Wednesday, March 25, 2015

25 March 2015

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Reformed Presbyterian Minister and Operation Rescue President to Lead a Sit-in Demonstration to Protest Delay in U.S. House of Representatives Promised Vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at Speaker Boehner’s Office in Washington DC

[2] PCUSA Church Ordains First Married Lesbian Couple as Ministers, Days after Denomination's Marriage Definition Change Amendment Approved

[3] Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in response to PCUSA Marriage Definition Change, Reaffirm Commitment to Biblical Marriage

[4] Church of Scotland Holds Conference to Promote Gaelic Language

[5] Crown and Covenant Posts on Website for Reading or Download Four of J. G. Vos's Westminster Theological Journal Articles


[1] Reformed Presbyterian Minister and Operation Rescue President to Lead a Sit-in Demonstration to Protest Delay in U.S. House of Representatives Promised Vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at Speaker Boehner’s Office in Washington DC

Reformed Presbyterian Minister and Christian Defense Coalition Chairman Pat Mahoney and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman on Wednesday 25 March 2015 at 11:00 a.m. EST will lead a sit-in protest at U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner’s Capitol Hill office to protest the delay in a promised vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This legislation would ban horrific late-term abortions in every state after twenty weeks of gestation.

Last week, Mahoney, pro-life speaker , blogger and former Registered Nurse Jill Stanek, and Newman sent a letter to Speaker Boehner expressing disappointment that a promised a vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act did not take place on 22 January 2015 as previously planned. Assurances were given that the legislation would be slightly revised and a vote rescheduled "immediately."

Now, two months later, there is still no scheduled vote on this landmark law that will protect women from traumatic late-term abortions and save the lives of thousands of babies each year from a barbaric and painful death.

Stanek noted her reasons for risking arrest to force this late-term abortion ban to a speedy vote; "My entry into the pro-life movement was prompted by the fact I held a twenty-one-week abortion survivor until he died. He would have been saved by this twenty-week ban. I have determined now is a fitting time to leverage my experience – to refocus attention on the baby and to continue to memorialize his senseless death the best I know how."

Pat Mahoney states, "We are coming to Speaker Boehner's office to be a voice for the innocent children who die every day in America from the violence of abortion and call upon him to schedule a vote on banning ALL abortions after twenty weeks. As we pray and peacefully risk arrest, we are saying that Republican leadership should cease all business in the House until this legislation has been passed."

Troy Newman agrees. "With the vast majority of Americans in opposition to late-term abortions, it is the duty of Congress to act immediately to protect these innocent human beings from a tortuous and grisly death. It is time to relegate all abortions to the ash heap of history along with other forms of human rights abuses such as slavery and human sacrifice. Banning late-term abortions performed on babies that can feel pain is a good place to start. It is a barbaric, outdated practice that has no place in civilized society."

+ Christian Defense Coalition, Post Office Box 77168, Washington DC 20013, 202-547-1735,

+ Operation Rescue, Post Office Box 782888, Wichita, Kansas 67278, 800-705-1175, Fax: 916-244-2636,

+ U.S. House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515, 202- 224-3121, Contact Page

[2] PCUSA Church Ordains First Married Lesbian Couple as Ministers, Five Days after Denomination's Marriage Definition Change Amendment Approved

A 22 March 2015 The Christian Post article by Anugrah Kumar titled “PCUSA Church Ordains First Married Lesbian Couple as Ministers, Days after Denomination's Marriage Amendment” reports that just five days after a majority of Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) presbyteries voted to change the PCUSA Constitution’s definition of marriage to include homosexual marriage, Kaci Clark-Porter and Holly, a lesbian couple who “married” three years ago, on 22 March 2015 became the first homosexual couple to be jointly ordained as ministers for respectively the First and Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Big Gay Church which operates at First and Central.

While in seminary in their twenties, the women “came out” and divorced their husbands.

+ The Christian Post, National Press Building, 529 14th Street Northwest, Suite 420, Washington DC 20045, 202-347-7734,

+ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, 888-728-7228
, Fax: 502-569-8005

[3] Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in response to PCUSA Marriage Definition Change, Reaffirm Commitment to Biblical Marriage

In response to the 17 May 2015 ratification by a majority of Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) presbyteries to a redefinition of marriage that allows homosexual weddings, both the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church reaffirmed their commitment to biblical marriage.

+ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, 888-728-7228
, Fax: 502-569-8005

+ Presbyterian Church in America, 1700 North Brown Road, Suite 105, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30043, 678-825-1000, Fax: 678-825-1001,

Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 17197 North Laurel Park Drive Suite 567, Livonia, Michigan 48152, 734-742-2020, Fax: 734-742-2033,

[4] Church of Scotland Holds Conference to Promote Gaelic Language

A 21 March 2015 The Herald article titled “Church of Scotland Holds Conference to Promote Gaelic Language” reports that the Church of Scotland recently held a conference at St. Georges Tron Church in Glasgow to discuss how the Kirk can do more to promote the Gaelic language. Presentations focused on such topics as developments in Gaelic broadcasting, worship, and resources.

The Kirk’s future moderator the Rev Dr. Angus Morrison (who will be installed in May 2015) stated:

“We believe the time is now opportune to encourage new initiatives in promoting the use of Gaelic both in the context of traditional worship services and in imaginative ways that take account of the developing needs of the Gaelic-speaking, and Gaelic-learning, community in Scotland.”

+ The Herald, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow, Scotland G2 3QB, 0141- 302-7000, Fax: 0141-302-7117,

+ Church of Scotland, 121 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4YN, Scotland, 0131-225-5722

[5] Crown & Covenant Posts on Website for Reading or Download Four of J. G. Vos's Westminster Theological Journal Articles

-- Christian Missions and the Civil Magistrate in the Far East

-- The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms

-- The Social and Economic Responsibility of the Visible Church

-- The Visible Church: Its Nature Unity and Witness

Additionally, two other articles by J. G. Vos are available for reading or download:

-- Singing the Whole of the Psalter, Wholeheartedly

-- Scriptural Revelation and the Evolutionary World View

+ Crown & Covenant Publications, 7408 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15208, 412-241-0436,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

18 March 2015

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” [Ezekiel 33:6]

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]

Presbyterians Week Headlines

Fifteenth Annual Reformed Congregational Fellowship Pastors’ Conference Scheduled 14-16 April 2015 at the Salvation Army’s Wonderland Conference Center in Sharon, Massachusetts

[2] Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manassas, Virginia to Host Creation Emphasis Seminar 25-27 March 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Each Evening

[3] City Church (RCA) of San Francisco Embraces Homosexual Sex and Marriage

[4] PCUSA Presbyteries Approve Marriage Amendment 14-F, Allowing Homosexual Weddings

[5] Evangelical Reformed Church in Vilnius, Lithuania Uses Jewish Headstones as Front Staircase

[6] Free Audiobook “Christianity and Law: The Influence of Christianity on the Development of English Common Law” by Steven C. Perks Available Online


Fifteenth Annual Reformed Congregational Fellowship Pastors’ Conference Scheduled 14-16 April 2015 at the Salvation Army’s Wonderland Conference Center in Sharon, Massachusetts

Fifteenth Annual Reformed Congregational Fellowship Pastors’ Conference is scheduled for 14-16 April 2015 at the Salvation Army’s Wonderland Conference Center in Sharon, Massachusetts. The conference theme for 2015 is “Free Indeed!”

