Several years ago, the Rev. Howard Carlson, a minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church, shared a letter written by the father of Carl McIntire, addressed to the Rev. A.B. Dodd, a missionary to China. Both men were at that time members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. One of the real joys of an archivist’s job is getting to read other people’s mail. [that’s an old archivist’s joke, but with a strong measure of truth]. This letter offers a rare glimpse into a close friendship between two young men preparing for their respective lives of ministry, one in the distant fields of China, the other, by God’s providence, remaining at home.
—– Original Message —–
From: Howard Carlson
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 10:55 PM
Subject: McIntire 03.doc
Rev. Carlson introduces this letter, saying that,
Bonnie, my wife is granddaughter of Albert Dodd, Missionary to China. He was a close friend of Curtis McIntire and the below letter was addressed to Dodd by the Rev. Curtis McIntire. They were to have gone to China together, but McIntire became ill the night before the ship left. Interesting thought – if Curtis McIntire had not become ill, Carl McIntire would have been born in and lived at least his early years in China.
Then he presents a transcription of the letter from the Rev. Curtis McIntire:—
Albany, Mo July 11 1903
“My dear dear Dodd:
I have been looking for a letter from some time from you. I wrote you several weeks ago and perhaps you never received. I am hungry for you. I am up in the country 14 miles north of Albany as tomorrow is my day in our country chapel. I don’t know how many times I think of you. I have been thinking this morning on an evening sermon “And there shall be no night there.” It’s in the description of the new Jerusalem. No night there. Night is the time for sinning, for suffering, for sorrowing. Now night is taken for sin and its darkness but on those streets of gold with Him there will be no night there for He is the light thereof. Isn’t it grand. How I wish I could have a talk—one of the good old talks we used to have—one where we could open our hearts and minds to each other without the reserve we have to have with the rest of the world. I have been awfully busy this summer. Its hard to get disinterested people out of their old ways to a real activity of love for Him and the cause. But I have one church that is a joy to my heart. Thirty were present 1st Sunday, 60 the next, 70 [hard to read; could be 120 or 170] the next, and my next visit maybe the church will be too small. It takes all my time visiting. I’m afraid I haven’t spent enough time on my sermons. I can’t get time to write [no? rest?] a word of them. They would be lots better if I could. Now I feel like I have spent too much time with people for Him and too little time with Him for people. I wish I could be with Jesus as much as I want to and to Him what I desire, but the flesh is strong and I let things of my work be the temporary excuse. Oh I love Him and I am so untrue. Don’t you feel that way? Oh to be used wholly by Him. I remember one of the verses they sang at Winona last year which went something like this:
A band of faithful reapers we
Who gather for eternity
The golden sheaves of ripened grain
From every valley hill and plain
Our song is one the reapers sing
In honor of their Lord and King
The Master of the harvest wide
Who for a world of sinners died”
Now the chorus
To the harvest field away
For the Master calleth
There is work for all today
Ere the darkness falleth
Swiftly do the moments fly
Harvest days are going by
Going going going by.”
I suppose you are getting ready to be off for Persia. How I would like to see you! You could tell me the glories of the Conference at N.Y.
I can’t decide where I want to apply for China, Korea, India are before my mind. I wish you would tell me what you think I ought to do considering myself and the work in the places. I am attracted to the evangelistic work of Korea. But China appeals to me for its need of workers, the need which is darkness. I wouldn’t be so careful [uncertain] about making my choice but I ____ that is one of the ways God has of placing me and I am to exhaust my possibilities; then if it’s not the place He will cause the Board to overrule. Let me know what you think. I want the outside view and you can give it me.
I haven’t had a long letter from “Herb” for some time. I’m afraid he isn’t savoring [uncertain] the work as much as I did last year. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet for Commencement. But I learned you were still in the east. I saw Miss Forley [uncertain] and asked her to remember me to [you?uncertain]. And if you see her give my choicest regards to her and her sister for me.
I hope you get this before you start. I don’t know when you are to leave. I wish we could be together at Princeton again next year. Maybe we never will meet but oh the joy that in Heaven we shall meet and we shall know each other again in that place of beauty and happiness and holiness where we shall together see Him. I can’t tell you all my heart but it’s best in those words to you ‘Dear Dodd.’
