Wrapped in Prayer

Prayer and Care for Young Converts

by the Rev. Samuel G. Craig

[The Presbyterian 99.44 (31 October 1929): 3-4.]

THERE should be much intercessory prayer, or prayer for others. Those who are Christians should pray for all classes and conditions of men. They should pray for the heathen, that they may be evangelized; for the wicked and criminal, that they may be led to turn from the evil of their ways; for the unconverted, that they may be turned to know and accept Christ as their Saviour; for the sick, that they may have the healing grace of God; for the sorrowing, that they may be comforted; for the aged, that they may have the sense of God’s presence; for the children and the young people, that they may become the true children of God. Continue reading “Wrapped in Prayer”


This Great Body of Divine Truth

The Christian’s Need of the Old Testament

By Rev. John T. Reeve, D.D.

[The Presbyterian 99.44 (31 October 1929): 8-10.]

Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”—John 5: 39.

“SEARCH the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye O have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5: 39). There is another verse that should be associated with this, recorded in Luke 24: 27—”And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” These words occur in the conversation between our Lord Jesus and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the first Easter afternoon. They were troubled about his death, for they had thought “It had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” But now he was dead and their hopes were all dashed to the ground. You remember how he chided them: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” asking them, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” Then it says, “And beginning at Moses and the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Continue reading “This Great Body of Divine Truth”

Lessons of the Past

Who Were the Old School Presbyterians?

By Rev. Charles E. Edwards, D.D.

[The Presbyterian 99.44 (31 October 1929): 6-8.]

IF America forgets the lessons of history, especially church history, she will cease to be the America that we love. The Presbyterian family of denominations have made great contributions to the kingdom of God for centuries. But if they forget the lessons of the past, they will cease to be Presbyterians, and will be like reprobate silver. Even religious controversies have their lessons. Sweet are the uses of adversity. For various reasons it is advisable that the noble services of the Old School Presbyterians should be better known.

First of all, it is well to recall that the separation of Presbyterians in America into the two denominations, Old and New School, was not a sudden event, with no previous warnings. When the enemies of the Eighteenth Amendment raise the question whether it was adopted too hastily, those loyal to the Constitution have overwhelming proofs of the long period of which it was the culmination. And the Presbyterian Assembly of 1837 did not originate the discord which had grown in intensity from 1801 to 1837. Continue reading “Lessons of the Past”

“All At Sea”

Here’s a great sermon illustration, free for the taking.

by C. Laing Herald, Ph.D.
[The Presbyterian 98.10 (8 March 1928): 6-7.]

“Without position” is a nautical term ; it savors of the sea. Years ago, if one sailed the seas on a sailing ship, or wind-jammer, as such vessels were rudely called, one would have become familiar, more or less, with this term. Two vessels at sea, while passing each other within signaling distance, always exchanged the courtesies of the sea by giving their respective nautical positions. Each ship ran her colors to the masthead, thus displaying her nationality; then a board, painted black, was lashed to the shrouds of the mizzen rigging; and on this board was written in large letters, with chalk, the latitude and the longitude each captain thought his ship was in, according to his latest observations. In this way, for the sake of safety, the two captains compared positions. Sometimes, however, especially after a period of heavy or foggy weather, the words written on the board were, “without position.” In other words, the captain of the ship who wrote these words admitted that he did not know where his ship was nautically; that he was really without position; having failed to obtain observations of sun, or the moon, or the stars, so that he might learn from them his latitude and longitude, and being in doubt as to the accuracy of his “dead reckoning,” he was all “at sea” as to his position. Therefore, the words “without position” are significant.  

The science of navigating consists in the knowledge necessary to conduct a ship safely across the ocean, enabling the mariner to determine, from the position of the celestial bodies, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the position of his vessel at any given time. And while navigation is a science to itself, yet, in a practical sense, it must, of course, be supplemented by seamanship. Continue reading ““All At Sea””

“Fight the Good Fight of Faith” – Machen’s Last Princeton Sermon

Ad fontes!—To the sources! The first rule of any research is to check your sources—Do you have the information and do you have it correctly? What follows is an excellent example of a common pitfall—the tendency to assume that what you have in hand is complete, and thus the failure to consult the original sources.

J. Gresham Machen’s final sermon on the Princeton campus was delivered in March of 1929. Machen had fought against the reorganization of Princeton and had, seemingly, lost that battle. When the semester ended, plans were quickly laid over the summer for the establishment of Westminster Theological Seminary, which then opened in the fall of 1929.

All this makes that last Princeton sermon an important one. Yet as of this date in 2011, if you search the Internet for this sermon, you will find just one “original” source for this sermon, namely a digital edition of the Winter 2004 issue of THE FOUNDERS JOURNAL, where this sermon had appeared [http://www.founders.org/journal/fj55/article2.html]. Checking further, it seems a few others have either pointed to that web site or copied from it. Most recently, the renewal ministry Theology Matters has included Machen’s sermon in their newsletter [http://www.theologymatters.com/TM110706.pdf], but here too they have either used the text provided on the Founders web site, or gone to the same print source.

