Tenth Presbyterian Church

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A Young Pastor Caught in the Middle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yesterday, if you remember, it was noted that in 1783, a day of thanksgiving was observed on December 11th. So perhaps it should not be quite such a surprise to find that in 1850, Thanksgiving Day was on December 12th! Here below is a list of some of the sermons we’ve compiled that were preached on that occasion by various Presbyterian pastors, and as it is a Saturday today, I invite you to select one from among those below where a link is provided, and then take up and read!:—

Beaman, Nathan Sidney Smith [1785-1871]
Characteristics of the Age : A discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Troy, N.Y., on Thanksgiving Day, December 12, 1850. (Troy, N.Y. : Young and Hartt, 1851), 32 p.

Boardman, Henry A.[1808-1880]
The American union : a discourse delivered on Thursday, December 121850, the day of the annual thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, and repeated on Thursday, December 19, in the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

Schenck, William Edward [1819-1903]
An historical account of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, N.J. : being a sermon preached on Thanksgiving Day, December 12, 1850 (Princeton, N.J. : Printed by John T. Robinson, 1850), 74pp.

Skinner, Thomas Harvey, [1791-1871]
Love of Country: A Discourse, Delivered on Thanksgiving Day, December 12th, 1850, in the …

Smith, Asa Dodge [1804-1877]
Obedience to human law : a discourse delivered on the day of public thanksgiving, December 12, 1850, in the Brainerd Presbyterian Church, New York (New York : Leavitt, 1851), 32 p.

Smith, Edward Dunlap, 1802-1883
Our country, and our country’s constitution and laws : a discourse delivered on Thanksgiving Day, December 12th,1850, in the Chelsea Presbyterian Church, New York

Yeomans, John William [1800-1863]
Signs of the country’s future : a discourse delivered in the Presbyterian Church in Danville, Pennsylvania, December 12, 1850, on occasion of the annual thanksgiving (Danville, Pa. : E.W. Conkling, 1851), 30 p.

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Boardman and Boice – Two Teaching Elders of Tenth Presbyterian

They were one hundred and twenty years apart in the pulpit and pastoral ministry of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But they both have a common identity in more than one way which this author finds interesting.

boardman01First, they were a part of the famous “B’s” of the church. On their own website, someone takes note that there were five “B’s” who filled the pulpit of Tenth Presbyterian. Each pastorate was characterized as being of long length. They were: Henry Augustus Boardman (1833—1876, or 43 years long); William Pratt Breed (1856 to 1889 or 33 years long); Marcus A Brownson (1892 – 1924, or 27 years long); Donald Grey Barnhouse (1927 – 1960 or 33 years long); and James Montgomery Boice (1968 to 2000, or 32 years long). The reader can see the first and the last names of this distinguished list of “B’s” being the two subjects of this post.

A second feature shared by both Revs. Boardman and Boice were the major shifts in affiliation which took place during each of their ministries. In the case of Pastor Boardman, just as he was to be ordained and installed as pastor of the church by the Second Presbytery, which was a presbytery of the New School, that presbytery was dissolved by the Synod of Philadelphia, which was Old School Presbyterian! The whole issue would not be made final until the General Assembly would meet the following month of May, when the General Assembly lopped off all New School Presbyteries from the rolls of the church.(See details on our January 9, 2013 post). Pastor Boardman was able to finally align the congregation of Tenth Presbyterian with the Old School folks.

boiceJMThen in the case of James Boice, it was during his pastorate that the Session (board of elders) at Tenth was coming to terms with the fact that their denomination, the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was straying from biblical orthodoxy. In 1979, Tenth Presbyterian Church managed to leave that denomination and join the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod denomination. Three years later, that denomination joined the Presbyterian Church in America, and so Tenth Presbyterian became a member church of the PCA.

Lastly, we note an interesting sign of God’s providence, namely, it was on this day in Presbyterian history, June 15, that both pastors—Henry Augustus Boardman and James Montgomery Boice—were called into the presence of their Lord and God. Henry Boardman died on June 15, 1880, and James Boice died this same day of the year, June 15, in 2000.

