Louis Meyer: A heart for Jewish missions

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Born on August 30, 1862, in Crivitz, Germany, to Jewish parents, Louis Meyer would eventually become a minister of the gospel in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). Before his conversion to Christ, he studied medicine and became a surgeon, but an infection lead him to put that profession on hiatus while he spent four years traveling on the seas in the interests of his own health.

After his recovery, he immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where, in the providence of God, though he intended to resume his medical practice, he was deeply affected by a sermon series on “Christ in the Book of Leviticus” given by the Rev. J.C. Smith of the RPCNA. Not only was Meyer enabled to behold Christ in the Old Testament, and by faith, Meyer also came to be married to J.C. Smith’s daughter.

As Franz Delitzsch has aptly stated, “We are all Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem” (a reference to Gen. 9:27). J.G. Vos has expounded upon the Jewish roots of Christian worship in his tract “Ashamed of the Tents of Shem? The Semitic Roots of Christian Worship.” The Psalms sung in the worship of J.C. Smith’s congregation were influential in the conversion of Louis Meyer. He would go on to study theology at the RPCNA seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and then minister to predominately Gentile RPCNA congregations in Minnesota and Iowa, but he always had a heart — like the Apostle Paul (Rom. 10:1) — for the salvation of the Jews.

He was also appointed, in 1900, to serve the Board of Home Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He lectured nationally and internationally on Jewish missions, and contributed often to periodicals, such as The Jewish Era, The Chicago Hebrew Mission, Christian Nation, Glory of Israel, Zion’s Freund, and The Missionary Review of the World (he became an associate editor of the latter).

Meyer once gave a series of lectures at McCosh Hall, Princeton in February 1911. A portion of his account of that event is given here to offer the reader a sense of the man and his mission.

None of us had any idea whether any of the students would attend. We counted upon a number of those from the Theological Seminary, who know me, and upon some of the people of Princeton, but all of us agreed that McCosh Hall, which seats 600 people, would prove rather large for the occasion. Thus the hour for the meeting came, and lo, there were less than fifty chairs vacant in the hall, and a large crowd of students had appeared. Our harpist and our singer, two good Christian ladies, proved a success, and their earnest music was well received. Then I was introduced. I commenced with a broad history of the Jews, past and present, speaking about twenty minutes without revealing my real purpose, and the audience followed me with interest. Suddenly I closed my narrative, and I went on somewhat like this: ‘Jewish History is true. It is recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was closed at least 2,500 years ago. Whence did its writers get the knowledge of such history which is peculiar and extraordinary? By divine inspiration. Then the Old Testament is the Voice of God. ’ While I was developing these thoughts, some of the students who had been lolling in their seats, sat up and leaning forward, began to show signs of special interest.

Then once more I turned to Jewish history and asked the question, ‘What does it teach us?’ My answer was, ‘It teaches us that the master sin of men is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It began to grow very still as I was thus appealing to every one present. Just as I closed the appeal and was ready to finish, the great bell of the university struck nine, and every one of the strokes was clearly heard amid the stillness. It was like the call of the Lord. It was of His ordering, for I had not known of the existence of the clock. Deeply stirred myself, I was silent while the clock was striking. When it had ceased, I simply said, Amen. For a little all was silence. Then two students arose, and, as their fashion is, showed their approval by applause, and in a moment the hall resounded with the clapping of hands, the Christian men and women, the professors and the preachers present joining in it. But I sat down, not even acknowledging the applause, because the praise belonged unto the Lord.

His contributions to the causes of educating Gentiles and calling the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament were many. At the time of his death in 1913 at the age of 50, he was working on a project to highlight the lives of notable Jewish Christians during the previous century. Twenty-one such biographical sketches by him were published in 1983 under the title Louis Meyer's Eminent Hebrew Christians of the Nineteenth Century: Brief Biographical Sketches. A German-born Jewish Covenanter minister of the gospel is not a juxtaposition of words that one sees every day, but such is the Christian gentleman highlighted at Log College Press today. Check out his page to explore a sample of his published writings.

An Address to President Lincoln

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In the autumn of 1862 (after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, and before it took effect on January 1, 1863), two Covenanter (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) ministers met privately with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss some particular priority goals that they wished the Lincoln administration to achieve. The Oval Office has rarely heard such a speech reminiscent of Psalm 2.

The address below to President Lincoln was authored and presented by James Renwick Wilson Sloane and Alexander McLeod Milligan (brothers-in-law as well as brothers in the Lord).

