Letters of Gold for the Presbyterian Ministry

In the concluding chapter of The Westminster Symbols: A Commentary Historical, Doctrinal, Practical on the Confession of Faith and Catechisms and the Related Formularies of the Presbyterian Churches (1900), Edward Dafydd Morris gives an overview of the Westminster Assembly and its work. He further concludes his magnum opus (p. 840) with a quote from the Westminster Directory of Public Worship that is worthy of remembrance. 

"The original Directory for Worship, springing from the heart as well as brain of the Assembly, happily describes that attitude in language which might well be written in letters of gold for the guidance of the Presbyterian ministry in all lands and times:

It is presupposed that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaids unto divinity; by his knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the holy Scriptures; having his senses and heart exercised in them above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of the Spirit of God, and other gifts of edification which (together with reading and studying of the Word) he ought still to seek by prayer and an humble heart, —resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him."

The Explanation of the Psalm

The current Directory of Public Worship of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) alludes to a long-standing custom to be found within Covenanter worship services: the explanation of the psalm to be sung.

"10. The Psalms have a depth of meaning and beauty that will repay the most careful study. It is vitally important that the congregation understand what is sung. Therefore, it is helpful for the elders to make brief comments on the Psalms sung. It is particularly helpful if one of the Psalms is selected for a more substantial, succinct explanation by an elder before it is sung. Attention should be given to how the Psalm reveals the work of Christ and the blessings of the New Covenant."

Robert J. George devoted several pages to this topic in the first volume of his Lectures in Pastoral Theology (1911), pp. 117-124. The first portion of his remarks is reproduced here for consideration. 

"LECTURE XII

THE EXPLANATION OF THE PSALM

The explanation of the Psalm to be sung at the opening of the Sabbath morning service is a long established custom in the Covenanter Church. Formerly other Presbyterian churches had the same practice. Now it is scarcely known except in the two Covenanter bodies. In regard to this service let us observe —

I

The Importance of the Explanation of the Psalm.

I. It is essential to the intelligent use of the Psalms.

The Psalms need to be expounded. They cannot be seen in all their beauty, or felt in the fullness of their power without explanation. While their truths are adapted to all times, many of them are set forth in the imagery and phraseology of a former dispensation — which need to be unfolded to reveal their spiritual import.

Not only do they need to be explained, but they will bear explanation. In this they differ from hymns of human production. Dr. James Kennedy was accustomed to tell of an old Scotch minister who in his native land was used to explaining the Psalm. Removing to this country and finding the hymns in use, he undertook to explain a hymn. After several unsatisfactory efforts to expand the thought he closed the service in disgust, saying: 'Brethren, I can take naething oot o' that, for there's naething in it.' But the Psalms of the Bible are wells of salvation out of which we may draw water with joy, and the well is deep.

2. The explanation of the Psalm is a beautiful and appropriate introduction to the services.

The Book of Psalms is the devotional book of the Bible. It is eminently fitting that assembled worshipers should turn at once to a lesson from the Divine Word. And what could be more reasonable or natural than to find that morning lesson in the devotional book. And this is what many do, even of those who do not employ the Psalms for praise. A Presbyterian minister recently said to me: 'I always take my morning lesson from the Psalms.' This is very suggestive.

Young gentlemen: Instead of regarding the practice of Explaining the Psalm as an old-fashioned, antiquated custom to be borne with only until it can be gotten rid of, we should recognize in it a beautiful and helpful service which places our church in the foremost rank of those who are striving to restore the word of God to its true and commanding position in the services of His house, and which should inspire us with a purpose to advance this part of our public worship to the highest possible perfection.

3. It is, in itself, a delightful service.

(1) It must be so from the character of the Book of Psalms.

I will quote one or two testimonies on this point. Athanasius writes: —

'They appear to me a mirror of the soul of every one who sings them. They enable him to perceive his own emotions, and to express them in the words of the Psalms. He who hears them read receives them as if they were spoken to him. We cannot conceive of anything richer than the Book of Psalms. If you need penitence; if anguish or temptation have befallen you; if you have escaped persecution or oppression, or are immersed in deep affliction; concerning each and all you may find instruction and state it to God in the words of the Psalter.' 

Ambrose says: ''The law instructs, history informs, prophecy predicts, correction censures, and morals exhort. But in the Book of Psalms you find the fruit of all these as well as a remedy for the salvation of the soul. The Psalter deserves to be called the praise of God, the glory of man, the voice of the church, and the most beneficial confession of faith. In the Psalms delight and instruction vie with one another. We read for instruction and sing for enjoyment.' 

Many such eulogies have been pronounced upon this book by the most eminent and saintly men of all ages. It cannot be otherwise than a delightful service that brings forth the rich treasures of this book for the devotional exercises of God's people on the Sabbath morning.

(2) This is the testimony of our people.

The most spiritual members of a congregation will often say that the explanation of the Psalm is to them the most uplifting service of the day. So unanimous is the testimony of good people to the delight they have found in the service that when it is otherwise there must be a fault either in the manner of explanation, or in the complaining hearer.

(3) This is the testimony of outsiders.

By these I mean attendants from sister churches which do not use or do not explain the Psalms. They frequently speak of this as a unique, striking, profitable, and even beautiful service.

Young gentlemen: Let me urge you to exalt in your minds the claims of this service and to devote to it your best gifts — let the entrance to the temple of worship be by the 'Gate that is called Beautiful,' so that on the very threshold, the worshipers will be reminded that it is God's house, and that God Himself is within."

Pastor George wrote further on this topic regarding "What Should Be the Character of This Explanation?" and "Suggestions As to Methods." His counsel to pastors who perform this function in the worship service includes recommended commentaries on the Psalms; suggested time limits on the explanation of the Psalm to be sung; the devotional character of the explanation; and encouragement to center the focus of the explanation of the Psalm on the Person of Christ. 

The exclusive place of the Psalms in Covenanter worship is well known. The explanation of the Psalms to be sung is perhaps less so. But it is worth taking a look at Pastor George's guidance on this point to better appreciate the importance Covenanters place on singing with understanding ("For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding," Ps. 47:7). 

