Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Long Before TR’s, There Were TP’s!

In "TR" Debates (1977) on 06/07/2011 at 11:27

One recent accession at the PCA Historical Center is a copy of the Rev. Alfred Nevin’s PRESBYTERIAN YEAR-BOOK, 1887-1888. Nevin [1816-1890] had just previously published his ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH in 1884, and so this YEAR-BOOK might be seen as a continuation of the earlier work, though this latter effort appears to have been a short-lived one, with only this one edition of the YEAR-BOOK having been published.

All that background to share the following little article which Nevin included in his YEAR-BOOK, titled “Thorough Presbyterians.” A quick Google search will show that Nevin was borrowing this article from an 1852 issue of THE PRESBYTERIAN. But it bore repeating then and it bears repeating now, particularly in reflection of our earlier posting on the subject of “TR’s”—the “truly Reformed” or “thoroughly Reformed”. Long before there were any “TR’s”, it turns out there were “TP’s” — Thorough Presbyterians.

Reproduced below is first the article as it appears in Nevin’s YEAR-BOOK. Following that, for the sake of comparison and for its fuller content, is the original article from 1852. It becomes obvious that Nevin heavily edited the article, perhaps out of space considerations and perhaps for other reasons as well. The older article is much more interesting, by the way. Also shown is a photo titled “Blue Nose Presbyterians”. There is no other identification attached, so I don’t know anything more about the photo—where it was taken, who the men are in the photo, etc. But it fits perfectly with the topic and I’m pleased to display it here.

THE THOROUGH PRESBYTERIAN.

A THOROUGH Presbyterian is a Christian who loves the old fashioned Bible doctrines in the Confession of Faith. He lays much stress on God’s sovereignty and the doctrines of grace. The word of God, in its simple, spiritual meaning, as explained in the Confession of Faith, not for “substance of doctrine,” but for true doctrine, is dear to his heart. The fathers across the waters, with Calvin and Knox at their head, were thorough believers in all the distinctive doctrines of grace. So were our own great ancestors, Makemie, the Tennants, Dickinson, and Davies. “As to our doctrines,” replied Francis Makemie, when arraigned by the High-Church Governor of New York, in 1707, “we have our Confession of Faith, which is known to the Christian world.” In that compend of Bible truth the real Presbyterian believes, as containing the best human interpretation of the Divine will.

A thorough Presbyterian is a conservative in Church and State. Theological novelties, telegraphed from former ages, do not secure his credence. Extravagances of doctrinal statement he disrelishes. He does not approve of new measures, boisterous excitements, and man’s devices in Church affairs. A true friend of revivals, like Dickinson and Alexander, he is unwilling to hazard the permanent interests of religion for doubtful issues, but prefers in all things the good old paths. In the State, as a citizen, he is never carried away by the dreamland theories of reformers and infidels. He is never found advocating the abolition of capital punishment, resisting the law of the land, affording new facilities for divorces, encouraging agrarianism in any shape. Conservatism, as opposed to extravagance, is the law of his life; the first and second nature of the inner man.

A thorough Presbyterian loves his own Church. Why should he not? Has he not been nurtured by her care? Does she not hold forth the truth? Are not her methods founded on the Scriptures? The form of Church government is no trivial and unimportant matter. Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods and General Assemblies are ramparts, which he may go round about and admire. Her mode of worship, simple, Scriptural, God-ward, uncontaminated by the pomp and circumstance of artificial forms, is dear to his inmost soul. The more simple, the better for him. His heart is with his Church, which Christ has honored with blessings, and will honor, even with life, forevermore.

The thorough Presbyterian aims at extending the knowledge of the truth, as he understands it, among all nations. As he loves his Church, so he desires to see her excellence perpetuated and extended. He prizes her institutions. These institutions of his church he patronizes on the ground that it is the Church’s duty to do her own work, and that no Church is better able to attend to her own affairs than his own. He is no idle religionist, asleep over the wants and woes of his fellow men. With an enterprise as energetic as his doctrines, and with a sense of responsibility stimulated by the sovereignty of his King, he aims at communicating the Word of Life in its purest form to the millions of mankind.

