Whether it is from the original Trinity hymnal on page 35, or the red Trinity Hymnal on page 38, both editions of this Presbyterian and Reformed hymnal have the majestic hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise.” The tune was taken from a traditional Welsh ballad, but it is the words, not the tune, which stand out to any worshiper who sings its biblical phrases.
“Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise,” is found in the benediction of Paul to young Timothy, when he says,” Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” —(1 Timothy 1:17, KJV).
Continuing on in the first verse, line three, the hymn writer refers to God as the Ancient of Days, in speaking of “Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty Victorious, Thy Great Name we praise.” This title of God comes from Daniel 7:9, where the Old Testament prophet says that he “beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit . . . .”
Then in the second line of the second verse, we sing “Thy justice like mountains high soaring above,” we think of Psalm 33:6 the Psalmist saying “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep.”
There are two other verses which the hymn author wrote, but which are left out of our Trinity Hymnal. They are: “To all life thou givest, to both great and small; In all life thou livest, the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish; but naught changeth thee.” The second verse not included in the Trinity Hymnal reads “All laud we would render; O help us to see ‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee, And so let thy glory, almighty, impart, Through Christ in his story, thy Christ to the heart.”:
The author of this majestic hymn was Walter Chalmers Smith, born this day December 5, 1824 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was educated in the elementary schools of that town and for his higher learning, graduated from New College, Edinburgh. Walter Smith was ordained in 1850 in the Free Church of Scotland and served four churches in that Presbyterian denomination. His longest pastorate was in Edinburgh. He was honored by his fellow elders when in 1893, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in the Jubilee year of the Free Church of Scotland.
It was interesting that it took several years before this hymn surfaced in print, being found for the first time in 1876 in his “Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life.”
Words to Live By:
In the familiar acrostic of A.C.T.S, standing for that prayer outline of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication, we could easily sing the stanzas of this majestic hymn and go a long way toward fulfilling the Adoration part of our prayers. It is that full of praise. So the next time you sing it in one of our Presbyterian congregations, sing the words with your heart and voice as you adore God’s person.
[excerpted from The St. Louis Presbyterian, 31.27 (10 September 1896): 435.]
Dr. Strickler was born at Strickler’s Springs, Rockbridge County, Virginia, April 25, 1840. On his father’s side he was of German descent; his great-grandfather being a Lutheran minister. On his mother’s side, (her name was Mary Brown) he belongs to that sturdy, earnest race, the Scots-Irish, who at an early date settled in the Valley of Virginia, and gave that favored land its strong leaning towards Presbyterian doctrine and polity. He was taught in the schools of the County, and at the outbreak of the Civil war was in Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He entered the Southern Army with the College Company, who called themselves the “Liberty Hall Volunteers,” and this was a part of the 41st Virginia Regiment, and this regiment was a part of the famous “Stonewall Brigade,” receiving this name from its first commander Stonewall Jackson. The brigade was in nearly all the battles in which its famed commander took part, and always behaved with conspicuous courage and gallantry. The young soldier soon became the Captain of his company, by his gallant bearing, and popular manners. Twice was he wounded, but was soon back at his post. In a charge at the battle of Gettysburg, he was captured, and remained a prisoner in the hands of the Federals until the close of the war.
Then he entered Washington and Lee University, where he from the first took a high stand as a student. He graduated from this Institution in 1868, the last year acting also as Tutor in the University. He at once entered Union Theological Seminary, and graduated from this School of the Prophets in 1879, with the highest distinction. He was at once licensed by his Presbytery, and being invited to Tinkling Springs one of the largest and most influential of the country churches in Virginia, he was ordained and installed pastor in the fall of 1870. [In this pastorate he was following the Rev. R.L. Dabney (1847-1852) and preceding the Rev. J.A. Preston (1883-88).] About the same time he married Miss M.F. Moore, of one of the oldest and most respectable families of the Falling Spring’s church, near the Natural Bridge.
Dr. Strickler remained pastor of the Tinkling Spring Church for twelve years and a half. His reputation for vigorous and earnest preaching, clear and solid thinking, wise and faithful pastoral work, soon spread far and wide, and many calls from large and influential churches came to him. But he preferred to work at his first charge. Finally in the fall of 1882, the Central Church of Atlanta, Georgia, made such an earnest plea for his services that he yielded, and came to their church in the Spring of 1883.Hardly had he begun the work in their city before he was urgently and unanimously called to the chair of Church History in Union Theological Seminary. After a considerable struggle between his church, who fought his transfer, and the Seminary Committee, Atlanta Presbytery advised him to remain where he was; this he did with all cheerfulness and loyalty. His loving church at once began to build him a new, and a larger church.