Your own friend
C. Curtis McIntire”
Image source: Photograph of Mrs. & Mrs. A.B. Dodd, as found in The Independent Board Bulletin, 5.8 (December 1939), page 8.
A few years back, an alert ruling elder at the Hixson Presbyterian Church spotted an old copy of The Central Presbyterian at a local sale. Purchasing the old newspaper, he then graciously donated it to the PCA Historical Center. Reproduced here is one of the articles from that July 24, 1858 issue. The language reflects the era, and the piece is obviously sentimental in nature, but interesting nonetheless —
A Pastor’s Farewell to his Study.
Providence has assigned me another location, and I must leave, among other places greatly endeared, that upper chamber, called the study. It is now more than twenty years since I first took possession of it. It seemed an interesting locality then; but how much has occurred since to give the place a deeper hold upon my mind.
Sermons have been studied out here, with long and earnest thought. And there they lie on that shelf, piles of them. They have had their day. The simple author thought quite highly of, now and then, of one of them, when in the glow and excitement of effort he finished the last sentence. But the mist in which they loomed up so auspiciously, has passed away and their glory has drooped sadly. He does not exactly know how much light they gave at first; but he has tried some of them lately, and he has the comfort of saying, they ignite freely, and give a cheerful radiance in the place of the ordinary kinds of in-door illumination.
[Above right: A drawing of Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836, when he suffered from lameness.]
There are ranges of books. Old men are there—fathers and ancients. And young men are there; some of them wiser than their fathers—others less so. They have stood there through slowly rolling years. They disagree, some of them, with each other. And the words of some of them are like those of a fierce hussar in anger with his fellow. But they have not broken the peace of the study, standing quietly side by side.
There is a book. As I look at it in its place upon the shelf, it awakens interesting trains of thought. I will take it down and read the inscription on the fly-leaf. The hand is fair, and the heart was warm that dictated the utterance made by that pen. But they use no such things where the writer has gone. It is a good book—a good man gave it, who has gone to be with the good. And good the work did me. It will outlive me, and do good to others. I love to pray for those who may yet use those books. They will soon be scattered. Let them go. They have been my pleasant and profitable companions in the study; may they go and do good, yet greater good to others.
I look round about the study. That map of the world, how often I have gazed upon it, as I looked to see where moral darkness yet reigns unbroken and again to see where the kingdom of Christ has come in the place of Satan’s kingdom. That map has been a powerful preacher. Silently it revealed to me those works of God, the continents, the islands, the oceans, the kingdoms. That map has hung long against the wall. Often as I rested from driving the pen, and looked up, it caught my eye. There was the world—light and shadow—civilization and barbarism—delusions hoary with age, fortified as by mountains and rocks, in the depravity of the heart, and there was Christianity, a little cloud in the vast horizon, but bright and growing brighter, and hastening to fill all lands with its brightness. I am much obliged to that map. It has made many valuable moral impressions upon my mind.
Another book arrests my eye. A note, in a fair hand, is pasted on a fly-leaf, and it reads, “Presented to our pastor by his Bible Class: a small token of their gratitude for his labors for their good.” The writer was one of the liveliest of youthful saints, and long since went to the presence of that other Teacher, who leads his friends to living fountains of waters.
I muse on. In this room have been numbers of anxious inquirers. “Hit of the archer,” they came in here, sore wounded, and would fain know how they might be healed. Some were healed while here, for the Great Physician was present; and many more, following counsels here given, went away and soon after, “touching the hem of his garment, were made whole.” They will never forget this room.
Here have been those—their number is great—who came here to ask, if Zion’s gates were open to them, for, hoping in the Saviour’s mercy, they would fain confess him before men. They told us, who watched at Zion’s gates, why they wished to come. And most touching tales have here been told of the anguish of conscious guilt, and of the terrible gloom of a soul that had no God, of conflict and struggle and temptation, of light dawning upon darkness, of the calm that followed the storm, of a Saviour found, trusted, loved, enjoyed. Ornaments they became of Zion below, though not a few of them have gone up higher.