Words to Live By:
There is no such thing as “chance” or “fortune” or “luck” in the annals of biblical history. All events, happenings, and actions fall under the sovereign will of God who moves when and where and how He pleases. Some people (and hopefully not our readers of this web magazine) may find the above similarities odd, but we who receive the whole counsel of God know that the God of the Bible plans all of our actions according to His sovereign will for our lives. Let that biblical truth permeate your life this day, and always.

For Further Reading:
Rev. Rick Phillips, pastor of Second Presbyterian church in Greenville, SC, has written of his friendship with Dr. James Boice. Click here to read his recent article.

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None Excelled Him on Two Continents

Samuel Blair was born in Ireland in 1712 and emigrated to America at a young age.  Educated at the Log College by William Tennent, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Philadelphia on November 9, 1733.  Called to two congregations first in New Jersey, he ministered the Word of grace for six years. But it was at Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Cochranville, Pennsylvania where he came to have his greatest influence upon colonial America.

Installed there in April of 1740, he began a classical and theological college for pastoral training, similar to what he had received at the Log College. The new school would later produce for the kingdom of grace men like Samuel Davies, apostle to Virginia, John Rodgers, first moderator of the General Assembly, John McMillan, Apostle to western Pennsylvania, Charles Cummings, Robert Smith, Hugh Henry and many others who would make a mark for Christ’s kingdom.

In 1740, a great reawakening came upon the colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia, including Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church. Blair took as his initial text that of our Lord’s words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.”  That priority in the things of the Lord brought a spiritual awakening and revival to the people of that 1730 congregation. Soon, Pastor Blair was engaged in preaching tours all over New England. All of this revival emphasis, plus the question of education for the ministry brought about a schism in the Presbyterian Church in 1741.

In his doctrinal views, Samuel Blair was thoroughly Calvinistic. A spiritual awakening is of the Lord. Period! He did not hesitate to preach on predestination to his people. His pulpit manner was such that Samuel Davies believed no one was more excellent than he was in exposition of the Word of God. When the latter took a trip to England to raise funds for the College of New Jersey, and heard many a fine preacher, he still concluded that none held a candle to Samuel Blair.

Over his grave in the cemetery, at what is now called Manor Presbyterian Church, there is found the following inscription. It says “Here lieth the body of THE REV. SAMUEL BLAIR, Who departed this life The Fifth Day of July, 1751, Aged Thirty-nine Years and Twenty-one Days. In yonder sacred house I spent my breath; Now silent, mouldering, her I lie in death; These lips shall wake, and yet declare A dread Amen to truths they published there.”

Words to live by:  Thirty nine years plus!  Not a large amount of life on this earth was spent by the Rev. Samuel Blair. But his life was not to be measured by the shortness of his life, but rather by what the Holy Spirit accomplished through Him for the sake of the gospel. And when we look at that, Samuel Blair lived a full life for the increase of the kingdom and the edification of the elect. Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.


A timely article by Dr. James Montgomery Boice, reproduced from a 1975 issue of ETERNITY MAGAZINE. Following this article is a reposting of last year’s entry on the life and ministry of Dr. Boice.

Evangelicals: Just Tagging Along?
by Dr. James Montgomery Boice

A well known Christian educator recently confided to me his concern that evangelicals alwasy seem behind in coping with the great issues of our time. They never seem to lead. In proof of his point he pointed to the great similarities between evangelical and secular concerns. When students were agitating on secular campuses, it was not long before students were agitating on Christian campuses. When ecology became an issue nationally, it also became an issue for evangelicals. In the same way, evangelicals tagged along in their concerns with Watergate, social action, race relations, and other issues.

