An Able and Faithful Ministry (3) – S.Miller

Able&Faithful Ministry-SMiller_Page_1For the last two weeks we have been taking a special look at the church’s calling to prepare men for the gospel ministry. We have been doing so in connecti0n with a sermon Presbyterian  pastor and theologian Samuel Miller delivered on the occasion of the the founding of Princeton Seminary, when its first professor was installed – Archibald Alexander, on August 12, 1812.

In the second half of that sermon Miller addressed the church specifically, asking “What are the means which the church is bound to employ, for providing such a ministry (i.e., an able and faithful ministry, the description of which makes up of the first part of this sermon)? We have given the first two parts to Miller’s answer to this question, and now today we provide the third.

There will be more to come, because, as I kept reading in this third part to his answer, I noted that Miller had some great things to communicate to the church – things which are just as relevant now as they were 202 years ago.

So, bear with me – and benefit from these wise words from a godly church father in the Reformed camp:

3. A further means which the Church is bound to employ for providing an able and faithful ministry is furnishing a seminary in which the candidates for this office may receive the most appropriate and complete instruction which she has it in her power to give. In vain are young men of fervent piety, and the best talents, sought after and discovered; and in vain are funds provided for their support, while preparing for the ministry, unless pure and ample fountains of knowledge are opened to them, and unless competent guides are assigned to direct them in drinking at those fountains. This, however, is so plain, so self-evident, that I need not enlarge upon its proof.

But then Miller brings up the criticism that perhaps the church doesn’t need her own school for training pastors (theological school or Seminary) but can make use of private instructors. Miller’s answer is varied and to the point. We will begin quoting his answer to this objection today and continue it, D.V., in the weeks ahead.

First, when the Church herself provides a seminary for the instruction of her own candidates for the ministry, she can at all times inspect and regulate the course of their education; can see that it is sound, thorough, and faithful; can direct and control the instructors; can correct such errors, and make such improvements in her plans of instruction, as the counsels of the whole body may discover. Whereas, if all is left to individual discretion, the preparation for the service of the Church may be in the highest degree defective, or ill judged, not to say unsound, without the Church being able effectually to interpose her correcting hand.


A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | First Things

A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | Articles | First Things.

FirstThings-Sept-Oct2014In the most recent issue of First Things (August-Sept., 2014; published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life and dominated by Roman Catholic thinkers and writers – a rather striking periodical for this article) Dr.Carl Trueman (professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) has a powerful piece on “why Reformed Christianity provides the best basis for faith today”.

The article is titled “A Church for Exiles”, and as Trueman explains, the Reformed faith has all the history, doctrines, liturgy, fortitude and stamina to endure the present circumstances faced now by the church in America, namely, exile from the public square.

You may not agree with all that Trueman states here, but I find his thinking highly significant and relevant to our situation and much in line with our own “world and life view”. There is no idle talk of “cultural transformation” here, based on a “common” grace and common ground with the world. Rather, it is a call for the Reformed church to be solidly and plainly Reformed, as God has called her to be according to His Word.

I give you but a small part of Trueman’s article here; and I strongly urge you to read all of it at the “FT” link above.


We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.

For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.

…But of this I am convinced: Reformed Christianity is best equipped to help us in our exile. That faith was forged on the European continent in the lives and writings of such men as Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. It found its finest expression in the Anglophone world in the great Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans of the seventeenth century. It possesses the intellectual rigor necessary for teaching and defending the faith in a hostile environment. It has a strong tradition of reflecting in depth upon the difference between that which is essential and that which, though good, is inessential and thus dispensable. It has a historical identity rooted in the wider theological teachings of the Church. It has deep resources for thinking clearly about the relationship of Church and state.

…We do not expect to be at the center of worldly affairs. We do not imagine ourselves to be running indispensable institutions. Lack of a major role in the public square will cause no crisis in self-understanding.

This does not arise from indifference or a lack of substance, but instead from clarity and focus. Doctrinally, the Reformed Church affirms the great truths that were defined in the early Church, to which she adds the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. She cultivates a practical simplicity: Church life centers on the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, prayer, and corporate praise. We do not draw our strength primarily from an institution, but instead from a simple, practical pedagogy of worship: the Bible, expounded week by week in the proclamation of the Word and taught from generation to generation by way of catechisms and devotions around the family dinner table.