TO HIS EXCELLENCY ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
PRESIDENT OP THE UNITED STATES

We visit you, Mr. President, as the representatives of the Reformed Presbyterian, or, as it is frequently termed, "Scotch Covenanter," Church, — a Church whose sacrifices and sufferings in the cause of civil and religious liberty are a part of the world's history, and to which we are indebted, no less than to the Puritans, for those inestimable privileges so largely enjoyed in the free States of this Union, and which, true to its high lineage and ancient spirit, does not hold within its pale a single Secessionist, or sympathizer with rebellion, in these United States.

Our Church has unanimously declared, by the voice of her highest court, that the world has never seen a conflict in which right was more clearly wholly upon the one side, and wrong upon the other, than in the present struggle of this Government with this slaveholders' rebellion. She has also unanimously declared her determination to assist the Government by all lawful means in her power in its conflict with this atrocious conspiracy, until it be utterly overthrown and annihilated.

Profoundly impressed with the immense importance of the issues involved in this contest, and with the solemn responsibilities which rest upon the Chief Magistrate in this time of the nation's peril, our brethren have commissioned us to come and address you words of sympathy and encouragement, also to express to you views which, in their judgment, have an important bearing upon the present condition of affairs in our beloved country; to congratulate you on what has already been accomplished in crushing rebellion, and to exhort you to persevere in the work, until it has been finally completed.

Entertaining no shadow of doubt as to the entire justice of the cause in which the nation is embarked, we nevertheless consider the war a just judgment of Almighty God for the sin of rejecting his authority, and enslaving our fellow-men, and are firmly persuaded that his wrath will not be appeased, and that no permanent peace will be attained, until his authority be recognized, and the abomination that maketh desolate utterly extirpated.

As an anti-slavery church of the most radical school, believing slavery to be a heinous and aggravated sin both against God and man, and to be placed in the same category with piracy, murder, adultery, and theft, it is our solemn conviction that God by his Word and Providence is calling the nation to immediate, unconditional, and universal emancipation. We hear his voice in these thunders of war saying to us, "Let my people go." Nevertheless, we have hailed with delighted satisfaction the several steps which you have taken in the direction of emancipation. Especially do we rejoice in your late proclamation, declaring your purpose to free the slaves in the rebel States on the first day of January, 1863, an act which, when carried out, will give the death-blow to rebellion, strike the fetters from millions of bondmen, and will secure for its author a place high among the wisest of rulers and the noblest benefactors of the race. Permit us, then, Mr. President, most respectfully yet most earnestly, to urge upon you the importance of enforcing that proclamation to the utmost extent of that power with which you are vested. Let it be placed on the highest grounds of Christian justice and philanthropy; let it be declared to be an act of national repentance for long complicity with the guilt of slavery. Permit nothing to tarnish the glory of the act, or rob it of its sublime moral significance and grandeur, and it cannot fail to meet a hearty response in the conscience of the nation, and to secure infinite blessings to our distracted country. Let not the declaration of the immortal Burke in this instance be verified: "Good works are commonly left in a rude and imperfect state through the tame circumspection with which a timid prudence so frequently enervates beneficence. In doing good we are cold, languid, and sluggish, and of all things afraid of being too much in the right." We urge you by every consideration drawn from the Word of God and the present condition of our bleeding country, not to be moved from the path of duty, on which you have so auspiciously entered, either by the threats or blandishments of the enemies of human progress, nor to permit this great act to lose its power through the fears of its timid friends.

There is another point which we esteem of prominent importance, and to which we wish briefly to call your attention. The Constitution of the United States contains no acknowledgment of the authority of God, of his Christ, or of his law as contained in the Holy Scriptures. This we deeply deplore, as wholly inconsistent with all claim to be considered a Christian nation, or to enjoy the protection and favor of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is above all earthly rulers. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one Mediator between God and man, through whom alone either nations or individuals can secure the favor of the Most High God, who is saying to us in these judgments, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, O ye judges of the earth! serve the Lord with fear. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that trust in him. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."

This time appears to us most opportune for calling the nation to a recognition of the name and authority of God, to the claims of him who will overturn, overturn, and overturn, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. We indulge the hope, Mr. President, that you have been called, with your ardent love of liberty, your profound moral convictions manifested in your sabbath proclamation, and in your frequent declarations of dependence upon Divine Providence, to your present position of honor and influence, to free our beloved country from the curse of slavery, and secure for it the favor of the great Ruler of the universe. Shall we not now set the world an example of a Christian State governed, not by the principles of mere political expediency, but acting under a sense of accountability to God, and in obedience to those laws of immutable morality which are binding alike upon nations and individuals?

