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Christian Home Training
by Rev. David T. Myers

TennentG_02Today in Presbyterian History we celebrate the birth of Gilbert Tennent. Subscribers to our posts will remember his name and history as the celebrated pastor-evangelist of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies. His name will always be remembered as the one who preached about the dangers of unconverted ministers. He both began and ended the New Side wing of the American Presbyterian church in the mid-seventeen hundreds. And he was born on this day, February 5, in County Armagh, Ireland, in the year 1703.

He was to stay with his father and mother, William and Catherine Tennent, in Ireland for the first fourteen years, before the entire family emigrated to the American colonies, and specifically Pennsylvania, due to connections of a close family member of his mother.

We read very little of his early life with the exception of the one great spiritual experience which brought him to Christ around the age of fourteen. He had a serious concern about his salvation around that time. Indeed his mind and heart was in a great agony of spirit. Finally, it pleased the Lord to give him the light of the knowledge of saving grace.

It is clear that what led up to this saving knowledge was the godly training he received in his home schooling by his parents. Both of his parents, beside being Christians, were Christians of the Presbyterian faith. It is true that his father, William, was then a deacon in the Anglican church, albeit Presbyterian in theology and government. When the latter emigrated to America, he immediately sought acceptance in the Presbyterian Church. Further, Gilbert’s mother, Catherine nee Kennedy, was a daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

We could only guess, but it would be an educated one, that the home schooling that Gilbert, his three brothers (all of whom became Presbyterian ministers in America), and his sister all received came from a solid foundation in the great Calvinistic truths of the Reformation.

Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 wrote a general promise which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The background of the first phrase of “train up” comes from a beautiful picture which means “across the roof of.” The picture is that of a new born infant, who has the experience of some grape juice spread across the roof of the mount. As he or she tries to get that pleasant tasting juice off the roof of the mouth, he or she is then placed at the mother’s breast to crave the life-giving milk. The verb came to mean “to create a desire.”

Now granted, only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that creation of spiritual desire. But we can co-operate with that Spirit to create that spiritual desire in our children. There was no doubt that the home training of the Tennent family in its early days was instrumental in accomplishing much spiritual training in Gilbert Tennent.

Words to Live By:
Speaking to the parents who read This Day in Presbyterian History, are you taking spiritually and seriously the command of Proverbs 22:6 to train your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Pray and continue to work much in this vital home training.

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After Much Coldness and Insensibility of Heart
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was on Sunday evening, January 19, 1812, that Daniel Baker wrote in his diary the following words:

“This day, after much coldness and insensibility of heart, it pleased God to revive my spirits, and grant me sweet comfort and refreshment in attending upon our praying society. I would desire to return the Great Fountain of all mercies my humble and sincere thanks for the establishment of this society, inasmuch as he has made it so beneficial to my soul, and that of my fellow members, and has permitted sweet delight and comfort to flow from it, to water and refresh our thirst souls.”

Let me zero in on the expression above “after much coldness and insensibility of heart.” Reader, if you attend a Bible-believing Presbyterian Church, please be aware that your pastors are men of like passions as you are. They are flesh and blood believers, albeit men trained by both life and education to handle the Word of God in pulpit and in homes. Sometimes, the people in the pew expect too much of them, demanding every moment of their time. This is seen in the pastoral schedules that the members of the church demand that they keep.

This author began his pastoral ministry in this country in a smaller congregation. It was expected of me to preach two sermons on the Lord’s day, besides teaching an adult Sunday School class and leading the youth group that Sunday evening. Once a quarter, the church had committed to a rest home service, where another sermon was expected. Then of course, the Wednesday night study and prayer time, a Bible study during the week in the home, visitation to hospitals and homes were regularly required. I can understand Daniel Baker’s acknowledgment of “much coldness and insensibility of heart” on occasions during that pastorate.

To our subscribers of This Day in Presbyterian History, understand that your pastor’s role in the church from both the pulpit and to the pew is for “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (See Ephesians 4:11 – 12) The more spiritual equipping which is done in the body of Christ will cause the congregation to join him in the great spiritual work of that local church to itself, to the community, to your state, and to the world.

Words to Live By:
Pray weekly for your pastor, his spiritual needs, for him in his responsibilities to his family, for him as he equips you for ministry to build up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11 – 16)

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My co-author and the originator of the concept for this blog recently confided that he never imagined that This Day in Presbyterian History would be around this long. Now we are going into our fifth year in 2016. We make no great claims for the blog, but we’re pleased to be able to serve a (generally) growing list of subscribers and others.

In the annual review put together by WordPress, they summarize our 2015 statistics this way:

“Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 68,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take just over 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was July 4th with 584 views. The most popular post that day was July 4: Happy ‘Presbyterian Rebellion’ Day.’ ” Visitors to the blog came primarily from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and 129 other countries around the globe.