E. P. Rogers (FPC Augusta's Pastor in 1850) on the Doctrine of Election

Ebenezer Platt Rogers (1817-1881) was at various times a Congregationalist, Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed pastor. His Presbyterian service was rendered at the esteemed First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1847-1854. While there he preached and subsequently published in one volume three discourses on the doctrine of election, entitled The Doctrine of Election: Stated, Defended, and Applied (it can be found here). Fellow Southerner Thomas Smyth penned the introduction to this work, which makes it doubly valuable. Rogers' presentation is short (approximately 100 pages), and as the title indicates, covers the statement and Scripture proof of the doctrine of election, objections to the doctrine of election, and the use and glory of the doctrine of election. If someone you know is wrestling with this Biblical truth, consider printing off this PDF and working through it with them. 

John Lafayette Girardeau on the Church's Responsibility to Foreign Missions

 

In May of 1868, some three years after the end of the Civil War, John Lafayette Girardeau was called upon to address the Society of Missionary Inquiry at Columbia Theological Seminary. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Presbyterian Church) had recently seen a resurgence in interest in foreign missions, and Girardeau wanted to strike while the iron was hot. The text of this discourse was printed in the August 1868 edition of The Missionary, and presents us with a stirring call to consider the obligation upon the church to bring the gospel to the nations who have not yet heard it. 

Girardeau writes out of his particular context, and so explores the Southern Presbyterian Church's relative lack of foreign missionary involvement in the antebellum period, as well as the changes that the Civil War had brought, and the opportunities that were then before the church by God's almighty providence. His convictions about the gospel are clear: "That the heathen, as constituents of the federal head of the race, are involved in the guilt of his first sin; that they are voluntary transgressors of natural law indelibly impressed upon the conscience of mankind; that they perish under the operation of the penalty of that violated institute though it be not reduced to a written form; that their condition is one of misery, ruin, and death; that their only hope of eternal salvation lies in their knowledge of the gospel of Christ; that the Church as the constituted trustee of that gospel is imperatively bound by her Master's last command, by the laws of her being and the very instincts of her nature, to preach to them a crucified and risen Saviour as their light in darkness, their deliverance from sin, and their redemption from woe..." Likewise, his belief in the necessity of foreign missions is settled: "A selfish Church would be a contradiction in terms, a monster drinking from her own breast the milk which was intended to nourish the dying children of want."

Girardeau's address captures a vital aspect of the ministry of the church, at a significant time in the life of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. It is relevant both as a historical document, and for its ongoing encouragement to those engaged in foreign missions on a variety of levels. Tolle lege! 

Thomas Smyth on Affliction and the Comfort of God

"Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God," Paul declared to the saints in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Acts 14:22). Thus for the Christian, as for Christ, the cross comes before the crown. Yet our heavenly Father sustains and comforts us in the midst of our suffering, and through our suffering He refines us for an eternity with Himself. These truths are the theme of several of Thomas Smyth's shorter writings, found in Volume 10 of his Complete Works

  • Council and Comfort for Afflicted Believers
  • God Comforts us to Make us Comforters
  • Solace for Bereaved Parents
  • God Glorified and Christian Obedience Perfected in the Prostration and Suffering of Believers
  • Heaven

Smyth, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1834 until nearly his death in 1873, endured a life of tragedy - chronic illness, debilitating headaches, paralysis, shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, the death of two infant children to scarlet fever, and the list could go on. Yet this shepherd knew the word of God, and sought to apply it to himself and to his sheep. Avail yourself of the experiential wisdom of this 19th-century American Presbyterian today. 

Happy Birthday to John Calvin!

The man who contributed so much to American Presbyterianism from his exiled home by Lake Geneva, Switzerland, the French Huguenot pastor John Calvin, was born on July 10, 1509. He was the man who first sent Protestant missionaries to the New World (France Antarctique, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1557), and it was his compatriot French Huguenots who settled the first Protestant colonies in America in Parris Island, South Carolina (1562) and Fort Caroline, Florida (1564) - all of three of which colonies were planted by the French Calvinist Admiral Gaspard Coligny. From these early settlements to the Pilgrims' Plimoth Plantation to Jamestown, Virginia, to the War of 1776, the man who influence did so much to establish the American colonies and republic was John Calvin. 

We give tribute to the man and his legacy with a list of resources on our site about this hero of the faith. 

Take a look at these resources as we remember the birthday of a man raised up by God who did so much to further the kingdom of God in Europe, America and around the world. 

Spiritual Improvement on a Journey Homeward

"There is no object that we see; no action that we do; no good that we enjoy; no evil that we feel, or fear, but we may make some spiritual advantage of all: and he that makes such improvement is wise, as well as pious" (American Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet, Meditations Divine and Moral I).

From English Anglican Bishop Joseph Hall's Occasional Meditations (1630) to English Puritan John Flavel's Husbandry spiritualized, or, The Heavenly Use of Earthly Things (1674) to Anne Bradstreet's Meditations, we have examples of devotional literature wherein the pious writer takes note of ordinary or extraordinary things around him or her and with meditation finds spiritual application and benefit. 

One such example from the literature of American Presbyterianism comes from the Journal of Samuel Davies. In 1753, he left Virginia to visit England and Scotland. That is when his Journal begins. He often took note of the wind, waves and weather around him as he sailed, and sometimes inspired his poetry, but it was not until he was almost back home, off the coast of North Carolina, in 1755, that he really began to takes notes on what he saw for purposes of spiritual meditation and improvement (George William Pilcher, ed., The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad: The Diary of a Journey to England and Scotland, 1753-55). 

"Wednesd. Feb. 12. Blessed be God, we had the wellcome [sic] Sight of Land this Morning; and suppose we are on the Coast of N. Carolina, about 20 Leagues S. of Cape Henry. The Wind is contrary; and if a Storm should rise, we might be driven out to Sea again. 

