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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.


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. Read the rest of this entry »

“Lo, the TR!”, by G. Aiken Taylor (1977)

In "TR" Debates (1977) on 18/06/2011 at 22:25

This was part of the previous post on the TR Debates. In that post, I strung a series of articles and letters together, which made for a rather long item. For those who might want these items separately, I’m reposting. Particularly in the case of this letter, context is crucial. There was more to this story than what is related by Dr. Taylor, and the situation on the ground was more complicated than what is presented here. In that regard, it might be wise to remember Proverbs 18:17, “The first to plead his case appears right…”

Some open thoughts about beliefs, and zeal, and strategy
Lo, the TR!

[The Rev. G. Aiken Taylor served as editor of The Presbyterian Journal from 1959 until 1983]

THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, 35.47 (23 MARCH 1977): 9-10, 20.

Recently, I spent a weekend with a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America that had just severed its connection with its pastor under other than cordial circumstances. The issue which brought final disruption was the one we have tried to speak to with articles and editorials in recent issues of the Journal: the effect of a TR (Truly Reformed) ministry on the average congregation.

The church I visited is a typical, medium-sized congregation of middle-class people with the average proportion of tares and wheat—sheep and goats, if you please—in its membership. However, as a congregation it has had a long and distinguished record of Christian witness, of evangelism and of sons and daughters in full-time Christian service.

Along comes a typical representative of the TR position. He had been on the field but a very short time when the congregation’s rotation system brought up a new election of elders. One of those reelected was a man with a previously distinguished record of service on the Session. His family were active in all church affairs and he was known as a pillar of the congregation.

In the course of preparatory conversations, it came out that the newly elected elder admitted to premillennial tendencies. That did it. “Your views have been condemned as heresy by the Church,” he was told by the new minister, who went on to say that he had no intention of installing him as an elder.

As the months passed, other things came up, in addition to the usual failings so often besetting the ministry today—such as not bothering to come to Sunday school and little or no pastoral visitation. For example, the minister made a point of witnessing to his disapproval of Christmas celebrations. When members of the congregation wanted to give his children presents at Christmas time, he would allow them to accept the presents but only on the condition that they were not to be called Christmas gifts.

His public condemnation of a Christmas pageant presented by some group in the church—he called it “trash”—created ominous rumblings throughout the congregation.

He strongly disapproved of women having anything to say on the floor of congregational meetings. Not in an instructional capacity, mind you—in a congregational business meeting.

He set strict Biblical standards for officers. When one man was elected to the session who, in his opinion, did not reflect exemplary leadership in his professional and business affairs (he had changed jobs rather frequently) he refused to ordain him. At one point a class of officers could not be filled because none of the men elected met the minister’s standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Paragon of Orthodoxy, by Dr. Jack B. Scott (1977)

In "TR" Debates (1977), Dr. Jack B. Scott, Presbyterian Journal, Reformed Theological Seminary on 18/06/2011 at 22:22

This was part of the previous post on the TR Debates. In that post, I strung a series of articles and letters together, which made for a rather long item. For those who might want these items separately, I’m reposting.  Of particularly note in this instance is the recent passing of the author of this article, Dr. Jack B. Scott, who was such an important leader in the early days of the PCA, single-handedly providing much of the needed adult Bible study curriculum for our churches. 


Is the truth of the Reformed faith still true when it is not loving?

Paragon of Orthodoxy


The author, professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Miss., is author of the Journal’s Sunday school lessons. This message originally was given as a seminary chapel talk.

The portion of Scripture taken from the first speech of Eliphaz to Job surely commends itself as a paragon of orthodoxy:

“But as for me, I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Who doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields: So that He setteth up on high those that are low; and those that mourn are exalted to safety.

“He frustrateth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.  He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the cunning is carried headlong. They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday as in the night.

“But He saveth from the sword of their mouth, even the needy from the hand of the mighty. So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth. Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth:  therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:8-17). First comes a clear call to seek God: “As for me, I would seek God” (v. 8). The prophets also called for men to seek God while He may be found. In the New Testament, our Lord likewise taught that we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and seeking, we shall find.

Eliphaz praised God in clear, certain terms, speaking of the marvelous deeds of God, the unsearchable quality of God (vv. 9-16). Paul also concluded a part of his letter to the Romans with a clear statement of the unsearchable knowledge and wisdom of God (Rom. 11). Then Eliphaz spoke of the providence of God, of a God who gives rain on the earth and sends water upon the fields.

Next, he told of the exaltation of the lowly (v. 11), in words much like those of Hannah. When she received the answer to her earlier prayer for a son, Hannah praised God who exalts the lowly.
Eliphaz declared that God will and surely does oppose His enemies. He frustrates the devices of the crafty. Again, he declared that God overturns the wisdom of this world; Paul’s words in I Corinthians are not unlike these. Read the rest of this entry »