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On the Celebration of the Supper by the Courts

In Uncategorized on 31/10/2013 at 15:43

Over on the Puritan Board discussion group, ARP pastor Ben Glaser (Ellisville, MS) put forward a great question:—

“When did Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies begin regularly having the Lord’s Supper at their meetings?”

With a bit of digging, I found that in the Southern Presbyterian Church, it wasn’t until 1912, at the 52d General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., that we find this:

The Standing Committee on Devotional Exercises presented the following resolution, which was adopted:

We recommend that it be a standing rule in our Assembly that immediately following the Moderator’s opening sermon, the sacrament of the Lord’s supper shall be celebrated, the retiring Moderator presiding.
— W.O. Cochrane, Chairman.

Switching over to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (aka, Northern Presbyterian Church), we have to go all the way back to 1871 to find this report spread on their Minutes, at pp. 577-578:

6. The Lord’s Supper.—In regard to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, in connection with the stated meetings of the judicatories of the Church, your Committee feel hardly prepared to recommend any absolute and universal change. And yet it cannot be denied, that grave objections exist as to the manner in which this sacred service is often observed. Too much, as a matter of form, crowded in between hours of pressing business, if not of exciting discussion, with little or no preparatory exercises, it is not strange that this, which should be the richest feast of blessing, the very climax of privilege, has so often proved dull and formal, and of little spiritual advantage. As originally instituted by our Lord, this sacrament was a “supper,” observed at an appointed “hour,” “when the even was come” of “the same night in which he was betrayed.” Might not many impressive associations be secured if, in the imitation of his example, it were, whenever possible, appointed for [I]an evening service[/I], exclusively distinct from all the business of the day?

“With desire,” he said, “have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” Ought not his ministering servants, in their stated assemblies, to guard against any influences which may tend to cool the ardor of their “desire” for the recurrence of the Sacred Feast?

“Let a man examine himself,” said the apostle, “and so let him eat that bread and drink that cup.” Ought not careful arrangements to be made for “attending thereto with diligence, preparation, and prayer”? And, unless due opportunity be given for such preparation, would it not be better, at our ecclesiastical meetings, not to appoint the formal service at all?
Your Committee recommend, that the attention of Judicatories be called to this important subject, and that, independent of past customs, they be enjoined to take such action with reference to it, as may seem most in harmony with the Divine arrangement, and best calculated to promote the spiritual welfare of themselves and the congregations with which from time to time they may meet.

Resolved, That the Committee of Arrangements for the next General Assembly be instructed, to provide for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, on the evening of the first day of its sessions.

Looking back in the older Minutes of General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (Old School), those prior to 1869, we find that meetings are opened and closed with prayer, as we would expect. And there is mention of devotional exercises, but there is no mention of any observance of the Lord’s Supper, so far as I could find.

Two possibilities occur then:
1. Either the observance of the Lord’s Supper at General Assembly (and presumably at Presbytery and/or Synod as well) was a practice that has its beginning among the New School Presbyterians.
or,
2. When Assemblies met for eight days or more, as they used to, the included Lord’s Day was an obvious time of worship and likely also for celebration of the Supper. So perhaps as Assemblies began to meet for six or fewer days, the need began to be felt for more structured times of worship, with inclusion of the Supper.

Testing the first thesis, I found in the Minutes of the 1868 New School Assembly, on page 42, this note:

The Assembly met, and united with a large congregation of Christian believers in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

That Assembly had convened on Friday, May 22d, 1868, and met Saturday in continuation. Then there is no reference whatsoever in the Minutes as to what that Assembly did on Sunday. Business continued again on Monday through the week, and on Friday, celebration of the Supper at 3 PM. Business continued on Saturday, adjourned, no mention of Sunday, and business concluded on Monday, June 1st. There was only the one observance of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, May 28th.

