Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Death of James Henley Thornwell

In James Henley Thornwell, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS] on 31/07/2012 at 21:23

The following brief report of the death of the Rev. James Henley Thornwell comes from The Christian Observer in August of 1862. :


Just as our paper of last week was put to press, a telegraphic dispatch brought the sad intelligence of the death of the Rev. Dr. James H. Thornwell, of Columbia, S.C. He departed this life at the home of his friend, E. White, Esq., of Charlotte, N.C., on Friday, the 1st of August. His removal at this important crisis in the church and country is lamented as a public calamity. The mind of Dr. Thornwell was of high order, richly endowed with intellectual attainments which qualified him for the important position he held in the Church. His talents as an able theologian, accomplished writer and eloquent debater and speaker gave him a wide influence in the church and country.

Dr. Thornwell visited North Carolina about six weeks before his death with the hope of improving his impaired health.—After spending two weeks at Wilson’s Springs he came, to Charlotte, where he had made arrangements for meeting Mrs. Thornwell and setting out with her on a tour among our western mountains. The day after his arrival here, he was taken violently ill with an attack of the dysentery—a disease of which his father, a brother and other relatives died, and to which he had long been subject.

By this afflictive providence, God seems to be saying to his bereaved people—”cease ye from man;”—”Trust not in an arm of flesh; Confide in the Lord Jehovah, the Everlasting strength of his people.”—He will afflict and chasten—but He will never cast off his Church.

Set a watch over it!

In Uncategorized on 28/07/2012 at 13:08

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” — Psalm 141:3. [KJV]

One of the jewels of 19th-century Presbyterian literature that seems to have been overlooked by many is the little set titled Presbyterian Tracts. These volumes were compiled beginning around 1840 and continued to be published into the 1860’s. There were ultimately at least 13 and perhaps 15 volumes. The PCA Historical Center has volumes 1 through 11 preserved as part of its research library. An author-title index has just been posted, here.

Among those many “tracts” [some were fairly lengthy treatments, particularly in the first several volumes], the seventh volume contains a 28 page treatise on “The Sins of the Tongue” by William Swan Plumer.  In concluding that tract, Plumer offers these seven guidelines or resolutions for keeping the tongue:

1. I will steadily keep in view my latter end, and remember that soon I must stand before my Judge. I would not live a day or an hour in forgetfulness of the truth that all my thoughts, words, and deeds are to undergo the scrutiny of Him, who is so holy as to hate all sin, and so great as to know all things, and so just as never to clear the guilty.

2. I will endeavour often to ask myself, How would Jesus Christ speak were he in my circumstances? He has left me an example that I should follow his steps. His life is the law of God put in practice. If I walk in his steps I shall not err.

3. I will rely more and more on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to preserve me from sins of the tongue. I have too much relied on the strength of my own virtue and perseverance, and so I have failed. “O Lord, undertake for me.”

4. I will constantly strive to have a deep sense of the importance of making a right use of my tongue. I will endeavour to avoid levity of mind, and so escape levity of speech and behaviour. By God’s grace I will be serious.

5. I will often call myself to an account for my words during the day, and when I have erred, I will not spare myself from these severe, yet salutary answers, which my sins deserve. I will not justify, excuse, or extenuate the sins of my lips.

6. I will labour to have my mind stored with valuable information and reflections, that I may not be tempted to deal in gossip, and scandal, and idle news, and that my words may be instructive to those with whom I mingle.

7. I will endeavour to be more impressed with a sense of the amazing grace and mercy of God to me a sinner, in bidding me hope for his favour, notwithstanding all my offences. Thus I shall have alacrity and joy in resisting evil and seeking holiness.

8. I will labour to have a proper view, not only of the meanness, mischief and troubles of a loose tongue, but also of its great sinfulness in the sight of God. As an unbridled speech is a wickedness, I would avoid it, even if it brought me no temporal evil.

9. Above all things, I will seek to be thoroughly renewed by the power of the Holy Ghost. If he will make his abode with me, I shall be able to resist all sin, and overcome all evil habits. To change my nature is beyond my power, but not beyond the power of the Sanctifier. My power is but another name for feebleness; his energy is irresistable.

Minced Oaths

In Bible Presbyterian Church, George H. Seville on 26/07/2012 at 10:36

The Rev. George H. Seville wrote this little tract, found among the Papers of the Rev. Albert F. (“Bud”) Moginot, Jr.

Born, 19 March 1876, near Bellevue, PA, he later graduated from the Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, and from Allegheny Seminary (UPCNA), Pittsburgh. He served as a high school teacher for a brief time before taking additional studies at the Moody Bible Institute, in preparation for ministry in China, beginning in 1902, serving under the auspices of the China Inland Mission. While stationed there, he met and later married a fellow missionary, the former Jessie Maud Merritt Greene, in 1905. [Mrs. Seville, born 15 Oct. 1874, died on 2 Jan. 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware.]