Presentations scheduled include:

Tuesday April 14 at 7 p.m. – “The Divine Purchase: Redeemed from the Curse of the Law and This Present Evil World” by Douglas Vickers of Hadley, Massachusetts

Wednesday April 15 at 8:45a.m. – “The Administration of the Covenant of Grace in the Ceremonial Law” by Rick Daniels from North Carolina

Wednesday April 15 at 10:15 a.m. – “From Legal Obedience to Gospel Obedience: The Grace of God That Teaches Us to Say No to Ungodliness and Worldly Passions” by Bob Hall of the Bronx, New York City, New York

Wednesday April 15 at 1:15 p.m. - “He Who Was Free... Is a Slave of Christ: The Use and Abuse of a Pauline Metaphor” by Ross Macdonald from Massachusetts

Wednesday April 15 at 2:30 p.m. - Expanded Discussion followed by a Business Meeting

Wednesday April 15 at 7 p.m. – “Jeremiah Burroughs and Liberty of Conscience: Let not violence be used to force people to things spiritual that they know not” by Steve Weibley of Carlisle, Massachusetts

Thursday April 15 at 9:00 a.m. – “Taking a Stand: Civil Disobedience and the Christian” by Kirk van der Swaagh of New York City, New York

For questions and information, please call or email 508-285-5525 or

The conference brochure is available here:

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, 8941 Highway 5, Lake Elmo, Minnesota, 651-739-1474, Fax: 651-739-0750

Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manassas, Virginia to Host Creation Emphasis Seminar 25-27 March 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Each Evening

Reformed Presbyterian Church of Manassas, Virginia will be hosting a Creation Emphasis Seminar 25-27 March 2015 at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

The speaker is Dr. Grady S. McMurtry, Biblical Scientific Creationist.

Dr. McMurtry is a recognized international speaker on the subject of creation vs. evolution, both from a Biblical viewpoint as well as that of secular science. He has an entertaining and humorous style of presenting fact and bible truths. His insights into the events of the past will stir your spirit and affirm in your heart the truth about the biblical record of Creation, the Flood and Man.

Dr. McMurtry has credentials as a scientist, an expert school board witness, and a visiting professor on school, college and university campuses around the world. All persons, Junior High through Adult, will be captivated by his grasp of the facts, open style and love for the Lord.

Dr.McMurtry was an evolutionist for twenty years prior to being convinced of the scientific foundation for the creation viewpoint. Dr. McMurtry addresses this issue on the basis of science and contends for the truth of the Biblical account of creation and its tremendous relevance to our lives. The topics in this series are: The Complexity of the Universe; Survival of the Fittest-Really?; and The Ark of Noah.

"The Creation Bookstore" will also be available. It is so hard to know the best books on such a wide range of subjects that are suitable to each age group. This is your opportunity to buy! Home-schoolers looking for curriculum will want to review the titles on the book and tape tables.

Reformed Presbyterian Church, 9400 Fairview Avenue, Manassas, Virginia 20110, 703-361-2300

Reformed Presbyterian Church-Hanover Presbytery,

City Church (RCA) of San Francisco Embraces Homosexual Sex and Marriage

In a 13 March 2015 letter from the Elder Board of City Church (Reformed Church in America) of San Francisco, California, it was announced that the church is now accepting of practicing homosexuals and of homosexual marriage.

"The timing of these changes was explained by several statements elaborated upon in the letter:

"1. God is bringing LGBT Christians through the doors of City Church."

"2. Our pastoral practice of demanding life-long “celibacy”, by which we meant that for the rest of your life you would not engage your sexual orientation in any way, was causing obvious harm and has not led to human flourishing."

"3. We feel a growing sense that this counsel is not necessarily the way of the gospel."

The Elder Board’s method of seeking answers to their questions was explained in three parts titled:

"1. As a church within the Reformed Tradition we go directly to Scripture to find counsel and to reengage the verses that talk about same sex activity."

"2. We engaged Ken Wilson’s book [A Letter to My Congregation] to see how this might be understood in a church with a wide range of viewpoints."

"3. In all of this, we are looking to Scripture to understand how Jesus would counsel us to care for the LGBT members of our community."

City Church began as a
Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church plant supported enthusiastically by the PCA home missions agency Mission to North America. In 2003, the church announced that it was leaving the PCA because they believed women should be ordained to all church offices.

A correspondent wrote of the changes:

"Now [City Church has] told their congregation they are moving to the new gay affirming policy, for the sake of the gospel of course. That was also why the signers of the
Auburn Affirmation embraced modernity and liberalism in their own day [1924], it was for the sake of the gospel. Whenever we repudiate the Bible, we always do it for the sake of the gospel, and we always affirm that Jesus would have done the same thing."

Reformed Church in America, 4500 60th Street Southeast, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49512, 800-968-6065,

Presbyterian Church in America, 1700 North Brown Road, Suite 105, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30043, 678-825-1000, Fax: 678-825-1001,

[4] PCUSA Presbyteries Approve Marriage Amendment 14-F, Allowing Homosexual Weddings

At the 17 March 2015 meeting of the Palisades Presbytery, the presbytery became the 86th presbytery, and thus a majority of Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) presbyteries, to approve amendment 14-F to the PCUSA’s Book of Order, which will allow homosexual weddings in states where such unions are legal.

The new language reads:

"Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.

"In civil law, marriage is a contract that recognizes the rights and obligations of the married couple in society. In the Reformed tradition, marriage is also a covenant in which God has an active part, and which the community of faith publicly witnesses and acknowledges."

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, responded to the vote by reaffirming the statement of protest issued by the Lay Committee following the action of the PCUSA General Assembly in June 2014 to redefine marriage:

“The passage of the amendment is further indication of the erosion of Biblical fidelity within the PCUSA. There is nothing new to say in response. Just as we repudiated the action of the General Assembly in issuing the Authoritative Interpretation we now stand in firm opposition to the passage of this amendment to the denomination’s constitution.”

“We see this attempt to redefine what God has clearly defined as an express repudiation of the Bible, the mutually agreed upon Confessions of the PCUSA, thousands of years of faithfulness to God’s clear commands and the ordination vows of each presbyter who voted to approve what God does not bless,” she continued.

“As we said in June, ‘The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them.’ Presbyterians can take specific and concrete action in response. They can ask their session to issue a resolution in protest that includes the re-direction of per capita and mission support until and unless the denomination repents and restores the ‘one man and one woman’ language through amendment at the 2016 General Assembly. Granted, that’s a long process.”

The length of the battle should not be a deterrent, LaBerge said. “Again, as we said in June, ‘God will not be mocked and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God. The Presbyterian Lay Committee will continue to call for repentance and reform: repentance of those who have clearly erred and reform of the PCUSA according to the Word of God."

LaBerge urged Presbyterians to visit The Layman Online in the coming days to find resources to “facilitate their faithful response to this unfaithful vote.”

+ Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, 888-728-7228
, Fax: 502-569-8005

+ Palisades Presbytery, 340 West Passaic Street, 3rd Floor, Rochelle Park, New Jersey 07662, 201-599-1111, Fax: 201-599-3806,

+ Presbyterian Lay Committee, 1220 West Main Street, Franklin, Tennessee 37064, 615-591-4388,

[5] Evangelical Reformed Church in Vilnius, Lithuania Uses Jewish Headstones as Front Staircase

A 13 March 2015 The Jewish Daily Forward article titled “Lithuania Church Uses Jewish Headstones as Stairs: Chief Rabbi Pleads for Vilnius Church To Remove Relics” reports that the entrance stairway to the Evangelical Reformed Church in Vilnius, Lithuania is composed of Jewish headstones placed during occupation by the Soviet Union.