In the 1839 New School GA Minutes, on page 13:

On Saturday evening, a quarter before 8 o’clock, a Lecture preparatory to the sacrament was preached by the Rev. Dr. Williston; and on Sabbath, P.M., at 5 o’clock, the Lord’s supper was administered, in the First Presbyterian Church [Philadelphia], to the members of the Assembly, and to a large congregation of Christian Brethren, according to the previous arrangement.

Admittedly there, in 1839, celebration of the Supper took place on the Lord’s Day, but it was nonetheless administered to the Assembly. Also noted is the fact that the Supper was not observed at the opening of that Assembly, but rather was observed later while the Assembly was in session. Checking other New School Minutes, there does not appear to have been any celebration of the Supper in 1840, 1843, or 1855. But in 1849 and 1850, at each of those Assemblies, there was the observance of the Supper on Thursday, at 4 PM and 7:45 PM respectively.

So while they might have been spotty in their observance, there does seem to be a case for the idea that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the higher courts of the Church is a practice that comes out of New School Presbyterianism. It is only after the reunion of 1869-70 that the practice becomes regularized in the PCUSA.

Memorial for Wm. Swan Plumer – 1881

In Uncategorized on 26/08/2013 at 12:56

Plummer, William Swan [1826-1880]Filed under “They just don’t write ’em like that any more.” — Just came across the 1881 resolution by the 1881 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, US, on page 363 of their Minutes:

The Committee recommend the adoption of the following Minute:

Whereas, it pleased the Great Head of the Church to remove, in October 1880, from the scene of his earthly labors, that he might be with Him where He is, and behold His glory, Rev. W. S. Plumer, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Pastoral and Casuistic Theology in Columbia Seminary, by appointment of this body:

Resolved, That this Assembly does now record its testimony to the personal worth, eminent piety, unremitting industry and zeal, and official fidelity of this distinguished servant of Christ. Our deceased brother was a rare gift of the ascended Redeemer to his militant Church, and we render to Him thanks for that grace which qualified our brother for his varied and abundant labors—for his long and useful life, and for the testimony of his lips, life and death to the truth, preciousness and power of that gospel which was his comfort, joy and trust, living and dying.

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.]

Harmony S.S. Society

In Uncategorized on 28/05/2013 at 20:04

A few thoughts on the value of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, 15 October 1836, p. 166, columns 2-3:—

 

A-218Ought the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism to be used in Sabbath Schools; and if so, to what extent?

We have seldom heard a more eloquent eulogium on the Catechism, than was elicited in the discussion. All seemed ready and anxious to speak in its praise. We can give only a few disconnected sentences from our notes.

What is the Catechism? An epitome of all the great truths and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel. He who learns that, has the substance of the Old and New Testaments. No book, except the Bible, is so near perfection. Those who have done most to bless the world, have loved the doctrines just as they are taught in the Catechism. The Puritans came to these shores to cherish these doctrines. “But,” says one, “it is no use to teach children what they cannot understand.” All past experience shows that tis is not true. They must be tuaght things which they cannot understand. I owe more, said the speaker, to my knowledge of these doctrines, as tuaght in that manual, than to my three years’ study in the Theological Seminary. There is a great deal of thought in the Catechism; more than in some of our libraries.

I was once, said another speaker, taught the Catechism, and I never think of these truths without the tenderest recollection of my parents, now in heaven.

I have reason to bless the God of heaven, (said the moderator, probably the oldest Minister present) that I was taught that sytstem of doctrine while I was almost in the arms of my mother. When I grew up so as to compare it with the Bible, I found there was a unison. My old Minister used to teach it at the close of the common school. Then we were called orthodox. That man is now sleeping with his fathers. A new set of Ministers have arisen, who have discarded the Catechism, and now but few can be found in that place, who hold the doctrines as there taught.

Ancient Revivals: “The Testimony and Advice.”

In Uncategorized on 12/12/2012 at 14:21

Psalm 145:10-12
10.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.
11.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.
12.  To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

Earlier this week, The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, in partnership with William Eerdmans Publishing Company, announced that they will be producing A JONATHAN EDWARDS ENCYCLOPEDIA. The volume, to be published in print and online, will be comprised of some 450 entries. In light of that project, here transcribed below is an important document from the latter years of the First Great Awakening. THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE is not otherwise easily found on the Internet at this time, other than in short quotations, and so it seemed good to reproduce it here.

