Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

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A History Lesson, by Robert Strong

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Importance of History, J. Gresham Machen, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS], Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Presbyterian Journal, Robert Dick Wilson, Westminster Theological Seminary on 29/07/2013 at 09:28

I often come across the most interesting and useful things while searching out a patron’s request for some article or other material. For context, this article was written in the midst of those years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. Strong’s audience would have been those men who were considering leaving the old Southern Presbyterian denomination in order to form a new, faithful Church.

A History Lesson
by ROBERT STRONG [1908-1980, and pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973]

[The Presbyterian Journal, 27.42 (12 February 1969): 9-11.]

The struggle for the faith in the Presbyterian Church USA has been protracted. I grew up in that church and was ordained in it years ago when it was called the “Northern Presbyterian Church.” Thus I knew at first hand the issues as well as some of the people involved in the conflict.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the strife deepened in intensity in the twentieth century and came to a climax in the 1920’s. Awareness of the rising tide of unbelief, and resistance to it, occurred in a spectacular way:

In 1923 the General Assembly endorsed adherence to five cardinal points of doctrine: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, His mighty miracles, His substitutionary atonement and His bodily resurrection.

In reaction came the Auburn Affirmation, so-called because men of Auburn Seminary were its authors and from Auburn, New York it was distributed to gain additional signatures. In time, these amounted to 1100 names.

Cause and Effect

The Auburn Affirmation was in two parts: The first was an attack upon the right of the General Assembly to single out certain doctrines when the Northern Presbyterian Church was already committed to a system of doctrine as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This was specious logic. This was illogic! This was evasive action. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Rice’s Childhood.

In Uncategorized on 02/07/2013 at 08:04

riceJohn Holt Rice, the second son of Benjamin and Catherine Rice, was born near the small town of New London, in the county of Bedford, on the 28th of November, A.D. 1777. From the first dawn of intellect, he discovered an uncommon capacity for learning, and a still more uncommon disposition to piety. We have seen some reason to believe that like Samuel, he was called in the very morning of his life; at so early an hour indeed that he could not distinguish the voice of God from that of his own mother—-so soft and so tender was its tone. It was, in truth, the first care of this excellent woman to train up her infant child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and you might have seen the weak and sickly boy always at her knee, reading his Bible or Watt’s Psalms, to her listening ear, and catching the first lessons of religion from her gentle tongue. No wonder that he ever retained a most grateful sense of her special service in this respect, and warmly cherished her sacred memory in his filial heart.

As a further evidence of his early piety, we are told that whilst he was yet a boy, and hardly more than seven or eight years old, he established a little private prayer-meeting with his brothers and sisters, and led the exercises of it himself with great apparent devotion. We are not informed however, at what time exactly he made a public profession of religion; but we understand that it was probably when he was about fifteen or sixteen years of age.

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, VII.7 (16 February 1833): 27, column 2.]

Post-GA, 1836

In Old School/New School Division, Princeton Theological Seminary, The Charleston Observer on 01/07/2013 at 09:04

I continue to gather primary source materials on the events leading up to the momentous 1837 split of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The following article appears to have been written by the Rev. Benjamin Gildersleeve, editor of The Charleston Observer and one who showed some sympathies for the New School side of the debate. Here he writes in opposition to talk of division, utilizing to good effect an article which had recently appeared in the Princeton Seminary journal, The Biblical Repertory.

THE PRESENT ASPECT OF OUR CHURCH.
[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, 10.40 (1 October 1836): 157, columns 2-5.]

The Biblical Repertory for July, contains an able review of the proceedings of the last General Assembly, and as the question of a division of the Church has been mooted even at the South, we take pleasure in copying from it the concluding remarks which we recommend to the particular attention of our readers.

1. In the first place, nothing, in so momentous a concern, should be done under the sudden impulse of even good feeling. A zeal for truth, a sense of wrong, a conviction of danger to the best interests of the church may be so excited by recent events, as to urge even wise men, to measures, which in cooler moments neither their judgments nor conscience would approve.

2. Nothing should be done on vague or indefinite grounds. Men are very apt to satisfy themselves of the propriety of taking almost any course, not obviously immoral, if they feel that they are actuated by good motives. It is not enough, however, in such matters, that we should desire to promote the purity of the church, or the general interests of religion; we must have some definite principles, which will commend themselves to the understanding and conscience, and which will hear the scrutiny of posterity———of the bar of God. We must be able to give a reason for our conduct which shall satisfy the impartial and competent, that it is right and wise; that it necessarily results from our principles. We consider this a matter of great importance. Every day affords melancholy examples of the confusion and inconsistency which arise from acting on the mere general ground of doing what seems to make for truth and righteousness. Measures involving precisely the same principles are opposed or advocated by the same individuals, as they happen to make for or against the cause or the party which seems to them to be the best. We see constantly in our public judicatories, the power of the courts extended or contracted, the rules of procedure enforced to the letter or construed away to nothing, as the occasion requires. This is not always, nor, we trust generally, the result of dishonesty. It is the result of the want of fixed principles. Hence this inconsistency; this justifying to-day, what was condemned yesterday; this applauding in one man what is censured in another. If so much evil results from this source, in matters of ordinary routine, what must be the consequences of random action, on occasions which threaten organic changes, whose effects are to last for ages? Read the rest of this entry »