Rabbi Chaim Burshtein in February 2015 made an appeal on Facebook calling attention to the situation and commenting:

“We regret the deplorable state and destruction of the last remnants of the memory of Lithuanian Jewry. Lithuania has many places built out of Jewish headstones. I think the authorities and the Jewish community need to perform thorough research and correct at least this historic wrong….

“These headstones need to be removed and preserved. It is very painful that, in Lithuania, which likes to boast about its commitment to preserving the memory of its once great Jewish community, churchgoers literally walk over Jewish headstones on their way to pray.”

+ The Jewish Daily Forward, 125 Maiden Lane, New York City,
New York 10038, 212-889-8200, Fax: 212-447-6406,

+ Evangelical Reformed Church in Lithuania

[6] Free Audiobook “Christianity and Law: The Influence of Christianity on the Development of English Common Law” by Steven C. Perks Available Online

A free audiobook, “Christianity and Law: The Influence of Christianity on the Development of English Common Law” by Steven C. Perks is available online at the following link:

+, 63a, Kernan Gardens, Craigavon, Portadown Armagh T635RA, Northern Ireland, Contact Page

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

11 March 2015

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” [Ezekiel 33:6]

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] The Southern Presbyterians (3) - John L. Girardeau, Minister to the Slaves of South Carolina

[2] Orthodox Presbyterian Church Founding Member John Galbraith Celebrates 102nd Birthday on Tuesday, 10 October 2015

[3] Harmony of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms by Dr. Morton H. Smith Published by Tolle Lege Press

[4] The True Doctrine of the Sabbath by Nicholas Bownd Being Copublished by Naptali Press and Reformed Heritage Books


[1] The Southern Presbyterians (3) - John L. Girardeau, Minister to the Slaves of South Carolina

[Editor’s Notes: The February 2015 issue of Faith in Focus magazine, published by the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, is subtitled The Southern Presbyterians, and contains three articles about the history of the Presbyterian Church in the southern United States. D.V., Presbyterians Week with the kind permission of Faith in Focus editor Walter Walraven, is republishing the third of these articles in this issue.

Faith in Focus makes available back issues on line after three months, so the link to the February 2015 issue should become available in May of this year.]

By Sally Davey

It is not difficult to appreciate the great strengths of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the early nineteenth century. It comprised of many solid, faithful congregations where the truths of the Bible were honoured and clearly taught; and where, from time to time, sudden bursts of religious awakening added large numbers of people to the churches. These were churches where commitment to sound theology and evangelical zeal were often found combined. That the Southern Presbyterians produced fine preachers, theologians and churchmen who made important contributions to the body of Reformed understanding internationally is not surprising.

And yet – in this day and age, many of us are surprised at one major, glaring inconsistency in their witness. How could committed Christians live with the slavery that was so prevalent in the economy of the South? Surely it flew in the face of Christian compassion and the equality of sinners before God? Christians are called to help the poor and oppressed; but didn’t these Presbyterians involve themselves in oppression instead? What, if anything, did they do for the multitude of African slaves who served them, and who lived in their midst? The life of one of their ministers shows how some of them grappled with this moral dilemma, and attempted to do quite a lot.

Family and Childhood

John Lafayette Girardeau was born in 1825 on James Island, South Carolina.
He was the son of parents of Huguenot background (South Carolina was one of the destinations to which French Huguenot refugees fled after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.) His grandfather had served in the American Revolutionary War (hence the name Lafayette, after the French general who had assisted the American side). His father was a small-scale plantation owner who grew cotton; so young Girardeau grew up in close contact with slaves. His mother was a compassionate, sensitive lady who was the spiritual centre of the home; and the Girardeau home was one where Christ was spoken of naturally and often. Family devotions were the norm, the Lord’s Day was observed carefully, and the family were actively involved in their local Presbyterian church, including the weekly prayer meeting held in different family homes.

Mrs. Girardeau was especially kind to sick and needy slaves. She would often care for them, and almost certainly passed her compassionate influence on to her son, giving him a deep interest in the black population of the Low Country (coastal region) of South Carolina. Sadly, she died when Girardeau was just a young boy, and his life was completely changed. Within the next two years his father remarried, he lost a close uncle and also his maternal grandmother. It seems his stepmother was not especially kind, and he was sent off to school in Charleston. He had lost a great deal of the security of his childhood. His attendance at Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston was one important anchor where he found kindness and friendship.

When he was fourteen or fifteen he went through some spiritual turmoil, recognised his need of salvation, and trusted in Christ. This set the direction of his life; and around this time he started at College. He loved it: academically able, he treated his studies in the liberal arts and the classical languages as preparation for a lifetime of ministerial service. He graduated in 1844 and spent the summer as tutor to the Hamlin family on their plantation eight miles from Charleston. One of the daughters would later become his wife. In 1845 he began study for the ministry at seminary in Columbia, where he frequently heard the preaching of James Henley Thornwell and Benjamin Palmer at First Presbyterian Church. Thornwell’s theological convictions and personal walk with Christ had a great influence on the young Girardeau. In his seminary years he was confirmed in solid, conservative Old School Presbyterianism and longing to see the kingdom of Christ extended through souls coming to the Saviour. He also busied himself doing what he could to bring the gospel to the poorer and more hardened sinners in Columbia at the time. As a student, Girardeau became known for his spiritual fervour and tender, ardent prayer. He also had the makings of a particularly fine preacher.

Ministry to the Slaves

Girardeau’s heart remained in the Low Country of South Carolina, though, where the black population, far more numerous than further inland, had fewer opportunities to hear the gospel, and where there was a great deal more ignorance and the practice of Voodoo. His first pastoral charge was at the Wilton church in rural Colleton County. He regularly preached to a large congregation of white people in the morning, and to blacks in the afternoon. He also systematically preached to the slaves on the surrounding plantations; often on the porches or inside the homes of their masters. He did not insult the intelligence of the slaves, and used the same order of service for both. He taught them good psalms and hymns, refusing the view that the slaves’ own simple chants were good enough for them. Girardeau clearly believed that the goal was to lift the blacks’ understanding, not leave them at a level of ignorance. Then he was called to a new work Second Presbyterian Church had begun in Anson St. in Charleston for the slaves of the city. A building seating 600 had been built by the slaveholders and opened in 1850. Thornwell had preached on Colossians 4:1 at the opening service. By 1854, when Girardeau took up his ministry there, there were thirty-six members; and by 1860 there were over 600, with a regular Sunday attendance of 1500. This was an extraordinary ministry, obviously blessed by God in its fruitfulness; and it is helpful to consider some of the things that contributed to its success.

First among them is surely Girardeau’s preaching, which contemporaries described as delivered in a clear and gentle voice; but was soul-searching and Christ-centred. It frequently affected congregations in a similar way to Whitefield’s preaching – many were grieved by their sin to the point of tears. The second major factor was the church’s thorough teaching programme, involving catechism instruction and Scripture memorising.

