Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving
In preparation for the fast that our societies will be involved in, I am reading material this week to prepare my heart and mind. In reading over this particular set of minutes, I was struck by how nothing is new under the sun...
2732 BROWN STREET, PHILADELPHIA,
2732 BROWN STREET, PHILADELPHIA,
June 1st, 1887, 10 o'clock, A.M.Presbytery met according to adjournment, and was opened with prayer by the Moderator. Members present: Messrs. J. F. Fulton and D. Steele, ministers; with Messrs. G. Alexander, D.A. Renfrew, and R. Alexander, ruling elders.
Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed by all our people.
The Commissioner's report was satisfactory, and the Commission continued. The report of Messrs. G. Alexander and H.M. Hartzell on Miss Jane Young's donation was accepted and approved.
The Committee on the Signs of Times reported, accepted, and having been considered by paragraphs, adopted. It is as follows:
CAUSES OF FASTING.
In taking a view of the different departments of society, we may say with the Psalmist, "All the foundations of the earth are out of course." The complaint of the prophet is still true, "There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land."
The evils which we have hitherto lamented have not been removed, but are greatly aggravated by their continuance and increase. We note the following in the Family, the Church, and the State:
1. Even professed Christians utterly disregard the law of God in entering into the marriage relation. Indeed there is scarcely anything that so arouses the enmity of the carnal heart to the Divine law as a faithful endeavor to expound its teaching in this matter. Like the "sons of God" before the flood, they take them wives of all which they choose. Neither their own eternal welfare, nor that of their offspring, nor the authority of their Redeemer avails to counteract their wilfulness in this matter, fraught with so much good or evil to themselves and the Church of Christ. Even the dictates of common sense are disregarded in marrying those of whose character and disposition they know nothing. The consequences of such folly are seen in desertions and divorces, embittering not only the lives of the parties themselves, but marring the peace of those connected with them.
As marriage is entered into by too many without any regard to prudence or duty, as far as the parties themselves are concerned, so there is less attention paid to the great end for which marriage was instituted, the training of children in the knowledge and practice of their duty to God. It is to be feared that the duty of gaining the knowledge necessary to instruct their offspring is seldom, if ever, thought of by those entering into that solemn relation. As a necessary result, their children grow up in ignorance of their duties as members of the Family, of the Church, and of the State.
No doctrine is more clearly taught in the Bible than that the man is the head of the woman. All the nations of the earth, with one consent, show the work of the law written on their hearts, by embodying this Scriptural principle in their laws, though fearfully corrupted by their lusts and tyranny.
The tendency of modern teaching and legislation is to render the family a headless monster, and to unfit it for the great ends of its institution. We believe this teaching to be one of the fruitful sources of alienation of affection between husband and wife, family contentions, and insubordination; thus making the Scriptural training of children impossible. This and all similar sentiments spring from the conception that it is disgraceful to be in subjection to anyone, and that our true dignity and happiness consist in being entirely free from control—a thought coming from the father of lies.
That authority which others have over us is a ray of the Divine majesty, and in obeying them we obey God himself. A great part of our duty to him consists in the performance of the several duties we owe to others in our different places and relations. He has said, "Them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
The want of preparation by parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is naturally followed by its neglect, unconsciously making one sin the justification of another. The evils of this omission of duty are many and flagrant. A generation has grown up that know not the God of their fathers, and that are ignorant of the wonders He has performed in delivering them from Pagan, Papal, and Prelatic tyranny, and of the great Scriptural doctrines those worthies sealed with their blood. "That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good."
Parents are the natural instructors of their children, and it is an irreparable loss to a child when his parents neglect this duty. No instructions take such deep root in his heart as those of his father and mother. Especially is this true of a mother's teaching. Her strong love for her offspring, and their reciprocal affection, are peculiarly calculated to make a deeper impression. How often has the collection of a mother's love and a mother's teaching and prayers brought tears to the eyes of the most hardened criminal!
History shows that many of those who were pre-eminent for good or evil, owed their pre-eminence to their mothers. What a vast amount of good came to Israel through the prayers of pious Hannah! When the mother of Augustine lamented to Ambrose the evil course her son was pursuing, he replied that "he never saw the son of so many prayers given up." Augustine still instructs the Church by his writings, which are quoted with respect by that prince of divines, John Owen.
It is to be lamented that so many mothers, instead of being "keepers at home," and "guiding their houses," neglect these duties to engage in questionable "Moral Reforms" of different kinds, thus leaving their families without that constant inspection which they need. If they would faithfully perform their duties, their children would rise up and call them blessed, and would be prepared to take their places either as private members or office-bearers in the Church.
Parental discipline is greatly neglected, and the use of the rod, the divinely appointed means of driving folly out of the heart of the child, is decried. As soon as the child is able he is permitted "to run the streets," to associate with the vicious, and to learn their language and ways, and thus in his tender years he is schooled in vice. As he advances in years, he more and more disregards parental authority, until finally he sets it at defiance. Being thus early left to his own lusts, it is not strange that he soon begins to frequent the saloon and other dens of iniquity, and is ruined in soul and body. Thus, whilst many are making a great outcry against the saloon, the same persons by the way they train their children are continually furnishing it with victims.