—◊—◊◊◊—◊—

A “True-Blue Presbyterian.”
[
The Presbyterian Magazine, 2.5 (May 1852): 194-195.]
“Blue Nose Presbyterians”
An otherwise unidentified photo preserved at the PCA Historical Center
[click here to view a larger version]

A “True-blue Presbyterian” is an enlightened, true-hearted son of a church that aims at pursuing the “chief end of man,” according to the Scriptures.

Let us glance at the origin of this homespun word—often a term of reproach—but, like the banner of Caledonia, significant of strength and loyalty.

The term seems to be suggested by some part of the dress which was blue; and some say that, after the fashion of other Presbyterian things, it is taken from the Scriptures. “Did you ever hear of such a word in the Bible?” exclaimed with glee master Charles, who had learned a good deal in the Scriptures, at home and in the parochial school. “Stop a minute,” said I, “my young scholar, and bring me the family Bible. Now turn to Numbers, 15th chapter and 38th verse.” The boy, with some amazement, read as follows: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the garment a riband of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them.” “Well,” said Charles, “I always knew that Presbyterians tried to do the commandments of the Lord, but I never thought of this blue before!”

Another theory is, that the Scotch Covenanters assumed blue ribbons as their colours, and wore them as scarfs, or in their bonnets, in opposition to the scarlet badge of Charles I. Other antiquarians trace the Scotch blue up the aboringal races of the island of Great Britain. Caesar thus describes the Britons of his day : “All the Britons dye themselves with woad, which produces acerulean or blue colour.” (Lib. v. 14, de B.G.) Other inquirers satisfy themselves with the fact taht blue predominates in the tartans of the most ancient and gallant clans, while it enters as a constituent colour more or less into all. Hence, “true blue” became symbolic of Scotch patriotism and national renown.

“It;s guid to be upright and wise,
It’s guid to be honest and 
true,
It’s guid to support 
Caledonia’s cause,
And bide by the 
bonnets o’ blue.

Without entering deeper into the origin of our clannish blue, (the reproach of which colour, by the bye, tinges the vesture of our Congregational brethren, whose far-famed legislation was scandalized with “blue laws“*), we will content ourselves with assuming that blue characterized the Scottish tartan from time immemorial, like red the dress of Southern Englishers, and that in the civil wars of the seventeenth century, a “true-blue Presbyterian” was synonymous with a Scotsman who fought for liberty and his Church.

What is the meaning of the word now-a-days? That, dear reader, we shall explain very briefly, and in its truest sense. The word has some definite meaning at our hearth-stones, and in our school-houses and churches.

1. A true-blue Presbyterian is a Christian who loves the old fashioned Bible doctrines in the Confession of Faith. He lays much stress on God’s sovereignty and the doctrines of grace. All Presbyterians do not thus magnify revealed truth; this characteristic more properly belongs to the “true-blue.” The word of God, in its simple, spiritual meaning, as explained in the Confession of Faith, not for “substance of doctrine,” but for true doctrine, is dear to the heart of a thorough Presbyterian. Though infidels blaspheme, and Arminians deride, and Papists mystify, the doctrine of election, it stands forth in the prominence of heaven-towering sublimity in the vision of the Christian we are describing. “You need not quote Paul,” said an infidel, combating the doctrine of election, “Paul was a Presbyterian.” The fathers across the waters, with Calvin and Knox at their head, were thorough believers in all the distinctive doctrines of grace. So were our own great ancestors, Makemie, the Tennants, Dickinson, and Davies. “As to our doctrines,” replied Francis Makemie, when arraigned by the High-church Governor of New York, in 1707, “we have our Confession of Faith, which is known to the Christian world.” In that compend of Bible truth the real Presbyterian believes, as containing the best human interpretation of the Divine will.

2. He is also a strict friend of the Sabbath and of divine ordinances. A Scotch Sabbath is a purgatory to a worldling. But the Lord’s day is a day of sober meditation and of spiritual delight to those who have faith in Divine teachings. Sobriety and joy are not inconsistent terms. May-poles, feasting, and dancing, which agreed with the taste of King Charles’ Christians, were the horror of those of Covenanter stock; whilst attendance on the house of God, and a reverence for its ministrations and ordinances, were the joy of the latter, and will be of their spiritual descendants from generation to generation.

