An Historical Presbyterian Blog


     O most merciful God!  Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength delcineth.  Now, when I am old and gray-headed forsake me not; but let thy grace be sufficient for me; and enable me to bring forth fruit, even in old age.  May my hoary head be found in the ways of righteousness!  Preserve my mind from dotage and imbecility, and my body from protracted disease and excruciating pain.  Deliver me from despondency and discouragement, in my declining years, and enable me to bear affliction with patience, fortitude, and perfect submission to thy holy will.  Life upon me perpetually the light of thy reconciled countenance, and cause me to rejoice in thy salvation, and in the hope of thy glory.  May the peace that passeth all understanding be constantly diffused through my soul, so that my mind may remain calm through all the storms and vicissitudes of life.

    As, in the course, of nature, I must be drawing near to my end, and as I know I must soon put off this tabernacle, I do humbly and earnestly beseech thee, O Father of mercies, to prepare me for this inevitable and solemn event.  Fortify my mind against the terrors of death.  Give me, if it please thee, an easy passage through the gate of death.  Dissipate the dark clouds and mists which naturally hang over the grave, and lead me gently down into the gloomy valley.  O my kind Shepherd, who has tasted the bitterness of death for me, and who knowest how to sympathize with and succour the sheep of thy pasture, be thou present to guide, to support, and to comfort me.  Illumine with beams of heavenly light the valley and shadow of death, so that I may fear no evil.  When heart and flesh fails, courage fails in the trying hour.  Permit not the great adversary to harass my soul, in the last struggle, but make me a conqueror and more than a conqueror in this fearful conflict.  I humbly ask that my reason may be continued to the last, and if it be thy will, that I may be so comforted and supported, that I may leave a testimony in favour of the reality of religion, and thy faithfulness in fulfilling thy gracious promises; and that others of thy servants who may follow after, may be encouraged by my example, to commit themselves boldly to the guidance and keeping of the Shepherd of Israel. (from 'The prayer of one who feels that he is approaching the borders of another world', Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience, 1844)

     (In a letter written to William Cunningham August 24, 1857, [Charles] Hodge remarked:) 'I have had but one object in my professional career and as a writer, and that is to state and to vindicate the doctrines of the Reformed Church.  I have never advanced a new idea, and have never aimed to improve on the doctrines of our fathers.  Having become satisfied that the system of doctrines taught in the symbols of the Reformed Churches is taught in the Bible, I have endeavored to sustain it, and am willing to believe even where I cannot understand.' (See Archibald Alexander Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, D.D., LL.D., Professor in the Theological Seminary, Princeton, N.J. [1880] (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2010, p. 460.)

     No doubt there is a foundation laid in the very nature of the religion which Christ came to promulgate, for the union of His disciples in one body or society.  The faith which each man holds for the salvation of his own soul is a faith which joins him to every other believer.  The close and mysterious union which is constituted by faith between him and his Saviour, is a union that connects him through that Saviour with every other Christian.  In becoming one with Christ, he becomes at the same time, in a certain sense, one with all who are Christ's.  The spiritual fellowship that a believer enjoys with his Redeemer, is and not a solitary or selfish joy, but one which he cannot possess alone, or except in common with other believers.  It is the very nature, therefore, of the Gospel to be not a solitary religion, but a social one.  ... Were there no positive command or appointment, therefore, requiring Christians to unite together and to form on earth a society joined together by the profession of the same faith, the very nature of Christianity would force such a result. ... We may assert, therefore, that that Christian society which we call the Church of Christ is a society framed by Divine appointment, even did we see in it nothing more than a body of men brought together by the constraint of the same faith and same affections wrought  in them by the Spirit of God. ... There are express commands in Scripture, leaving the believer no alternative in the matter, and requiring him to unite together with other believers in the outward and public profession of his faith before the world. ... The command is "to confess Christ before men;" and upon the ground of that command, then, is laid the foundation of a society, each member of which is called upon, whether he will or will not, to lift up a public testimony for his Saviour jointly with other believers; and that public profession is one to be made not merely with the lips, uniting with others in a common declaration of the faith believed. (James Bannerman (1807-1868), The Church of Christ, vol. 1, Banner of Truth, pp. 18-20)