Sons and daughters of sorrow have come in here. It would relieve them to tell their griefs, even to so poor a representative of “the Man of Sorrows,” as the pastor. Some of them sorrowed as does the world, and groped after comfort, and found it not because of their unbelief. Others were children of the Highest, passing under the rod, and through the fire. They came to see if they could not pick up a crumb that had fallen from the Master’s table, to see if sorrow’s solace could not be found in what they might hear of Him “who carried our griefs.” In cases not a few, the weary found rest, and sorrow’s tears were wiped away, and the retiring mourner could say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
Little children have been here in the pastor’s study. He welcomed them, seeing the Great Shepherd’s example, and was interested in their childish wonder at so many books, and pleased their curiosity by such pictures as a place so lean of that material as the study, could furnish. Those loved little ones! Childish things have dropped from their hands, for years and years are gone. They are scattered—some to distant regions of this land, and some to the farthest realms of the earth; though some in childhood fell asleep, and others later fell asleep,—
From which none ever wake to weep.”
But I must leave the study. Much it has to do with time, more with eternity—a place of wearisome toil though often of joyful labor; a place of anxiety and care, mingled with gleams of light from the celestial land; a place where God was sought for the anxious pastor’s own soul—oftener for the souls of others; a place, a humble Pisgah, where glimpses were caught, at times, of the Delectable Mountains and the Celestial City!
My study! Others will look out of those windows on the pleasant scenery—on the verdant hills and meadows here, and on the glorious ocean yonder. Other voices will be heard within these walls. Others will be here, who have never known what joys and sorrows have been here before them. May it still be a hallowed place, honored by the occupancy of Pilgrims to nobler mansions above; a place where others shall try the power of prayer, and know the sweetness of submission, the strength of faith, the joy of hope, and all the sacred pleasures which flow from communion with God, the Infinite One, and the invisible world.
[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian, vol. 3, no .30 (24 July 1858), pg. 1, and originally published in TheBoston Recorder.]
Words to Live By:
We seem to be designed for places. Whether our home, our study, or our church, we place a special value on these places and derive an earthly comfort from them unlike any other. But this world is passing, and God has designed us to have an eye on our eternal home, that we might walk before God in the light of the living. As we seek His mercy and grace, may our surpassing comfort be found in Christ alone. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, may we be made ready to worship God in sweet fellowship, through all eternity.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(Psalm 84:10, ESV)
Yesterday we briefly reviewed the life of the Rev. Dr. John Niel McLeod, taken from the second half of Dr. Steele’s funeral sermon. This Lord’s Day, we have before us the first half of the sermon delivered at the funeral of Rev. McLeod, by the Rev. David Steele, pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. The sermon is entitled, “Endless Life the Inheritance of the Righteous.
“Thy dead men shall live,” — Isaiah 26:20 (first clause).
Among the writings of Old Testament Scripture, the prophecy of Isaiah occupies a prominent place. For sublimity and fervor it is unsurpassed, while its animated strains of poetry well accord with the golden age of Hebrew literature. Perhaps the most marked characteristic of this inspired oracle is its evangelism. Rapt in profound and holy thought, and ravished with visions of coming glory for the church of Christ, with seraphic ardor the prophet utters his messages of comfort and instruction in the ears of his countrymen. With prophetic eye he penetrates the future. In the horoscope of coming events he beholds the aurora of the world’s redemption, by the rising of the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings. Under the afflatus of the Spirit he perceives event succeeding event, providence linked to providence, until, in the fulness of time, the mystery of godliness is manifested, the rod comes forth from the stem of Jesse, a branch grows out of his root, and to the ever-blessed Shiloh is the gathering of the people. To the son of Amos ages are condensed into moments, centuries revolve with the rapidity of thought, and unborn generations are rolled up into one glorious present. In pursuance of the Divine purpose, the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, is led to the top of Calvary; and as the sword of Divine justice descends upon the head of the victim, personally innocent, but by imputation chargeable with the sins of millions born and unborn, the prophet declares, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” The results are glorious. The mediator sees his seed, prolongs his days, and the pleasure of the Lord prospers in his hand. In this twenty- sixth chapter the prophet personating the church sings, — “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks,” and redeemed saints exult in God. He warms as he proceeds with his theme. Under the figure of a resurrection he describes the church’s ultimate triumphs over her enemies. The dry bones live, Death is robbed of its sting, dissolution is succeeded by regeneration, and life and immortality are brought to light. In the application of our text, the transition from the figurative to the literal resurrection is easy. Personating Christ, who has destroyed death, the prophet announces the cheering fact, “Thy dead men shall live,” and then, with energy adds, together “with my dead body shall they arise.” The sententious declaration of the text is not of difficult analysis. It includes two thoughts: —