In that era of the First Great Awakening, Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors worked readily with one another in the proclamation of the Gospel, both groups being strongly Calvinistic in their theology. As you read through this document, you will see mentioned several of the concerns which figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church, 1741-1758. The issues prompting that split included itinerant preaching and ministerial authority, and both of these concerns are discussed in THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE.

[Originally published Boston : Printed, and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1743, and here excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 38 (22 September 1838): 149, columns 4-5.]

From the Pastor’s Journal.
ANCIENT REVIVALS.

After the remarkable work of God in New England in the beginning of the last century, it was suggested by a writer in the Boston Gazette of May 31st, 1743, that a Convention of Ministers should be held to “consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony, to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which through the permitted agency of Satan have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement.” Accordingly, on the 7th July of the same year, about ninety Ministers met at Boston for the above purposes. After a sermon, they proceeded to confer together, and to hear the letters of such as desired but were not able to attend the meeting. As the result of their deliberations they drew up and published the following document, which was signed by sixty-eight Ministers—the number of those who remained, the others having left.

THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE

Of an Assembly of Pastors of Churches in New England, at a meeting in Boston, July 7th, 1743, occasioned by the late happy Revival of Religion in many parts of the land. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Leave the House of God

In Uncategorized on 11/12/2012 at 18:20

[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 39 (29 September 1838): 154, column 2.]

HOW TO LEAVE THE HOUSE OF GOD.

And he sent them away.“—From these five short and simple words, Bishop Heber forms one of his most practical and interesting sermons. After repeating the Evangelist’s account of the miracle, at the close of the performance of which Jesus Christ uttered these words, he goes on to lay before his hearers the duties that are incumbent upon them, after being “sent away,” with a blessing from the house of God, and begs them, in his own impressive manner, to bow in supplication, as they leave that temple, to Him who can alone give them strength to go on their way rejoicing, or enable them to fulfil the duties that intervene between that time and the next period appointed for their assembling together. So should we go away strengthened, and refreshed in spirit by the words of the teacher, as the multitude left the Saviour, nourished in body by the miraculous food he had bestowed—”then would the dawn of each returning day bring increase of knowledge;” then, when another Sabbath calls us to God’s holy temple, we would return in the increased favor of God and the clearer light of His countenance; and at length, when the great Sabbath of nature is arrived, and he who once fed the poor flock in the wilderness returns in His father’s glory, to rule over heaven and earth, He will “send us away” no more, but cause us, world without end, to dwell in His tabernacle, and before His face, that “where He is, there we may be also.”Southern Churchman.

Educate Your Children

In Uncategorized on 11/12/2012 at 18:05

[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 40 (6 October 1838): 159, column 2]

Educate your Children.—The following elegant extract merits the attention of every teacher, and especially of every parent.

wsc_london“If the time shall come when this might fabric shall totterwhen the beacon which now rises in a pillar of fire, a sign and wonder of the world, shall wax dimthe cause will be found in the ignorance of the people. If our union is still to continue to cheer the hopes, and animate the efforts of the oppressed of every nation; if our fields are to be untrod by the hirelings of despotism; if long days of blessedness are to attend our country in her career of glory; if you would have the sun continue to shed its unclouded rays upon the face of freemen, then educate all the children in the land. This alone startles the tyrant in his dreams of power, and rouses the slumbering energies of oppressed people. It was intelligence that reared up the majestic columns of national glory; and this alone can prevent them from crumbling to ashes.

The Family of President Edwards

In Uncategorized on 28/11/2012 at 19:03

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 23 (5 June 1852):  89, column 5.]

THE FAMILY OF PRESIDENT EDWARDS.