There was plenty of precedent for work among slaves in the South. Girardeau himself had a cousin, C.C. Jones, who was a leading evangelist of the slaves as well as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, and who had written a catechism to instruct black people, Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States, in 1842.

There was a genuine desire on the part of many Christian Southerners to teach the slaves the gospel. They were happy for their slaves to attend church, and for preachers to visit the slaves on their plantations. As has been pointed out, they provided money for the building of the Anson St. church – better accommodation than the stifling balconies the slaves occupied in regular white churches.

However, this all happened in an atmosphere of paternalism. The whites, even those most interested in the blacks like Girardeau, always viewed them as little brothers incapable of advancing to the spiritual maturity expected of white Christians. This unbiblical view led some (not Girardeau) to deny church leadership to black members. To us, such a view is unworthy of Christians who believe that sinners saved by Christ have equality before God. Yes, these Christians had big blind spots with regard to slavery – yet so do we, on other subjects.

The striking thing is that these Presbyterians persevered in their efforts to teach the slaves thoroughly – at a time when it was actually illegal to teach slaves to read and write. Fear of incendiary revolutionary ideas infiltrating from northern abolitionists had led to a dread of providing slaves access to such material through literacy. Girardeau’s efforts to preach the gospel and teach the catechism in this setting went some way to overcome the many handicaps slaves suffered in growing in their understanding of the Word of God. As C.C. Jones had argued, God, in his providence, had brought massive numbers of African people formerly ignorant of the gospel to the New World. It was the duty of white people, who had known so much spiritual blessing, to teach them the gospel.

Girardeau’s church had a substantial educational programme. Slaves were trained to memorize vast portions of Scripture, catechisms and psalms and hymns. Sabbath Schools (a feature of solid churches since the 1820s) were the main venue for this teaching. By 1857 the congregation had outgrown the Anson St. mission, and it was decided to build a huge new church on Calhoun St. on a piece of land donated for the purpose. It was the biggest church in Charleston, with seating for 2500. By choice of the black members, the name was “Zion” church. There was considerable outreach among the community of black domestic slaves in Charleston, and the church continued to grow rapidly. New members were discipled in “classes”; each class having no more than 50 members, and the leaders were drawn from among the spiritually mature black men. The classes filled a number of functions – Christian fellowship, keeping the members and leaders informed of sickness and need, and furthering the members’ growth in Christian understanding and spiritual graces.

The work flourished. In 1858 there were 245 black communicant members; and by 1860 that had increased to 492. Since Girardeau preached three times every Sunday, attendance must have been far bigger than the total membership. It seems that church membership did not decline during the Civil War, either.

What the War Brought

However, the war did have a devastating effect on the South generally; and on the churches in particular. Tensions between the Northern states and the South in the period leading up to the war led most Protestant denominations, including the Presbyterians, to divide into northern and southern entities. Girardeau kept the members of Zion Church fully informed of developments in the Presbyterian Church, so they understood what was happening when their church split from their northern brethren.

Soon, everyone was affected and nothing would be the same again. In 1862 Girardeau took leave of the church to serve as a chaplain in the Confederate Army; only returning in 1865 after having suffered defeat and imprisonment. Charleston was occupied by Northern forces and many public buildings, including Zion Church, were confiscated. The church trustees had to negotiate with the new authorities to recover the church building from a Northern missionary who had tried to take it over. Some black Christians felt unwilling to be under a white pastor in the new circumstances, though a large number wanted to return to Girardeau, and did so. It was a sad situation: many of the Southern whites were defensive and bitter; and the policy of the Freedman’s Bureau, set up by the Northern government, was to divide the now free black citizens from the Southern white populace. The Bureau strongly encouraged the blacks to leave the white churches and to form their own with the help of the Washington government. Over time, the blacks affiliated more and more with existing black denominations, developing their own leadership and forms of worship. Zion church was ultimately abandoned, and the building demolished.

After the War

In these circumstances Girardeau’s pre-war ministry was finished, and he served until the mid-1870s in a largely white congregation in Charleston. He never lost his lifelong zeal for the spiritual well-being of the blacks, and one of the Sabbath school groups his church operated was for black people. Girardeau’s gentle and godly character, preaching gifts and scholarship were widely recognised by this time, though, and the 1874 General Assembly of the (Southern) Presbyterian Church elected him Moderator. It also elected him Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Seminary, where he taught for twenty years until his retirement at the age of seventy.

Girardeau’s ministry shone as a beacon of hope in a culture undergoing cataclysmic change. Between the early 1850s, when his preaching ministry began, and the 1880s, when he finally retired from theological teaching, Southern society was revolutionised. White society, while largely Christian, had a huge moral blind spot in condoning slavery; and yet the closeness of master and slave allowed for considerable spiritual influence of the one upon the other for good – which Girardeau did all he could to encourage. He was even prepared, within the constraints of that setting, to devote his entire preaching ministry to the black people. When war and the victory of the Northern army destroyed slavery in the South, it also destroyed the close relations between black and white, resulting in a policy of separation. That
Girardeau could face the ending of his ministry in such circumstances without bitterness of heart speaks highly of his character.

Such turns of events can be hard to bear. What happened to Zion Church bears resemblance to many situations in the history of the church. Wars and revolutions can wreak havoc on churches as people flee the violence, or take sides. We can wonder why God would allow this apparent crushing of his good work. Ultimately, though, we have to entrust what God has begun to his good hands. Sometimes, as in the book of Acts, he simply scatters his people so that they can take the gospel further. Other times, he allows his people to live out their faith in unexpected ways or circumstances. It is certainly true that the Southern Presbyterian churches did not die: they carried on as some of the more faithful churches in the U.S. into the next century; and formed the basis of what is now the largest faithful Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. And while it is sad that many black people left behind the beginnings of solid reformational teaching that Girardeau and his like had been giving them, there are signs that more than a few black churches are hungering for this very thing today. As for Girardeau himself, he carried on preaching and teaching in the places he was able; trusting in the God he loved for the outcome. And we shall all rejoice together over the results in heaven.


I am greatly indebted to the following works for my understanding of Girardeau’s life and ministry:

C.N. Wilborn, John L. Girardeau (1825-98), Pastor to Slaves and Theologian of Causes: A Historical Account of the Life and Contributions of an often Neglected Southern Presbyterian Minister and Theologian (PhD dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2003)

Douglas Kelly, Preachers with Power: Four Stalwarts of the South, Daniel Baker, James Henley Thornwell, Benjamin Morgan Palmer, John Girardeau
(Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1992)

+ Faith in Focus, c/o Walter Walraven, 7 Winchester Avenue, Pinehaven, Upper Hutt 5019, New Zealand, 64-4-527-4379,

+ Reformed Churches of New Zealand,

[2] Orthodox Presbyterian Church Founding Member John Galbraith Celebrates 102nd Birthday on Tuesday, 10 October 2015

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Today in OPC History for 10 March 2015 published Happy Birthday greetings to OPC founding member the Rev. John P. Galbraith on the occasion of his 102nd birthday:

"We would like to wish the Rev. John P. Galbraith a happy 102nd birthday today. Mr. Galbraith is the sole remaining person of those gathered in Philadelphia on June 11, 1936 to have their names enrolled as founding members of the now Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His parents and his sister were also enrolled on that day.