I. The solemn fact that men are dead.
II. The comforting promise that the dead shall live.
We proceed to remark : —
I. That death is an event which happens to all mankind. No labored argument is necessary to confirm this statement. Scripture abounds with declarations to this effect. The afflicted man of Uz declares, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Paul with emphasis asserts, “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men; for that all have sinned.” Death is not the debt of nature, as some have frequently and vainly asserted; for to nature no such debt is due. Upon man at his creation the principle of immortality was enstamped, and the threatening of death for disobedience could have had no significance if the dissolution of the body must take place as the original and normal condition of human being. Nor is death annihilation. To the sentient being no idea is more revolting than reduction to non-existence. A little reflection, however, serves to show that death is not the destruction of anything. The physical system is dissolved, it is true, but not a particle of the dying body ceases to be. The noble bark which once rode proudly on the ocean, the glory of her builder as well as the hope of her owner, may be wrecked and scattered in broken fragments over the waters, and some of its parts may sink in the mighty deep. We say that it is lost; but it is not annihilated, nor has a single particle passed out of existence. Likewise in death the soul is separated from the body. The latter decays and mingles with its kindred earth, but not an atom of it ceases to exist. The former is borne into the presence of its Judge; but, like its eternal Author, it is indestructible, and from its very essence is incapable of being destroyed by dissolution.
Whence, then, it may be asked, comes death, and why the extensive character of its commission? Why must man, with his stately bearing, his vast affections, his far-reaching thought, the masterpiece of Jehovah’s works, fearfully and wonderfully made, die? The answer is at hand : “The wages of sin is death.” God is angry with the children of men. He has armed Death with fatal strength, and sent him forth the executioner of a just sentence, the avenger of a broken law. In virtue of a Divine constitution, all men descending from the first pair by ordinary generation are involved in guilt. As a consequence, death is as widespread as the human race; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. To the young creation death was unknown, but with sin this cruel monster entered our world, thenceforth destined to subject everything that lives and moves to his sceptre. Sin has armed Death, as it were, with omnipotence, and what power can resist him? The kings of the earth lie in the desolate places which they built for themselves. The marble in its sculptured pomp acknowledges the struggle with death to have been in vain. Neither talent, nor youth, nor beauty, nor strength has been able to effect a discharge in this war. The generations of the past have crumbled into dust. All the living are following in one vast funeral. All posterity shall follow us. The silence of those who have gone down to the grave, the sorrow of surviving friends, and the mortality of all that shall be born of mortals, proclaim the power as well as the universality of death.
Pictured above, grave stones of the Rev. Alexander McLeod, in the foreground, and his son, John Niel McLeod, in the distance. Photograph courtesy of Mr. Anthony Elia.
2. The certainty of death, and the broken relationships which it entails, enhance the solemnity of this event.
Many things are uncertain, but death is inevitable. “It is appointed unto men once to die.” “Man dieth and wasteth away.” The Holy Spirit, speaking by the mouth of prophets and Apostles, appears to multiply figures, in order that he may set the uncertainty of life before the human race. The flower that flourisheth in the morning, and in the evening is cut down; the shadow that flings itself for the moment in the pathway of the traveler, and then fleeth and continueth not; and the morning cloud or vapor skirting the mountain side, until the first rays of the sun fall upon it, and it is dissipated in the surrounding atmosphere, are all employed to image forth the fleeting character of man’s stay upon earth. Although the days of every man are determined, and He who knows the end from the beginning has appointed his bounds that he cannot pass, nevertheless, God in his wisdom has hidden from the children of men the precise period in the cycle of time when the earthly career of each shall terminate. Under such circumstances it is a solemn thing to live, as well as to die.