3. A true-blue Presbyterian exalts the covenant of grace in the training of his children. He dedicates them to God from birth, seeks in their behalf the ordinance of baptism, brings them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, engages with them in family-worship, instructs them in the Bible and Shorter Catechism, disciplines them on the principles of Solomon, is careful in the selection of their books and companions, sends them to a parochial or religious school, provides for them an honest calling, and in every way endeavours to act upon the truth, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Far be it from us to arrogate superiority over brethren of other denominations whose doctrinal views and practice coincide in general with those of our own Church. But it cannot be doubted that thorough Calvinists lay great stress on religious training, both at home and away from home; for what wise Christian would make a distinction in the principles of education, so as to exclude religion from the school-room?

4. A thorough Presbyterian is a conservative in Church and State. Theological novelties, telegraphed from former ages, do not secure his credence. Extravagances of doctrinal statement he disrelishes. He does not approve of new measures, boisterous excitements, and man’s devices in Church affairs. A true friend of revivals, like Dickinson and Alexander, he is unwilling to hazard the permanent interests of religion for doubtful issues, but prefers in all things the good old paths. If others sneer at him, it is a small thing to be judged by man’s judgment. In the state, as a citizen, he is never carried away by the dream-land theories of reformers and infidels. A true-blue Presbyterian is never found advocating the abolition of capital punishment, resisting the law of the land, affording new facilities for divorces, encouraging agrarianism in any shape. Conservatism, as opposed to extravagance, is the law of his life; the first and second nature of the inner man.

5. A thorough Presbyterian loves his own Church. Why should he not? Has he not been nurtured by her care? does she not hold forth the truth? are not her methods founded on the Scriptures? The form of Church government is no trivial and unimportant matter. Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods and General Assemblies are ramparts, which he may go round about and admire. Her mode of worship, simple, Scriptural, God-ward, uncontaminated by the pomp and circumstance of artificial forms, is dear to his inmost soul. The more simple, the better for him. Hence he dislikes choirs, and abhors organs, as usurpers of the precentor’s place, to stop the voice of the people. The history of his church is a chapter in Providence which calls forth gratitude to the Giver of mercies. What Church has done more to maintain the Gospel in purity, and to vindicate civil and religious liberty? Ye Covenanters, worshipping in your glens and fighting for your firesides; ye Huguenots, shut out of France, but not out of Heaven, persecuted witnesses of grace and truth; ye Puritans of England and Westminster divines, brethren in spirit and in principles; ye ancestors of ours in this goodly land, preachers of the Word with mighty power, and organizers of our Zion in troublous times, we honour you as the servants of the living God, raised up for your mission in His providence! In short, the true Presbyterian’s heart is with his Church, which Christ has honoured with blessings, and will honor, even with life for evermore.

6. The thorough Presbyterian aims at extending the knowledge of the truth, as he understands it, among all nations. As he loves his Church, so he desires to see her excellence perpetuated and extended. He prizes her institutions. No Missionary Society compares in his judgment with the General Assembly’s Board of Missions; no Education Society has claims equal to the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church; no Board of Commissioners draws out his sympathy like his own Board of Foreign Missions; no Tract or Sunday-school Society comes up to the Board of Publications. These institutions of his church he patronizes on the ground that it is the Church’s duty to do her own work, and that no church is better able to attend to her own affairs than his own. Hence he rallies around Presbyterian institutions, with a view of planting them wherever Providence invites, at home or abroad. A Synod is as useful in India as in Pennsylvania; a religious academy as necessary in Africa as Ohio; and the old-fashioned literature of Calvinistic divines as nutritious the world over as in the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. A true Presbyterian is no idle religionist, asleep over the wants and woes of his fellow men. With an enterprise as energetic as his doctrines, and with a sense of responsibility stimulated by the sovereignty of his King, he aims at communicating the word of life in its purest form to the millions of mankind.

7. The true Presbyterian is an uncompromising foe to the Man of Sin and Popish idolatry. The Confession of Faith teaches that “such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with Infidels, Papists, and other idolaters;” and that the Pope is “that anti-Christ, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.” Whether in Geneva, France, Scotland, Austria, America, the Sandwich Islands, or wherever the Jesuit has penetrated with his guile and guises–whether in this or in preceding ages–the true-blue Presbyterian opposes the scarlet-pointed pageantries and abominations of Romanism. He has no sympathies with indulgences, masses, purgatory, unctions, crucifixes, impure moralities and soul-deceiving heresies. Like John Knox, he would denounce Popery in the presence of queens, or like Luther, go to contend against it though opposed by devils numerous as house tiles, or like meek-minded Felix Neff, labor among mountains to bring its deluded votaries to a knowledge of the truth.