This was finished in 1886, and is one of the handsomest and most commodious edifices in our Southern Church. Dr. Strickler’s fine administrative abilities soon manifested themselves, not only in the thorough organizations of his own church in its individual work, but also in the impetus given the work of our Presbyterian Zion all over the city, Presbytery and State. His church at once began to plant missions in different parts of the city, and several of them are now growing working churches. Dr. Strickler’s wisdom and ability were also most conspicuous in the contest against the teaching of Evolution in Columbia Seminary. As leader of the Anti-evolution men he won decided victories in the Synods at Marietta, La Grange and Sparta. Shortly after he was elected to the chair of Theology in Columbia Seminary and to Chancellorship of the University of Georgia both of which he declined.
In 1887 he was chosen moderator of the General Assembly of the Church which convened at Saint Louis. In this responsible and delicate position he acquitted himself most creditably and wisely. At this Assembly he was chosen chairman of the Southern Assembly’s Committee to confer with the Northern Church Committee in regard to organic union. In 1895 the Board of Directors by a unanimous vote elected Dr. Strickler to the important chair of Theology in Union Seminary, and gave him a year in which to decide the question; they at the same time promised to remove the Seminary from Hampden Sidney to Richmond the beautiful and historic capital of the State. During the winter of 1895-96, the devoted flock over which he had presided so long did everything in their power to induce him to decline this call. But a sense of duty to the Church at large impelled him to accept the call, and to ask the Presbytery to allow him to leave his church. It was a sad and solemn meeting which met for this purpose, we all felt that it was the will of the Lord calling His servant to a post for which by nature and training he was eminently fitted. Dr. Strickler preached his farewell sermon to his people on the last Sabbath in July, 1896, and will enter upon his new duties September 2, 1896.
Then in stating the truth as it appears to him, he is always as clear as one of our mountain streams; the simplest can understand him. In the pulpit, he is, besides all this, earnest and effective. In his dealings with his people he was always kind, sympathetic, wise. In the church court he is always patient, considerate of others, but eminently wise and faithful.
His theology is of the most orthodox type. He believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, in the old fashioned orthodox Calvinistic type of religious thought. He has no crochets, no vagaries, no new ideal as to the cardinal truths of the word of God, and his strong loving character will impress this type of theology on all the students who come from his hand. May his bow long abide in strength. [Among his many honors and accomplishments were the Doctor of Divinity degree, conferred by Washington & Lee University in 1878, the LL.D. degree, awarded by Davidson College in 1894, a term of service as Moderator of the PCUS General Assembly in 1887, and his tenure as joint editor of The Presbyterian Quarterly.]
“The Nature, Value, and Special Utility of the Catechisms,” in Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897, Containing Eleven Addresses Delivered Before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, at Charlotte, N.C., in May, 1897, in Commemoration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly, and of the Formation of the Westminster Standards (Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1897), pp. 115 – 138.
[Excerpt] : Teaching, by the catechetical method, has marked the history of the church almost from the beginning down to the present time. A divine warrant for it, if not requirement of it, may be found in such passages of God’s word as Deut. vi. 6, 7: “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” And Exodus xii. 26, 27: “And it shall come to pass that when your children shall say to you, What mean ye by this service?” (the service of the passover) “that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” In these instances, in order to give children the full and accurate instruction they needed about the commandments of the Lord referred to, and about the important sacrament instituted in the church in the passover, it was necessary that a number of questions should be asked and answered; and then, that the truth about these and other subjects, once learned, might not be forgotten, but kept ever fresh in the memory, and in constant and influential contact with the mind and heart, it was necessary that it should be frequently reviewed; that there should be “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little.” Thus, we may say, the catechetical method of instruction was instituted at the very beginning of the Mosaic dispensation.
“The Philosophy of Faith,” in The Presbyterian Quarterly, 16.2 (October 1902) 149-165.
LeRoy Tate Newland was born in Galva, Iowa on 7 March 1885 to James Tate Newland and his wife, Fanny Rosalia Maria (Miller) Newland. He was educated at Davidson College, attending from 1904-1908 and graduating with the B.A. degree, before attending the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in preparation for ministry, 1908-1911.