We pray that you may be directed in your responsible position by divine wisdom, that God may throw over you the shield of his protection, that we may soon see rebellion crushed, its cause removed, and our land become Immanuel's land.

Another Covenanter minister, Thomas Sproull, reminisced shortly after Lincoln’s assassination about the president’s response to this powerful appeal:

Some time last winter two men connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church were in Washington City, and called at the President’s house. While in the room that is always open to visitors, the President came in, and got into a conversation with them, in the course of which mention was made,of the Covenanters. The name seemed to arrest his attention, and he remarked: “I know something about these people — they want the Constitution amended by putting slavery out of it, and by putting a recognition of God in it.” To this they assented, and he proceeded to speak in kind and earnest terms of the brethren who had been with him urging the amendments. He added that they had obtained one object of their mission during his first term in office, and he hoped they would obtain the other before the end of his second term.

The principles for which they contended: David McAllister

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Reformed Presbyterian minister David McAllister’s Poets and Poetry of the Covenant is a worthy homage to the heroic faith of the Scottish Covenanters in verse, which we have highlighted on this blog previously, but its prose introduction should not be overlooked. It is a helpful overview of what the Covenanters stood for, and what inspired so many powerful poetic tributes.

Let us briefly sketch the leading principles for which the heroes and martyrs of these songs of the Covenant contended:

1. The supreme authority of God's Word in all the relations of human life. In the church, as one of their own number said, "they took their pattern, not from Rome, not even from Geneva, but from the blessed Word of God." They held that the state was bound to regulate all its affairs by the same law of ultimate authority. The Bible was to them a national as well as an ecclesiastical law-book. Kings and noblemen and lowlier citizens were all under its obligations in the sphere of political and civil life. And the family, too, needed God's Word, as the daily guide of the domestic circle. The place of the Bible in Covenanter families; the singing of a portion of Bible Psalmody and the reading of a chapter of the Scriptures every morning and evening at the household altar, with the entire membership of the family gathered about, brought all domestic affairs under the acknowledged authority and educative influence of the divine law. Even when the father and the older sons were driven by the blood-hounds of persecution to hidings in dens and caves of the earth, or amid the solitudes of the mountains and moors, the mother or an elder daughter would keep the fire of the household altar brightly burning in the sorrowing yet not darkened home.

At the very basis of all this was the recognized right and responsibility of every individual to interpret the divine law for himself. Social bodies had to reach their interpretations for themselves; but no interpretation of God's Word by either church or state could overturn the Protestant principle, or rather the principle of the true Christian religion, that every man must give account of himself to God. But with the authority of God himself acknowledged as supreme for all, in every relation of life, a firm foundation was laid for the balance of liberty and law. Rights of conscience on the one hand, and a just and righteous authority in both church and state, on the other hand, here find their full security. Not the will of any man, pope, or king, or president; not the will of any body of men, presbytery, general assembly, house of commons, house of representatives, or senate; not the will of the millions that make up the sovereign people of the mightiest nation on earth, can be, according to this old Covenanter and Scriptural principle, of supreme and ultimate authority in any of the relations of human life. Church courts and civil legislatures may help wisely and opportunely to interpret and apply the law which God himself has given, and secure its beneficent effects; but over all human legislators is the Divine Lawgiver whose authoritative will is revealed for man's every need in the Holy Scriptures. Only by such a Law and such a Lawgiver can individual and family and church and state be regulated in harmony with each other and for the good of all.

2. The kingship of Jesus Christ. This followed of necessity from the acceptance of the former principle. Taking the Bible as of ultimate and supreme authority, the Covenanters learned that Jesus Christ has been made Head over all things; that he is King of nations as well as King of Zion, and this in truth and reality, and not in some figurative and shadowy and unreal way. The Bible they accepted as the law-book of this King. And they sought to have Christ himself practically acknowledged and honored as King in both church and state. And no principle could be such a safeguard for the independence of the church. Both the popish idea, which would enslave the church to a frail human pontiff, blasphemously claiming for himself the infallibility which alone could justify the submission of men's consciences to his sovereign will; and the Erastian idea, which would subject the church to the civil ruler or the civil power, the sphere of which is entirely separate and distinct from that of the church, are cut up by the very roots by the application of this principle of the kingship of Jesus Christ. And in like manner the truth of his kingship over the state is the most effective means of saving the political being from the tyranny of popish claims of supremacy over nations and their rulers, and of securing for all citizens and subjects of civil government the most free and just and enlightened system of legislation possible — that which is based upon Christ's own "perfect law of liberty." Whatever views the old Covenanters held in favor of the union of the church under Christ her King with the state under the same divine Ruler, they would never surrender the independence of the former to the latter, nor justify any assumption of tyrannical power by either the one or the other. The essential principle which they maintained, and which holds in every land to-day, is the subjection of both church and state, each as a moral agent, with moral character and accountability, and each in its own distinct and independent and yet interrelated sphere of moral conduct, under the moral law of God himself, administered by Christ as at once Head of Zion and Governor among the nations.