     The Christian ministry, the Sabbath, and the ordinances of the Lord's House, were not instituted to be 'a vain show.'  You are not required to be present in this place in order that you may unite in unmeaning ceremonies, or listen to abstract discussions which have no bearing upon your duty and happiness.  Nor are you at liberty to come here merely to gratify a thirst for knowledge, or to enjoy the pleasure of excited feeling.  The Sanctuary is designed to be the theatre of the most solemn transactions which take place in our world.  The business of our political, judicial, and legislative bodies, relates only tot he property, the liberty, or at most the lives of men.  And you have all observed how intense an interest is often excited throughout a whole community by the agitation of these subjects.  You have observed with what breathless silence a heterogeneous crowd, bound together by no tie but that of a common nature, attend on every step of an investigation which involves the life of a fellow-creature, and you have yourself, perhaps, awaited with painful anxiety the issue.  By what mysterious agency is it then, that you are divested of all your sympathies when you enter the house of God?  Where are feeling and reason and conscience when a cause is pending which involves your own lie, and not your life merely, but your never-dying soul?  The truths which are here declared to you are most solemn, most momentous truths.  They relate to holiness and sin, to life and death, to heaven and hell, to time and eternity.  They relate to your personal sin or holiness, your life or death, the heaven or hell which you are to inhabit.  They concern you every day and hour: your every act, every word, every thought.  They concern, deeply concern you, whether you regard them or not.  You may disbelieve them.  You may despise them.  This cannot alter their essential nature.  Refuse to listen to them.  Treat them with cold indifference, with philosophic scorn, with vulgar ridicule.  They are truths still, immutable truths, truths which affect in the highest degree your present character and your future destiny.  Let me urge you then to believe these truths, and to attend to them as those whose eternal well-being is suspended on their acceptance of the gospel. (Henry Boardman, 1808-1880, Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton, J.M. Garretson, ed., Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, p. 324-25)

     It is now-a-days frequently predicted by men in high places that the distinctive doctrines of Calvinism are doomed.  The future is uncertain; the role of the prophet is unprofitable and unbecoming.  But the history of the past stands fast.  The doctrine of predestination, with its associated system of truths, has had  a wonderful history.  All world-movers have believed it surely and have taught it clearly - Paul, Augustine, all the Reformers without exception.  During the eleven hundred years which elapsed from the time of Augustine to that of Luther, all the best of the schoolmen, all the great missionary movements, the revivals of religion, the extension of popular education, and all great healthy political reformers, had their common inspiration in Augustinian theology.  All the great national movements in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Britain in the era of the Reformation, and all the great national leaders as Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, Cranmer, and Knox, were distinctively Augustinian, and were rotted in predestination.  The most moral people of all history, the Puritans, Pietists, Huguenots, Reformed Dutch of Holland and Germans of the Palatinate, and the States, were all Calvinists.  Calvin, William of Orange, Cromwell, and the Presbyterian and Congregational founders of the government of the United States, and all the great creators of modern civil liberty, were Calvinists.  All Modern provision for universal education sprang from the Scotch parochial school and the New England College.  The patriots, free-state makers, martyrs, missionaries of all the modern era, have been, in nine hundred and ninety-nine parts out of the thousand, distinctively Calvinist.

     This history is glorious and secure past all contradiction.  It is natural also - a natural outgrowth of consequences out of principles.  Predestination exalts God, and abases man before God.  It makes all men low before God, but high and strong before kings.  It founds on a basis of eternal rock one absolute Sovereign, to whose will there is no limit, but it levels all other sovereigns in the dust.  It renders Christ great, and the believing sinner infinitely secure in him.  It establishes the highest conceivable standard of righteousness, and secures the operation of the most effective motives to obedience.  it extinguishes fear, it makes victory certain, it inspires with enthusiasm, it makes both the heart and the arm strong.  The Ironsides of Cromwell made the decree of predestination their base; hence they never lost a battle, and always began the swelling chorus of victory from the first moment that the ranks were formed.  The man to whom in all the universe there is no God is an atheist.  The man to whom God is distant, and to whom the influence of God is vague and uncertain, is an Arminian.  But he who altogether lives and moves and has all his being in the immanent Jehovah is a Calvinist. (A.A. Hodge, 1823-86, Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton, J.M. Garretson, ed., Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, p. 364-65)

     Your future ministry is cast in times of great theological unrest.  Foundations are broken up; truths long accepted are brought anew into question; the very principles upon which the certitude of belief is to rest are under debate.  There is no use in these days for men of a light and easy tempter, who make up their judgment hastily on the most vital questions, or who like to be in the advance of all changes, and easily renounce the most sacred of heritages.  men should be sober and thoughtful; they should be students of history; they should be prayerful students of the Bible.  Change is not necessarily advance.  The majestic testimony of the church in all time is that its advances in spiritual life have always been toward and not away from the Bible, and in proportion to the reverence for, and power of realizing in practical life, the revealed Word. (C.W. Hodge, 1830-1891, Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton, J.M. Garretson, ed., Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, p. 444)