Since my last Remarks, we have had strong Gales and violent Storms of Snow, with violent intense Cold. It has been so cloudy; that we have had no good Observations of 9 Days; and our Reckoning for Longitude being out [editorial note: John Harrison's marine chronometer was not invented until 1761], we knew not where we were. We have been expecting Land, and sounding for Ground, these 14 Days, but were still disappointed 'till this Morning. If the Longitude, which has been so long sought for in vain, could be certainly discovered, it would be vastly to the Advantage of Navigation. 

Tho' my Mind has been in such a confusion, during the Passage, that I have not been able to make any useful Remarks to any Advantage; yet the various Phenomenon of the Ocean have suggested to me such Hints as might be well improved by a spiritual Meditant. And I shall take short Memorandum of them that if I should happen to be disposed for it hereafter, I may improve upon them. 

The majestic Appearance of this vast Collection of Waters, may suggest to use -- the Majesty -- and Power of God, the Author -- and his uncontroulable Government who rules so outragious an Element as he pleases, and stills it with one almighty Mandate, 'Peace, be still,' -- and the Terror of the Conflagration which shall dry it up. 

The alternate Storms and Calms are a picture of the Mutability of human Life on this World -- of the various Frames of a Xn.

As Storms and Hurricanes purifie the Sea, and keep it from corrupting; so Afflications are necessary to purge and sanctifie the People of God, and shall work together for their Good. And so God brings Good out of Evil. 

It is calm in some Parts of the Ocean, while it is tempestous [sic] in others. So, particular Persons -- and Countries, are alternately happy and miserable. 

The Sea in the Ferment of a Storm gives us an Image -- of a Mind agitated with furious Lusts and Passions -- and a riotous Mobb. 

The Ship is our only Safety. So is Xt. to the Souls amid the Ruins of Sin. 

After a Storm and a gloomy Night, how wellcome and chearing is the Return of a Calm, and a the Morning Light! So is the Return of Peace and the Light of God's Countenance to a Soul in Darkness and Distress. 

The Want of an Observation to discover the Latitude, in cloudy Weather, leaves the Mariner perplexed about his Course. Thus perplexed is the Xn. when God withdraws the Light of his Countenance, or when the Meaning of the Scripture is uncertain. 

It is a great Disadvantage to Navigation, and occasions the Loss of many Ships, that the Longitude is not discovered. Thus would it have been, with the moral [sic?] World, if it had not been favoured with the Light of Revelation; and thus is the heathen Part of Mankind at a Loss about the Way to Heaven. 

After a long and dangerous Voyage, how eager are the Seamen looking out for Land; and how rejoiced at the Sight of it! Thus eager are some Xns and thus eager should they all be, to see Immanuel's Land, and arrive there. 

It is a striking Evidence of the Degeneracy of human Nature, that those who traverse this Region of Wonders, who see so many Dangers and Deliverances, are generally tho'tless, vicious and impenitent. 

Such Remarks as these, decorated with lively Images and good Langue, would be both useful and entertaining." 

It was the next day that Samuel Davies arrived in Yorktown, Virginia, and two days following he returned home to his dear wife. 

Pictured: Winslow Homer, Northeaster (1895).

Improvement of Time

Philip Lindsley (1786-1855) was a minister and educator who served as acting president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1822-1824; and as the first president of the University of Nashville, Tennessee (1824-1850). 

His Works in three volumes (comprising of Educational Discourses, Sermons and Religious Discourses, and Miscellaneous Discourses and Essays) are filled with much wisdom and piety on topics that include (in Vol. 2 alone) Sabbath-keeping, self-examination, the necessity of a learned ministry, the pastoral office, evangelical repentance, and more. 

Towards the end of 1822, Lindsley gave two discourses at the chapel of the College of New Jersey on the subject of the improvement of time. These discourses were delivered just after a student had passed away the previous month (whose eulogy was given by Archibald Alexander), and another, the previous February, which were rare events at the College. 

Lindsley took occasion to encourage his students on the first Sabbath of December, 1822, on the basis of Psalm 90:12 ("So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom"), to consider the brevity of life, and the need for sobriety and industry, and to be content to "use the world, but abuse it not." He also reminded them to remember to seek first the kingdom of God, and that this life is preparation for the next. 

His next discourse, given on the last Sabbath of December, 1822, and taken from Eph. 5:16 ("Redeeming the time"), reminded his students of the value of time - once lost, it is not to be found again, an appropriate theme for the end of one year and the beginning of another. The opposite of redeeming the time is wasting time. This he warned his hearers against, and preached equally to himself: "We have all erred in this matter. There is not an individual in this house; —there is not a child of Adam on earth who has not abused time. Nay more, there is not a day in which the best of men, when they review, at evening, their conduct during the day, do not find abundant cause of humiliation and repentance before God for their unfruitfulness, their sloth, or their forgetfulness of Him who has solemnly charged them to occupy till he come." 

He then proceeded to direct his students on how to improve the time given to them - in a word, or two, to make religion the "every-day work" of the Christian. Also, to acquire knowledge in the service of God. As students, this was their present business. To them, he said: "Time is the talent committed to you to improve to the very utmost of your ability, according to the opportunities and advantages enjoyed." While giving general guidance about how to study aright, he pointed his hearers first and foremost to the study of the Bible, the class book of the College, and "the richest treasure ever bestowed by heaven on man. The Bible — inestimable, inexhaustible fountain of truth, and wisdom, and purity, and consolation!" There is a lesson here for all of us that is timeless, but requires us to take time to heed it. 

Happy Birthday to Ashbel Green!

It was on July 6, 1762, that a "prince in Israel" was born. Ashbel Green lived a remarkable life (and wrote a fascinating autobiography) which is too much to sum up in blog post. But among the highlights: 

  • He served as a sergeant in the New Jersey Militia during the American War of Independence;
  • studied under John Witherspoon, and graduated valedictorian (1783) at the College of New Jersey; 
  • served as Tutor (1783-1785) and Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy (1785-1787) at the College of New Jersey;
  • served as associate pastor (1786-1793) and head pastor (1793-1812) of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia;
  • served as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives (1792-1800);
  • advocated for the establishment of what became Princeton Theological Seminary, and served as President of its Board;
  • served as President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) (1812-1822);
  • served as President of the Bible Society of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania Bible Society);
  • was President of the PCUSA Board of Missions; and
  • was the editor of The Christian Advocate.