Death puts an end to all schemes for the future. All the relations of time, the speculations of business, and the enjoyments of this world, it hides in the darkness of the tomb. Upon the husbandman, absorbed with concern for an approaching harvest, it lays its icy hand, and thus makes havoc of his earthly hopes. To the merchant, intensely earnest in solving the mystery of trade, it comes, and summons him to render up his account to God. It knocks at the door of the philosopher, and snatches him from his books and his meditations, that his immortal spirit may wake up to a clearer apprehension of eternal certitudes. Nor does it pass the faithful minister of Christ, striking him down in the midst of usefulness, and severing the tender tie that binds him to a loving people, that he may rest from his labors, give an account of his stewardship, and receive his reward.
Death is a solemn and affecting event, as it breaks asunder all the tender and endearing ties existing between parent and child, husband and wife, benefactor and friend. Pensively, but with pious submission, the Psalmist sings,—
“Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”
The experience of every earth-born child of Adam is similar to that of the Son of Jesse. To the death of friends, many considerations add poignancy. By the removal of connections we are deprived of their society. The eye that beamed with kindness is sealed up in darkness, and the tongue which charmed us is dumb forever. Their example, reproofs, counsels, and prayers, which shed light upon our pathway and stimulated to duty, are no more; no longer can they rectify our mistakes or warn us of our danger. Convinced that his usefulness to his successor was restricted to this life, Elijah, in his last walk with Elisha, says, “Ask now what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” Moreover, death terminates our relation to the Church and her divinely appointed ordinances. Our eyes are closed upon the scenes of earth, and we bid farewell to all terrestrial objects. The sound of the Gospel no longer falls upon the ear. The last meeting for prayer has been attended and the Eucharistic feast never returns again. Solemn reflections! They teach us the necessity of improving everything we know or possess, for the good of men and the glory of God.
3. An interest in the great salvation through personal and indissoluble union with Christ secures victory in death.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” Union to Christ is for the most part expressed in Scripture by the phrases, “in Christ,” and “in Christ Jesus.” “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” From eternity a federal union was established between Christ and his people, yet unborn, when he was appointed or set up as their covenant head. Upon the ground of this union, Christ became answerable for them to the justice of God. Neither could their sins have been imputed to Christ, nor could his righteousness have been imputed to them, if both parties had not been identified, or one in the eye of law. Nor was this all that was necessary to the actual enjoyment of the benefits of Christ’s representation. Jehovah, on whose sovereign will the whole economy of grace is founded, had determined, not only that his Son should be one with those whom he represented, as their surety, but also as their living head; that a real and vital, as well as a federal and representative union should be established, as the foundation of communion with Christ in the blessings oi his purchase. Union to Christ is that mutual relation and reciprocal inbeing which secure to believers a participation in al) the blessings of which Christ is the depositary. This union is spiritual in its nature, ennobling in its effects, and indissoluble in its duration. What the vine is to the branches, what the City of Refuge was to the man-slayer, what the foundation is to the superstructure, and what the head is to the members of the body, Christ is to his people. Upon the ground of connection with him, pardon, heir-ship, sanctification, and perseverance in the divine life, proceed. Death cannot disannul the covenant of redemption; for, says God, “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my loving kindness shall not depart, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed.” Nor can this conquer or sever the connection between Christ and his people. It may sunder the closest bonds, desolate hearts, fill houses with mourning, marshal the funeral procession, and consign to the grave the sainted dust; but it cannot rend the union which subsists between the Mediator and his redeemed inheritance. Upon the cross, Christ spoiled principalities and powers, and through death destroyed him that had the power of death. And although the Lord of Glory fell beneath this destroyer, yet in the very hour and article of death he conquered. All his people triumph in him. To them death is unstinged, all its properties are altered, and all its terrors taken away. Feeling that the munitions of rocks are his defence; that the eternal God is his refuge, and that beneath him are the everlasting arms, in the hour and embrace of death the Christian sings with the Apostle, “O Death, where is thy sting?O Grave, where is thy victory?” Or with another saint of God, he declares in confidence, “Christ in his person, Christ in the love of his heart, and Christ in the power of his arm, is the rock on which I rest; and now, Death, strike! ” Or with yet another conqueror, raised up with Christ and made to sit with him in the heavenlies, he exclaims : —
“Open thine arms, O Death, thou fine of woe And warranty of bliss ! I feel the last,
Red mountainous remnant of the earth give way.
The stars are rushing upward to the light;
My limbs are light, and liberty is mine.
The spirit’s infinite purity consumes The sullied soul. Eternal destiny Opens its bright abyss. I am God’s.”