3. The duty of social public covenanting on the part of both the church and the nation. This principle of a religious covenant was derived also from the Scriptures, and this was the principle and practice which gave the Covenanters their name. Chief among the points to be carefully noted in the duty of covenanting are the following:

(1.) The covenant engagements are public. The oath of the compact or covenant is openly sworn. The engagements and oaths of a secret society are at the farthest possible remove from those of a true covenant. The former are deeds of darkness. They are a travesty upon all that is sacred and holy. They dread the light, by which their sacrilegious and even blasphemous character would be exposed. But a church's or a nation's covenant is an open and a public document, and the men and women who take upon themselves its comprehensive engagements with the solemnity of an appeal to God can challenge in broad daylight the investigation of the world.

(2.) Such a covenant as the National Covenants of Scotland of 1580, 1590, and again of 1638, is virtually a written compact or constitution of civil government. This document prepared the way for the formulated fundamental laws of political organizations, of which the written constitutions of the American colonies and commonwealths and of the government of the United States itself are the most illustrious examples. A national covenant is a bond of loyalty between citizens among themselves, and between them and the rulers who exercise authority over them. It is framed in view of enemies and dangers to the nation's welfare and life. And in the days of the old Covenanters, the arch enemy of civil and religious liberty was Popery, of which Prelacy was in many respects an imitator. The covenant was a mutual bond, therefore, of loyal and zealous vigilance against the wiles and assaults of the common enemy. Such an open and avowed bond of patriotism and loyalty is what true Americans need to-day, rather than the secret combinations of the lodges, against the same old enemy of all free institutions in both church and state.

(3.) It is pre-eminently a religious engagement. It accepts God's revealed will as the standard of duty, keeps the glory of God and the honor of Christ as King continually in view, and makes the Omniscient Jehovah, the Searcher of Hearts, a witness and party to the entire transaction. The engagement is entered into in the Lord's name, and with an avowed determination on the part of the covenanters, in the words of the deed of 1638, "to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man."

This principle of public covenanting by nations and by churches is the most practical and far-reaching of social principles, and will, when accepted and carried into effect by Christians generally, do much toward settling all the great problems of church and state.

A Reformed Presbyterian Brotherly Covenant

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Thomas Sproull, in a September 1879 issue of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, recounted the circumstances of a joint fast and “Brotherly Covenant” subscribed to by James Renwick Willson and himself, both serving as professors at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, located then at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, some three decades previously.

I have in my possession a document written by him [James Renwick Willson], of which I briefly give the history. During the session of the seminary, in the winter of 1842 and 1843, the condition of affairs seemed not to be as prosperous as we wished. On an occasion when he and I were together, this was spoken of and the inquiry was, what can be done to secure the divine blessing, which we realized as the great need. It was his suggestion that we observe a day of fasting, to confess our sins, and seek the favor of God, and unite in an act of covenanting. The suggestion met my cordial approval, and at my request he prepared the confession of sins, as causes of fasting, and the bond which we used in our act of covenanting. On January 5, 1843, we met, spent the forenoon of the day in fasting and prayer, and fervently confessed our sins, and engaged in covenanting, using the following formularies that he had prepared…

In their “Causes of Fasting Prepafatory to an Act of Covenanting,” Willson and Sproull identified seven particular sins for which they confessed and mourned:

  1. Unbelief and mistrust of God’s promises;

  2. Lack of love toward God and the brethren;

  3. Unworthy and carnal ambition;

  4. Backwardsness in the study of God’s Word and in the means of grace;

  5. Relying on their own strength;

  6. Lack of holy and enlightened zeal in carrying forward the attainments of their spiritual fathers; and

  7. Not wisely applying gospel truth, precepts and rebukes to ourselves before we teach, preach and apply them to others.

Following this time of fasting and prayer, the two men together entered into a “Brotherly Covenant” which we give here in full:

Brotherly Covenant Made and Ratified Before the God of our Covenant Fathers, for our Mutual Strengthening in the Faith, by Jas. R. Willson and Thos. Sproull, January 5, 1843

We hereby renounce all reliance on the deeds of the law for our justification; all the errors against which the church has borne testimony; all worldly maxims and practices as contrary to the word of God; and cast off forever all allegiance to the corrupt civil institutions of these United States; and renounce all ecclesiastical fellowship with such churches as own allegiance to these governments; as also everything, both in church and state, that is either against or beside the Holy Scriptures, and not in accordance with the church's past covenanted attainments.