Following closely on the heels of graduation, he married Sarah Louise Andrews of Charlotte, North Carolina on 5 May 1911, and then pursued his examinations under the Presbytery of Wilmington. He was licensed to preach on 11 May and ordained to the ministry on 12 June of 1911. The young couple then took up a foreign missions post in Korea, where Rev. Newland served from 1911 until 1940.
His term of service in Korea was broken into basically three phases, serving in Kwangju from 1911-1914, then moving to Mokpo from 1914-1918 before returning to Kwangju and remaining there from 1918 until the end of his missions work in 1940. In 1926, perhaps while on home missions assignment, Rev. Newland earned the Th.M. degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA. It was during those years on the mission field that the Newland family grew to include seven children.
With war looming, Rev. Newland and his family children returned to the United States, and he answered a call to serve a group of smaller churches in and near Union Point, Georgia, from 1941 until 1954. Rev. Newland then took a call to serve as the pastor of the Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, laboring there from 1954-1957 before being entered on the rolls as honorably retired in 1957. In retirement, Dr. Newland was active in working with the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a ministry headed up by the Rev. William E. Hill, Jr.. His reward at hand, LeRoy Tate Newland entered glory on 16 July 1969.
Among his distinctions and honors, Davidson College conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1933. Dr. Newland also authored at least two published works during his lifetime, both of which are noted by Harold B. Prince in A Presbyterian Bibliography: #2482 (p. 240), So Rich a Crown: Poems of Faith (Atlanta, GA: Gate City Printing Co., 1963), 85 p. and #2483 (p. 241), Illth or Wealth?: A Series of Four Bible Studies for the Men of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Chattanooga, TN: General Assembly’s Stewardship Committee, Presbyterian Church in the U.S., 1924), 48 p. Davidson College holds one copy of the former title and the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA holds a copy of the second work.
Memorial Tribute by Sarah Bolton Lunceford, one of Rev. Newland’s daughters:
LeRoy Tate Newland, missionary to Korea, father of seven, man of many gifts, was born in Galva, Iowa, on March 7, 1885. His family moved back to North Carolina, to Chadbourne, where his father had a strawberry farm. James Newland made an unusual offer to each of his sons: a part of the farm or higher education. Roy Newland made his choice, and went on to graduate from Davidson, from Louisville Seminary, and to get his master’s from Princeton Seminary. His honorary doctorate was bestowed by Davidson.
In 1911, he married Sarah Louise Andrews of Charlotte, and the two went out as missionaries to Korea. She was 20, the youngest missionary in the field. He, as an evangelist, worked under the itinerating system: long journeys, lasting several weeks, exploring the Korean countryside out from Kwangju, their home station, establishing small house churches, to be visited again and nurtured. Eventually, he had set up over a hundred and twenty.
Because of his unassuming competence and dependability he became treasurer and secretary for the mission — the Southern Presbyterian compounds and work in South Korea. His sermons were admired for their content and his presentation of them. His commentary on Leviticus was used for years in the seminary at Seoul.
His children delighted in his company because of his simple, direct love and his pleasure in good humor and bad puns. Among their most cherished memories are summer days in the mountain cabin when he would read aloud Slappey and Glencannon stories from The Saturday Evening Post, with his reading getting ahead of his voice so that he was too convulsed with laughter to share the passage with his imploring audience. Then there were the long walks when he would name the plants and answer all the questions asked by seven lively children. There were the rousing family hymn-sings which he led with such enthusiasm even if not necessarily on key. And the “Dear Family” letters he so faithfully wrote over the years, sharing the news and his tender love, extracting a promise that letters would continue to bind the family even after he was gone.
One of Roy Newland’s gifts was a love for and facility with poetry. He wrote hundreds of poems —an original one for every birthday of every child and the wife he adored; one for her every morning that he made her breakfast and carried it in to her on a tray; frequently, in later years. He wrote about his struggles, about the work, about his unworthiness and Christ’s great love that had redeemed him. A collection of his poems was published, but it barely sampled the outpouring.
True to his background, he loved to garden, to hike, and to hunt, the latter a special pleasure in a country where weapons were forbidden so that game multiplied unchecked. (His permit came from Tokyo itself and was the occasion of frequent visits from suspicious Japanese inspectors.) He also loved to read, to learn, to explore the frontiers of knowledge. His probing mind wanted to know how the world worked, in all its fascinating aspects.