"A 1935 graduate of Muskingum College, he enrolled at Westminster Seminary where he took classes under and became friends with J. Gresham Machen, even travelling to be present at Machen's trial in Trenton, New Jersey, and Machen's appeal at the General Assembly in Syracuse. When Machen died suddenly on January 1, 1937, the Machen family asked Galbraith to serve as a pallbearer.

"Following his graduation from Westminster, Galbraith pastored OPC congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for eleven years. In 1948, he was appointed General Secretary for both the Home Missions and Foreign Missions Committees. He continued until 1961, when he began to serve full time as General Secretary for Foreign Missions, a post he would hold until his retirement in 1978. In retirement, he remained active serving on various committees for over twenty-five years.

"For those who attended the seventy-fifth anniversary of the OPC at the 2011 General Assembly, a highlight of that week was a stirring address by the then 98-year old Galbraith during the report of the Committee on Christian Education. The eyewitness to the first OPC General Assembly in 1936 began his remarks by reminding commissioners and guests that “whatever we have done to land here seventy-five years later, holding to the same faith, has been by the grace of the Spirit of the living God.”

"Galbraith ended with this challenge:

          "I say to you, “Keep standing fast.” That doesn’t need any exegesis. You know 

          exactly what it means. Stand fast in the faith once delivered to the saints. Stand
          fast on the Word of God, and then get going on the things that God has given us
          to do. Teach our people well. Teach them to do their job, and to do it well. And 
          to that I think I can say only my own amen and say also, to God be the glory.

+ The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 607 North Easton Road, Building E, Box P, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania 19090, 215-830-0900, Fax: 215-830-0350

[3] Harmony of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms by Dr. Morton H. Smith Published by Tolle Lege Press

Christian Reader Bookstore, a division of Tolle Lege Press, is offering Harmony of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms by Dr. Morton H. Smith for US$19.95 plus shipping.

In today's Church, sadly, there seems to be more emphasis on contemporary music and gourmet coffee than a real commitment to doctrine. Finally, in this wonderful handbook, Dr. Morton H. Smith lays out the standard for Protestant doctrine that is both easy to understand and backed by extensive Scriptural references. Furthermore, there are study questions and answers (catechisms) that make this an invaluable study tool for family devotions, Bible Studies, and Sunday Schools.

In this wonderful volume, Dr. Morton H. Smith helpfully lists together the various corresponding parts of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. This harmony will be of invaluable use for Bible Studies, Sunday Schools, as well as other venues.

The Westminster Standards are unsurpassed among confessional statements in precision and comprehensiveness and few would deny that they deserve close reading and careful study. But it is easy to be overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the Standards, and a as a result many parts are often neglected. The Confession's statements about Scripture, and the doctrines of God, predestination, providence, and the person and work of Christ, as well as the famous first question of the Shorter Catechism, are, of course, known to many. But few have been introduced to what the Standards have to say about sanctification, faith, ethics, prayer, the sacraments, the church, etc. Even fewer have been introduced to the Larger Catechism which expands on points covered in the Confession and Shorter Catechism, and at times, provides material that can be found nowhere else in the Standards.

The Harmony was designed to remedy this situation. First, the distinct, somewhat self-contained paragraphs of the Confession are used as the anchors of the work and these smaller, digestible pieces are easier to follow and grasp. Second, points made by the Confession are, of course, often reiterated by the Catechisms. This repetition helps with retention and comparison of the documents also forces one to look more closely at each statement. Third, all of the statements of the Catechisms are included in the Harmony. This especially makes the Larger Catechism more accessible. Fourth, the wide margins provide space for personal notes. The Harmony has, therefore, been a useful and popular tool for the study of the Standards for many decades. It is our prayer that it will continue in its usefulness for many more, helping God's people to see the beauty and richness of the faith that has been so carefully summarized in the Standards, and ultimately, driving them back to the Word of God and the worship and service of our great God and Savior. Soli Deo Gloria!

+ Christian Reader Bookstore, 5000-B McNeel Industrial Boulevard, Powder Springs, Georgia 30127, 888-984-3638, Contact Page

[4] The True Doctrine of the Sabbath by Nicholas Bownd Being Copublished by Naptali Press and Reformed Heritage Books

The True Doctrine of the Sabbath by Nicholas Bownd is being copublished by Naphtali Press and Reformation Heritage Books, and is available in a prepublication offer as follows:

USA: $24.95. Buy Now.

Canada: $40.00. Buy Now.

All other International $44. (please note UK customers may save on the postage costs if you wait for our distributors in the UK to obtain copies later in the year). Buy Now.

No book had more influence in confirming a Sabbatarian “heart” to Puritanism than that of Nicholas Bownd (d.1613). The Doctrine of the Sabbath was the first scholarly treatment defending the concept of the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day, later embodied in the Westminster Standards. Not reprinted since 1606, this influential work is presented afresh in a new critical edition.

For most of his ministry, Nicholas Bownd (1551?–1613) was the pastor of a country church in rural England. Judging from the sermons he published, his ministry exhibited the practical divinity taught by his stepfather, Richard Greenham, which focused on the means of grace. The crucial ‘mean of the means’ whereby all these means of grace were made available to the people of God was the weekly gatherings on the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day. In 1595, Bownd published True Doctrine of the Sabbath, which derived from sermons preached about 1586. This book embroiled him in a singular controversy with a troublesome neighbor, which resulted in the first Sabbatarian controversy in England, and also led to a vindicating expanded edition in 1606. For the last two years of his life he ministered at St. Andrew in Norwich, the highest call a man of his puritan convictions could have attained in those days.

Commendations by Mark Jones, James T. Dennison, Richard B. Gaffin and Joel Beeke.

“It is astonishing that the Puritan Nicholas Bownd’s famous work on the Sabbath, which greatly influenced later Puritanism and the Westminster Assembly, and by extension, Western Christendom for centuries, has not been printed in a critical edition with modern typeface long ago. Not reprinted since 1606, this classic work emphasizes the fourth commandment’s morally binding character, the divine institution of the entire Sabbath as the Lord’s Day set apart to worship God, and the cessation of non-religious activities that distract from worship and acts of mercy. I am so grateful that it is back in print, and pray that it will do much good to restore the value and enhance the joy of the Lord’s Day for many believers around the world.”

—Joel R. Beeke, co-author of Meet the Puritans and A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“After four centuries of rest, Nicholas Bownd’s famous book on the Sabbath has re-Bownded. Attractively printed, this work is a critical edition of the 1595 version and the expanded 1606 edition. Coldwell has painstakingly collated and meticulously annotated the two so as to allow Bownd’s classic Puritan doctrine of the Lord’s Day Sabbath to be published afresh. Lovers of the Scriptures as interpreted by the Westminster Standards will rejoice. May all glory redound to the Eschatological Lord of Sabbath rest, as it did four centuries ago.”

–James T. Dennison, Jr., author of The Market Day of the Soul: The Puritan Doctrine of the Sabbath in England, 1532-1700; and Academic Dean and Professor of Church History and Biblical Theology, Northwest Theological Seminary, Lynnwood, Washington.

“Those with an interest in developments leading up to the formulation of the Sabbath doctrine taught in the Westminster standards will benefit from this careful documentation and analysis of the views of Nicholas Bownd.”

–Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., author of Calvin and the Sabbath; Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary.