When he preparing to assume the office of President of the College of New Jersey, he took time to pray and wrote down a set of personal resolutions that are worthy to consider as we remember his life (these are extracted from his autobiography, pp. 342-344). 

"November 16th, 1812. Having set apart this day for special prayer to God, in view of the duties on which I am entering as President of the College, I have thought it might be useful to me to commit some of my thoughts and resolutions to writing, that I may the more fully recollect and review them hereafter. I have entered on the station which I now occupy, with a deep sense of my insufficiency and unpreparedness for it. I have accepted of it (if I know myself) because I thought the call in providence was such that I should resist my duty if I refused it; and on the other hand, that if I accepted, I might hope that with all my incompetency, God might please to use me for some good. If he shall, all the glory will of course belong to himself; and I am at all times to guard my treacherous heart against taking any of it to myself: and if he shall not, I am resigned to his sovereign and holy appointment, knowing that his ways are sometimes inscrutable, but always right. The following resolutions appear to me proper at present, but I make them not as immutable, but only as my guide till I shall be deliberately convinced in regard to any of them that they are improper. The most of them I am perfectly satisfied that I never ought to change; and these may the God of all grace enable me to fulfil. 

Resolved, 1st. To consider myself as devoted to the service of the College for the remainder of my days, or till I shall leave the station which I now occupy. I am not to seek ease, or wealth, or fame, as my chief object. I am to endeavour to be a father to the institution. I am to endeavour to the utmost to promote all its interests as a father does, in what relates to his children and property. 

2d. To pray for the institution as I do for my family, that God may enable me to do my duty in it, prosper all its concerns, and especially that he may pour out his Spirit upon it, and make it what its pious founders intended it to be. 

3d. To watch against the declension of religion in my own soul, to which I may be more exposed than when I was the pastor of a congregation, and to which the pursuits of science themselves may prove a temptation. 

4th. To endeavour to acquire the true spirit of my station - a spirit of humble fortitude and firmness, of dignity and meekness, of decision and caution, of prudence and promptness, of courtesy and reserve, of piety unfeigned, with a suitable regard to the manners and opinions of the world. 

5th. To avoid anger and irritation. 

6th. To avoid the extremes of talkativeness and silence in company. 

7th. To endeavour to avoid all hurry, and to be always self-possessed. 

8th. Not to speak hastily on any subject - not on a subject of science before my pupils, lest a mistake should injure me or them. 

9th. To endeavour that my own family be exemplary in all things. 

10th. To view every officer of the College as a younger brother, and every pupil as a child. 

11th. To treat the officers of the College with great attention and respect. 

12th. To treat the students with tenderness and freedom, but yet as never to permit them to treat me with familiarity, or to lose their respect for me. 

13th. To be much employed in devising something for the improvement of the institution, or the advancement of its interests; but to avoid hasty and fanciful innovations of every kind. 

14th. In all cases of discipline to act with great coolness, caution, and deliberation; and having done this, to fear no consequences, nor to trouble myself much about them. 

15th. Having done my duty, to indulge no anxiety in regard to what may follow from it, at any time or in any way. This is to be left to God." 

A Gem From Charles Hodge

Just as the Apostle Paul speaks of a distinction between "godly sorrow" and "sorrow of the world" (2 Cor. 7:10), so a distinction can be made between Christian humility and secular or worldly humility. The latter is often portrayed as a virtue that characterizes the good man considered in himself; the former acknowledges the good gifts in a believer in a manner which exalts the grace of God, as Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:10, when he says "...but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 

Charles Hodge in his Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 318, helps to flesh out the reality of our cooperation with the grace of God and how that squares with the principles that all good in us is to be ascribed wholly to the grace of God: "Yet not I, i.e. the fact that I laboured so abundantly is not to be referred to me; I was not the labourer — but the grace which was with me....In the one case grace is represented as co-operating with the apostle; in the other, the apostle loses sight of himself entirely, and ascribes every thing to grace. 'It was not I, but the grace of God.' Theologically, there is no difference in these different modes of statement.... True, he did co-operate with the grace of God, but this co-operation was due to grace — so that with the strictest propriety he could say, 'Not I, but the grace of God.'"

Hodge further gives us a definition (p. 317) that is worthy to meditate upon: "Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the grace of God."

American Presbyterians Wish You a Happy Independence Day!

The Fourth of July is a holiday that tends to unite American Presbyterians. Their historically Scotch-Irish heritage certainly plays a part in this, for resistance to British rule was carried across the Atlantic by many. But more largely, Augustinian / Calvinistic principles of interposition of lesser civil magistrates against tyrants have guided Presbyterian understanding of the legitimacy of a resistance movement such as that of 1776. It was not without cause that the conflict between Great Britain and the American colonies was labelled by Tories "the Presbyterian Rebellion." But American Presbyterians would call it a lawful War of Independence, or Revolution.

The 1776 Declaration of Independence, it is argued by many, was inspired or modeled after the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration and Mecklenburg Resolves. These, in turn, were the fruit of the ministry of Alexander Craighead, who was the first American colonist to publicly advocate for armed resistance against Great Britain, decades before Lexington and Concord. "In July, 1777, the Covenanters in Eastern Pennsylvania unitedly swore allegiance to the cause of the Colonies. These little Societies furnished no less than thirteen of Washington's officers, as well as many soldiers in the ranks" (John Wagner Pritchard, Soldiers of the Church, p. 22; W.M. Glasgow, Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, p. 68). 

Some notable Presbyterians served the cause of American Independence, such as John Rogers, as chaplain; Alexander MacWhorter, also as chaplain; and John Witherspoon, as a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

The seeds of independence were planted early: 

* Alexander Craighead (1707-1766)Renewal of the Covenants, November 11, 1743 (1748)

* Gilbert Tennent (1703-1764), Defensive War Defended (1748)

During the War: 

John Witherspoon (1723-1794), The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men (1776)

In the era of the Articles of Confederation: 

* Robert Smith (1723-1793)The Obligations of the Confederate States of North America to Praise God: Two Sermons (1781)

* John Rodgers (1727-1811), The Divine Goodness Displayed, in the American Revolution (1784)

In the century after the birth of the new constitutional republic: 

* John Hall (1806-1894), The Examples of the Revolution (1859)

* William Pratt Breed (1816-1889)Presbyterianism, and Its Services in the Revolution of 1776 (1875); and Presbyterians and the Revolution (1876)

These volumes and more record God's providential hand in American history, and as we remember the people, places and circumstances surrounding the establishment of the American republic over two centuries ago, these writers have much to say to us today. Take time to peruse these books, and consider the debt that we owe to those who fought for and upheld civil liberties as well as ecclesiastical. 

