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He Seemed But a Little Boy

It was only a year before that Archibald Alexander had been taken under care of the Presbytery of Lexington, Virginia.  He was young and extremely small in stature.  In our day, such a move of spiritual oversight is usually granted by a Presbytery after it has heard your personal testimony, what God has done for you in Christ in your spiritual life, and an expression of your call to the ministry.  In the eighteenth century however, it included all  that, no doubt, and also a sermon preached over the presbytery.

On that occasion in 1890, the month of October, Archibald Alexander stood before the esteemed member of this presbytery.  The fact that a candidate before him had utterly failed to utter anything approaching a sermon, much less give any orderly address, didn’t seem to faze him.  He stood up, without any idea of what he was going to say, and delivered an exhortation which astonished everyone present.    In fact, after that occasion, he delivered “exhortation” after “exhortation” several times a week.

In the spring of 1791, Alexander was examined by the Presbytery of Lexington in his Latin and Greek knowledge.  He had prepared an exegesis upon an assigned topic, and read it to the brethren.  He delivered a speech to the Presbytery as well.  It was then moved that he be assigned a text to preach at the next meeting of the Lexington Presbytery.

At that time, on September 20, 1791, the time had arrived for his proclamation before his elders, both in age and office, on the assigned theme, which was Jeremiah 1:7, “Say not, I am a child.”   And indeed, he seemed but a little boy, but the effect of his trial sermon, quickly put that to rest.  There was authority in the proclamation of the Word of God.  It was no wonder then that at the next presbytery meeting in Winchester, he was licensed to preach the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Words to live by:  If you have an opportunity, attend a Presbytery meeting as a visitor soon, especially one in which a candidate is brought under care, or licensed for the gospel ministry, or ordained by one of our conservative presbyteries.  You will see the care which the church gives to its candidates, that they be sound in doctrine, proficient in the Westminster Standards, and practical in their understanding of their calling.  It will be a day well spent.

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Similarities and Differences in the Two Sacraments

Last year, we would occasionally defer to a short study of one of the catechisms when otherwise lacking something to write about. Better equipped this year, that is rarely the problem now, but, full of turkey left-overs, and needing a break, for this November 30, we go back to a post where we considered two questions and answers from the Larger Catechism, on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Question and answer 176 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?
Answer: The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.”

Question and answer 177 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?
Answer: The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in  him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

Both of these questions would be great questions to ask potential officers of our churches, including those who would seek to be pastors in our presbyteries, for they require an overall understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, they are an excellent teaching tool for the Christian parent to prepare the children for church membership.

There are five areas of agreement between the two sacraments. For both, the author is God.  Christ and His benefits are represented as being instituted. Both are seals of the covenant of grace. Both are church sacraments.  And both are to be practiced until we see Christ in the flesh at His second coming.

The differences are simple and understandable. The outward elements are water, in the one, contrasted with bread and wine in the other sacrament. Then too, the timing of Christ’s benefits to the believer differ, in that baptism speaks of the beginning of the Christian life, while Communion speaks of its continuance. Baptism is to be done once and not repeated. The Communion is to be done often. Baptism includes infants while the Lord’s Supper implies the ability to discern the elements.

Words to live by:  Our two catechisms considered today are definitely doctrinal in scope. Yet at the same time, they presuppose a basic understanding of the two sacraments which will enable God’s people to participate in them with a greater  understanding.  Let us make sure that their spiritual experience describe us, not just their outward and external experience. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?. . . .” (ESV – 2 Corinthians 13:5c)

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Martyr in His Missionary Zeal to Evangelize Blacks

We hear much in this twenty-first century about the treatment of blacks before the Civil War.  And the fact that slavery was even allowed in any of the parts of this blessed nation is to be abhorred.  But in the midst of this condition, there were  Southerners who sought to recognize the mission field to the blacks working on the plantations.

Beginning his special work as spiritual shepherd to the blacks of Liberty County, Georgia on December 2, 1832 was the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones, a member of the Midway Congregational Church.  Born on his father’s plantation in 1804, Charles Jones received his theological training under both Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller at Princeton Seminary.  Though he began as a pastor in Savannah, he soon returned to minister to the blacks as far as their souls were concerned.  His congregation upon his start around the Midway Presbyterian Church some 4500 slaves. It was an organized ministry he had among them.