World Literacy Day and Literacy “Selfies”

Grand Rapids dignitaries snap ‘literacy selfies’ on World Literacy Day, ask residents to do the same |

Literacy Day-2014According to a variety of news sources, today is World Literacy Day, something we certainly ought to take note of and be grateful for.

I mean by that, first of all, that our readers take stock of their ability to read, being numbered among the literate. Do not take it lightly that you are a person of letters and literature (according to the literal meaning of that word), having the ability to read and write. Such is a great gift and blessing. As a citizen of this land, and especially as a Christian.

But I mean, secondly, that we ought to be grateful that we also live in places where literacy is taken seriously, and where we have people to teach us to be read and write. That begins in the home, with parents, we believe. If that’s where you learned to read, thank your parents today. And are you continuing that legacy by teaching your own children to be readers?!

Yet that influence also extends to the school (the Christian school in particular) and to the community, where places like libraries play a key role. And, we ought not forget the role that the church plays in literacy, even though the emphasis may be on the audible word (preaching and catechism) and on the visible word (sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper). In her ministry the church is also teaching her members to be literate, and that is as it ought to be.

And, of course, being literate and serving as both a librarian and a registrar, I am concerned about literacy. I assume that by the time our Seminary students arrive here they are readers and writers; and they will do their share of that in their career here. But certainly part of our calling is to make them the best readers and writers we can. And I know from my limited experience here that this is certainly a goal the professors have in their teaching and training of future ministers of the Word.

But I also hope on this special day calling attention to literacy that you too will take care to become the best reader and writer that you can be, regardless of your calling and occupation. Literacy enables you to grow in life, not just intellectually and perhaps even economically, but especially spiritually, in the grace and knowledge that really counts – knowing God in Jesus Christ through His written Word.

Now, a bit ago I noticed from a local news service (see the above MLive link) that local dignitaries were taking “selfies” on this special day, calling attention to themselves as literate and enjoying something good to read. And they were encouraging Grand Rapids residents to do the same. So…, yes, I did.



Now, I claim to be no Grand Rapidian dignitary, but I did take my own “literacy selfie” – a first, I might add! With my latest issue (Sept./Oct., the 19th anniversary issue!) of Books and Culture: A Christian Review. You don’t have to enjoy the picture. Just know that you too can celebrate your literacy in this way – or another way, such as reading a good book.! And then help someone else who perhaps struggles with literacy to become a better reader and writer. Have a great World Literacy Day! :)

The Blessing of Great Teachers – R.C. Sproul, September “Tabletalk”

The Blessing of Great Teachers by R.C. Sproul | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT - Sept2014Last week, with the outset of a new month, I began to use my September Tabletalk, reading the daily devotionals first (continuing with Romans 12). But yesterday I began to go over the featured articles in this issue, all on the intriguing theme of “The Church and the Parachurch”.

For those who may not be familiar with that term “parachurch”, it simply refers to ministries that function “alongside of” (para – from the Greek) the church. Ligonier Ministries is such an organization, as is the RFPA. But these two types of organizations have not always had a happy relationship nor a happy ending. The proper purposes of both and the tensions that can exist between them are openly treated in this issue.

If you wish to read the editor’s article introducing this subject – Burk Parson’s “Biblically Faithful” - visit the link provided. Same with the first feature article on the theme, “Defining Our Terms” by Jared C. Wilson. I read both of these yesterday and found them quite beneficial in the debate about the place and function of parachurch ministries.

But the article I wish to highlight this Monday is the one by Dr.R.C. Sproul (Sr.) under his rubric “Right Now Counts Forever” and carrying the above title – “The Blessing of Great Teachers”. I found this to be a significant article on the importance role that good (and great!) teachers play in our lives. With deep gratitude to God I can name the ones in my own education, including my dear parents.

I leave you with a portion of Sproul’s article, encouraging you to read the rest. And then, go and thank those great teachers in your own life, through whom you were deeply blessed.