The Covenanter Soldiers of World War I

In the history of the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America (RPCNA), American wars have often created a conflict or crisis of loyalty, not only between opposing sides, but for those desiring to serve their country, but precluded from doing so, at least in some respects, by the usual requirement of enlistees and officers to take a certain oath of loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. This is so, for American Covenanters, because of the historic principle of the RPCNA known as "Political Dissent," which is to say, Covenanters in America have historically aimed to be good citizens in every respect but have refrained from activities which require an oath to the U.S. Constitution - such as voting, jury duty, and in some cases, military service - which they believed was unlawful for the simple reason that the Constitution gave no acknowledgment to God or His law, and in some instances, directly opposed the law of God (for more on this, please the Reformation Principles Exhibited, authored by Alexander McLeod, chap. 29, Of the Right of Dissent From a Constitution of Civil Government; or James Renwick Willson, Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments; and the Disregard of His Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution). 

An RPCNA layman, and editor of The Christian Nation, John Wagner Pritchard (1851-1924), wrote a valuable chapter of Covenanter history with the title: Soldiers of the Church: The Story of What the Reformed Presbyterians (Covenanters) of North America, Canada, and the British Isles, Did to Win the World War of 1914-1918 (1919). In it, he speaks to this conflict of conscience (pp. 5-6): 

"People who do not understand, marvel that a Covenanter will give his life for his country but withholds his vote at election time. A Covenanter will give his life because of his loyalty to his country, and withholds his vote at election time because of his loyalty to Christ. To become a soldier he is required to swear loyalty to his country, and that he is always eager to do; but to vote at an election he is required to swear to a Constitution of Civil Government that does not recognize the existence of God, the authority of Christ over the nation, nor any obligation to obey His moral law; and that his conception of loyalty to Christ will not permit him to do."

Pritchard traces the history of American Covenanter involvement in the military during the American War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the War Between the States, and, finally, World War I. Largely descended from a Scotch-Irish background, unsurprisingly perhaps, colonial Covenanters led the way in resistance to British tyranny (see Alexander Craighead and John Cuthbertson). Interestingly, no objectionable oath was required of enlistees in the War of 1812. In the Mexican War, Covenanters opposed American efforts to expand slave territory. In the War of 1861, American Covenanters did fight for the North, when exceptions were made for conscience' sake, for those who fought for the North. The modified oath for Covenanter enlistees in that War read thus: "I do swear by the living God, that I will be faithful to the United States, and will aid and defend them against the armies of the Confederate States, yielding obedience to military orders." William Melancthon Glasgow goes to on add: "This oath neither encouraged members unduly to enter the conflict, nor pledged them to support an immoral Constitution. Covenanters regarded the government justifiable in the war so far as it was waged to maintain the integrity of the country and to overthrow the iniquitous system of human slavery" (History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, p. 128). It was at this time also that the National Reform Association was established with the aim of amending the U.S. Constitution to acknowledge Jesus Christ as King of the nations, and his law as supreme. 

In the case of World War I, Mr. Pritchard states, while America refrained from participation in that war, the RPCNA offered its support to President Woodrow Wilson, but after finally joining the cause of freedom and declaring war on Germany, military service by American Covenanters was given at a rate possibly higher than any other denomination: "These records establish the fact that the Covenanter's attitude toward civil government does affect his loyalty to his country but that it affects it by emphasizing it, and they show that 7 ½ per cent of the entire membership of the American Covenanter Church were enrolled in the various departments of military service, a percentage probably greater than that of any other denomination [emphasis added]." 

He goes on to say that some were denied the opportunity to serve the military either at the enlistee or officer level, due to the oath requirements, while some members of the Covenanter joined the military anyway. Others performed civil service instead. A bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1918 that would have modified the military oath to allow for the conscientious objections of Reformed Presbyterians, but it failed to win support. Many did find a way to serve in some capacity, however, and their stories are told by Mr. Pritchard, as well as the stories of those who tried and were denied.

During the War, a letter was sent by the RPCNA to President Woodrow Wilson (himself a Presbyterian ruling elder):

"To Honorable Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America:

Dear Mr. President:—The Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church sends greetings. Strength and wisdom unto you from our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Church, deeply interested in the welfare of the country and the progress of the war, wishes to express gratitude to God and to you for the manner in which the power of the nation is employed in defense of the world's freedom.

We believe there never was a more righteous cause; the fight is for the rights and liberties won in all former battles.

The final issue of the war, in our judgment, is certain; victory, vindication and peace; but its protraction, with the cost of blood, treasure and tears, appalls us. We are not afraid of the enemy; but regarding the long exhausting process at evidence of God's displeasure, we tremble. Serious inquiry is surely now in order.

We believe the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of Nations has a place in national government, which has not been ac corded Him; has a part in the war, which has not been duly recognized; has supreme power to co-ordinate the nations and restore peace; and that His power should be acknowledged and honored by the nations.

The Bible says: "Be wise, O ye kings; kiss the Son, lest He be angry." "All kings shall bow down before Him; all nations shall serve." "He is King of kings, and Lord of lords."

We believe the greatest need of the times is the recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Moral Governor of the nations. The heart of mankind, almost in despair, cries out for a deliverer. None but Jesus can deliver, for the Father has given the nations into His hand.

We beseech you, therefore, to use your office to the utmost, to give the NAME of Jesus Christ prestige in your administrational work, and to recommend to the Congress the recognition of His authority in the laws of the country, endeavoring to harmonize the government with His will.

