students. In our personal correspondence he continued to share his observations of movements in the theological world and his concern for the contnued faithfulness of our institution in doctrine, but also in Spirit-filled living.

During his frequent visits to our campus, he and Mrs. Schaeffer were always guests in our home, and we had many opportunities to observe their selfless consideration for others. They received telephone calls form people in many parts of the land who sought their aid in their spiritual problems and in their battles with evil. I remember one particular occasion very vividly. Dr. Schaeffer was on the telephone for nearly three hours with a deeply distressed man in Florida who had just lost his wife after having been assured by a “faith healer” that she had been cured. Schaeffer was unwilling to terminate the long telephone conversation until he had some assurance that the comfort of God’s Word had touched the heart and mind of the needy widower.

Some years ago a young man came to Covenant Seminary to pursue theological studies, and it was apparent early in my contact with him that he had an unusually sharp intellect. Knowing that he had been reared a Roman Catholic and had turned away from that faith to atheism and existentialism, I inquired as to his spiritual pilgrimage. He told me that he had gone to Paris to study with Sartre and other existentialists there hoping to find some meaning in his life, but his studies and contacts in Paris had only driven him deep into despair. Through a casual (but obviously providential) encounter with a stranger in Paris to whom he confessed his deep despair, he was advised to go to a little mountain village in Switzerland where he would come in contact with a man who could certainly answer his questions and provide him with meaning for life. He soon found himself at L’Abri listening intently to Francis Schaeffer, asking questions and frequently raising objections to what he heard. I asked then how he was brought to personal faith in Christ.

“It was not by the strength of the intellectual arguments which I heard,” he answered. “I still had questions, plenty of them. But it was the love of this man, Dr. Schaeffer, that touched my heart and made me see the reality of the living Saviour he talked about. He would spend hours with me, and he never seemed to grow weary of my almost endless questions. I couldn’t resist the love of Christ when I experienced it in this man.”

I am not unaware of the fact that Dr. Francis Schaeffer has been criticized by some and even ridiculed by a few who fail to recognize the immense impact of his life upon our generation. I have only deep gratitude in my heart for the way my own life has been enriched and blessed by this godly man. I am truly thankful for all those who share with me deep appreciation for the way the Holy Spirit has made manifest the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the life of Francis Schaeffer. He leaves behind for those who did not know him personally his written works, and in the memory of all of us who knew him and loved him, he leaves behind the aroma of his godly walk with his Lord and Saviour.

Words to Live By:
In our introduction we referenced a letter that Dr. Schaeffer wrote to Dr. Rayburn in 1981. Toward the close of that letter, Schaeffer said this:—
“…yet I am also increasingly conscious of the fact that Edith and I have been, as it were, carried along on an escalator for the entirety of our lives. I am left in awe and wonder with all this, and I very much feel the escalator is still in operation, not just in this matter of health, but in the battles that beset us on every side.”

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23, KJV)

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8, KJV)

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