Again, we avouch the Lord Jehovah to be our God, taking God the Father, for our Father ; Christ His eternal Son for our Mediator, as a prophet to instruct us in personal and official duty, as our great High Priest for our justification by his imputed righteousness, and as our King whose mediatorial power extends over all creation, for the sake of his body which is the church, to whom we promise to render obedience in all his commands, and to whom we do look for protection against all our foes; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit that proceedeth from the Father and the Son, we take for our sanctifier and comforter.

As also, we renew in this our covenant, our engagements to God in baptism, the Lord's supper, our ordination vows, and our solemn self-dedication to God on entering on the professorship.

We likewise promise and vow, that we will constantly and without deviation in one jot or tittle adhere to all the terms of communion adopted by the Reformed Presbyterian church in relation to her doctrines, worship, government and testimony, and that in ministerial and professional duty w e will never teach anything contrary to them, and that we will never withhold any truth, form of worship, government, point of discipline, or item of testimony through fear of man or to avoid trouble.

Moreover, we will cover one another's infirmities with the mantle of charity; we will never listen to tales of detraction; we will protect each other's reputation; promote one another's usefulness, while continuing in life; pray for each other and in all things "strive together for the faith of the gospel."

Likewise; we will discountenance with all our might, all causes calculated to divide the body of Christ, and to cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which we have learned, and we will avoid all such as pursue these divisive courses.

Finally; we rely on the aid of the Holy Ghost, in the Spirit of our most blessed and precious Redeemer, to impart strength for the faithful performance of this vow and covenant, and call on a three-one God in Christ to bear witness to our integrity of heart in making this most solemn engagement.

This “Brotherly Covenant” was a means of strengthening the faith of these two men and the work of the seminary. “Reformed Presbyterians hold that social religious Covenanting is an ordinance of God to be entered into by the individual, the church, and the nation” (William M. Glasgow, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, p. 56). Here we have a 19th century American example on the individual level.

Two More American Covenanter Catechisms

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Last year we announced the addition of two Reformed Presbyterian catechisms to this site, one by William Louis Roberts (1853), and one by George Alexander Edgar (1912). This week we have added two more by ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America (RPCNA).

The first is a 1923 pamphlet by Owen Foster Thompson titled Scotland Through Her Character Windows: A Catechetical Exposition of Covenanter History (1923). It is a remarkable work which covers in 54 pages the history of the Covenanters from the time of the Reformation to their establishment in America. It concludes with James Hislop’s famous poem “The Cameronian’s Dream.”

The next is an undated pamphlet, produced by the joint collaboration of James Melville Coleman, David Raymond Taggart and Owen F. Thompson, titled A Catechism for Covenanter Children. With the note that this is intended to serve as preparation, not a substitute, for the Westminster Shorter Catechism, these men authored a catechism for the young which covers both doctrine and church history.

Presbyterians have long held that there is great value both in the use of catechetical teaching and in the knowledge of church history. These Covenanter catechisms employ the question-and-answer format to install a knowledge of their own particular historical background and distinctive doctrines for the young and old. The three co-authors of the latter work, borrowing from Hebrews 12:11, tell us that:

"Training always seems for the time to be a thing of pain, not of joy; but those who are trained reap the fruit of it afterwards in the peace of an upright life."

The Historical Sketches of Thomas Sproull

Thomas Sproull (1803-1892) was one of the nineteenth-century giants of the American Covenanter Church. As both a pastor and a professor (emeritus) of theology for the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, he spent his life in the service of “Christ’s Crown & Covenant.”

A frequent contributor to The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter magazine, in 1875 he authored a series of 10 articles titled “The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Historical Sketches.” This is a valuable history of the RPCNA from the first arrival of Covenanters from Scotland in New Jersey around 1685 up to the regrettable disruption of 1833. In 1876 and 1877, he further published a series of 13 articles titled “Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Sketches of Her Organic History,” which constitutes an effort to extend the history of the RPCNA during this time period through her official judicial records.