We know you have no precedent in modern history for your herculean task. But these are times when we look not backward for examples, but upward for vision, and on ward for action. A mighty flood has carried us beyond all landmarks.

The Lord, who has elevated you to the highest office of the land, and to the most influential position in the world, give you power and wisdom to reach the greatest possibili ties of your office for the redemption of the world, that looks for a man, and listens for a voice, to lead her out of the present horror, into the marvelous light of the God of peace.

Very respectfully,
G. A. EDGAR, Moderator.
D. C MATHEWS, Clerk.

Respectfully submitted,
J. C McFEETERS,
F. M. WILSON,
M. M. PEARCE,
J. S. ANDERSON,
S. A. S. METHENY,
Committee."

The Covenanter Service Flag, illustrated here, represents the contributions of the American, Irish and Scottish Synods of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The American Synod, in the war from April 6, 1917, until the end: 604 served, 15 died.
The Irish Synod, in the war from August 4, 1914, until the end: 242 served, 48 died.
The Scotch Synod, in the war from August 4, 1914, until the end: 164 served, 33 died.

Memento Mori

If there a place that proclaims Memento Mori more loudly and clearly than the Princeton Cemetery, it is unknown to this writer. In the Presidents Plot alone, there are three ministers who died soon after preaching a New Year's sermon on the Scriptural text Jer. 28:16: "This year thou shalt die": Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716-1757); Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758); and Samuel Davies (1723-1761) (the same is true of Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801), who is buried elsewhere).

The day of my visit happened to coincide with the anniversary of Charles Hodge's passing into glory. The morning began with a passing rain shower, but the clouds parted and the sun shined. There was time to meditate at the graves of Archibald Alexander, and many others. The weather was very different when Moses Hoge visited the cemetery in 1820. 

"He also visited Princeton College, which, in 1810, had conferred on him, in company with his friend, Mr. [Archibald] Alexander, the degree of S.T.D.; and passed a few days with Dr. Alexander. A cold easterly rain was falling the whole time of his visit. He examined thoroughly the condition of the two institutions, the College and the Seminary, with reference to the two in Prince Edward. He rejoiced in the extended influence of his friend Alexander, and [Samuel] Miller the co-laborer. He could not refrain from a visit to the grave-yard to meditate by the tombs of [Aaron] Burr, [Sr. and Jr.]; [Jonathan] Edwards, [Samuel] Davies, [John] Witherspoon, and [Samuel Stanhope] Smith. As he tarried in that hallowed spot, the bleak wind pierced his diseased frame, and hastened his descent into the valley of death. His heart was elevated as he went from grave to grave, and read the epitaphs of these Presidents of College and teachers of Theology; and his body under the cold rain was chilled in preparation for his own resting in the silent tomb. The conversations of Hoge and Alexander those few days, had there been a hand to record them, laying open the hearts, as by a daguerrotype, of men of such exalted pure principle, so unselfish and so unlike the mass of men - what simplicity of thought, benevolence in feeling, and elevation of piety! -- but there was no man to pen what all men would have been glad to read. Mr. Hoge took his seat in the Assembly - but his fever returned upon him, of a typhus case, and by means of the cold caught in Princeton, became too deeply seated for medicine to remove. He bowed his head meekly to the will of the Head of the Church, and fell asleep in Jesus, on the [5th] of July" (William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia, Second Series, p. 373). 

The French Huguenot Charles Drelincourt once wrote (The Christian's Defence Against the Fears of Death, p. 59): 

"And let the most learned Philosophers learn, That the soundest Philosophy is the Meditation of Death.

In short, Whatever be our Employment, Condition, or Age, let us lift up our Minds and Hands unto GOD, to speak to him in the Language of the Prophet DavidLord, let me know my end, and the number of my days, that I may know how long I am to live. Or of MosesSo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto Wisdom." 

Today is always a good day to consider one's standing before God (Rom. 13:11). Memento mori

Rare Samuel Miller Work Added to Log College Press

It was while studying a work by a family friend, Julius Melton, Presbyterian Worship in American: Changing Patterns Since 1787, that this writer first came upon a reference to a volume by Samuel Miller. Melton drew upon Miller's volume to discuss the early conflict in a New York congregation between the use of the Psalms of David versus the hymns of Isaac Watts. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that this volume was so rare that it did not appear on two bibliographies known to this writer of Samuel Miller's works, including "the bibliography compiled by his granddaughter, Margaret Miller, published in The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. IX, No. 4, October 1911, entitled, 'A List of the Writings of Samuel Miller, D.D., LL.D., 1769-1850, Second Professor in Princeton Theological Seminary 1813-1850.'" However, it does appear in the bibliography of Miller's works compiled by Wayne Sparkman, Director of the PCA Historical Center, in the first volume of The Confessional Journal (2005).

The Miller volume in question is a Sketch of the Early History of the First Presbyterian Church, a 1937 reprint of A Brief Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the First Presbyterian Church of the City of New York written "about the year 1796." Copies of the 1937 reprint exist in several libraries, one of which is Princeton Theological Seminary Library, which gave this writer the courtesy of photographing the volume, thus allowing a digital copy to be made, which may now be the only such digital copy currently available on the internet. 

The "Brief Narrative" does not appear to exist in published form, but it exists in the manuscript collection for the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, located at the Presbyterian Historical Society, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: "Session minutes, 1765-1808; list of baptisms, 1766-1803; and a "Brief Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York.'" Samuel Miller, Jr.'s biography of his father does not mention either title, but does include a suggestive footnote in Vol. 1, p. 82: "A history of the 'First Presbyterian Church of New York,' as it seems still to have been called after it was composed of the 'United Presbyterian Congregations,' may be found in Dr. Miller's Memoirs of Dr. Rodgers, Chaps. iv &c." Indeed, a comparison of multiple passages in Miller's 1813 biography of John Rodgers, his friend and colleague, with the 1796 "Brief Narrative" / 1937 "Sketch" shows many that are exactly the same, which is not surprising as Miller would naturally draw upon his earlier research for the history of the church which he and Rodgers co-pastored. 