Let us consider,
II. The comforting promise, that the righteous dead shall live. Nothing is more mysterious than the principle of life, whether viewed in its animal or vegetable form. Science may analyze and classify the accidents and qualities of the living creature. It may compute the elements which enter into the organic being, gauging with precision the proportion and relation of each to other; but there are no means known to it by which to calculate or solve the enigma of life. Upon this subject nothing is more unsatisfactory than the theory of “spontaneous generation,” propounded by the ancients and adopted by Huxley. Equally absurd is the theory of “development,” to which Darwin has lent his name and authority; and the mind turns away astonished and disappointed at the materialistic utterances of Professor Tyndall in the year 1874, viz., that in matter itself we may find the “potency and promise of every form of life.” The truth announced in the text, therefore, is as surprising as it is agreeable, and furnishes us with an illustration that life and death are in the hands of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. And here we remark, —
1. That the pious dead live in the influences and fragrant recollections resulting from their life and labors when they were upon the earth.
It is a momentous and melancholy fact that men do not continue by reason of death. And the history of our race is a comment upon the Scripture declaration — “One generation passeth away, and another cometh.” But the beneficent influence which a good man, and especially a Christian minister, exerts while he is on the earth does not die with the dissolution of his body. No, it is as immortal as the Divine Being in whose grace it originated. It may be silent in its operations and unseen in its course, but it is, as an agency, as effective as it is deathless.
It seldom happens that histories and biographies make such account as they should of the influence which men exert over their fellow-men. Their pages glow with descriptions of how men have led armies, established empires, gained causes, sung, learned, and taught. But the streams of influence which, unbidden, flow from the persons and lives of men, no author can trace or compute. These, however, are not insignificant because they are noiseless. They are not lost because they have operated silently. An earthquake comes thundering through the solid foundations of the earth; it rocks a continent; the noblest works of man — cities, monuments, and temples — are in a moment levelled to the ground or swallowed down by the opening gulfs of fire. Such a phenomenon awes men into a recognition of its power; and yet the soft, genial, and silent light of every morning is an agent many times more powerful. For let the sun cease to rise, and let the light of day return no more, and soon, the chill of death would settle down on everything that lives and moves upon the surface of the globe. The Christian is a light, and his influence is felt when his sun has gone down and he has ceased to shine among his fellow-men.
Niagara is an object of wonder to the contemplative mind. In the presence of its magnificence and power we stand amazed. But the bubbling spring, far up on the mountainside, where the print of human foot is seldom found, and which forms the beautiful rivulet, flowing gently through farm and village, may be far more valuable and useful than the rushing flood or roaring cataract. The influence of the Christian is like the beautiful fountain which sends forth its waters to gladden, benefit, and bless thousands yet unborn.
Abel, the protomartyr, is dead, but he still speaks, by the Divine approval of his sacrifice, and lives by the influence of his example. David, the son of Jesse, is gone the way of all the earth, but in his immortal and inspired lyrics the prophet-bard is still alive. Paul is no more the Apostle of the Gentiles, but in his speeches and letters, his tongue and pen seem to be as eloquent as when he stood on Mars Hill, or dictated his commendations of love in the prison at Rome. Down the corridors of time Luther’s immortal declaration, Justificatio fide est articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ, reverberates, and is as potent today as it was, when it shook the Papal empire to its foundations. Calvin lives in his famous Institutes, and John Knox has enstamped upon Scotland its religious greatness. Travellers gaze upon the house where he lived. Posterity marks with a simple slab the spot where it is supposed rest his remains, and the Heart of Mid-Lothian, marked by a variegated setting of stone, and adjacent to each of these places, wakes the memories of Scotsmen; but by the influence of his prayers, and in his giant efforts to free the souls of men, the great reformer lives ten thousand times ten thousand lives at once, as time rolls on. We may attempt to gauge the influence of the sun and of the rain, we may take the dimensions of the planets and tell the parallaxes of the stars; but no scientist or philosopher can compute the influence of one Christian man, much less of one laborious and faithful minister of Christ. No wonder, then, that such men live in the memory and hearts of those who survive them from generation to generation.