For the year ahead, we have several plans that should keep things interesting. 2016 will be a big election year, and with that theme in mind we are very pleased that the Rev. Dr. David W. Hall, pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia, will be writing a series of posts for us, focused on the early American practice of the election day sermon. These posts will run on Saturdays, beginning on January 30th, just before the Iowa Caucus, and will end on October 29th, just before election day in November.

Our long-running feature on the Shorter Catechism, written by the Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, will conclude around April of 2016 and we are working on what will replace that Sunday feature. Many of our posts in past years have been biographical, and while biographies will continue to be part of the mix, there will be a greater effort to be more event focused. We also plan to include more posts on local church histories.

2015 began with a serious health challenge for me, and ended with emergency surgery for my son. The Lord preserved us through it all, and I pray for His blessings in the coming year, that it may prove to be a time of faithful service, of lifting up the name of Christ our Savior, and of doing His will in all that we say and do. If this blog can play even the tiniest part in all of that, it will have served its purpose.

Words to Live By:
Psalm 67 has been a particular comfort and guide in prayer over the past year:

1 God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

 

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When the Fullness of Time had Come
by David Myers and Wayne Sparkman

With this traditional day of celebration of our Lord’s birth on earth, and with the expectation of family and friends gathering for gift giving, meals, and fellowship, both Wayne Sparkman and I urge a reverent pause among our readers by reading (and perhaps to or with our families) a brief meditation on the first two phrases of Galatians 4:4, “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son . . . .” (NASV)

On the one hand, on whatever day of history Christ came to earth, we can state that it was the time appointed by the Father in ages past and realized in human time. His birth into time and space history had been ordained by the providence of God. Along with John Calvin, we must not presume to be dissatisfied with this secret purpose of God by raising a dispute as to why Christ did not come sooner. The prophet Isaiah states clearly in Isaiah 55:8, “For (God’s) thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways (God’s) ways, declares the LORD.”

On the other hand, God sent forth His Son, as the second phrase in Galatains 4:4 states, at a providential time in human history. Consider the following truths:

      1. The philosophies of the age had run their course, leaving their adherents, spiritually empty. Reflect on the many idols of worship Paul found in Acts 17 as he stood in the midst of the Areopagus in Athens. Yet these idols did nothing to satisfy the souls of the people.

      2. The Greeks had brought a cultural revolution to the nations, producing a common Greek

        language to all the lands, which enabled the early disciples to communicate the gospel to

        all peoples. They didn’t have to learn a new language to share the gospel, a fact which facilitated the spread of Christianity.

      3. The Romans had conquered the then known world, bringing peace with order, which enabled the early Christians to travel all over with the gospel of real peace.

      4. The Hebrews had all the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah completed, waiting for their fulfilment by the Birth of the Savior.

Truly, Christ came at the right time in time and space history. We can receive that truth intellectually, but far better to receive it spiritually. So let us make sure this Christmas that we have received Him as our personal Savior by faith alone. Let us pray for all members of our respective families, and friends, that they too have received Him as Lord and Savior.

And so on this December 25, 2015, we say Merry Christmas, dear readers of This Day in Presbyterian History.

Wayne Sparkman/David Myers

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A Message to our Faithful Subscribers:

Three years ago, I pitched the idea to Wayne Sparkman, archivist of the PCA History Center, about a day by day Presbyterian web site to focus in on persons, places, and events associated with historic Presbyterianism. He graciously received the idea and This Day in Presbyterian History was born. We wanted it to be a devotional, so Scripture reading through the Bible, confessional readings in our Westminster Standards, and a  practical Words to Live By section were placed along with each historical post.

By and large, after three years of one thousand and ninety six posts, we believe that it has turned out to be what we prayed and planned it to be, in His providence. However now, I am leaving the co-authorship of it, so as to engage in other writing pursuits. (By Wayne’s kind invitation, I plan to write some posts for 2015 as a guest author.)  My prayer is that God’s Spirit will continue to help our subscribers learn from the past and continue to engage in the work of the Lord for His glory.

—David T. Myers

It has been a pleasure working with David these past four years. When he called to suggest the project, I was cautious, having some idea of the time it would involve. When I did finally agree that the PCA Historical Center would host the blog, I asked David to write a year’s worth of posts in advance. And he did it! No backing out then. So we unveiled the blog on January 1 of 2013. Now we are about to enter our fourth year, and there is still so very much that we can write about.

From time to time you may notice that we might repeat a post from a prior year. Generally this is when time simply doesn’t permit writing new material. Or on a few occasions, even with a deeper pool of resources at hand, there still are a few dates when it seems that not much happened.

I will sorely miss David’s invaluable help with this blog. He’ll be back with a few posts through the coming year, and who knows, maybe in 2016 he’ll return with still more frequent contributions. I feel I’ve gotten to know him rather well, even though we’ve never met face to face. May our Lord bless these projects that David has laid out for the new year, and may our Lord strengthen my hand to continue this blog, to His glory and praise.

—Wayne Sparkman, director, PCA Historical Center.

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