Gifted in mind, intellect, and soul, LeRoy Tate Newland was a man of parts. He was, truly, in the words of an English friend, “a lovely man.”
A. — God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
Scripture References: John 4:24; Mal. 3:6; Psa. 147:5; Rev. 19:6; Isa. 57:15; Deut. 32:4; Rom. 2:4; Psa. 117.2.
1. Why is this question so fundamental for the soul of man?
It is essential for Hebrews 9:6 states, “He that cometh unto God, must believe that he is.” If man can accept the first words of Scripture, “In the beginning God . . .” he is on the right road, for this is a truth upon which all other truths depend.
2. How can we accept and know this basic truth?
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, reveals God to us and it is only through Christ that we come to God. The Bible says, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
3. In the light of the answer to Question Number Four, with what attitude should we approach God?
We should approach Him as the Almighty, Sovereign God. In the front of a particular church, in plain sight of the congregation there was a sign: “Know Whom Before You Stand!” We should always approach Him in our thoughts, words and deeds with the recognition that He is all that the answer to this question proclaims Him to be. ‘
4. What is meant by the statement, “God is a Spirit?”
The meaning is that He is invisible, without body or bodily parts, not like a man or any other creature. (From Minutes of Session of Westminster Assembly).
5. In Theology what term do we use in regard to the adjectives used to describe God?
We call these the attributes of God and separate them into His incommunicable and communicable attributes.
6. Why do we separate them in this way?
We separate them in this way because His incommunicable attributes are not found in any way in his creatures. These are His Infinity, eternity and unchangeableness. His communicable attributes, (being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth), are found in some degree in man. Obviously, in man, these attributes are faint, limited and imperfect as compared with God.
“God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). These words, spoken by Jesus to the woman at the well, are words for today. There is much worship going on today, but “let us examine ourselves” — is our worship true worship? Man was created for fellowship with God and the worship of God occupies a lofty place in attaining unto that fellowship.
How can we worship Him in spirit and in truth? Only when we worship Him with the knowledge of what he is savingly in Christ for the benefit of lost sinners. When there is this realization in the individual soul, it is possible for the person to begin the worship of God according to His will. It is then that the soul will be able to say with Moses, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). It is only when man is saved through personal faith in Jesus Christ that he is able to approach his Maker with the right attitude in worship.
In Presbyterian circles the charge has often been made that the service is too cold, too formal. If such be true, could the reason for it be found in the failure of the congregation to worship in spirit and in truth? Many people feel that worship has to do with ceremonies or visible observances. Indeed, many are inclined to feel that it is difficult to worship unless stained glass windows, divided chancel and beautiful music are all present. We must not forget that the worship of God is spiritual. Calvin stated, “If we manifest a becoming reverence toward him only when we prefer his will to our own, it follows that there is no other legitimate worship of Him but the observance of righteousness, sanctity, and purity.”
Not long ago I was in the replica of the first Presbyterian church established in Claiborne County, Mississippi. A simple log building with a handmade pulpit is all that meets the eye of the worshiper. The thought came to me that after all, real worship has to do with our recognition of the Greatness of the Sovereign God. When we understand who He is, when our lives honor His Sovereignity, when we understand we are sinful creatures redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, it is then that we are more nearly able to worship Him as we should. Arthur W. Pink tells us that our attitude toward the Almighty, Sovereign God should be one of godly fear, implicit obedience, entire resignation and deep thankfulness and joy. These characteristics of a born again person will enable him to worship in spirit and in truth.
The Life of a Christian Minister Can Never Be Written.
Erskine Mason was born in New York City on April 16, 1805. He was the youngest child of the Rev. John M. and Anna L. Mason, D.D. As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825, Erskine was ordained on October 20, 1826 and installed as pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Cedar Street in the City. Almost a year later he married, and this at roughly the same time that he was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Schenectady. Then, with but three years experience, he was called to serve the prestigious Bleeker Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. Another six years later, he accepted a position as professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, while retaining his post as pastor of the Bleeker Street Church. By 1846, his congregation could see that he needed a time of rest and relaxation, and so enabled him to spend several months in Europe. He returned refreshed and it appeared that he had many years of ministry ahead of him. Yet surprisingly, his life proved short. Returning from an annual outing in the country in August of 1850, he soon felt weak and his health began to decline. When his last moments came, he declared, “It is all bright and clear.” Seated in his chair, he breathed his last, and died on May 14, 1851.