Nicholas Bownd’s work, The True Doctrine of the Sabbath, occupies a hugely significant place among Puritan works on polemical and practical divinity. For its scope, detail, and erudition, this work on the Sabbath is unparalleled in the Puritan tradition—indeed, perhaps even in the Christian tradition. Particularly illuminating are Bownd’s “spiritual exercises,” which clearly had an influence upon the later Puritan attitudes regarding the practical implications of Sabbath-keeping and worship. As an added bonus to the content of this book, the editorial work on this book is first-class, and makes for far more enjoyable and easier reading than a simple re-print.

–Rev. Dr. Mark Jones, Minister at Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA).

From the Foreword

With all the Puritan and Presbyterian books expounding upon the fourth commandment which have been published or reprinted in the last four hundred years, it may be reasonably questioned why it is important to bring yet another work on the nature of the Lord’s Day into print again, particularly when few Christians today either believe, understand or appreciate the true doctrine of the Christian Sabbath. The answer is simple enough. Nicholas Bownd’s books were the first scholarly, lengthy treatment articulating the Puritan Sabbatarian position, and he can fairly be said to have set the mold for the standard argument. The basic tenets he defended are enshrined in that last great set of Reformed symbols, the Westminster Standards. So while he certainly did not invent the doctrine, Bownd can in a sense be called the father of the later Puritan works expounding the fourth commandment. Consequently, his work is of significant historical importance and a new edition is at the very least warranted to aid the study of it. And personally, if for no other reason, I believe a good modern edition of this great work is appropriate out of simple gratitude for the author’s labors in the face of the difficulties of the times and the rather singular persecution he faced.

This project to bring Nicholas Bownd’s True Doctrine of the Sabbath to print in a modern version dates back over twenty years. The source was a poor University Microfilms, Inc. (UMI) photocopy of an equally poor microfilmed example of Bownd’s 1606 revised edition. This required considerable proof reading, and the original having all the problems of a late sixteenth century text made for a tedious job of editing. It was easier to keep shifting focus to other less difficult projects. However, as it turned out in the providence of God, the project needed this delay in order for new research to come to light, revealing more than had previously been in print about Nicholas Bownd. In addition, the editor’s “tool kit” required expanding in order to handle such an old text with the attending necessary research, which other projects afforded over the intervening years. Finally, when the push to get this project on a track to completion was undertaken in the last year or so, a final hurdle presented itself. The discovery of the letter Thomas Rogers wrote to Bownd in 1598 cast all in new light, requiring a late course change and a complete revision of the approach to the text of the book.

For the last nineteen years the intent was to bring Bownd’s 1606 edition to print. However, it became clear that Bownd had made at least one revision based upon a criticism Rogers had made in a 1599 sermon against Sabbatarianism. Using phrases from the surviving notes of that sermon, a few quick searches revealed that while never naming him at any point, all of the main criticisms Rogers made were addressed in the revision. In addition, the description of the 1598 letter, which had never been transcribed, indicated it contained references to Bownd’s 1595 edition. So even before obtaining a copy and transcribing the letter, it was clear that the 1606 text had to be carefully collated with the 1595 edition in order to discover changes directly attributable to Rogers’ criticisms. With a revised critical text noting the additions (herein denoted by large {braces} in the text and in the margins), it became clear that many of the 1606 revisions were made in order to address criticisms made in both Rogers’ 1599 sermon and 1598 letter. This discovery led to a considerable investigation of the dispute between Bownd and Rogers (which is known as the first Sabbatarian controversy in English literature), which resulted in a lengthy but hopefully informative introduction to this volume, now finally completed after all these years.

The text, keyed in the margins to the 1606 edition, has been revised, as far as possible without marring the author’s work, to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and usage. Chapter divisions have been added. Words or insertions supplied by the editor are in [square brackets]. While a few less clear antiquated words or spellings are replaced with the modern equivalents after the first usage (e.g. “entreating [in treating]” etc.), generally changes to clearly archaic spellings are done “silently.” Scripture quotations are italicized, as well as Latin words and some emphasis. While the original use of italics for all manner of emphasis created many difficulties (see the Analysis), I have attempted to untangle and trace all of Bownd’s references. An annotated bibliography is provided noting the library collections available to Bownd, as well as author, subject and Scripture indices….

Contents (there is also a lengthy table of chapters and subtopics in addition to bibliography, scripture, author and subject index).

Contents of The True Doctrine of the Sabbath ix

Introduction xix

Results of the Elizabethan Settlement xxii

The Bownds and Richard Greenham xxvii

Richard Greenham xxix

Nicholas Bownd xxxii

The Ministry of Nicholas Bownd xxxiv

The Market Day of the Soul xxxv

The Works of Nicholas Bownd xxxvi

Conformity and Presbyterianism xl

Bownd’s Advocacy/Rejection of Presbyterianism xliv

Thomas Rogers xlvii

The Works of Thomas Rogers xlviii

Thomas Rogers, Proponent of Conformity liii

Thomas Rogers and the Bury Exercise lvii

Thomas Rogers versus Nicholas Bownd lxi

Assessing Rogers’ Claims, Whitgift’s and Popham’s Suppression lxvi

Rogers’ 1598 Letter to Bownd lxix

Time table of events lxxvii

Objections to the Propagandist Theory lxxxi

Nicholas Bownd Proves Rogers’ Letter is Genuine lxxxiv

Conclusion lxxxv

Analysis lxxxix

Prefatory Epistles, 1595–1606

Dedication (1595) 3

To the Reader (1595) 4

Book One (1606): Dedication 6

To the Studious and Diligent Reader 9

Commendation by Alexander Bownd 12

Andrew Willet to the Reader 16

Book Two (1606): Dedication 22

William Jones to the Author 26

Commendation by Walter Allen 32

Book One: The Ancient Institution and Continuance of the Sabbath 35

Book Two: The Sanctification of the Sabbath 285

Bibliography 449

Author Index 466

Scripture Index 470

Subject Index 474

Commendations 482

+ Naphtali Press, Post Office Box 141084, Dallas, Texas 75214,

+ Reformation Heritage Books, 2965 Leonard Street Northeast, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49525, 616-977-0599,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

4 March 2015

"But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." [Ezekiel 33:6]

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  [Ephesians 6:12] 

Presbyterians Week Headlines

[1] Christian Observer and Presbyterians Week Updates

[2] The Southern Presbyterians (2) - James Henley Thornwell - The Preacher of Logic on Fire

[3] Looking for Bilingual (English/Spanish) Reformed Pastor for Chicago Heights, Illinois Church Plant

Published: A Unique Contribution to English Psalmody


[1] Christian Observer and Presbyterians Week Updates

(1) President of the Christian Observer Board of Directors Mr. Francis Elliott died 24 February 2015 after a three year battle with cancer. Francis was the brother of the late Rev. Dr. Edwin P. Elliott, publisher of the Christian Observer from 1988 to 2009. Francis served for many years on the session of Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manassas, Virginia, where he additionally served as Clerk of the Session, pianist, and organist.

Edwin Elliott, a man with many friends of great character once told the editor that his brother Francis was his best friend, which was shown to be a true, loving friendship by Francis’ tireless, loving, and behind-the-scenes efforts to assist Edwin in his publishing and pastoral activities, and in every other endeavor.

Francis was a collector of and authority on “War of Northern Invasion” military buttons and similar memorabilia and once published a limited edition book on the subject. Several years ago, Francis gave the editor a reproduction button of the kind worn by Confederate forces from Maryland, which the editor will continue to treasure. In the early 1980’s, the editor was known to don the uniform of the 2nd Maryland Cavalry and participate, unmounted, in reenactments and memorials during the 125th anniversary of the “Late Unpleasantness”.

