The Gospel Encapsulated by B.B. Warfield

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Alistair Begg on his radio program Truth For Life recently highlighted a quote by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, which he described as “majestic and wonderful.” He added, “this, loved ones, is the gospel.”

It comes from his extended 1920 article on “Miserable-Sinner Christianity” and it is worth meditating upon today, dear reader, just as it was almost a century ago. We have included here a couple of sentences that go beyond what Begg cited on his show. Here he addresses the heart of the gospel, that is, what is the basis of our acceptance before God?

…there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace.

HT: Carolyn Kelleher

Missionary Stories at Log College Press

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If the history of missions work by American Presbyterians interests you, there is a goldmine to be discovered among the writings available at Log College Press. As Robert Dabney Bedinger wrote, “The providences of God run through the American Presbyterian Congo Mission like the vein of gold through the stratum of rock.” The stories that are told in these volumes will enrich, educate and inspire. Readers can explore the world and learn how the gospel has gone forth to all four corners of the planet.

We have many volumes by and about missionaries on the Missions page. Today we wish to highlight some of the new additions that tell the story in particular of Southern Presbyterian foreign missions, as well as other volumes that have been available here for some time. Within the following memoirs and historical accounts are told the stories men and women who followed the call of Christ to foreign lands to testify of his goodness and the gospel of his free grace by their lives and labors. Additionally, some have served as educators, translators, diplomats, medical workers and more to help those in need and to advance cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. Take time to get to know these stories. Pray for these lands. And consider the promise of God that “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num. 14.21).

General

  • Samuel Hall Chester, LIghts and Shadows of Mission Work in the Far East: Being the Record of Observations Made During a Visit to the Southern Presbyterian Missions in Japan, China, and Korea in the year 1897 (1899)

  • Thomas Cary Johnson, A Brief Sketch of the Missions of the Southern Presbyterian Church (1895)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In Four Continents: A Sketch of the Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (1910)

Africa

China

  • Hampden Coit DuBose, Preaching in Sinim (1893)

  • John Leighton Stuart, Fifty Years in China: The Memoirs of John Leighton Stuart, Missionary and Ambassador (1954)

  • Henry Francis Williams, Along the Grand Canal: The Mid-China Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1911) and North of the Yangtze: The North Kiangsu Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1911)

  • Samuel Isett Woodbridge, Sr., Fifty Years in China: Being Some Account of the History and Conditions in China and of the Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States there from 1867 to the present day (1919)

Japan

  • Lois Johnson Erickson, The White Fields of Japan: Being Some Account of the History and Conditions in Japan and of the Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States there from 1885 to the Present Day (1923)

  • Egbert Watson Smith, Present Day Japan (1920)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In the Mikado’s Empire: The Japan Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

Korea

  • Anabel Major Nisbet, Day In and Day Out in Korea: Being Some Account of the Mission Work that has been carried on in Korea since 1892 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1920)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In the Hermit Land: The Korea Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

Latin America

  • William Alfred Ross, Sunrise in Aztec Land: Being an Account of the Mission Work that has been carried on in Mexico since 1874 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1922)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In Mexico and Cuba: The Near-Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

South America

  • Henry Francis Williams, In South America: The Brazil Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1910) and In Brazil: Our Missions in Brazil (1917)

The poignant cry of a 19th century African American minister: J.W.C. Pennington

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James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) was perhaps the first African American minister to receive a doctorate of divinity - by the University of Heidelberg, Germany (1849). And he was so honored while still legally a fugitive slave. He also attempted to desegregate streetcars in New York City (1855), one hundred years before Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted the same with public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama (1955-1956). His sermon on Covenants Involving Moral Wrong Are Not Obligatory Upon Man (1842) in which he affirmed that unjust laws have no moral force at all predates King’s same argument (citing Augustine) in the Letter From a Birmingham Jail by over 120 years.

The fact that this escaped slave became a Presbyterian minister is remarkable. But in 1843 he gave a speech in which he shared his experience of racism within the church. It is painful to read, but reading it serves as a reminder that the church is not immune to prejudice. And there are many different types of prejudice - the Apostle James spoke of one kind involving favoritism to the rich to the detriment of the poor, James 2:3. But those who are so judged based on the color of their skin or other factors can be deeply hurt, as Pennington here testifies.