Three separate places of worship were built in convenient places solely for their use. Each Sabbath, Dr. Jones would travel by horseback to one of the three worship buildings.  First, a prayer meeting would ensue, led by chosen blacks themselves.  Then the sermon with hymns would be led and preached by Dr. Jones.  In the afternoon, a Sunday School with catechetical instruction was instituted. Following that was a personal inquiry regarding their spiritual condition. Then blacks chosen for their gifts would make reports to the pastor regarding the weekly spiritual conduct of the workers.  And finally, Dr. Jones would speak to the chosen leaders of their race regarding their encouragement and counsel.  During the week, other meetings would be held at the plantations themselves, with whites and blacks together listening to the proclaimed Word of God.

Concerned about this system, Dr. Jones wrote an exhortation which addressed this area.  The Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia adopted it for their rules of all their churches and families in 1833. It stated: “Religion will tell the master that his servants are his fellow creatures, and that he has a Master in heaven to whom he shall give an account for his treatment of them. The master will be led to inquiries of this sort: In what kind of houses do I permit them to live?  What clothes do I give them to wear?  What food to eat? What privileges to enjoy? In what temper and manner and proportion to their crimes are they punished?”

With his health breaking from twenty-four, seven work on their behalf, Dr. Jones spent two years teaching Church History and Polity at Columbia Seminary.  But after that time, he returned to his spiritual work among the blacks for ten more years.  In 1863, he went to his heavenly home, where color lines do not count among the saints.

Words to live by:  Our Lord said once during His earthly ministry, “What will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (KJV – Mark 8:36)  The welfare of the soul comes first in the eyes of the consecrated Christian. Charles Jones recognized this.  And to that, even at the detriment of his own health, he worked himself to death on their behalf.  When the Christian church, even the Presbyterian church, is ready to do everything it can do to reach the souls of the people in the neighborhood of their congregations, then we will have that spiritual awakening which is so desperately needed in our blessed land.  O Lord, give us consecrated workers for the soul of America.


Through the Scriptures: 
Romans 9 – 11

Through the Standards:  After we have partaken of the Lord’s Supper

WLC 175 — “What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A.  The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance:  but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.”

Image sources :
1. Frontispiece portrait of Charles Colcock Jones, from Montevideo-Maybank, by R.Q. Mallard. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1898.
2. Title page to A Catechism of Scripture Doctrine and Practice for Families and Sabbath-Schools designed also for the Oral Instruction of Coloured Persons. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1852.
3. Page 25 from the above Catechism.
All scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center, working from copies of the above titles preserved at the Historical Center.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Missionaries Among the Nez Perce in the Northwest

This nineteenth century missionary couple has been mentioned before in these pages in connection with Marcus Whitman on February 29 and August 18.  They were Henry Harmon Spalding and his wife Eliza Hart Spalding.  There were a number of “firsts” connected with both of them.  Along with Mrs. Marcus Whitman, they were the first white women to travel on the Oregon Trail. Indeed, they were part of the first wagon train to travel on that famous trail. In the case of Henry and Eliza, theirs was the first white home in what is now Idaho. They brought the first printing press to the Northwest. But our interest in them was of far more importance than simply their being the “first” this or “first” that. They had a heart for the Nez Perce Indian people and their eternal souls.

So after a very long and difficult trip by steamer, horse back, and wagon train, Henry and Eliza arrived at their place of work, settling in a house which they built, on November 29, 1836.  Henry Spalding had unusual success in reaching this Indian tribe. He was able to give them a written script of their language, which enabled him to teach their tribal members. Spalding then translated parts of the Bible, including the entire gospel of Matthew. Leaders of the tribe were baptized, including the father of Chief Joseph, the brilliant military leader of the Nez Perce.

When the Whitmans and twelve of their followers were massacred in 1847, Henry was at that time on his way to meet them. He narrowly escaped in the five days journey back to his home, and eventually took his wife to Oregon City, Oregon to wait for the situation to simmer down. The Board of Missions which had sponsored them, however, decided to abandon the Mission Station.