2. The sanctified dead shall live in the resurrection. “Thy dead men shall live.”
Among the most comforting doctrines of Holy Scripture is the doctrine of the resurrection. It is taught, in no ambiguous terms, in both Testaments. It cheered the afflicted man of Uz, in prospect of death, as he declares, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The prophet Daniel was familiar with it, when, in finishing his prophecy and sketching the future, he writes, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” This doctrine the Saviour taught in the days of his flesh. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, writes, “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” That the resurrection of the dead is possible, we have only to turn to nature and providence for illustration. What is morning but a resurrection from the shades of darkness? What is spring, with its buds, blossoms, and fragrance, but a resurrection from the chill and death of winter? What is the emergence of the insect, with all the beautiful colors of the rainbow, from its chrysalis, but a quickening from death?
By actual example, the Scriptures of both Testaments furnish us with proof that the body is capable of residence in heaven. Enoch and Elijah were translated that they should not see death. The body of neither of these men was in the grave; but both of them, in the possession of the earthly house, changed and glorified, ascended to the right of God. Upon the doctrine of the resurrection there oracles are no less explicit. When the prophet Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, we are told that the child breathed, and sneezed seven times, and his soul came to him.
At the memorable words of the Saviour, “Lazarus, come forth,” death relinquished its grasp upon him who had been in the grave three days. By the same almighty power, at the gates of Nain the widow’s son rose from the bier. These instances of bodies translated from earth to heaven, and of quickening brought to the dead, are pledges of the resurrection, — a few specimens of how the dry bones shall live, and the temple of the Holy Ghost shall be built up again.
But the crowning argument of all is the resurrection of Christ. He has arisen, the first fruits of them that slept. “Even them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” In their resurrection, as well as in their death, the saints shall be conformed to their living Head. Death is not an eternal sleep, as the French philosophers of the last century aimed to persuade themselves and others. No doubt, to the impenitent it is a curse, but to the child of God it is a blessing; and as one has well said “The blow which inflicts it is the last stroke of the rod of paternal discipline which the Father holds in his hand, and by which he corrects for eternity.” At death the soul is released from the clay tabernacle, and hies [goes quickly or hastens] its way to regions of everlasting light. Ordinarily, the body borne by the hands of love is laid in the grave, and mingles with its kindred dust. At the last day the trumpet of God shall wake the sleeping dust. No indignity done to the body on earth, whether in life or in death, can serve to detain it in the tomb when God says to the prisoners, “Go forth, and to them that are in darkness, shew yourselves.” Body and spirit shall be reunited, and both shall dwell in the house of the Lord for evermore.
“But some one will say, with what body do they come?” Let an apostle answer. “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” In the hands of man matter is capable of astonishing sublimation : to what ethereal beauty may it not be raised in the hands of Jesus Christ? Is it not matter that sparkles in the dewdrop, dances in the sunbeam, corruscates in the electric flash, dissolves in the colors of the rainbow, and regales the sense in the delightful fragrance of the rose? To what exalted perfection and beauty, then, may not the bodies of the saints be carried? They shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Mortality shall be swallowed up of life. And from all that is unsightly and inglorious in death, they shall be changed to all that is imperishable and fadeless in the presence of God.
3. The saints shall live forever in heaven. Death shall have no more dominion over them. How this thought quickens the pulse, warms the heart, and stirs the soul to its depths! Heaven is the home of the righteous. Their estate lies there. And “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” The reunions of heaven shall be joyous. Parents and children, pastors and people, shall meet to part no more. The recognitions of heaven shall be inspiriting. The loved and honored of earth shall be the objects of renewed and reciprocal regard. The fellowships of the better country shall be enchanting. The saints of every land and clime shall dwell together in everlasting concord. The employments of the upper sanctuary shall be transporting. Praise shall fill the heart and occupy the lips forever. But above and beyond all, the glories of the celestial abode shall be enrapturing. Not a tear shall trickle down the cheek of poverty or distress. Not a sigh shall pass across the breast of anguish or disappointment. Not a shadow shall fall upon the brightness of heaven’s unspoken glory; for the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And upon the whole inheritance of light, life, and glory eternity shall be enstamped.