There are different ways of reacting to such a statement, of course, and some of them put the evangelical church in a somewhat better light. For one thing, evangelicals have been in the forefront of valuable movements in the past. In fact, it is their success in some of these that has apparently placed them behind today; for secular agencies have simply taken over areas in which believers in Christ paved the way. The social arena provides many examples. Second, there are areas in which evangelicals are still being creative and are breaking new ground. The work of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Medical Assistance Programs of Wheaton, Ill., and L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland may be cited as examples. But one may view these facts and yet still be somewhat uneasy. Are these things adequate? Are there no more areas in which a courageous evangelical witness might pioneer? If there are, why are we so often failing to move into them or even see what needs to be done?

The last question is the point at which we should probably begin to deal with the problem. And the answer to it is that the evangelical church is probably getting its concerns from the secular world rather than speaking to it out of those concerns which it derives from the Scriptures. To put it in other words, the church knows more of the world’s literature than it does its own literature. Or, to rephrase it yet again, in trying to sell itself to the world the believing church has forgotten its unique character and lost its distinctives.

One theme that needs to be recovered is the genuine and terrible wrath of God against sin. “Love” is the world’s word today, though it has been stolen from the Christian’s arsenal, and it is distorted. IT is distorted into a sentimental kind of self-indulgence and indulgence of others, so that in practice it becomes more a fulfilment of the last verse of Romans 1 (“Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they who do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but have pleasure in them that do them.”) than an expression of that love of which God is the author. But love for man without hatred of sin, which destroys man, is meaningless. God hates sin. So we must speak of that hate and hate sin also. It is only from such a motivation that moral reform will ever sweep our nation.

Another theme that the Scriptures contain but which has been largely forgotten or ignored by evangelicals is the value of man, even after his fall. God values man. God became man. so we should value man also and be distressed when individual men (not just men in general) fial to be all that God intends them to be. Out of such an orientation Christians could be in the forefront of all movements to preserve life and develop human potential.

There is an expression that describes following behind: Always a bridesmaid but never a bride. It should not be true of those who are the bride of Jesus Christ.

[excerpted from Eternity Magazine, 26.7 (July 1975): 45.]

The Death of a Giant

boiceJMUpon hearing of the sudden death of James M. Boice on June 15, 2000, another pastor prayed in his pastoral prayer the following week in his congregation  that he wished the Lord had called him home instead.  That stark comment illustrates the appreciation which his fellow pastors and Reformed people everywhere had for the man and ministry.

Dr. James Boice was first and foremost a pastor-teacher.  For 32 years, he had fed the people of God at the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  When countless churches were moving out of the inner city for the suburbs, Dr. Boice and his congregation stayed right where they were to be a witness to downtown Philadelphia.  Far from the congregation dwindling, it grew from 350 people in regular attendance to more than 1200 persons in three services.  Under his spiritual leadership, and the local Session of Elders, the light of the gospel was extended beyond the congregation,  to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV positive clients, and the homeless.

His ministry also went beyond the four walls of the church.  For a decade, he served as Chairman of the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy.  He founded the Alliance of Confession Evangelicals in 1994, calling for a new Reformation among American churches, its pastors and people.

America did not solely have his gifts of teaching either.  More than thirty countries of the world had his teaching ministry delivered to them.  Yet for many of us, it was his forty books on both Bible books as well as biblical themes which brought the gifts of this man to us.  We who were pastors had the privilege of using his biblical commentaries as core books for pulpit series.  We knew that there would not be doctrines or practices which would be contrary to either our biblical faith or for that matter, our creedal summaries of doctrine.  We could quote from his many pages with complete confidence.    Lay people could read for their devotions or Christian sabbath reading his books for their edification.  That reading would supplement what their pastors said to them from the pulpit.  It was thus a memorable  ministry to the people of God in this generation.

Words to Live By:  Even though we finite beings on earth have thoughts on when a person’s ministry may be over on that earth, God in His sovereignty is the real source of wisdom on the length of a  person’s ministry.  And God did exhibit that wisdom in taking James M. Boice home to Himself at the time He did.  We still have the benefit of his books which continue to be printed by publishing houses for the church.  Get your hands on any of these books, and your hearts and minds will be richly blessed.

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