Sproull covers much interesting ground his articles, discussing its Testimony and the distinctives of the RPCNA, its internal strife, the establishment of its seminary, its missionary labors, and its many contributions to the kingdom of God on the earth. The two series of articles were relied upon by William Melancthon Glasgow when he compiled his History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America (1888), and as consolidated PDF files here at Log College Press, they will assist the student of early American Covenanter church history greatly.

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday!

We wish to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year! We have grown much in the past year, and we couldn’t have done it without your interest and support. We are excited to see what 2019 holds for Log College Press and its readers.

Meanwhile, January 1st marks the birthday of four of our LCP authors:

  • Leonard Woolsey Bacon (Jan. 1, 1830 - May 12, 1907) was a pastor of both Presbyterian and Congregational churches, and a prolific writer;

  • William Imbrie (Jan. 1, 1845 - Aug. 4, 1928) was both a Princeton graduate and a longtime missionary to Japan;

  • James Calvin McFeeters (Jan. 1, 1848 - Dec. 24, 1928) served as a minister of the gospel for 54 years; he was moderator of Synod (RPCNA) in 1894; he served as President of the Board of Trustees at Geneva College; and he authored several books about the Covenanters; and

  • Philip Schaff (Jan. 1, 1819 - Oct. 20, 1893) was a Swiss-born Reformed minister who joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1870, and wrote extensively on church history and other matters.

January 1, 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Swiss Reformation in Zurich. Ulrich Zwingli’s (who also was born on January 1, 1484) biographer, William Maxwell Blackburn, in Ulrich Zwingli, The Patriotic Reformer: A History , tells us how it began on January 1, 1519:

On New Year s day, 1519, the thirty-fifth birthday of the preacher, Zwingli went into the cathedral pulpit. A great crowd, eager to hear the celebrated man, was before him. "It is to Christ that I desire to lead you," said he "to Christ the true source of salvation. His divine word is the only food that I wish to set before your souls." This was the theme of his inaugural on Saturday. He then announced that on the following day he would begin to expound Matthew s gospel. The next morning the preacher and a still larger audience were at their posts. He opened the long-sealed book and read the first page. He caused his hearers to marvel at that chapter of names. But it was the human genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ patriarchs, prophets, kings were mentioned in it Jewish history was summed up therein and how forcibly did it teach that all the preceding ages had existed for the sake of him who was born of Mary, and named Immanuel! And there was the name Jesus " He shall save his people from their sins." The enraptured auditors went home saying, "We never heard the like of this before!"

Be sure to check out all of these authors, and more as we commence the New Year! “The deeper you root yourself backward in God’s work in the past, the more abundant will be the fruit you bear forward into the future.” — Caleb Cangelosi

A 19th century American Covenanter on the blessings of the Christian Sabbath

Writing in 1892, Reformed Presbyterian minister James Calvin McFeeters had this to say about the sweet blessings of the Christian Sabbath:

The Sabbath was ordained also for worship. It conveys two great blessings to man, — the privilege of rest and of praise. These are the "silvery wings" of this dove of peace, that hovers over our earth with a benediction for every one who will look up and receive. The Sabbath comes to anoint the soul with new strength, and lead it into the presence of God, to worship the Creator of heaven and earth. It comes as the shadow of Jesus, whose memorial it is, and his people can sit in the pleasant shade, to be regaled with the cool and balmy winds, which subdue the fever arising from protracted toil. The day is well spent, only when it is given back to God in holy services. This is rest. We worship that we may rest. The holy use of the Sabbath, by the active employment of our spiritual powers, is the best rest for both body and soul. Change of employment brings the perfect rest. To lift up the mind in contemplation of the divine, the heavenly, the eternal, and to assume the attitude of devotion — this is for most people the greatest possible change, and therefore, the greatest possible rest. Hence Covenanters have written in their Testimony, (and try to practice what they write): "The whole day is to be employed exclusively in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much of it as may be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy" (The Covenanters in America, pp. 167-168).

May these words be an encouragement to you, dear reader, as the Sabbath day approaches this week.

A Conventicle in Snow Time: David McAllister

A Conventicle in Snow Time

A DEEP-TONED, bitter, sullen wind was sweeping,
Across the upland waste;
Each living thing its covert close was keeping,
Or sought it in its haste.

Yet, when the swirling, drifted snow was filling
Each cave and sheltered nook,
A solemn, plaintive strain of praise came thrilling
Up from an ice-bound brook.

