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,