For the last ten years, since I have been a Christian − seven or eight years of which I have been a minister, I have thought much on this subject, and have come to the conclusion that I am an excommunicated man. I have tried to avoid the conclusion, to think it was not so, but, like other people, find I cannot believe without evidence. I have tried to command my mind from this subject, but could not. To say that our condition is not an enviable one − that it is not a pleasant one, does not express the whole truth. I have labored hard to inform myself − I have tried to make myself useful and agreeable as a Christian − have tried to avoid everything wrong. A great question of orthodoxy is concerned here. Though we have felt ourselves abused, we have not dared to indulge unkind feelings toward our brethren. You have helped us to build small school-houses and churches, or rather helped us to shoulder a debt, many times − but I forbear − and yet I may as well speak out my convictions − it is done in the spirit of colonization, to get us out of the way. How often, in coming into a congregation like this, have I been treated with indignity. A man accidentally takes his seat by my side − he discovers that I have a dark face − he rises in contempt and leaves the slip. It is said colored people are fond of sitting together. It is such treatment as this which drives them together. They take the Jim Crow seat to escape ill treatment and abuse. And here let me say, the necessity for separate schools and churches has not grown out of the wishes of the colored people, but from the spirit of caste in the church. We do not desire separate churches. They have not bettered our condition, but only made it WORSE. Many of our churches have not competent religious teachers − they have had to hasten through their course so fast, in order to supply the destitute fields, that they have come into the ministry illy prepared. The treatment of the colored people has put back Africa’s redemption fifty years.

This testimony is nearly 200 years old, but it is to be feared that today’s church also is not color blind or free from all forms of prejudice, Elsewhere (in an 1844 letter appended to his autobiography), Pennington explains what is needed to combat this prejudice - something that is, it should be noted, to be found within the church.

Let me urge upon you the fundamental truths of the Gospel of the Son of God. Let repentance to- wards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ have their perfect work in you, I beseech you. Do not be prejudiced against the gospel because it may be seemingly twisted into a support of slavery. The gospel rightly understood, taught, received, felt and practised, is anti-slavery as it is anti-sin. Just so far and so fast as the true spirit of the gospel obtains in the land, and especially in the lives of the oppressed, will the spirit of slavery sicken and become powerless like the serpent with his head pressed beneath the fresh leaves of the prickly ash of the forest.

The troubles and sorrows of those who have been hurt are real, but Pennington urged his hearers to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. In another speech given in England in 1843 he reminded his hearers that the whole human race is laboring under sin, but redemption is found only in Jesus Christ, in whom all are one:

Though I have a country that has never done me justice, yet I must return to it, and I shall not therefore recriminate. It has pleased God to make me black and you white, but let us remember, that whatever be our complexion, we are all by nature labouring under the degradation of sin, and without the grace of God are black at heart. I know of no difference between the depraved heart of a Briton, an American, or an African. There is no difference between its colour, its disposition, and its self-will. There is only one mode of emancipation from the slavery of sin, from the blackness of heart, and that is by the blood of the Son of God. Whatever be our complexion, whatever our kindred and people, we need to be emancipated from sin, and to be cleansed from our pollution by the all-prevailing grace of God. I bless his name, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all are one.

The sermons, speeches and writings of James W.C. Pennington reflect the heart of a man who was deeply wounded and hurt by prejudice but who found redemption in Jesus Christ and preached the healing and uniting gospel of grace to others. And that is a message that is timeless.

The Sum of Archibald Alexander's Theology

As recounted in Practical Truths (1857), p. 386, “on his dying bed, [Archibald Alexander] uttered to his family these memorable words: ‘All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.'“ What a beautiful summation of the gospel, and what a simple truth to meditate upon this day to the glory of God, who sent his Son to save sinners.

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Be on the lookout for our forthcoming booklet by Archibald Alexander, which includes his counsel to those in the autumn of life. Coming soon!