Why Theological Study Is for Everyone – Jared Wilson

Why Theological Study Is for Everyone by Jared Wilson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014For part of my Sunday reading I did get in the next featured article on this month’s theme (“The Great Commission”). That is pastor Roland Barnes’ article titled “All Authority in Heaven and on Earth”, which treats the authority the church has to go and bring the gospel to the nations. The authority is Christ’s, for all power (authority) is given Him in his state of glorification (Matt.28:18-20).

The article which I reference today, however, is another one – the one by pastor Jared Wilson linked above. Writing under the rubric “Heart Aflame”, he wrote this great article on why every believer ought to be a theologian. No doubt he is picking up a theme R.C. Sproul, Sr. loves to trumpet – and about which he has just written an entire book (Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, Reformation Trust, 2014. I have received it for review, so look for notes on this to come.)!

Wilson gives three (3) main reasons why every Christian must be interested in and pursuing the study of theology. I encourage you to read all of his article; below I give you his final reason for being a theologian. It ties in rather well with our primary activity yesterday and in all of life – worship.

Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship. True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.

Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly—it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)

We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.

The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church (1) – Rev.B.Huizinga

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1As I noted here previously, the April 1 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the subject of psalm-singing. Included in this issue are two articles on the history of psalm-singing in the church – one more general (Rev.B.Huizinga’s on the history in the church generally) and one more specific (Rev.K.Koole’s on the history in the PRC).

It is the former one by Rev.Brian Huizinga (pastor of Hope PRC, Redlands, CA) that I would like to start referencing today. “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise”: The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church” was part of my Sunday reading yesterday, and I found his article to be not only informative but also inspiring. And I hope by quoting from it, it will also be the same for you.

Today I quote from the opening paragraphs, which set the stage for what is to follow.

What among men has endured as many ages under the sun as the psalms…the psalms sung…the psalms sung in corporate worship?  Precious little.  Psalmody has seen Solomon’s temple used and burned, doleful children of the covenant marched to Babylon and jubilantly returning, the Son of God incarnate humiliated and exalted, Rome risen and fallen, the mighty wave of the gospel of salvation sweeping through the Mediterranean world, into Europe, over the seas to America, and now to the ends of the earth, always with the bitter death of apostasy following in its wake.  Over the past three thousand years much has come and much has gone.  Psalmody has seen it all.  Psalmody remains.  Psalmody is rare.  Psalmody is not popular.  But psalmody remains.  Because Jesus Christ defends and preserves His church to the end, psalmody will certainly remain to the end.  None may doubt that psalmody will see the antichristian world-kingdom and then Christ Himself—the one of whom the psalms spoke, and that by His own testimony (Luke 24:44)—appear in splendid majesty arrayed more glorious than the sun.  Through endless ages the church sounds Jehovah’s praise—with psalms.

 

The Old Testament Age

The Old Testament church sang the psalms, one of them perhaps already in the wilderness on the way to Canaan (Psalm 90, written by Moses), most in Solomon’s temple (those written mostly by David), and others thereafter.  So much was psalm-singing a part of Israel’s life and worship that when the Jews were deported by Nebuchadnezzar as captives into Babylon in 586 B.C., they were identified as psalm-singers.  As they sat weeping by the river, their proud captors taunted:  “Come sing us one of Zion’s songs.”  Even the ungodly knew what took place in Zion.  Israel sang the psalms.  Would to God Babylon of today would have reason to know and say the same.

If you would like to receive this issue, or become a regular subscriber to this fine Reformed magazine, contact the RFPA at the link given above.

April “Tabletalk”: The Great Commission

The Great Ordinary Commission by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014April has arrived, and so has the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. Last week I continued using the daily devotionals (on Romans – now chap.5), and yesterday I dove into the main articles.

This month’s feature is missions, under the large heading “The Great Commission”. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. And, as he points out, this so-called “great commission” is actually the ordinary calling of the church – to go into the world and make disciples, beginning at home.

Here is part of his introduction; you will find the full article at the link above.

The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

The first main feature article on this theme is “The Great Commission in the Old Testament”, an intriguing article by Dr.L.Michael Morales. He ties God’s call to Israel to be a blessing to the nations to the so-called “cultural mandate”, to the covenant with Abraham, and to king David, showing that from the beginning God’s purpose was to redeem the world, i.e., to save His people and restore the whole creation under its glorious Priest-King, Jesus Christ. I think you will find his thoughts interesting and thought-provoking.