That too brief survey of his life will have to suffice this day, if we are to leave room for the wonderful opening words spoken in memory of Rev. Mason. The following, though admittedly a bit flowery (in good nineteenth-century fashion), was composed by the Rev. William Adams. Given the focus of our blog, I thought it appropriate to reproduce his words here:—
“The life of a Christian minister never can be written. Its incidents may be easily mentioned, for they are few. His parentage, birth, education, conversion, ordination, preaching, illness and death, comprise the whole. The whole? His real life consists not in striking and startling events. When the streams are flushed with the spring-freshet, overflowing the banks and sweeping away the dams and the bridges, the marvel is heralded in every newspaper; but when the same streams flow quietly along their ordinary channels, making the meadows to smile with verdure, refreshing the roots of the trees and turning the wheels of the mill, they excite no remark, even though their tranquil flow awakens a grateful admiration. Sum up the professional labors of a minister, and give the product in so many sermons, written and delivered!
“As well to attempt to gather up the rain, measure and weigh it. A certain amount of water you may show, but what of the moisture which has been absorbed by the tender vegetable, and the leaves of the trees? The life of a preacher is spent in addressing the intellect and conscience of his fellow-men. Ten, twenty, thirty years has he preached. How many thoughts, in how many minds has he suggested during such a period! What manifold judgments and purposes, what great hopes and wise fears have had their origin in his own thoughts and words! What sayings of his have been lodged in men’s minds, which have worked in secret about the roots of character! Even while despondent himself, because so few visible results of his toil are revealed, his opinions by insensible degrees are growing into the convictions of others, and his own life is infused into the life of a whole generation.
“It is a peculiarity of his position that he touches the life of his people at those points which are the most memorable and important in their existence. He unites them in marriage, baptizes their children, and buries their dead. He dies, and is soon forgotten by the world. The sable drapery which was hung about his pulpit on his funeral day is taken down; his successor is chosen and installed, and the tide of life rolls on as before. But he is not forgotten by all. His life is not all lost and dissipated. As the manners of a father are acted over in his son, and the smile of a mother will brighten again, after she is dead, on the face of her daughter, so will the sentiments of a minister be transmitted after his ministry is closed, his words be repeated after he has ceased to speak, and all his hopes and wishes live again in other hearts, long after his own beats no more. His biography will not be finished nor disclosed till that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed; and the seals of his ministry will be set, like stars in the firmament for ever and ever.
“To accommodate to a Christian minister, the language employed by Mr. Coleridge, in reference to Bell, the founder of schools:—”Would I frame to myself the most inspirating representation of future bliss, which my mind is capable of comprehending, it would be embodied to me in the idea of such an one receiving at some distant period, the appropriate reward of his earthly labors, when thousands of glorified spirits, whose reason and conscience had, through his efforts, been unfolded, shall sing the song of their own redemption, and pouring forth praise to God and to their Saviour, shall repeat his ‘new name’ in heave, give thanks for his earthly virtues, as the chosen instrument of divine mercy to themselves, and not seldom, perhaps, turning their eyes toward him, as from the sun to its image in the fountain, with secondary gratitude and the permitted utterance of a human love.”
Words to Live By: Rev. Adams concluded his memoir for Rev. Mason:—
“No one who goes hence returns to finish the work of life. But there is intensity of motive enough in the sober truth that every man is actually engaged day by day in writing that autobiography, which neither time nor eternity will efface. It may be written in high places or in low, in public remembrance or in the honest heart of domestic affection, but we are writing fast, we are writing sure, we are writing for eternity. Happy is he who, through the grace of God assisting him, like the subject of this memoir, records such lessons of kindness, truth and wisdom, that when he is gone, he will be held in grateful remembrance; happier still to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that when every memorial and monument of his earthly history has perished, he may ascend with the Son of God, to Honour, Glory and Immortality.”
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Excerpted from Volume III of The Presbyterian Magazine, September 1853, pp. 413-415.This recounting of the venerable Dr. Alexander’s farewell to his congregation bears the following footnote: THE PRESBYTERIAN says, that “A valued friend recently discovered in the possession of one of the Pine Street parishoners of Dr. Archibald Alexander, a manuscript copy of the remarks made […]
This is the concluding article in the series PRESBYTERIANS IN AMERICA. The author, Rev. Prof. Paul Woolley, was formerly the professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I do hope you have found Rev. Woolley’s articles both interesting and instructive, and I do trust that our readers are more familiar now than […]