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A Biblical Stand in a Biblical Way

The Rev. John Mitchell Mason [1770-1829] was an Associate Reformed pastor who served for many years in New York City.  He was born in New York City on March 19, 1770, and was the son of the Rev. John Mason, D.D., who had emigrated to this country in 1761 to take the pastoral charge of the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church in the New York City. John Mason proved to be a faithful pastor and remained in that pulpit until his death in 1792. William Sprague notes that “one of the noblest tributes which a son ever paid to the memory of a father, is to be found in the Address which Dr. Mason (the son) delivered before the Presbytery, relative to the resignation of his pastoral charge;—a tribute which no one can read without feeling a sentiment of veneration for the parent, and of admiration for the intellectual greatness and filial sensibilities of the son.” [perhaps we can relate some of that Address on another occasion.]

Educated at home and prepared for college by his father, John displayed a brilliant intellect and graduated from Columbia College at the age of 19. More importantly, John had come to faith in Christ at an early age, God having blessed the faithful efforts of his parents. “His mind was imbued with a knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel, as soon as its faculties were sufficiently developed to admit of comprehending them; and these truths seem to have become very early, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the commanding principles of his conduct.”

Stopping on that last note, we relate the following anecdote, in evidence of the point, that the character of a child, established early, often remains fixed through a lifetime. This story was originally published in The Evangelical Guardian in 1846, and it is told by the editor of that magazine, as he relates an account of his travels in New York City that year.

On Sabbath evening before leaving the city, I paid a visit, in company with Mr. McLaren, to old Katherine Ferguson, a colored woman who became a member of Dr. Mason’s Church about 40 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. The most of what she made by keeping a confectioner’s shop (enough to have placed her now in independent circumstances) she spent in feeding, clothing, and educating destitute colored children. She is warmly attached to the Associate Reformed Church, and remembers Dr. Mason, and the ‘days of old.’ with peculiar delight. Two young persons, members of Mr. McLaren’s congregation, were in her house, being there, as I understood, to read the Bible, and converse with her. This would not fail to make on a mind at all accustomed to sober reflection, a favorable impression as to their piety.—One object of my visit, was to obtain from her lips an account of an occurrence which I had sometimes heard related. Her statement was as follows:

“After Dr. Mason commenced preaching in Murray Street, some ‘gay ladies’ from Pearl Street, said to him: ‘Doctor it will not do for those colored people (Katherine and a male relative of hers who had made a profession of religion) to sit at the same table with the white communicants.—They should be at a Table by themselves at the last.’ The Dr. simply replied, that he would think of it. When the day for the communion came round, and the people were about to take their seats at the Lord’s table, the Doctor came down from the pulpit, and taking the two colored persons by the hands, he said,’This is my brother, this is my sister. He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Greek, nor Jew,—Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,’ and then led them forward to the table and set them down ‘first of all.’ “

This was the result of the Doctor’s reflection on the subject, and it settled the question forever.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, vol. IV, no. 6 (November 1846): 285.]

Words to Live By:
Sin creeps into the Church in myriad ways. We are after all still in this sinful flesh. But racism has no place in the Church. It is at heart a way in which we put ourselves on a pedestal, thinking ourselves better than others. It is, if you will, a form of self-deification, and as such, becomes a particularly destructive sin. The best stand against such sin, perhaps the only true stand against it, is to peaceably, lovingly demonstrate the objective truth of Scripture, as Dr. Mason did, by living in obedience to the Scriptures.

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all…For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:1, 10, 13, NASB)

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