Trinity Presbyterian Church

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by Rev. Leonard Van Horn

Q. 95. To Whom is baptism to be administered?

A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to Him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Scripture References: Acts 8:36; Acts 2:38-39; I Cor. 7:14; Ephesians 2:12 (See verses below).

1. Is it Scriptural to administer baptism to all people?
A. No, only those who are members of the visible church, who are part of the covenant, are eligible.

2. How can infants be baptized, an infant who cannot repent and believe and thus become a member of the visible church?
A. Our Larger Catechism teaches us that the visible church is made up of “all such as profess the true religion, and their children.”

3. Can you explain, in outline form, the proof that infants should be baptized?
A. The following steps are involved and it should be kept in mind that these steps are simply motivators for your own study in this important doctrine:
—1. When you consider infant baptism you are basing your belief on what we call “Covenant Theology” for the practice of infant baptism is vitally related to the covenant of grace.
—2. The infant must be the child of a believing parent (or parents) in order to be considered part of the covenant (I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:38-39).
—3. God established a covenant of grace with Abraham and this covenant included children (Gen. 17:7, 11-12).
—4. The covenant of the Old Testament and the covenant of the New Testament are substantially the same and God promised it would be an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7; Gal. 3:13; Rom. 4:3).
—5. The rite of circumcision symbolized salvation in the Old Testament and it was the sign of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Baptism in the New Testament symbolized the same. (Gen. 17; Deut. 10; Rom. 4; Col. 2:11-12).
—6. God’s people, because of the teachings just mentioned, are bound to put the sign of the covenant upon themselves and their children.


Many times, in churches subscribing to Reformed doctrine, the sacrament of baptism is taken too lightly. Too many parents are guilty of an attitude of thinking their task is done when they have their child baptized.

Too many churches give themselves a pious pat on the back when another child is baptized and feel that their task is completed. The sacrament of baptism is used in the wrong way so many times.

It is good for us once in a while to review our beliefs about a particular doctrine. In regard to baptism, we need to be reminded again and again that a person may be saved without it and a person may be lost even with it. We do not believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation. We do think it is a sin to neglect it. Here we need to review what our Confession states regarding it: “. . . it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance.” Again, “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred, by the Holy Ghost. . .”

John Murray put it well when he said, “To suppose that we may entertain any confidence respecting the covenant grace signified and sealed by our baptism, if we are destitute of godly fear, if we break God’s covenant, and walk contrary to his commandments, would be contradiction.”

God help us to use this sacrament in the correct way!

Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.

Vol. 6, No. 11 (November 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.

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One of our more popular posts, presented here again with a sample of Dr. Gerstner’s writing appended:—

Pastor, Professor, and Theologian Cum Laude   

Gerstner01It was a great honor.  Your author was asked to preach the Presbytery sermon at the installation of the Rev. Dr. John Gerstner as an Associate Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The veteran pastor and theologian had just that year of 1990 joined the Presbyterian Church in America as well as the particular presbytery of which I was a member minister. I can remember entering with the other Presbytery ministers into the sanctuary, and there sitting in the front row, in the center seat, was Dr. Gerstner.  A quick thought went through my mind as to what could I say which would edify the people of God, and Dr. Gerstner that evening? But just as quickly came the answer of which Dr. Gerstner in all his ministerial life had exhibited, namely, to preach the Word of God in all of its fullness.

Born in Tampa, Florida in 1914, John Gerstner’s life and ministry would be spent in the northern states.  Graduating from Westminster College, he followed that up with his Master of Divinity degree at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1940. Five years later, he would earn from Harvard University his Ph.D. degree.  Overseas studies in England, Spain, and Switzerland would round out his education for the ministry.

Gerstner02Ordained in the largest Scot-Irish denomination in America, the United Presbyterian Church, he served several churches in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. But he would make his mark upon the Christian world and especially through those students who were privileged to sit under him at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. As an evangelical and Reformed professor in that UPCUSA graduate school, he provided a solid course of instruction for those evangelical and Reformed students who sat under him. One such student was R.C. Sproul.

A careful look into the published works of the Ligionier Study Center will reward you with books and videos all written and spoken by John Gerstner. His primary work would be his three volume book on “The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards.” He became the authority on the life and ministry of this greatest of all American theologians.

This author in two of his five pastorates had Dr. Gerstner as a special weekend speaker. On both occasions, he along with the people of God enjoyed a guest pastor who had an incredible intellect, a great wit, and always a pastoral heart. He entered heaven’s glory on this day, March 24, 1996.