It’s ultimately no surprise that great teachers produce other great teachers. That seems to be the way God has designed us. In Scripture, we are called again and again to be disciples, or more precisely, learners. We need teachers if we are to learn, and great teachers raise up great learners who can then go on to produce other great learners. Christ is our preeminent example of this. Because He was a great teacher, He knew what to do in order to take a ragtag bunch of fishermen, Zealots, and tax collectors, and make them into the most influential bunch of learners the world has ever known. From their ranks we have been blessed with great teachers—Matthew, John, Peter, and others whose work continues to impact the world to this day. Of course, these men were inspired by the Holy Spirit in a manner that other teachers aren’t. However, Christ’s use of them to make disciples of all nations remains a model of how great teachers produce other great teachers.

No matter how great our earthly teachers may be, they will err. We will have to weigh their words against the Spirit-inspired teachings of the Apostles and prophets. But we dare not think we can ever reach a point where we cannot benefit from the teaching of others. Great teachers who are faithful to God’s Word are a blessing to God’s church. He will use them to build us up so that we can build up others.

J.Calvin on Psalm 147: “…God will not suffer his work to fail.”

calvin-preaching-genevaFor our spiritual profit as we meditate on Psalm 147 today, we may also find edification and encouragement from these thoughts of John Calvin on v.2. This is a lengthy quote, but worth keeping together, since the entire section is of great instruction and comfort to us as church in this 21st century.

May this Reformer’s comments also serve to lead us to praise our God for His work in and with His church throughout her history, including in our day. May we too remember that “God will not suffer his work to fail.”

2. Jehovah building up, etc.

He begins with the special mercy of God towards his Church and people, in choosing to adopt one nation out of all others, and selecting a fixed place where his name might be called upon. When he is here called the builder of Jerusalem, the allusion is not so much to the outward form and structure, as to the spiritual worship of God. It is a common figure in treating of the Church to speak of it as a building or temple.

The meaning is, that the Church was not of human erection, but formed by the supernatural power of God; for it was from no dignity of the place itself that Jerusalem became the only habitation of God in our world, nor did it come to this honor by counsel, industry, effort or power of man, but because God was pleased to consecrate it to himself. He employed the labor and instrumentality of men indeed in erecting his sanctuary there, but this ought never to take from his grace, which alone distinguished the holy city from all others.

In calling God the former and architect of the Church, his object is to make us aware that by his power it remains in a firm condition, or is restored when in ruins. Hence he infers that it is in his power and arbitrament to gather those who have been dispersed.

Here the Psalmist would comfort those miserable exiles who had been scattered in various quarters, with the hope of being recovered from their dispersion, as God had not adopted them without a definite purpose into one body. As he had ordered his temple and altar to be erected at Jerusalem, and had fixed his seat there, the Psalmist would encourage the Jews who were exiles from their native country, to entertain good hope of a return, intimating that it was no less properly God’s work to raise up his Church when ruined and fallen down, than to found it at first.

It was not, therefore, the Psalmist’s object directly to celebrate the free mercy of God in the first institution of the Church, but to argue from its original, that God would not suffer his Church altogether to fall, having once founded it with the design of preserving it for ever; for he forsakes not the work of his own hands.

This comfort ought to be improved by ourselves at the present period, when we see the Church on every side so miserably rent asunder, leading us to hope that all the elect who have been adjoined to Christ’s body, will be gathered unto the unity of the faith, although now scattered like members torn from one another, and that the mutilated body of the Church, which is daily distracted, will be restored to its entireness; for God will not suffer his work to fail.

Sunday Worship Preparation: Psalm 147

Psalm 147After a two week absence from our Sunday devotionals on the Psalms, let’s return this week to Psalm 147, another “Hallelujah” song of praise to the Lord (These last five psalms all begin and end with “Praise ye the LORD”, that is “Hallelujah”.). The human instrument who penned this psalm is not identified, but we know the divine author is the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Who was in the prophets of the Old Testament (1 Peter 1:10-12).

Her is the inspired and infallible Word of Christ in this song:

Psalm 147

Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.

The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.

Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.

Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:

Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.

He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.

10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.

11 The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.

13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.

14 He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.

15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.

16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.

17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?

18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.

19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.

20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.

It should be evident how fitting this psalm is for our worship on this Lord’s Day. For it is clear from the outset that Psalm 147 truly is a psalm of praise to Jehovah, the omnipotent and faithful covenant God of creation and of the church. We are told in v.1 that it is good to sing praises to our God, because praise is pleasant and comely. In vss.7 and 12 we are specifically exhorted to sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving and to praise Him as the church. And still more, in v.11 we are reminded that God takes pleasure in those who fear Him.