Most helpfully, the Founders web page notes that they secured their text from a book where this sermon was printed, namely, VALIANT FOR TRUTH: A TREASURY OF EVANGELICAL WRITINGS, edited by David Otis Fuller (Philadelphia & New York: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1961), pages 448-455. That information brings us to the heart of the problem, since the text in Fuller’s book is incomplete. You see, Machen’s sermon was first published in THE PRESBYTERIAN soon after it was delivered. That version of the sermon is reproduced below. But comparing the original printing with the text published in Fuller’s volume, it becomes clear that the sermon has been edited, either for length or for content by Mr. Fuller. In a sermon of 4,639 words, Fuller deleted just over 900 words, or nearly 20% of the total length. Regrettably the web version cited above has a few additional and inexplicable deletions.  But basically there are four full paragraphs and a portion of another that Fuller saw fit to delete for his book. He also broke paragraphs up into shorter portions, but that sort of thing is more understandable. Continue reading ““Fight the Good Fight of Faith” – Machen’s Last Princeton Sermon”

Barthian Fog

Another article, albeit a brief one, by the father of Gordon H. Clark. 

by the Rev. David S. Clark, D.D.
[The Presbyterian 107.48 (2 December 1937): 11.]

THE PRESBYTERIAN has been honored with three splendid articles by Dr. John W. Bowman, on Barthianism. [to be posted soon] The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., is fortunate in having Dr. Bowman, and the Presbyterian Church, U.S., is fortunate in having Rev. Holmes Rolston as experts on Barthianism. We do not know Dr. Bowman, but we assign him a place in the galaxy of scholars.

The Achilles heel of Barthian Theology is his doctrine of Scripture, especially of Inspiration. The formation of the written word is a “paradox” in Barthian language. A paradox is a contradiction. The written word has a human and a divine element, which, according to Barth, are in contradiction. The human letter or writing is the human element, and as it is wholly human, and contradicts the divine, it is imperfect, and therefore an infallible word is impossible.

Barth is willing to admit that the influx of the divine revelation to the prophet’s mind is of God, and is infallible. But the efflux, resulting in the writing of the Word, is only human and faulty. All this is due to an inadequate view of Inspiration, and a neglect of the testimony of the Scriptures, which are our only source of information.

One error of Barth in this is an inheritance from the philosophy of Hegel. We observed in studying Hegel’s philosophy that he called a difference a contradiction. A human element and a divine element are different, but not a contradiction. If you are a semi-Pantheist, you will identify the human and divine. If you are a normal Theist, you will recognize an almighty immanence, and a supernatural providence, that can guarantee an infallible efflux and produce an infallible Word.

Barth’s conception of the Word of God is subjected to a tenuous refinement like Kant’s “Ding an sich,” till it is difficult to get one’s fingers on it. The written word is not the word of God, according to Barth. The spoken word is not the word. It is something in and through and behind all this.

Here is the German tendency to go back of the thing to the thing behind the thing, which always results in vagueness. A good example is the recent Form Criticism. It all has an unsettling tendency. Continue reading “Barthian Fog”

Pantheistic Modernism

In my recent expedition to copy off some more articles from THE PRESBYTERIAN, there was among the lot another one or two articles by the the Rev. David S. Clark, father of Gordon H. Clark. The following is from the 5 September 1929 issue.

Pantheistic Modernism

It had become conspicuously evident that the Modernism of the present-day is shot through and through with the philosophy of Pantheism. This was inevitable since most of the modern liberalism can be traced back through Ritschl to the theology of Schliermacher, and increasingly inevitable because the evolutionary philosophy, which characterizes Modernism and which gives less and less recognition to a theistic conception of the universe, naturally runs to Pantheism. If Spinoza were living to-day, he would be highly pleased to see how his philosophy has penetrated the church and influenced the highbrows of both secular and religious education.

Some years ago we sat in the class rooms of Princeton Theological Seminary. By our side sat a brilliant young man from the South. He was scholarly, forceful and enthusiastic. No one went out from the class better fitted to preach the saving power of Christ to a lost world than our dear old friend, John H. Boyd. His ability soon won him recognition and he became pastor of a large and influential church, the First Church of Portland, Oregon. From this field he was called to a professorship in McCormick Theological Seminary. In his farewell sermon to his Portland congregation, he said : “I have not pleaded with you to believe in God. I have not asked to bring your sins to be forgiven primarily. I have not asked you to believe in the realities of the spiritual world. I have asked you to believe in yourselves, in the divinity of men, in the greatness of the human soul. Men are what they are because of a fatal disbelief in their own divinity.”