Words to Live By: The apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 states, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (ESV)  There are four generations mentioned in this verse: Paul, those who heard him, faithful men, and others also.  It presents the goal of transmitting God’s Word to succeeding generations. John Gerstner accomplished this, as all those given the spiritual gift of teaching, are to aim for it.  Pray for them to faithfully accomplish it.

A Sample from among Dr. Gerstner’s writings:

“The trouble with secularism is the world itself. It always proves to be a mere shadow. Those who are most successful in acquiring it suffer the greatest disillusionment. It is a notorious fact that the wealthiest persons, unless they be truly religious persons, are the most bored, the least happy. They are always piling up but never possessing anything. Their experiences, like the Preacher’s, lead to the dirge: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun.” Secularists are bent on pleasure, but ‘she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.’ Animals can eat, drink, and be contented, but man cannot. He cannot be contented without these physical gratifications because he has his animal appetites, but being more than an animal he cannot be content with only them. He cannot live without bread, but neither can he live by bread alone.

“The second cardinal defect in secularism is the loss of the other world which it spurns. Man cannot be happy with this world, nor can he be happy without the other. Even if he disbelieves the other world he cannot escape it. He cannot escape it even now. He cannot be sure that there is not an eternal world. He may disbelieve it, but he cannot, try as he will, disprove it. As Shakespeare has said, he is afraid to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ with all its griefs because he does not know what lies ahead. He may have doubts about God, but who has ever demonstrated His nonexistence? How can man satisfy himself that there is no heaven which he may miss nor any hell which he may enter? The slightest possibility of these things—and who can deny their possibility?—utterly unnerves the secularist.

“If there were any satisfaction in the possession of the whole world for a lifetime, how would that compensate for one moment out of heaven or one moment in hell? The merest possibility of the eternal world completely outweighs the utmost certainty of this one. What answer, therefore, can a worldling give to Jesus’ question, ‘What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ It will not comfort him to reply, ‘But I do not believe you. I do not believe that I, in gaining the whole world, will forfeit my own soul.’ It will not comfort him because he is not sure that he is right, nor certain that Christ is wrong. The mere possibility that Christ’s question about the future is valid ruins his present. ‘To him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’—from him that has not the world to come shall be taken away even this one which he has.”

[excerpted from Reasons for Faith (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pp. 13-14.]

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People Loved to Hear Him Preach

strongRobertFrequently we have heard pastors speak about how they love to preach the Word of God. And that is great.  But to hear that God’s people love to hear their pastors preach, well, that is less heard today.  Yet it was the case that people loved to hear the Rev. Dr. Robert Strong preach the Word.  Who was he?

Robert Strong was born in the windy city of Chicago on June 13, 1906. He moved to California to attend college soon after his graduation from high school.  He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1920 with honors.  He studied next at the University of Southern California for his Master of Arts and Master of Theology degrees in 1930 – 1932.  Returning east, he attended the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, from which he earned his Bachelor of Theology degree.  A Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Temple University finished out his educational experience.

At some point prior to 1936, he was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  But in that pivotal issue confronting the Presbyterian Church in the mid thirties, Robert Strong took his stand with  Bible believers and joined the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936.  He was to stay in that new church and later on through the name change to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church until 1949.

Part of his initial pastoral ministry took place in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, when he led 225 members out of the PCUSA in 1936.  For three vital years, Pastor Strong met with the members of this beginning church in the American Legion post.  The church continues today as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Dr. Strong joined the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in 1949.  Why the change?  Students of Presbyterian history realize that there was a schism in  the Orthodox Presbyterian church in that year of 1949 between the views on apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark.   Robert Strong left the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and joined the Southern Presbyterian church, indicating his position on the topic.

Two Presbyterian churches down south were  sites for his pastorates.  The first was the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia.   And the second was Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  Both churches are presently in the Presbyterian Church in America.

In 1973, Dr. Strong left the pastoral ministry to become Homiletics and Practical Theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaching there until his retirement in 1978.  After a life time of service for Christ, he would enter glory in June 17, 1980.