The couple had four children, all born in China. Three daughters, Janet (Mrs. Ralph M. Bragdon), Elsa (Mrs. Roger B. VanBuskirk) and Edith (Mrs. Francis A. Schaeffer), and a son, John, who died in infancy.

The Seville family returned from China in 1919, whereupon Rev. Seville studied at Gordon College and then served as pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian church, Newburgh, NY, from 1923-1930. From 1931-1935, Rev. Seville served in the publishing department of the China Inland Mission, based initially in Toronto, Ontario and later in Philadelphia, PA. It was during this period that his alma mater Westminster College awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree, in 1932. He was next one of the founding professors at the Faith Theological Seminary, teaching Greek and Practical Theology. Retiring from that service in 1955, this was also about the same time that Francis and Edith Schaeffer founded the L’Abri ministry, and Dr. Seville served as treasurer for the ministry from 1955-1967.  Dr. Seville lived to be 101 years of age, and died on 21 March 1977.

Minced Oaths

Rev. George H. Seville, D.D.

A visiting minister was asked to lead in prayer in Sunday school, and when he had finished, a teacher heard one of her girls whisper, “Gosh, what a prayer!” Such an exclamation seems incongruous in expressing one’s appreciation of a prayer, but a little thought will lead anyone to the conclusion that “gosh” is not an appropriate word for a Christian to use on any occasion whatsoever. When we look into the original meaning of such interjections, we may be surprised that even some Christian people are habitual users of expressions which the dictionary terms “minced oaths.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Note on Millennial Views in the Early Days at Westminster

In Allan A. MacRae, Westminster Theological Seminary on 23/07/2012 at 16:59

Making some bibliographical entries from the Westminster Theological Journal today, and I came across this tucked in the very back of one issue. Many might have missed it, hidden behind the “reviews of books”:


[Editor’s Note: Vol. 53, no. 2 (Fall 1992) carried an article on J. Gresham Machen that included the following statement regarding the early faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary:

“Allan A. MacRae, professor of Old Testament, was a dispensationalist, while Paul Woolley, professor of church history, was a ‘historic premillennialist’ ” (p. 213, n. 9).

What follows is part of a communication from Dr. MacRae, dated January 21, 1992.]


This misrepresentation shocked me greatly. I am certain that it would not have been made by any of my colleagues of those days, all of whom, to my great sorrow, have already passed on. I was a member of the Westminster faculty for eight years but until I read this article I never heard anyone say, or even suggest, that there was any difference between Mr. Woolley’s beliefs and my own, either during that time or later . . .

Like Paul Woolley, I agree entirely with the teachings of the Westminster standards. One of those attending the Westminster Assembly said that many of its members, including some of the most honored, were “expressed chiliasts”. . .

I cannot think of any valid ground for anyone to call me a “dispensationalist.” It is disturbing to have an imaginary difference between Paul Woolley and me stated as if it were a fact. I knew Dr. Machen very intimately, and served as a colleague with him and with Paul Woolley for eight years, without ever having the feeling that there was any important difference between them and me. Paul and I were known to be premillennialists, but I never heard that either of us was criticized on that account. We worked together in great harmony. It was only after Dr. Machen’s death that circumstances developed which made me decide to resign from the Westminster faculty.

[excerpted from The Westminster Theological Journal, 54.2 (Fall 1992): 404.]

Actions of the 40th PCA General Assembly

In Joining & Receiving, Presbyterian Church in America on 09/07/2012 at 16:19

Here is the corrected, final edition of Dr. Taylor’s report on the Actions of the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America:

Actions of the 40th General Assembly of the PCA

L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk

The Fortieth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, June 19-21, hosted by Ohio Valley Presbytery.  A final total of 1,120 commissioners attended (832 Teaching Elders and 288 Ruling Elders).

Michael F. Ross Elected Moderator

Dr. Michael F. Ross, Pastor of Christ Covenant PCA, Matthews, NC, was elected moderator, after being nominated by
Dr. Ligon Duncan, Pastor of First Presbyterian, Jackson, MS.  Dr. Ross is a graduate of Ohio State University, Miami University of Ohio (MBA), Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.Div.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D.Min.).  He served as founding pastor of Surfside PCA, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Senior Pastor of Trinity PCA, Jackson, MS, before becoming Senior Pastor of Christ Covenant PCA in 2006.  He does adjunct teaching in Pastoral Theology at RTS-Charlotte, NC.  Dr. Ross’s interests in church planting and church revitalization have been evident throughout his ministry.  He and his wife, Jane, have four children.  Dr. Ross’s fairness and graciousness were evident in his moderating of the Assembly, guiding it through a full docket that included debates on several controversial issues. Read the rest of this entry »