Francis is survived by his beloved wife Grace, his four sons Benjamin (and spouse), Adam, James (and spouse), and Lee, and a legion of friends that will miss his presence in their lives, but rejoice that he is now free of pain and in the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Francis Elliott’s funeral will be on Saturday, 14 March 2015, at 11 a.m. at the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manassas, Virginia. The address is 9400 Fairview Ave., Manassas, VA 20110.

(2) Mrs. Tammie Battle, wife of Christian Observer Contributing Editor the Rev. Dr. John Battle, died 14 February 2015 after a long battle with cancer. The editor via Facebook was privileged to witness the entire Battle family show how those that are devoutly Christ’s face physical death and the death of a loved one. May God comfort and strengthen the extended Battle family in their time of grief, sorrow, and rejoicing at Mrs. Battle’s homegoing.

(3) The Christian Observer and Presbyterians Week have been silent for several weeks with the exception of T.M. Moore’s daily devotionals due to the editor enduring a long bout of bronchitis and pneumonia that included a visit to the emergency room for IV antibiotics and a later weekend hospitalization. The editor is now on the mend, and hopes to soon resume a normal schedule of publishing and other activities.

(4) Please be sure to read the new Christian Observer articles for March 2015 that include “What’s in a Name?: “Christian Hedonism”?” by Christian Observer Contributing Editor David Brand – an analysis of John Piper’s concept of “Christian Hedonism” in light of Scripture, and “Worshiping the Goddess of Education” by Christian Observer Contributing Editor Dr. Joe Renfro - The goddess of education vs. II Tim. 3:7 – “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

+ Christian Observer, Post Office Box 1371, Lexington, Virginia 24450,

[2] The Southern Presbyterians (2) - James Henley Thornwell - The Preacher of Logic on Fire

[Editor’s Notes: The February 2015 issue of Faith in Focus magazine, published by the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, is subtitled The Southern Presbyterians, and contains three articles about the history of the Presbyterian Church in the southern United States. D.V., Presbyterians Week with the kind permission of Faith in Focus editor Walter Walraven, is republishing the second of these articles in this issue.

Faith in Focus makes available back issues on line after three months, so the link to the February 2015 issue should become available in May of this year.]

By Daniel Wilson and Paul Davey

As most of you know, I (Daniel) was born in North Carolina, USA. I have always had an interest in history, and being a Southerner, I have always appreciated the heroes and history of the Southern United States. I was particularly attracted to the men of the 19th century who lived before and around the time of the Civil War. The pastors and preachers of this era faced very difficult challenges in culture, in politics and in the church, and yet they endured those trials with an amazing spirit of faith. These men were driven to search the Scriptures for the answers to the issues they faced in life, and that led them to develop the system of Reformed and Calvinistic theology to a new level of beauty and detail. Much of what was written then is still useful and practical for the church today!

Paul Davey is a Kiwi born and bred; but having read good biographies on this era in church history, he too grew to love Southern theology and thought. Because we share this love of things Southern, Paul and I were asked to write an article on a particularly outstanding figure of this time: James Henley Thornwell. We both believe that a conversation between Paul and I is the best way for us to give you a taste for what we love about this man, and this remarkable era.

So, Paul, please tell us more about the tumultuous times in which Thornwell lived.


South Carolina, Thornwell’s state, is in the heart of the South. A well-established plantation and agricultural industry had developed leading up to the time of Thornwell (1812-1862). The South was primarily agrarian, with a lot of cotton and other crops grown, whereas the North was becoming industrialised. Southern farms ranged in size and productivity. As in agriculture, in the South, the government, military, and support industries and services consisted of a range of people groups, with various religious affiliations and social and economic status. Many of the settlers were of British and French descent. The large black population brought into the South in the 18th century had a profound influence. We need to remember this is the New World. The mores of the Old World didn’t always apply. Not everyone, or their emigrating forebears, came with a mindset to establish a God-fearing, ordered society. Often, those who wanted that were in the minority.

In the early 19th century the infant United States of America had fewer states, and they were more loosely associated. Each had more local independence. For various, including economic, reasons the northern states wanted the southern states to continue in the union. Many would argue the case for union on much broader grounds than just economic utility. Many Southerners were slaveholders and most wanted to continue this practice. As the years progressed, and world opinion changed, the northern states took increasing issue with the southern ones. The increasing tensions triggered the war between the northern and southern states (Civil War) of the early 1860s.

At the same time as the growing political conflict, there was a growing conflict in the church. Within the Presbyterian Church a major issue had arisen in the 1830s between the “New School” revivalists and the “Old School” stalwarts led by Hodge in the North and Thornwell in the South. The New School men were revivalists who were more interested in what “worked” to bring revival, and they were less constrained by the Word of God. The Old School men rightly tied theology AND practice to Scripture, which made them reject many of the practices of the overly pragmatic and emotionally charged revivals of their day. This debate continues to ebb and flow even in our own day. Eventually the Old and New School people parted company. During the Civil War both churches divided on geographic lines, eventually to reunite on geo-political lines rather than theological ones.

Thornwell faced political, social, ecclesiastical and economic turmoil at many times during his life. No doubt this contributed to his usefulness.

So, Daniel, Please tell us something of Thornwell’s youth and background. How did God prepare him to face those tumultuous times in which he lived?


Thornwell was the second child born into a relatively normal family for the time. His father was a manager for a plantation, which meant that the family was well-cared for and respectable. However, at the death of his father, Thornwell’s life was completely changed - he was only eight years old. Not having any significant means of provision, Thornwell and his family went through many years of hardship. Thornwell’s early education was in part due to the generosity and charity of a couple of wealthy men who took an interest in him. This was probably what God used later to lead Thornwell to take such delight in the training and encouragement of young men for ministry. Those who have most benefited from others investing in them are those who most enjoy doing the same when they are able! And thus even difficult times have a beautiful end result in the lives of God’s people.

Thornwell was taken under the wing of a lawyer, William Robbins. Robbins both taught and tutored Thornwell, which ensured that James was well trained in both logic and debate. This early taste for law and logic was most likely instrumental in developing the vibrant, stimulating sermons for which
Thornwell was well-known. His powerful mix of argument and fervour led his preaching to be described as “logic on fire.”

Thornwell completed a mostly classical education at South Carolina College and, after failing in a tutoring job, became a school principal for two years. It was during this time, at the age of twenty-one, that he was accepted as a candidate for the ministry by his presbytery. James moved north to pursue seminary study in Andover, Massachusetts, but soon transferred to Harvard Seminary. After six weeks, health concerns forced Thornwell to return home to South Carolina, where he intended to continue his seminary education. However, the extreme need for ministers led him to receive and accept a remarkable call, and so he was ordained at age twenty-five with less than a year’s seminary education. Yet any questions about his suitability are quickly answered by the fact that within three years of ordination, Thornwell was called upon to take a professorship at South Carolina College! Early on in his ministry, Thornwell was active in the presbytery and the wider church, and this, combined with his theological studies/lectures proved to be the perfect setting for an incredible impact on the theology and practice of the church.

Paul, what do you think are a couple of noteworthy aspects of Thornwell’s ministry and work in the church?