Words to Live By:
From the Journal of the  Evangelical Theological Society, the following memoriam was written:  “Robert Strong was a model Christian scholar, possessed of a keen mind that he used well.  He read widely and had varied interests, one of them being the relation of Christianity, the Bible, and science.  He was a highly gifted preacher who loved to preach, and people loved to hear  him preach.  He enjoyed greatly the opportunity to participate in the equipping of young men for the gospel ministry.  He was a man of many gifts who used those gifts well in the service of our Lord.”  Using gifts well in the service of the Lord!  Are not all Christians in general, and Christian ministers in particular, to use their God-given abilities well? May God grant that it be so.

Chronology for the Life of Dr. Robert Strong—
Born 13 June 1907 in Chicago, IL to Walter Wills Strong and his wife Genevieve Kipley Strong.
Educated at UCLA, 1926-30, AB; University of Southern California, 1930-32, AM, Th.M.; Westminster Theological Seminary, 1933-34, Th.B.; Temple University, 1936-38, S.T.D.
Married Roberta Kirkpatrick, Long Beach, CA, 27 May 1933. Children born to this marriage included Patricia (Mrs. Harry Gould Barrett, Jr.); and James Walter Strong..
Licensed in May and ordained on 1 June 1934 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia [PCUSA]
Installed as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church [Independent], Willow Grove, PA, 1933-1949
Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA, 1949-59.
Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973
Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1973-1980.
Died on 7 June 1980 in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida.

Chronological bibliography—

A Study of the Factors of Persuasion in the Sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  [Los Angeles] University of Southern California, 1933 . Microform, 72 l.

“Paul’s Gospel,” The Evangelical Student 14.1 (January 1939): 8-11.

Doctrinal Sermons : Preached in the Winter Quarter of 1960 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1960-1961?  59 p. : port.

Sermons on the Last Things : Preached in the winter quarter of 1961 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1961.  84 p. : ill.

Contents:  Does the soul survive death?; What are they doing in heaven?; Is there such a place as purgatory?; Is hell real?; Will Christ return to earth in person?; What must occur before Christ comes again?; How will Christ return?; Will the dead literally be raised to life?; Will there be a Millennium?; Why is a final judgment necessary?; The New Heavens and the New Earth; What made that Friday good; Easter privileges.

Sermons on the Apostles’ Creed : preached in the winter and spring quarters of 1962 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : The Church, 1962.  110 p.; 1 port.

Sermons on the Order of Salvation : preached mainly in the winter quarter of 1963 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1963.  106 p.; port.

Holy Week and the Civil Rights Demonstrations at the Churches : A Sermon-Address.  [Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1965.  1 v. (pages not numbered) ; 27 cm.

Sermons on the Covenants and on Romans Eight : preached in 1964 and 1965 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama  [Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1965.  156 p.; port.; 23 cm.  Contents:  Holy Week and the Civil Rights Demonstrations at the churches.

Sermons on the person and work of Christ : preached in 1966 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  [Montgomery, AL : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1967.  140 p.; port.

Sermons on the Person and Work of Christ. [Montgomery : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1967. 140 p.; port.

The Issues We Face .  Address recorded at the Atlanta rally of Presbyterian Men United, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 6, 1969. Sound recording, 1 audio cassette, 53 minutes in length, mono.

The Modern “Tongues” Movement (glossolalia).  [S.l. : s.n., 1970.  19 p.; 23 cm.

“The Gordon H. Clark Case”. 1977?  17 leaves ; 28 cm. “A lecture delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary, 5422 Clinton Boulevard, Jackson, MS 39209, 1977.”  Typescript (mimeographed)

Marshall, James Williams; Robert Strong, editor, The Presbyterian Church in Alabama : a record of the growth of the Presbyterian Church from its beginning in 1811 in the eastern portion of Mississippi Territory to the centennial of the Synod of Alabama in 1936.  Montgomery, Ala. : Presbyterian Historical Society of Alabama, 1977.  xii, 493 p.; ill.; map; ports.; 24 cm.  [PCAHC]


The American Tradition is in Danger : A Sermon-Address.  [S.l. : s.n., 1962-1994?  1 v. (unpaged) ; 15 cm.

The Story of Man : Sermons preached in 1970 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery, Ala. : Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1970-1975?  142 p.; port.

Critical Evaluation of the Proposed New Confession of Faith.  [Weaverville, NC: The Presbyterian Journal, 1970s.  20 p.; 28 cm.  [PCAHC]

Our Foreign Policy Blunders and Their Domestic Roots. [Montgomery, AL: Robert Strong], 1962. 20 p.; 15 cm. [PCAHC]

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