Here is a portion of what he writes:

It is important to understand that only as the anointed king did David receive the promise to rule and subdue the nations. David’s commission was to spread the will and reign of God over the earth—his “enemies” were not merely political or personal, but the enemies of God, kings who had set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. In reality, however, the goal of subduing Israel would prove quite enough. Worse still, it was Israel’s kings themselves who led God’s sheep astray into perverse rebellion and heinous idolatry. The exile was inevitable.

Yet, remarkably, within the context of Israel’s apostasy, God promised to raise up a Davidic Servant who would not only lead the tribes of Jacob through a new exodus but who would also be given “as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). This same Servant, we go on to read, would suffer God’s judgment in bearing the sins of many, that as an exalted priest he might “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:13–53:12; see 1 Peter 1:1–2). Having atoned for the sins of his people, this coming Messiah—the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God—would ascend on high to reign from the heavenly Mount Zion, from the right hand of God the Father.

 

Matthew 28, then, is but the embrace of the inheritance promised in Psalm 2. Yet this kingship is in the service of a priestly office, to usher us into God’s presence through the veil of torn flesh and shed blood. Through His outpoured Spirit, Jesus reigns to subdue and summon all creation to the adoration of His Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28), subduing us day by day ever more deeply that we might learn how to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Word Wednesday: “Polity” (as in Church)

Over the last month or so we have been examing a few words that are regularly found and heard in our Seminary environment. We have looked at “isagogics”, “exegesis”, and “homiletics”. Today we want to consider the word “polity”, as in “church polity”, another of the courses taught in the area of Practical Theology by Prof.B.Gritters.

ChurchPolity-CHodgeIf the word “polity” sounds a lot like “politics”, you are correct in your association, because they both have the same root – the Greek word for city (polis) and citizen (polites). And there are other English words that derive from this: police, polite, and of course, politician and political. If you look up this word in the dictionary, this is what you find for definition and origin:

World English Dictionary
polity  (ˈpɒlɪtɪ)
n  , pl -ties
1. a form of government or organization of a state, church, society, etc; constitution
2. a politically organized society, state, city, etc
3. the management of public or civil affairs
4. political organization
[C16: from Latin polītīa,  from Greek politeia  citizenship, civil administration, from politēs  citizen, from polis  city]

Now, of course, we despise church politics, by which we would mean using worldly craft and power to attain one’s goals in the spiritual city of God. We don’t want our pastors, professors, elders or deacons – or any citizen of God’s city for that matter – resorting to this kind of “polity”.

But we do want them to follow Christ’s polity for God’s holy city, which is nothing else but the rules He has ordained and revealed to us in His Word for how His church ought to be managed. The Head of the church (or the King of God’s city) has given us the principles and regulations by which His body (or city) ought to be organized and governed. And the study of these principles and regulations is called “church polity”.

And so, in our Seminary catalog you will find this description of the course known as “church polity” (course # 413 & 414):

A study of the biblical principles of Reformed church government relating to the institutional life of the church upon earth, and of the Church Order adopted by the Synod of Dordrecht and used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.

Yes, church polity is about how we all – officebearers (sub-rulers in God’s city) and citizens – behave in the house of God (cf. I Tim.3:15). Do you know how to? If you want to learn more, study the Word of God - and our Church Order! You might also be interested in these “Notes on the Church Order” by Prof.(emeritus) H.Hanko. And perhaps someday, Prof.Gritters will invite you to his Seminary course :)

C.Trueman on Political Correctness – in the Church!

trueman-fools.inddThe final chapter in Dr.Carl Trueman’s collection of essays titled Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone (P&R, 2012) is also about the use of language and words (see my post of last week). With the heading “Is the Thickness of Two Short Planks a Forgotten Divine Attribute?”, this essay exposes the deceitful and worldly way in which modern Evangelicalism uses language to cover up sin. The two examples he references are sins against the 9th and 7th commandments – lying and adultery – and his treatment of what the church has done with the Biblical language for and definition of these sins will hit you right between the eyes.

There are many good quotes I could pull from this chapter, for Trueman pulls no punches! But I leave you with the last two paragraphs, because they will also help you understand why he chose the title for this essay that he did. Ponder the weight of these words – but especially the weight of God’s Word when He speaks to us about our sin.

Worse still, of course, are the theological implications: to think that I am an idiot is one thing. Many have done that; it’s not unusual and, sadly, I am sure there is plenty of evidence to suggest that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But these people seem to think they can fool God with their slick talk and sound bites. Yes, believe it or not, they apparently regard themselves as cleverer than their maker. Like Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together in the Garden, they believe that, if they use the right words, he just won’t notice the reality that lies behind their thin veil of semantic scamology.