A remnant, sore-bested, had come together,
To mourn, and watch, and pray,
Unmindful of the wind and dreary weather
Of that wild, wrathful day.

A valiant and a famous standard-bearer
Was lately done to death; —
One, who of many perils was a sharer,
Had spent his latest breath.

It was a time of sorrow, dread, and grieving,
To those heart-stricken men;
And they had met, their burdened souls relieving,
Up in that stormy glen.

A youth of comely form and mien arising,
The gospel message told.
In fervour nought withholding, nought disguising,
Like faithful seer of old.

All in the wintry wind and snow-drift standing,
With cold and frost distrest,
His earnest voice, the heart and ear commanding,
Moved every captive breast.

For higher gifts of hope and faith he pleaded —
For greater love and zeal;
Not vainly uttered; not unfelt, unheeded,
Passed the sublime appeal!

On him and all around the snow was falling,
Yet there they held their place.
Though, overhead, the winter-blast appalling
Pursued its rapid chase.

From morn to darkling eve they clung together,
Unwilling to depart;
The saintly love they bore to one another
Had bound them heart to heart.

And yet, a higher sentiment withheld them
From courting selfish rest;
The love of Him whose friendly eye beheld them
Unworthy thought represt.

Oh, boast not men whose heartless, cruel mission
Was tracking such as these,
To gratify a tyrant’s wrong ambition —
His bigot whims to please!

And, tell us not of chivalry and daring,
Or deeds of valour done;
When, at the price of cruelty unsparing,
The palm of fame was won!

Swift come the season, when the deep devotion
Of those who braved the rage
Of banded furies, roused to fell commotion,
Shall every heart engage!

Be not far hence, bright day, when holier feeling
The world wide shall control,
And love unstinted, to the heart appealing,
Shall mould each kindred soul.

For, wheresoever PIETY is cherished,
And loved by young and old,
The grand old memories of martyrs perished
Are treasured and extolled!

David McAllister, Poets and Poetry of the Covenant, pp. 212-214

Lady of the Covenant: Katherine Heath Hawes

When Moses Drury Hoge was seeking the right person to lead a Sunday school program at his pastorate, the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia, he called upon Miss Katherine Heath Hawes (1875-1956), then about 20 years old.

Miss Katherine Heath Hawes of Richmond, Virginia, is credited with beginning Presbyterian youth ministry in the Southern Presbyterian Church. After Hawes returned from boarding school in 1895, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Dr. Moses Drury Hoge, asked Miss Hawes to teach either a boys or girls Sunday school class. She chose the boys class (they were ages eight to ten!). Seeing how few boys attended Sunday school, Miss Hawes opened her home to them on Friday evenings for games and music, to provide them a place for fellowship with their peers. The following March, Company No. 1 of the Covenanters was born. Officers were elected, and a badge, watchward, and flag provided symbols of the Covenanters. Reports from and offerings for missionaries proved to be the focal point of the group. They eventually developed a choir and orchestra, then a fife and drum corps, followed by an emphasis on service projects.

As the boys grew older, their enthusiasm for the Covenanters brought about a desire in other Presbyterian churches to have such a ministry. By 1900, Presbyterian churches in nine other states and the District of Columbia registered as Companies of Covenanters. Soon Miriams, a companion group for girls, was added. (Mark H. Senter, When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America, pp. 180-181)

Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

The daughter of Samuel Horace Hawes, a member of the Confederate “Immortal 600,” Miss Hawes was also known, among other things, for her concern for the plight of blacks (particularly, black women) in her day. A student from her Social Service class in the 1920s wrote in 1986: “Miss Katherine was the first to awaken my conscious [sic] regarding the sorry plight of the negroes - especially the black woman sending off her children to school not knowing what insult, injury, or slight they might meet with during the day . . . .Their courage!" Compassion for the needs of the young and disadvantaged was a hallmark of Miss Hawes’ labors of love. She never married but she gave a life of service to the youth of the Presbyterian church, and the community around her. After her passing, her body was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Robert Pollok Kerr wrote a book-length history and tribute to the Scottish Covenanters. Published in 1905, The Blue Flag, or, The Covenanters Who Contended for 'Christ's Crown and Covenant', this volume was

DEDICATED TO
Miss Katherine Heath Hawes,

Who conceived and carried out the idea of
organizing the Presbyterian boys of the
United States in companies of “Covenanters”
to work for Christ and his Church, infusing
into them the spirit of those splendid heroes,
of whose toils and sufferings for liberty and
truth this book is a history:

And to the

Covenanter Companies:

May they keep the Old Flag flying, and be
faithful soldiers of Christ and his Church.