We were dumbfounded when we read such words. What had happened to our dear friend, John Boyd? We remembered his manliness, his ready tongue, his broken ankle in the gymnasium, his courageous spirit in the face of misfortune, and all our admiration. But what had come over him since we  sat in the class rooms of Princeton? That is all explicable enough. He had drunk in the modern poison. He had simply changed his conception of God and man with all the logical implications. He had just dropped out the distinction between Creator and creature, and identified God and man. To him, man was a spark of God. Sin had little significance. It did not need to be forgiven in any serious way, it was just a failure, as yet, to arrive. Man must remember his own divinity and, remembering that, will be inspired to act accordingly. That, I take it, is the solution of our old friend’s theological somersault. And the Pantheism of it is not hard to discover, and the same streak of Pantheism runs through all Modernism. Continue reading “Pantheistic Modernism”

Everyone Wants to Slim Down

It seems that some were proposing a plan for a smaller General Assembly for the PCUSA back in the 1930’s. I had not previously paid attention to such efforts in any of the old line Presbyterian denominations. Compare this with some of the various plans for a delegated Assembly that have been put forward in the PCA.

[The Presbyterian 107.13 (22 April 1937): 6.]

A General Assembly of approximately 470 commissioners can be composed so as to equalize the membership as between elders and ministers and to present adequately the communicant strength of the various areas of the Church on the following basis :

(1) One commissioner from each presbytery each year, alternating minister and elder (presbyteries to be listed according to Roll of Assembly, first, third, fifth, etc., to send minister first year, second, fourth, sixth, etc., to send elder), and then alternate.

(2) One additional pair of commissioners from each presbytery having 10,000 to 19,999 communicants; two elder-minister units (i.e., four commissioners) from presbyteries having 20,000 to 29,999 communicants; three, etc., from presbyteries having 30,000 to 39,999 communicants, and so on.

Checking this by the 1936 Minutes, it is found that we have a basic delegation of 279 commissioners (the number of presbyteries); 42 presbyteries in the 10,000 class, i.e., 84 additional commissioners; 9 presbyteries in the 20,000 class, i.e., 36 additional commissioners; 6 presbyteries in the 30,000 class, i.e., 36 additional commissioners; no presbyteries in the 40,000 class; 2 presbyteries in the 50,000 class, i.e., 20 additional commissioners; and one in the 60,000 class, i.e., 12 additional commissioners. The additional commissioners total 188, which, with the basic group, make up 467 commissioners.

This is under 500 by 33 commissioners, but annual growth will soon begin to increase the delegations. This scheme is easy to figure, because the tabulation reveals the status of a presbytery by simply glancing at the digit in the 10,000 column. The elder-minister balance is maintained without elaborate explanation or computation.

The Duties of Property

The following appears on the pages of THE PRESBYTERIAN in 1937. There is no obvious association with any adjoining articles. If the editor had any ulterior motive in adding this brief quote, it was perhaps in reflection on the recent departure of conservatives from the PCUSA, since none of those who left were able to leave with their congregational property. Maybe it was intended as a reflection on their plight. Maybe it was just an editor’s filler. Either way, it is a thought provoking quote.

[The Presbyterian, 107.13 (1 April 1937): 18.]

“Property is not an arbitrary and vicious product of an effete civilization; it is an outcome of forces which are always at work in human nature and life; it is a formation, it is a deposit which human industry is always accumulating; it is an original result of the terms on which men, at once industrious men and free men, live together as members of society. It has its duties, no doubt, as it has its rights. Its duties are not merely matters of choice, any more than its rights are matters of sentiment; but if property is in any sense imperiled, if communism is ever destined to get the upper hand in this our modern Europe, it will be because the holders of property have thought only or chiefly of its rights and have forgotten its duties. Nevertheless, while its rights may for high moral purposes be surrendered voluntarily, they are rights which may be retained and insisted on, and they cannot be violated without doing violence to the very nature of things, without, in Christian language, breaking the eighth commandment of the Decalogue.”

—Canon Henry P. Liddon, in a sermon preached at St. Paul’s, London, April 2, 1882.

Pearl Buck’s Comments on Dr. Machen

Well, okay, one more. But this is the last one for tonight. This from that same issue of THE PRESBYTERIAN, vol. 107, no. 3 (January 1937), page 4, and again, published not long after Dr. Machen’s unexpected death on 1 January 1937.


In the last issue of The New Republic, Pearl S. Buck has an editorial article, entitled “A Tribute to Dr. Machen.” She says of him : “In the days when he was hot upon the trail of my own too liberal soul, I received from him, in the midst of his public protestations, a private letter saying that he hoped I would not misunderstand his denunciations or in any way interpret them as being at all personal to me. He had, he said, the utmost respect for me as a person, but no respect at all for my views. I replied that I perfectly understood, inasmuch as this was exactly the way I felt about him, the only difference being that he had the same right to his views that I had to my own. He wrote again to say very courteously that I was completely mistaken, since views were either right or wrong, and his were right.” This testimony draws attention to the great courtesy which marked Dr. Machen’s attitude towards those who were at opposite poles from him. It is to be seen in his books when he crossed swords with some destructive critic.

[The Presbyterian 107.3 (21 January 1937): 4.]