In fact, they have squeezed God into a box that is so small he barely has the divine equivalent of two brain cells to rub together. Their a priori theological system has led them to assume God is as thick as two short planks, and that a bit of obfuscatory language and the odd specious euphemism will prevent him from holding them accountable for their lies and the filth of their personal lives.

To consider other human beings to be so stupid as not to see through the flannel about ‘theological leverage’ and ‘sins of relational mobility” (the two terms used in the recent past to refer to sins of lying and adultery respectively -cjt) is patronizing and offensive; but to assume God is a moron, as think as a brick, is frankly, dangerous. Make no mistake: unlike the evangelical and Emergent dupes out there, God is not mocked (pp.220-21).

“Sing Psalms Unto Him” – Special Issue on Psalm-Singing – April 1, 2014 Standard Bearer

The latest issue of The Standard Bearer is out, and it is another excellent special one! The April 1, 2014 issue is devoted to the Reformed practice and tradition of Psalmody or Psalm-singing. Prof.B.Gritters, one of the editors, includes this descriptive note before his own fine article “In Praise of Psalm-Singing”:

You have in your hands a special issue on the church’s long-treasured practice of singing psalms in public worship. Although our Psalter’s anniversary was not in view when we planned the issue, 2014 does mark 100 years since our fathers adopted the 1912 Psalter for use in the churches. God’s faithfulness explains our continuing in psalm-singing.

The logic of the articles should not be missed. First, Rev.James Slopsema, one of our long-time writers of meditations, helps us reflect on God’s Word in the psalms. The editorial encourages us in the use of this songbook called ‘the Psalms’ and the great blessing of them. Three articles look at the rich history of psalm-singing. Rev.Brian Huizinga’s moving article traces the history of psalm-singing from the earliest times of the New Testament church. Rev.Kenneth Koole writes a fascinating history of the use of the 1912 Psalter in the PRC. Rev.Martyn McGeown, whose churches use the Scottish Metrical Version of the Psalter, writes about the present use of the psalms in various Reformed and Presbyterian churches. That all the psalms should (and can be!) sung by New Testament Christians is the purpose of Rev.Ronald Hanko’s article on the imprecatory psalms. Then there is careful reflection, by Prof.Russell Dykstra, on how the PRC’s Psalter might be improved.

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1

Fittingly, the cover of this special issue contains this wonderful quote from the Reformer John Calvin:

There are in brief three things that our Lord has commanded us to observe in our spiritual assemblies, namely, the Preaching of his Word, the public and solemn prayers, and the administration of his sacraments. As to the public prayers, these are of two kinds: some are offered by means of words alone, the others with song…. We know by experience that song has great force and vigor to move and inflame the hearts of men to invoke and praise God with a more vehement and ardent zeal. It must always be looked to that the song be not light and frivolous, but have weight and majesty as Saint Augustine says, and that there is likewise a great difference between the music one makes to entertain men at the table and in their homes, and the psalms which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels…. Wherefore, although we look far and wide and search on every hand, we shall not find better songs nor songs better suited to that end than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and uttered through him. And for this reason, when we sing them we may be certain that God puts the words in our mouths as if he himself sang in us to exalt his glory.

You are urged to obtain and read this significant and edifying issue of the “SB”. To receive your copy if you are not a subscriber, visit the “SB” website at the link given above. If you are a subscriber, and the issue has reached your home, I pray you devour it completely!

“Semper Reformanda” – The Reformation Isn’t Over – James White

The Reformation Isn’t Over by James White | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014On the last Sunday of March I finished reading the final articles of this month’s Tabletalk, including this fine one by Dr.James R.White. Since the March issue carried a Reformation theme (“John Knox & the Scottish Reformation” – see my previous Monday posts this month), it was fitting to have such a piece pointing us to the ongoing need of reformation in the church today, especially in the battle against Rome.

I pull a few paragraphs from the end of White’s article here, encouraging you as always to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

Should the Reformation continue to hold a place of importance in the church that faces such immense opposition as that coming from radical, gospel-hating secularism? Wouldn’t a united front, free from partisan bickering, help the cause of Christ? The answer has to be, “Of course the Reformation remains important, and, in fact, its work must continue in our day, and into the future as well.”