2. The want of Scriptural training in the family has produced its disastrous effects on the Church, in her doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. The members of the Church, having been brought up in ignorance of these things, are easily "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in weight to deceive." The sentiment that a man must know himself to be regenerated before he can become a member of the Church, is clear evidence that the teaching of our fathers is forgotten. They warned us against "shifting the terms of communion from agreement in doctrine and practice to the supposed goodness of persons." The Lord Jesus Christ never made that a term of communion in the visible Church of which her officers are incompetent to judge. He claims it as His own prerogative to search the heart. "All the Churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts."
Funeral sermons are a great snare to the ministry, and in many ways hurtful to those who hear them. When a so-called minister of the Gospel encourages surviving relatives to hope that the dead who died a drunkard has gone to heaven, what but infidelity can result from such teaching? The Holy Spirit says, "No drunkard shall enter the kingdom of heaven;" yet one professing to be a minister of the Gospel encourages his hearers to hope that this is not true. How wretched the condition of the people who entrust themselves to such guides!
Although all do not run to the same excess, yet by their fulsome eulogies of the dead, ascribing qualities to them they never possessed, and by their asserting that those who during their life gave little evidence of the power of godliness are gone to heaven, they "sow pillows under all armholes," and encourage men to live under the form of godliness without its power.
These so-called funeral sermons are a relict of heathenism, which taught that the dead could not rest in their graves until certain religious ceremonies were performed in their behalf. It is manifest that funeral services are sought for by surviving friends under the thought that they are, in some way, necessary to the eternal happiness of the deceased. It should be enough for all lovers of truth to know that these ceremonies about the dead symbolize with popery, which is heathenism baptized with the Christian name.
The invention and introduction of the Sunday or Sabbath-school has greatly corrupted the Church. Of this evil many sober Christians of different denominations have become thoroughly convinced. A member of the regular Baptist order has said, "The Sunday-school is the theatre in disguise." A minister of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has expressed the wish, "That all Sunday-school literature and libraries were committed to the flames." And we have no doubt that when Paul's doctrine returns to the Church, those books of curious arts, which cost more that fifty thousand pieces of silver, will be deemed suitable fuel for a greater conflagration than the bonfire at Ephesus.
We consider all existing voluntary associations, proposing remedies for acknowledged social disorders; such as temperance, national reform, etc., usually recommended by the word Christian, as being of the same tendency as the Sunday-school.
3. As is the character of the Family and of the Church, such will be that of the State.
The general demand by all parties for "Civil Service Reform," loudly proclaims the popular sense of awful demoralization in the State. The official representatives in the several departments of the National and State governments, exhibit the moral character of their constituency.
In the common newspaper may be read every morning accounts of breach of trust, bribery, embezzlement, robbery; and sometimes robbers are so bold as to attack trains in motion, and make a prey of both life and property.
Frequent conflicts arise between employees and employers, betray want of mutual confidence. The foregoing we consider as precursors of Socialism and Anarchy.
We view earthquakes, cyclones, fire and flood, destroying life and property, in city and country, in forest and prairie, as indications of the Divine displeasure against our social sins. We believe that the only effectual remedy for our individual, social, and moral maladies is provided in the moral law and covenant of grace. These clearly expounded and faithfully applied by a Gospel ministry, seconded by a Scriptural magistracy, with the blessing of God, will exalt the Mediator to be the head of the nations, and bring all ranks to dutiful subjection to his authority.
CAUSES OF THANKSGIVING.
We have cause of thankfulness to God that while moral disorders lamentably prevail among our guilty race, all the children of Zion are invited to be joyful in their King, "who rules in the midst of His enemies, making the wrath of man to praise Him and restraining the remnant of His wrath."
We thank God for having made known to us that federal compact between the Father and the Son, with the concurrence of the Holy Ghost, whereby sinners of mankind may be delivered front the legal, penal, and moral consequences of our fall in Adam.
We bless our Heavenly Father for selecting and appointing His only begotten Son to be our Redeemer, our Goel, or near kinsman, that "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," and might become members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones—"Complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power."
We praise our God for founding Zion, organizing a visible church on earth, incorporated under a covenant charter, furnished with all officers and ordinances requisite as means for the salvation of His people; and that we, though "a wasted remnant," are still in the possession and enjoyment of these inestimable privileges.
We desire to be thankful, moreover, that God still raises some witnesses to lift up their voices against the inventions of men, who through "good intent" deface His ordinances and desecrate His sanctuary.
National peace and material prosperity, furnishing abundant supplies for the sustenance of man and beast, call for grateful acknowledgment to our merciful Father and covenant God.
And, finally, we can never be sufficiently thankful to God for permitting and honoring us as a Presbytery, unitedly and publicly, with our hands lifted toward heaven, to pledge anew adherence to our Covenants, National and Solemn League at North Union, Butler Co., Pa., 1881; together with our equal adherence to the first faithful renovation of said Covenants "at Auchensaugh, near Douglas, Scotland, 1712:" knowing that "it is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry."
The last Thursday of November next was appointed as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1888, as a day of Fasting, by all under our care.