As you have already suggested, Daniel, JHT was noted for excellence in both the pulpit and the seminary. He had a wonderful relationship with his wife. A strong marriage lays the foundation for a man to be able to love others in a godly way. JHT cared about the men he discipled; he cared about their minds and their hearts. Evidence of warm relationships abound in the correspondence that BM Palmer quotes in his interesting biography, The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell (Banner of Truth, 1974); including with the men he discipled. The men whom the Lord brought to Himself through Thornwell’s ministry were nurtured in heart and mind by this gifted man. They were aided in their walk with the Lord not only by what they heard from the pulpit, but also by being with their teacher. Thornwell worked on his students’ minds, hearts and lives according to God’s Word. Thornwell saw the necessity and benefits of education for Christians, and he sought to educate others in all the spheres of his influence.
Thornwell’s exceptional mind was cultivated through disciplined study of the Word of God. Added to his wonderful gifts were graces. The tone of his manner appears to be gracious, kind, generous and godly. Extensive study of theology and church history, following his legal training, meant that JHT proved to be a formidable figure in the courts of the Presbyterian Church. He argued, to give but one example, that the ruling elder was a presbyter, equal with the ministers in ecclesiastical courts, contrary to his equally eminent, northern friend, Charles Hodge. These and many other characteristics are found preserved in the copious, careful correspondence that JHT engaged in. He was a real worker!

Daniel, what do you think were Thornwell’s greatest contributions and legacy?


Well, Paul, Thornwell was known as the South’s “most formidable theologian” in his day. His superior intellect led him to teach in the State University for many years, all the while playing an active role in the Presbytery. Perhaps one lasting contribution to the American church was the ideal of a scholar pastor. My own seminary named Thornwell’s scholarship as one of the reasons they aimed to have such a rigorous four year seminary degree. That concept of “logic on fire”, or biblical reasoning warmly preached to God’s people, is a legacy of Thornwell.

Flowing on from his gifts of logic, Thornwell was a formidable debater. In fact, many of his works are from controversies which he faced in his life/ministry. Much of these writings are as accurate, biblical and helpful today, as it was in Thornwell’s lifetime. If you need to debate someone about the Roman Catholic church – read Thornwell’s works. If you want to know the nature of the office of elder in the church – read Thornwell’s works. If you want to refute German rationalism and the ideas of modern philosophy – read Thornwell’s works! His logic is a lasting gift to the church of the Lord Jesus.

Sadly, one of the things that Thornwell is remembered for most is his defence of slavery. He was one of the chief advocates of Southern slavery. He based his argumentation firmly on the Scriptures, and it would be difficult for any to find fault with his basic logic. Sadly, his logic and argumentation were hinged on a romanticised version of Christian-owned plantations. When compared with the reality of slavery as it existed across the South, Thornwell’s arguments no longer hold water. But this too serves as a positive lesson for us. Every generation, every person has their blind spots and weaknesses. Just because Thornwell was wrong here, it doesn’t mean we should write him off. Nor when we find weakness or error in one another should we immediately discount everything else. Instead, we need to look for the good, and rebuke the bad – leaving the judging or condemning to the Lord.

Perhaps another lesson from Thornwell’s defence of slavery is his profound dependence upon God’s Word. When faced with a difficult debate over major political issues, Thornwell searched God’s Word for wisdom. Even though I disagree with his conclusions, his method is noteworthy. He and other Southern Theologians were known for their diligent submission to God’s Word. The Scriptures were supreme in ordering life, and if one could have shown Thornwell anything from God’s Word – I am convinced that he would have changed his life to suit what God’s Word said. We too should have such a zeal and dependence on God’s Word. We too should be “Berean” scholars, searching the Word daily to confirm what we are taught, just like Thornwell.

Paul, perhaps as we end our discussion, you would like to explain why you think Thornwell is worth our time in our day.


I’m sure you’d agree Daniel, that like Winston Churchill, Thornwell had plenty of setbacks in his childhood. If he’d wanted to pity-party he would have had more excuse than most of us. He had his weaknesses and troubles, but these didn’t stop him using his gifts and getting on with some remarkable service for Christ. As you’ve indicated, he understood that God’s Word is for our instruction and exhortation, that we may be equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). Thus, he got about knowing that Word extensively, using all the intellectual talents God had given Him. He humbly submitted himself both in learning and in going about applying that Word to himself and others. Affectionately, deliberately and diligently, he discipled those Christ entrusted to him in his congregations and in the seminaries in which he taught. He didn’t shy away from the theological and ecclesiastical debates that he encountered. He engaged with the issues of the day, too; be they slavery, civil war, or whatever was important. He is in so many ways a model that we should follow.

You’d also agree, Daniel, that we have merely scratched the surface of Thornwell’s usefulness in this little article. We commend to you readers Douglas Kelly’s Preachers with Power (Banner of Truth, 1992), B.M. Palmer’s Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell (Banner of Truth,
1974) and the four volumes of The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell (Banner of Truth, 1974), some of which is available online. Good biographies are pretty stimulating. Both the biographical works we’ve mentioned have enough drama and interest to keep non-literary chaps at the page! The enjoyment and usefulness of investing some hours becoming familiar with James Henley Thornwell is well worthwhile.

+ Faith in Focus, c/o Walter Walraven, 7 Winchester Avenue, Pinehaven, Upper Hutt 5019, New Zealand, 64-4-527-4379,

+ Reformed Churches of New Zealand,

[3] Looking for Bilingual (English/Spanish) Reformed Pastor for Chicago Heights, Illinois Church Plant

The consistory of Faith United Reformed Church, Beecher, Illinois and the El Pacto Joint Venture Committee are searching for a bi-lingual man to take up the church planting work of El Pacto de Gracia in Chicago Heights, Illinois. We are open to Reformed ordained men, ministerial students, etc. For more information please contact Martin Nuiver,, 219-227-6740,

+ United Reformed Churches in North America, c/o the Rev. Bradd Nymeyer, 227 1st Avenue Southeast, Sioux Center, Iowa 51250, 712-722-1965,

[4] Published: A Unique Contribution to English Psalmody

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – 8 February 2015 - Premier Printing is pleased to announce the recent publication of New Genevan Psalter, an English version of John Calvin’s Psalter of 1562. It consists of the 150 Psalms set to the Genevan tunes long used by Reformed churches throughout the world. As well it includes four canticles which have always been associated with the Genevan Psalter, the Ten Commandments and the Songs of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon.

The text of the songs is from Book of Praise, 2014, the songbook of the Canadian Reformed Churches.

This Psalter is a new and contemporary English version of John Calvin’s French Psalter; however, it is not merely a translation of the original sixteenth-century French version but a new poetic rendering of the entire Book of Psalms and of the four canticles. As such it is both a classic and a contemporary contribution to the Psalmody of the church.

Many churches have several songbooks in their pew racks, and the New Genevan Psalter would be a wonderful addition. A congregation that sings the Psalms is rooted in the church of all ages, and a congregation that sings the Psalms set to the Genevan tunes is embedded in the church of the Reformation.

For more information, please go to

New Genevan Psalter can be ordered from:

Premier Printing Ltd.
1 Beghin Ave
Winnipeg, MB R2J 3X5
(204) 663 9000
$ 28.00 CAD plus shipping (less 25% discount for bulk orders of 25 or more).

+ Canadian Reformed Churches,