It was an unspeakable privilege in the view of the late President [Jonathan] Edwards, that when surrounded by a young and growing family, and when his duty to his people, especially in seasons of revival, necessarily occupied his whole attention, he could safely commit his children to the wisdom and piety, the love and faithfulness of their mother [Sarah Pierpont Edwards]. Her views of the responsibility of parents were large and comprehensive. “She thought that, as a parent, she had great and important duties to do toward her children before they were capable of government and instruction. For them she constantly and earnestly prayed, and bore them on her heart before God, in all her secret and most solemn addresses to him; and that, even before they were born. The prospect of her becoming a mother of a rational, immortal creature, which came into existence in an undone and infinitely dreadful state, was sufficient to lead her to bow before God daily for His blessing on it; even redemption and eternal life by Jesus Christ. So that, through all the pain, labor, and sorrow which attended her being the mother of children, she was in travail for them that they should be born of God. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Gospel Precious,” by Dr. Archibald Alexander

In Archibald Alexander, Uncategorized on 28/11/2012 at 18:24

Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 13 (27 March 1852): 49, column 3.

Dr. Archibald Alexander was, in addition to his service as the first professor at Princeton Seminary, quite dedicated in the work of writing evangelistic tracts, many of which were later gathered and published in the volume, Practical Truths. The following short quote is taken from one such tract:

THE GOSPEL PRECIOUS.

Oh, precious gospel! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, and sweetest consolation? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor, the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure? Would you let loose the flood-gates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the fire-brands of infidelity; laugh at religion; and make a mock of futurity; but be assured, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. I will persuade myself that a regard for the welfare of their country, if no higher motive, will induce men to respect the Christian religion. And every pious heart will say, rather let the light of the sun be extinguished than the precious light of the gospel.—[Dr. Archibald Alexander.

The Old Arch Street Presbyterian Church

In Uncategorized on 28/11/2012 at 17:59

While searching earlier today for an obituary (not found) in an old issue of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, I came across this interesting brief article concerning pastor, the congregation and the original edifice of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. My primary interest is in the first few paragraphs. After that, well, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

THE OLD ARCH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The instrumentality of Whitfield in the erection of the ancient square edifice, that once stood on the north west corner of Arch and Third streets, is probably known to some of your readers, as well as the fact, that the people worshipping there, were styled “new lights,” and that sundry opprobrious epithets were applied to the memorable Gilbert Tennent, their pastor. I have sat in the old square house, more than once, and well remember when it was succeeded by the oblong building that occupied the site, until after the settlement of the late Dr. Cuyler, in the pastoral office.

There was no cellar under the original house, and the remains of the venerable and beloved Tennent were deposited beneath the brick floor, and so remained until the contemplated change in the place of worship was effected. The new edifice was furnished with a cellar; and being well suited to storage, was often perverted to the strange use of a place of deposit for the article that manufactures paupers so rapidly. In this cellar were deposited the remains of Tennent, a suitable brick enclosure having been made for the purpose.

The late Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was a warm personal friend and admirer of Mr. Tennent, was sorely grieved, that such a disposition had been made of the venerated dust of his favorite preacher. Horrified at what he deemed a kind of sacrilege, the following impromptu, pronounced while in conversation with a lady who was then a member of Arch street Church, gave vent to his feelings. The lady who is yet living, and who penned the memorable lines at the time of utterance, favored me with a copy, some months ago; and as they are well worth a place in your useful paper, they are forwarded for insertion. They represent the spirit of the departed saint, roused by the resurrection trump, as quitting his heavenly abode, to visit earth in search of his body, and run thus :

The trumpet sounds, the sleeping dead arise,
And Tennent’s spirit quits its nature skies;
To his dear church it wings its favor’d way
To seek reunion with its kindred clay,
Where is my body? cries the reverend saint,
“Lo here, good Sir, the Sexton, “no it ain’t,”
“My body rested under my church floor
That body rises from a liquor store!”

Your readers are aware, the Dr. Rush hated intemperance and all its relations.

PAUL.

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, 31.6 (7 February 1852): 21, column 5.]