The reason is not hard to see, even if it seems hidden to many in our day. Wonderfully nebulous catchphrases like “the cause of Christ” often hide the truth: the cause of Christ is the glorification of the triune God through the redemption of a particular people through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, which is a rather Puritan way of saying, “The cause of Christ is the gospel.” Each of the emphases of the Reformation, summed up in the solas, is focused upon protecting the integrity and identity of the gospel itself. Without the inspiration, authority, harmony, and sufficiency of Scripture, we do not know the gospel (sola Scriptura). Without the freedom of grace and the fullness of the provision of the work of Christ, we have no saving message (sola fide). And so on.

The Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel through the addition of man’s authority, man’s merit, man’s sovereignty. Is this not the meaning of semper reformanda, the church always reforming, always seeking to hear more clearly, walk more closely, to her Lord?

With the ebb and flow of human history, the forces arrayed against the church and her Lord and the particular front upon which the battle rages hottest will change. Rome’s theology has evolved and her arguments have been modified, but the issues remain very much what they were when Luther and Eck battled at Leipzig, only modified and complicated. God’s kingship, man’s depravity and enslavement to sin, and the insatiable desire of sinners to control the grace of God will always be present. And today, the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture are at the forefront, just as they were then. The need for the Reformation will end when the church no longer faces foes inside and out who seek to distort her purpose, her mission, her message, and her authority. Till then,semper reformanda.

Seminary Mourns a Loss in our “Family”: Mr. John Kalsbeek

Today we at the Seminary are also remembering and mourning the loss of a dear brother in Christ, Mr. John Kalsbeek. Yesterday afternoon (March 27, 2014) the Lord of glory called John home to glory after he declined in health due to many afflictions related to years of suffering rheumatoid arthritis. He spent his last days at Faith Hospice in Byron Center, MI, where he was kept comfortable through medication and especially the love and friendship of his wife, family, and church family (Faith PRC, and extended).

Mr.John Kalsbeek with the 2006 graduating class from Hope PRCS

Mr.John Kalsbeek (middle left) with the 2006 graduating class from Hope PRCS

John was a godly husband and father, and for many years a well-loved Christian School teacher in the PRC, serving in our Christian schools from Redlands, CA to NW Iowa, to Grand Rapids, MI. He was also, along with his wife, the long-time janitors of our Seminary building, coming in twice a week to clean our facilities. Since my time here at seminary I noticed that while Judy did the detailed cleaning, John liked to do the vacuuming, something I thought had to be hard for him given his condition (gnarled hands and frail body). But, as with all his labors, John did it cheerfully and without complaint. Up until last semester John – ever the learner even as he was an educator! – audited a class here at Seminary.

John was a gifted man of God and had some unique hobbies for which we remember him also: exotic frogs and fish kept in a multitude of tanks lining his home office; an amazing cacti collector and grower – the plants line the window sills of Seminary as we write, since while he kept them outside in his yard in the summer, he brought them inside here in the winter; a gifted painter – as any visitor to his home discovered – his paintings filling the walls; and a book collector and reader. Just last Fall he asked me to come and browse his library to pick out some books he wanted to donate to the library and to the students. Such was the nature of this wonderful Christian man.

John also served many terms as a faithful elder in my home church, Faith PRC.  And because he loved covenant children and loved teaching, even after retiring he willingly gave his time to teaching catechism classes.

We will miss John tremendously, here at Seminary and in Faith congregation. We can and do rejoice in his going home to be with Jesus, delivered not just from his physical afflictions, but from his sin and the buffetings of Satan and the press of this wicked world. We prayed for this at the end, and the Lord answered in His time and way. We now pray for the comfort of his wife and family. May they experience the peace of their Savior as He speaks to them out of His Word the gospel of His triumph over death and the grave.

May John’s comforting confession also be theirs:

 

  • Q. 1.  What is thy only comfort in life and death?
    A.  That I with body and soul,1 both in life and death, am not my own,2 but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ;3 who, with His precious blood,4 hath fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and delivered me from all the power of the devil; 6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;8 yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,9 and therefore, His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, 10 and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.11

Here is the obituary for John as it appeared in the Grand Rapids Press. And these are the arrangements for visiting John’s wife and family and for his funeral:

Visitation at Mattysse Funeral Home in Grandville

Saturday 5-8 PM and Sunday 2-4 PM

Funeral at Faith PRC Monday 11:00 AM

 

Book Alert! RFPA Releases “1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church” by M.Kamps

1834-HdeCock-MKampsLast week the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) released its latest publication, and it is a unique and significant volume. 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps is the story of a godly Dutch Reformed churchman who seceded from the apostate state church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century to form the church anew according to the Word of God and the Reformed confessions.