The 1937 reprint does include additional supplemental material beyond what Miller wrote, including a list of ministers of the First Presbyterian Church, and a timeline that goes forward to the 1920's, as well as editorial notes. It is now available for those interested in early American Presbyterian Church history to download and read for themselves Miller's historical research. Take note of its several illustrations too. Please disregard the less-than-perfect quality of the photographs by this amateur historian and photographer which now make up this PDF file. Download it and read it when it you can - it is only 46 pages, but they are pages of gold. 

The Hope of Francis Grimké

In an address given at the turn of the century (Dec. 4, 1900) titled "Signs of a Brighter Future" based on the text from Psalm 27:14 ("Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart"), Francis James Grimké once wrote these powerful words (see The Works of Francis J. Grimké, Vol. 1, p. 267): 

"I am hopeful, because I have faith in the power of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ to conquer all prejudices, to break down all walls of separation, and to weld together men of all races in one great brotherhood." 

He cited Colossians 3:11 ("Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all”) as the basis for his hope. He might well have added Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus") or Acts 17:26 ("And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation"). Just as Pentecost signified a reversal of the division of tongues at Babel, all those who are in Christ, of whatever race, are united in Him. The external barriers that have divided men in the past are understood to be of no true account. It was Francis Grimké's hope that the power of the Holy Spirit and true religion of Jesus Christ would bring this to pass on earth as it is in heaven. 

If these words of Francis Grimké inspire you, be sure to check out his Meditations on Preaching published by Log College Press this week.

Have you read Baird on D'Aubigné?

One of the great historians of the 19th century was the Swiss Protestant minister Jean-Henri Merle D'Aubigné, who authored a History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century originally in five volumes and a History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin originally in eight volumes, as well as other works. These Histories became D'Aubigné's magnum opus

In America, the family of Robert Baird and his sons Charles and Henry Baird all took a great interest in the history of the Huguenots, publishing multiple studies of the French and Swiss Reformations. In 1843, Robert Baird wrote a biographical sketch of D'Aubigné, introducing his writings to the American public. Many of D'Aubigné's essays were later translated into English from the original French by Charles Washington Baird in 1846. (At least one was translated by Thomas Smith Grimké, uncle of Francis James Grimké, author of a forthcoming book by Log College Press.) 

More recently, in 2001, Sprinkle Publications in Harrisonburg, Virginia, has republished the Histories of D'Aubigné in multiple volumes. The first volume of the Sprinkle edition includes Robert Baird's Life of D'Aubigné, as well as the essays of D'Aubigné translated by Charles Baird. Thus, the biographical sketch and translation work of the Bairds has done much to introduce Americans of the 19th to the 21st centuries to this great Swiss pastor and historian. 

Samuel Leslie Morris' Works on Home Missions and Presbyterianism

Samuel Leslie Morris was born on December 25, 1854, in Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, South Carolina. He came from robust Scotch-Irish stock that were committed Presbyterians. After graduating from Erskine College at the age of 18, he entered Columbia Theological Seminary. He pastored churches in Walhalla, South Carolina; Macon, Georgia; and Atlanta, Georgia. His first call in Walhalla was for an annual salary of $300. Two small country churches promised another $300, and he wrote, "I now had an income of $600 a year -- not equal to that of Vanderbilt or Astor; but it gave me the temerity to take unto myself a wife. As one of my church officers had borrowed all of my 'savings,' something less than $100, I went to the town bank and secured a small loan to buy a wedding suit and bring home my bride. I was accordingly formally married October 23, 1877, to Ella M. Brice, only child of Christopher S. Brice, Sr., of New Hope Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation near Woodward, S.C." (quoted here).

Morris is best known, however, for his work as Secretary of Home Missions for the Southern Presbyterian Church. He wrote several books on the mission effort of the Presbyterian Church to America, including At Our Own DoorThe Task that Challenges, and Christianizing Christendom (find these works here). These volumes provide an insightful look at the state of the missionary heart of Presbyterians, as well as the vision and strategies they employed at the beginning of the 20th century. Morris also wrote a well-known book that could easily have been used as a text for Inquirers' Classes, Presbyterianism: Its Principles and Practice. The table of contents is as follows: 

1. Presbyterianism - A System
2. Presbyterianism in History
3. Presbyterianism and Calvinism
4. Presbyterianism and Church Polity
5. Presbyterianism and the Sacraments (the Lord's Supper)
6. Presbyterianism and the Sacraments (Baptism)
7. Presbyterianism and the Covenant (Infant Church Membership)
8. Presbyterianism in Action
9. Presbyterianism and Catholicity
10. Presbyterianism and Missions

Spend some time perusing Morris' works, and be instructed and spurred on in your heart for the gospel going forth to the lost through the church of Jesus Christ.

John Thomson on What it Means to Remember the Sabbath Day

John Thomson (1690-1753) was an important early Irish-American Presbyterian minister who served as a missionary in Virginia and North Carolina. He was the primary author of the 1729 Adopting Act. His commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism was the first Presbyterian book ever published in the Southern United States (in Williamsburg, Virginia). 

In this commentary, Thomson includes an extended discussion of what it means to remember the Sabbath Day, which itself is worth remembering today. 

John Thomson, An Explication of the Shorter Catechism, Composed by the Assembly of Divines (1749), pp. 116-117 on WSC #60 ("How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?"):

Q. 8. What is imported in remembering the Sabbath Day?

A. It imports a remembering of God's Command to keep it. 

Q. 9. When should we remember it? 

A. We should remember it before it comes, when it is come, and after it is past. 

Q. 10. How should we remember it before it comes? 

A. By preparing our Hearts for it, and the Duties of it; and by a prudent ordering all our worldly Affairs, so as they may least hinder or distract us in our Sabbath's Work when it comes. Neh. 13.19, 21.

Q. 11. How should we remember the Sabbath when it comes? 

A. By a diligent, sincere and serious addressing ourselves to the successive Performance of all the Duties of the Day in Season and due Order; and a watchful guarding against every Thing that may hinder, interrupt or distract us in or from these Duties. Isai. 58.13.