Eliza would never see the region of the Nez Perce again, except after her death. Sixty years after her death, her body was interred on their land again beside that of her husband.  Henry had ministered in various areas in the “civilized” northwest as a pastor and a commissioner of schools in what later became Oregon, until finally in 1859, he returned with delight back to his beloved Nez Perce. He would stay only a few years before difficulties arrived, and he died in 1874.  He was buried on their land.

Words to live by:  To go into uncharted territory with the Gospel is a worthy goal and takes an unusual kind of Christian. Henry Spalding was just such an individual. He knew his calling and wanted to waste no time in fulfilling it. And fulfill it he did. Along with the Gospel, caring for the souls of the Nez Perce, this missionary couple taught the tribe irrigation laws and the cultivation of the . . . potato!  The next time you go to the store and buy some Idaho potatoes, think of Presbyterian missionary Henry Spalding!

Through the Scriptures:  2 Corinthians 10 – 13

Through the Standards:  Instruction for participation in the Lord’s Supper

WLC 172 — “May one who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s Supper?
A.  One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, may have true interest in Christ, through he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved, and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Should Spiritual Hindrances Preclude You From Partaking of Communion? 

Presbyterians must have taken November 20 in history as a day off, because this contributor can find nothing significant on this particular day.  So we turn to the Larger Catechism questions and answers as they deal with the sacrament of  the Lord’s Supper.

On November 14 (read), we saw the important requirement of self-examination with respect to partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Christian Presbyterians cannot state that they don’t know how to prepare for the Lord’s Supper, since this catechism answer tells them all they might wish to know with respect to this preparation.

But the question arises about Christians who have doubts about their spiritual state.  Should they refrain from partaking of Communion? That is a question which has perplexed many a church member, and one which teaching or ruling elders have to answer all the time in counseling or home visitations.  Larger Catechism No. 172 has the answer.

It reads, “One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof;  and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want (lack) of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians)  he is to bewail  his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, in so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s Supper, that he may be further strengthened.”

Two types of Christians are spoken of in this catechism of worthiness to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  There may be those in our churches who doubt the fact that they know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  This doubt may exist for a variety of reasons, but it is present in their spiritual lives.  And as important as the need to find assurance is in a Christian’s life, yet we are not saved by this assurance.  We are saved because we  have repented of our sins and put our trust alone in Christ alone.

The second type of Christian with whom our catechism answer deals,  is the one who has not followed in time spent in spiritual preparation or with sincerity of heart the self-examination proscribed in Larger Catechism Number 171. Should that individual come and partake?

In both cases, our Confessional fathers answer in the affirmative.  And the reason being, is that the Supper is designed “for the relief of weak and doubting Christians.” It is a spiritual meal which is appointed just for them.  Yes, the doubting believer and ill prepared communicant should “bewail his unbelief.”  The word “bewail” is an old English word which speaks of sorrowing over sins of omission and commission. We should put some effort into resolving whatever doubts we have of our personal salvation. Let the Word of God, prayer, the regular worship of God, and fellowship be the channel of blessings which will help us to know with certainty that we are born again.

But, in this matter of the Lord’s Table, we should come expecting the benefit from the Lord Himself, that a reminder of His death, burial, and resurrection will have its proper effect in our hearts, leading us in the work of sanctification.

Words to live by: With monthly or quarterly observances of the Lord’s Supper in our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, there really should be no excuse in being present and accounted for in these observances of the Lord’s Supper. This question and answer however deals with continuing doubts about our salvation in Christ and for one reason or another, failure to properly prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Now that we know that our Confessional fathers have sought to prepare for those two cases of  hesitation in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we can proceed in a more biblical way in dealing with these two cases. Let us respond with the proper spirit of preparation for, and participation in, the Lord’s Supper.

Through the Scriptures:  1 Thessalonians 1 – 5

Through the Standards:  Definition of the Lord’s Table, from the Catechisms

WLC 168 — “What is the Lord’s Supper?
A. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is shewed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with the other, as members of the same mystical body.:

WSC 96 “What is the Lord’s Supper?
A.  The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

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