The Author

William S. Plumer on the Offices of Christ

There are two volumes published by William Swan Plumer which examine in great deal the mediatorial offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, both of which merit in-depth study by those who wish to delve into this important aspect of Christology.

The first is an abridgment of an original work by George Stevenson (1771-1841), a Scottish divine who was instrumental in the founding of the Associate Synod of Original Seceders, having written the doctrinal part of its 1827 Testimony (the historical portion of the Testimony was written by Thomas M’Crie the Elder). Stevenson’s original work, The Offices of Christ, was first published in Scotland in 1834, with a second edition following posthumously in 1845, and it has received high acclaim. Plumer published his abridgment with the same title in 1840. The 1845 edition has over 500 pages of material, while Plumer’s abridgment tops out at around 150 pages.

The second is an original work by Plumer titled The Rock of Our Salvation: A Treatise Respecting the Natures, Person, Offices, Work, Sufferings, and Glory of Jesus Christ (1867). It covers many additional aspects of the person and work of Christ beyond his mediatorial offices (see here for our previous notice of this work along with a table of contents), but the portion covering the mediatorial offices constitutes just under 80 pages out of a volume that is over 500 pages in length. His practical lessons for Christians after examining Christ as Priest and King are very devotional and encouraging.

Together these works represent a synthesis of Scottish and Southern Presbyterian (though Plumer was born in Pennsylvania, he ministered and taught a great deal in the South and is considered to be “one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church”) perspectives on the mediatorial offices of Christ. And though neither Stevenson nor Plumer was a Reformed Presbyterian (or Covenanter), a Reformed Presbyterian in the vein of William Symington (author of the classic work on Christ’s kingship, Messiah the Prince (1840), would find in their works much with which to happily agree on the kingly office of Christ, particularly regarding the universal scope of his dominion and reign. (Another similar Scottish-Southern Presbyterian take on the universal dominion of Christ in his kingly office as mediator can be found in the Sermons of Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, republished by Sprinkle Publications.)

Presbyterians of all branches and stations would do well to read Plumer / Stevenson on the offices of Christ. These works will help to enrich your understanding of the work that Christ performed and continues to perform to accomplish our redemption.

The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism, Part Two

Previously, we have highlighted the important 1853 edition of The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by William Louis Roberts (1798-1864). Today we focus on the 1912 edition of The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Upon the Mediatorial Kingdom of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ) composed primarily by the chairman of the committee assigned to the task, George Alexander Edgar (1865-1927), a Belfast-born leader of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

Whereas the earlier catechism, which was almost 200 pages long, identified twelve “peculiar and more prominent” doctrines of the RPCNA by which it is distinguished from other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, the 1912 edition (26 pages long) is comprised of 146 questions and answers divided into nine general categories:

  1. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom

  2. The Bible - The Law of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom

  3. Covenanting - The Subject’s Acceptance of the Divine Law

  4. The Family

  5. The Church

  6. The Nation

  7. The Relation of Church and State

  8. Voluntary Associations

  9. Christian Living

The primary means by which the particular doctrines of the RPCNA are presented is through the lens of Christ’s mediatorial kingship over all the institutions over which he has created and governs - i.e., the family, the church and the state. In this way, His authority over all these institutions and the precepts which He gives us through Scripture are upheld.

The 1912 Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by Edgar serves as a good introduction to what the RPCNA historically believes, whereas the 1853 Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by Roberts is very in-depth examination of the most of the same territory. Both have their place both are here commended for the study of historic Reformed Presbyterian doctrine.

Samuel Wylie Crawford on Creeds and Confessions

Samuel Wylie Crawford was born on October 14, 1792, in the Chester District of South Carolina. He was born of good Scottish stock, but was orphaned at a young age, and was looked after by his uncle Dr. Samuel Wylie. Crawford initially studied medicine, but then settled on the study of theology. He was ordained by the Northern Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and was installed as a pastor in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This sermon comes to us from that congregation. It is a remarkably helpful sermon today just as it was in yesteryear. Crawford opens with the text Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together lest they be agreed?” He uses this as the touchstone for a wonderful doctrinal sermon. He explored the basis of Ecclesiastical relations, the significance of having creeds and confessions, as well as the problems with fellowships that do not have them. Overall this sermon is as helpful today as it was the day it was preached.