Like their living Head, those who become one with Christ are invested with the power of an endless life. If the saints of God are streams from the fountain head of life in glory, then before they can die Christ the fountain must be dried up. If they are branches in the vine of heaven, then before they could become extinct Christ, the parent stock, must perish. If the people of God are sparks from the central sun of heaven, then before they can die the Sun of righteousness must be quenched forever. But because he lives they shall live also. Christ gives to his people eternal life, and they shall never perish.
The theme which has been under consideration is comprehensive. It embraces the past, the present, and the future. Turning from its discussion, we proceed to unfold, in a few particulars, the salient points in the life and death of the venerated father, brother, and pastor whose departure from earth we mourn, whose virtues and worth we desire to hand down to posterity, and to whose memory we would pay the tribute of the hour.
[pp. 3-22 of “Endless Life the Inheritance of the Righteous: A Discourse delivered in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, New York, on Sabbath, October 11, 1874, in Memory of Rev. John N. McLeod, D.D., the Pastor, by Rev. David Steele, D.D. [1826-1906], pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.]
Note: There are two ordained men by the name of David Steele in Reformed Presbyterian history. The author of the above funeral sermon was the Rev. David Steele [1826-1906], who was the pastor of the Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church, a member church of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod (New Light). Rev. Steele was also the nephew to the Rev. David Steele, Sr.[1803-1887], who initially remained with the Old Light RP’s after the 1833 split, but later separated from the RPCNA or Old Light Covenanters. The small separatist group which gathered around David Steele, Sr. came to be nicknamed “Steelites.”
Many of our readers will know of Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who has served so faithfully for so many years as a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. But you may not know that his parents were missionaries to China, sent out under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. For all the glorious news of the growth of the Church in China in recent years, it is good to remember those who were greatly used of the Lord in plowing the ground, and planting the seed some seventy and eighty years ago.
MR. AND MRS. RICHARD B. GAFFIN and their daughter Margaret have just arrived in China. [Ed. – The Gaffin’s son Richard was born about a year after this photograph was taken].
The Presbytery of Milwaukee refused to ordain Mr. Gaffin, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, because he would not pledge allegiance to a missionary program which he could not conscientiously support. He chose to remain unordained rather than to submit his conscience to men. Does that suggest Hebrews 11: 25, 26?
The following extracts from the Gaffins’ letters reveal some of their first impressions upon reaching China:
“In the first place, my reaction to things physical was that of surprise, in that things in Shanghai, Chinkiang, Tenghsien, and Peiping are much better than I had expected, especially the way in which the Presbyterian missionaries live. It appears to me that a great deal of good mission money has been put into expensive foreign houses, which means that money which could have been used for direct evangelization was put into wood and stone; and that for missionaries to live in so distinctly a foreign style has not helped them to get as close to the people as they might. . . .
“In the second place, I was very much distressed to see how strong Modernism is out here. Surely all that Dr. Machen and Mclntire have exposed is all too true and more too. . . .
“In the third place, I was astonished when I learned how much territory there is that is unevangelized up and down the coast of China. I had imagined that we would have to go far inland to find any untouched territory; instead I learn that after all very few of the millions of people in Shantung have been reached, not to mention other provinces.
“We are very happy here and we thank the Lord that He has sent us to this great land. We thank Him that He has given us His assurance at every turn. We thank Him for our health and strength and we pray that we may always be found in Him. We are so happy in our new home, and have met such good people at Mr. Kok’s. . . .”
“I never dreamed of the density of the population nor of the immensity of the unfinished task of evangelizing China.
“Would that we could paint a vivid picture of the need of the gospel to those at home. I am going to try to make all my correspondence prevail to that end. I know that words are incomplete but I pray that the Holy Spirit may add the needed vividness.”
[excerpted from The Independent Board Bulletin, 1.12 (December 1935): 10.]
Richard B. Gaffin, Sr. died on February 4, 1996. To read more about his life and ministry, click here to view an historical memoir written by John P. Galbraith (see pages 19-20).
Words to Live By:
There was great sadness when the War forced missionaries to return home from the field. But the God never left the side of His Church in China. Through a great many trials the Church was sifted and purified and now stands stronger than ever. Not ten years before the Gaffins moved onto the mission field, a PCUSA missionary by the name of Henry G.C. Hallock wrote of the tense situation on the field even in 1927, clearly recognizing, almost in a prophetic way, how the Lord was at work despite all appearances:
But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before.
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