It is a story that needs to be told, not only because it is not well-known (much of it being hidden behind the Dutch language and limited English resources), but also because it set the stage for subsequent reformation in the church in the Netherlands and beyond (America, e.g.). Much of the present Reformed church world with its roots in the Netherlands can trace its heritage back to Hendrik De Cock and the secession he led out of the Dutch state church. And of course, because many Reformed churches have long-departed from this heritage, the story of De Cock and his restoration of a truly Reformed church needs to be uttered as a call to return to the “old paths” of the gospel of sovereign grace and true worship.

Here is part of the author’s conviction as expressed in the “Preface”:

The Reformed churches today that are faithful to their name are the continuation of the reformation of 1517 and 1834. These reformations of the church were a return to the Bible. Often it is said that the significance of 1834 is that it constituted a return to the Canons of Dordt. Although this is true, it is an incomplete statement. My thesis is that in 1834 De Cock and his congregation returned to the Bible and therefore to the Reformed creeds. Many will disagree with this understanding of 1834. Let the reader judge.

And then he issues this challenge to us:

Do we share in the Secession fathers’ confession, witness, struggle, and walk before God? Do we today treasure De Cock’s spiritual legacy as our spiritual father? Are the Reformed creeds still our heartfelt confession? Or have we consciously rejected that confession of the fathers and returned to the apostate teachings and way of life championed by the false church?

This is a beautifully-produced book (490 pages), complete with pictures from the age as well as seven appendices containing significant translations of original documents relating to the 1834 reformation in the Netherlands.We take the opportunity to thank Mr.Kamps for his diligent work resulting in such an important book.

We hope this book is widely received and welcomed, not only by those of Dutch Reformed heritage but by all who have come to know and love the Reformed faith and by all who love and want to learn from the history of Christ’s church in the world.

Scotland and the Birth of the United States – Donald Fortson – March “Tabletalk”

Scotland and the Birth of the United States by Donald Fortson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014The fourth and final featured article on “John Knox & the Scottish Reformation” in this month’s Tabletalk focuses on the influence of the Scottish Reformation on the beginnings of the United States of America. It is written by Dr. Donald Fortson, associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, and has the above-linked title.

Being interested in early American history and knowing precious little about how the Scottish Presbyterians played a part in our country’s beginnings, I was highly interested in getting to Fortson’s article. I did yesterday, and I was not disappointed. It is an important and fascinating story – and not without controversy. But you will have to read that for yourself.

I quote a portion of it here and encourage you as always to read the entire article at the Ligonier link above. Your eyes will be opened to a connection between Scottish Presbyterian history and U.S. history that you perhaps did not know much about before.

One of the reasons American Presbyterians had organized themselves was a belief that joint effort could strengthen religious toleration. Under the 1689 Toleration Act of William and Mary, Makemie and other ministers had secured Dissenter licenses. Makemie’s house had been designated as an authorized preaching point in Anglican-established Virginia, but he was arrested in New York by the governor, Lord Cornbury, for illegal preaching. He was jailed and eventually tried, but was acquitted in 1707. Makemie’s exoneration was a notable milestone in the advancement of religious liberty in the colonies and made Presbyterians popular with Dissenters.

Within a decade of Makemie’s trial, the massive immigration of Scots-Irish would commence. Beginning in 1717, a steady stream of Ulster Scots populated the Middle Colonies, particularly the frontier in western Pennsylvania. By the time of American independence, nearly five hundred thousand Scots-Irish had come to America. The Virginia and Carolina Piedmont areas were unoccupied before 1730, but Scots-Irish settlers coming down the “Great Philadelphia Wagon Road” began to populate the backcountry. By 1750, they had moved into the South Carolina Piedmont and north Georgia. Scottish Highlanders settled along the North Carolina seaboard and coastal areas of Georgia.

The most remarkable spiritual event to shape Scots-Irish colonists in the generation preceding the Revolutionary War was the revival known as the First Great Awakening. Many Presbyterians were keen supporters of revivalist preachers George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, who deepened American passion for freedom to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

One fruit of the revival was renewed Christian piety, which many American clergy saw as central to God’s blessing on the colonies. There were also millennial overtones to the Spirit’s work as a sign of America’s providential destiny. These elements helped create fertile soil for the American Revolution, and Presbyterian ministers utilized these themes as advocates for independence from Britain.

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