Q. 12. How should we remember the Sabbath after it is past? 

A. By serious Meditation on these Subjects which we were employ'd about during the Sabbath; and by a penitent Reflection on our short-comings, together with a sincere Resolution to be more watchful and punctual in sanctifying succeeding Sabbaths. 

John L. Girardeau Entered Glory

It was on June 23, 1898, that John Lafayette Girardeau entered Paradise. He had recently suffered a stroke, but his passing was peaceful. After a life spent as a husband, father, pastor, theologian, professor, chaplain, philosopher and poet, including many years of service to the black community, he completed his task on earth and went on to receive his heavenly reward. 

After his death, an anonymous poem was published in the July 14, 1898 issue of The Southern Presbyterian, a tribute to the man who wrote his own poems on "Life" and "Death." 

ON THE DEATH OF A BELOVED MINISTER.

Affectionaly dedicated to the family of Rev. J.L. Girardeau.

Brother, all thy toils are ended;
All thine earthly warfare's done;
To thy long-sought rest ascended,
Thou has won thy starry crown!
There the welcome plaudit met thee;
Well-done Servant of thy Lord,
Faithful toiler in My vineyard,
Enter on thy full reward!

Thou was faithful with the talents
I committed to thy care,
And each burden laid upon thee,
Gladly for Me thou didst bear.
Now beside the 'living waters,'
In my greenest pastures rest;
And forget thine early sorrows,
Leaning on My loving breast!

Oh! methinks the holy angels
Never had a dearer care,
Than that ransomed soul to glory,
On their shining wings to bear!
Hark! the golden harps of Heaven,
Quiver with a richer strain,
As that voice with holy rapture
Blendeth in the glad refrain!

While on earth, Redemption's story,
Ever dwelt upon his tongue.
And to him the 'Songs of Jesus'
Were the sweetest ever sung.
Now the loved ones led to Heaven,
By his earnest pleadings here,
Join with him to praise the Saviour,
Who redeemed and brought them there.

Archibald Stobo, Presbyterian Pioneer

The name of Francis Makemie is well-known to readers of this site as "the Father of American Presbyterianism," and the historical record shows that he was influential in establishing the first presbytery in America, the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in 1705-1706. 

The Hanover Presbytery, established in Virginia in 1755, is often thought by some to have been the first presbytery established in the Southern United States. However, an earlier presbytery was established in South Carolina, not connected to the northern branches of the American Presbyterian Church, in 1722-1723. Presbyteries consist of more than one man, but in this case, the man who was most influential in its founding, Archibald Stobo (d. 1741) is worthy of special mention here. 

He was born in Scotland in the 1670's, and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1697. As it happened, a plan for a Scottish colony in Panama at the Isthmus of Darien was developing, and ministers were needed for the colony, which was known as Caledonia. The first wave of ministers and settlers arrived there in 1698. Stobo, along with Alexander Shields and Francis Borland, was part of the second re-supply expedition, which arrived in 1699. While serving there, "Three of these ministers, Alexander Shields, Francis Boreland and Archibald Stobo, instituted the Presbytery of Caledonia, the first presbytery in the New World" (Jacob Harris Patton, A Popular History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, p. 89). "The first Presbytery organized on this continent was 'The Presbytery of Caledonia.'" (Benjamin L. Agnew, "When Was the First Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America Organized?").

He came with his family, and the expectation was that the second group of ministers would stay for a full year. However, Stobo's wife encouraged him to return home early, and so he was granted leave, and began the return voyage home on the ship, Rising Sun, in September, 1700. Stobo and his family and a few others disembarked after Stobo was requested to preach in town. That very night a hurricane of incredible intensity hit Charleston and sank the Rising Sun with over one hundred souls on board, none of whom survived. The story of that dramatic event is told in much more detail by George Howe, History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, Vol. 1, pp. 141-142; and Howe, The Early Presbyterian Immigration Into South Carolina, pp. 36-37. In time, Stobo made the decision to remain in South Carolina and forgo returning to Scotland altogether. He became the pastor of the church in Charleston that was "called at various times the Presbyterian, Independent, White Meeting [on account of the color of the building], and Circular Church [on account of the building's shape and design]...the 'Mixed Presbyterian and Independent Church'" (Daniel W. Hollis & Carl Julien, Look to the Rock: One Hundred Ante-bellum Presbyterian Churches of the South, p. 4). (This church today is known as the Circular Congregational Church. In Strobo's day, the congregation consisted of a mix of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and French Huguenots of Presbyterian conviction.) 

"After serving this church for four years, he turned his attention to Protestant Dissenters in the countryside who were particularly strong in the region that stretched southwest of the Stono River to the Combahee. For the next thirty-seven years he was a tireless pastor among these people, establishing churches at Wilton Bluff at Adam's Run on the lower Edisto River, at Pon Pon further upriver, at James Island, and northwest of Charlestown, at Cainhoy among the New Englanders who settled there" (Erskine Clarke, Our Southern Zion, p. 43).

Stobo was "a man of decided character, and an uncompromising Presbyterian" (Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Vol. 1, p. 32). In 1706, he and 46 members of his congregation signed a covenant binding them to be "a Presbyterian congregation for ever in church discipline, doctrine and government, as set down in the Old Testament. That christnings, marriages and burials shall be among themselves, that their ministers shall come from Scotland, such as he, Mr. Stobo can comply with, that upon Sabbath days they shan't go to other places but the meeting or must meet among themselves rather than by gadding abroad for strengthening others vice and giving offence to one another" (Letter of Le Jau to Mr. Stubbs, dated April 15, 1707, cited in Charles Augustus Briggs, American Presbyterianism: Its Origin and Early History, p. lxvii). It was in 1722-1723 that the efforts of Stobo to unite the various local Presbyterian churches, many of which he planted, bore special fruit with the founding a presbytery (sometimes referred to as the Charles Towne Presbytery, at other times as the Presbytery of James Island). This was the first presbytery established in the Southern United States. 

Thus, Stobo participated in the founding of the first presbytery in the New World (the Presbytery of Caledonia, in Panama, in 1699-1700; and the first presbytery in the Southern United States (Charles Towne Presbytery, or the Presbytery of James Island, in 1722-1723), and is a Presbyterian worthy to be remembered.