8. The thorough Presbyterian, notwithstanding his uncompromising ecclesiastical principles, has a sectarianism more tolerant and magnanimous than that of some sects which boast of larger charity–as will be discovered at the last day. Whoever reads the severe denunciation of the Saviour against formalism and hypocrisy, and the tremendous threatenings of the apostles against anti-Christ, knows that Christian charity does not consist in smooth sayings and man-pleasing conduct. The Presbyterian does not “unchurch” other evangelical denominations, after the manner of some High-church Baptist and Episcopalians, nor does he, on the other hand, seek to co-operate with other sects on conditions which compromit his own principles, and in unions which often end in alienation and strife. All his views of truth cherish charity toward others; and practically other denominations find that, notwithstanding his peculiarities, they can live with him as peaceably, if not more so, than with those whose professions of brotherly love may exceed him. Who assists more in relieving the wants of the poor and needy, and in substantial acts of general and public benevolence, outside his own Church, than the thorough-going Presbyterian? His sectarianism is an honest and a manly one, without croakings or concealments, and bearing fruits of which he is not ashamed, either before God or man.

9. Finally, the true Presbyterian, after aiming at a life of holiness, which acknowledges its imperfections at the best, wishes to die trusting alone in the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Presbyterianism brings Christ prominently to view, not by the abstractions of philosophy, which the common people cannot understand, but by a tender, personal union through a living faith, which may be realized in every pious heart. Such a system, in its relation to holiness, produces two effects: – it directly prompts to holiness, and it produces a consciousness of coming short of perfection. Perfect sanctification is the reward of the glorified; and this the believer pants for, and hopes for, only as Christ saves him here from his sins and gives him admission to heaven through His own blood and righteousness. On a dying bed the religious experience of a sincere Presbyterian will be found to magnify Christ and his cross. His life having been “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him,” his death testifies to the consistent desire “to be found in Him, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

These remarks on the characteristics of a consistent and loyal Presbyterian are not offered in the spirit of “we are the church,” but simply as descriptive of one of the many shades of doctrinal belief and practice which prevail in the Christian world. The article may be appropriately ended by a hymn, which points to “the good old way :”

THE GOOD OLD WAY.

1. The righteousness, the atoning blood
Of Jesus is the way to God ;
Oh! may we then no longer stray,
But come to Christ, the good old way.

2. The prophets and apostles too,
Pursued this way, while here below ;
And thus will we, without dismay,
Still walk with Christ, the good old way.

3. With faith, and love, and holy care,
In this dear way I’ll persevere ;
And when I die, triumphantly say,
This is the right, the good old way.

A final note on our photo shown above:
In American Notes and Queries [5.1 (3 May 1890): 6], a Mrs. J.C.R. of Philadelphia wrote to ask “Can you tell me why Presbyterians are sometimes called “blue nosed?”
Two replies were provided in answer to her question [5.4 (24 May 1890): 47] :

Blue-nose — This nickname for a Nova Scotian is well known in the United States, and seems to have been derived from the purple tinge not rarely seen on the noses of Nova Scotiamen, and presumably due to the coldness of the winters. Some writers derive the name from the Blue-nose potato, formerly a great favorite from its delicacy, but I believe that the Blue-nose potato was simply a Nova Scotia potato. The nickname Blue-nose is also extended to people from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and even Newfoundland. Thus, in Holmes’ “All Right, De Sauty,” he calls the Newfoundlander a Cyano-Rhinal and a Ceruleo-Nasal; and the latter retorts, calling his Yankee interlocutor a “jack-knife-bearing stranger, much-conjecturing mortal, pork-and-treacle waster.”
-Ilderim, Philadelphia, PA.

[Our photo does have a Maritimes look to it, and so I suspect this Nova Scotia connection is the correct answer, at least for the title provided on our photo.]

Blue-nosed Presbyterians — This is simply a variant of that popular figure of speech which calls sobriety and gravity of thought and feeling by the name of blueness. Hudibras speaks of “Presbyterian true blue.” The severe laws of the early New England Puritans were caricatured and called “Blue Laws.” Abundance of other illustrations might no doubt be adduced to show the wide prevalence of this idea in its various shapes.
-J.N.D., Madison, NJ.

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