And from the rest of the psalm we discover why we ought to praise our God. It is because, as v.5 states, our Lord is great and of great power, a God of infinite understanding (and wisdom). And that power and wisdom are displayed in all the works of God’s heart and hands, as those are plainly described in this psalm.

God’s works of creation and providence are beautifully described here. Read through the psalm carefully and mark the verses which set forth these wondrous works of God. And then list the things God daily does in the realm of creation – from counting the stars (v.4), to preparing rain for the earth (v.8), to giving snow like wool (v.16). And then pause to meditate on these works and praise God specifically for them. When was the last time we praised God for calling the stars by name and making the grass grow?

But more importantly, God’s works of saving grace and mighty mercy are laid out here for us, that we might praise Him. These works are put “front and center” for us. Look at vss.2-3, and see how God is the Builder and Gatherer of His church and the Healer of His people. Read v.6 and be reminded that He lifts up the meek, while casting the wicked down. Review v.13 and recall that He is the One Who saves us and our children because he is the Lord of the covenant. Consider the truth of v.19 again, that our God has blessed us with His Word and the revelation of Himself in the face of Jesus, so that we know Him and fellowship with Him – now and forever!

What a God! Of grace and mercy! To us! and our children and grandchildren! Yes, this is OUR God! So, “praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion!” Lift up your songs of thanks and praise to the Lord today in your public and private worship. For, yes, this is pleasing and beautiful to Him.


PsalterAppIf you desire to meditate on Psalm 147 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Thankful Commemoration” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Praise ye the Lord, for it is good
To sing unto our God;
‘Tis right and pleasant for His saints
To tell His praise abroad.
The Lord our God builds up His Church,
He seeks her wandering sons;
He binds their wounds and gently heals
The brokenhearted ones.

2. Our Lord is great, He calls by name
And counts the stars of night;
His wisdom is unsearchable,
And wondrous is His might.
The Lord upholds the poor and meek,
He brings the wicked low;
Sing praise to Him and give Him thanks
And all His goodness show.

3. No human might, no earthly pride,
Delights the Lord above;
In them that fear Him He delights,
In them that trust His love.
O Zion, praise the Lord thy God,
His wondrous love confess;
He is thy glory and thy strength,
He will thy children bless.

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine.

marriagepic-1It has been some time since we posted something related to the Christian and contemporary culture, a feature we try to post on Saturdays. I saved this a few weeks ago when it appeared as a brief commentary on “The Daily Signal” (August 19, 2014). This article also shows how far government is going to force people to accept the homosexual agenda. Not only are the rights of private citizens trampled on, but God’s Word is openly defied.

May God enable His faithful church and people to be a voice crying in the wilderness of our wicked society.

For more on this story, visit the link above. From the first part of it we quote here.

Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?

In a free society, the answer is no. Family farms should be free to operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own—rather than the government’s—values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.

But the New York State Division of Human Rights doesn’t see things this way. On August 8, it fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Human Rights Commission ruled that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law also warrants a penalty.”

This is coercive big government run amok.

How 3-D Printing Will Change Our Lives – WSJ

How 3-D Printing Will Change Our Lives – WSJ.

3-D printingThink printing only pertains to books and periodicals? Think again. I have called attention to this new 3-D technology before, but now it is being taken to whole new levels.

The Wall Street Journal recently carried this report (posted August 1, 2014) about the growth of 3-D printing and how it is changing our lives and world rapidly. It truly is amazing what is being done with this technology!

Below is the first part of the article; find the rest at the WSJ link above.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, a hapless penguin at the Warsaw Zoo lost his lower beak, either in a fall or a fight, and there were concerns that the bird might starve to death because the damage left him unable to eat. Omni3D, a Polish 3-D printer firm, came to the rescue, offering to produce a new beak—based on a dead penguin’s, to get an idea of the dimensions—from materials including nylon.

According to Rozi Mikołajczak, a spokesperson for the Poznan-based firm, this is the first time in Europe (and only the second time in the world) that a bird’s beak has been reconstructed using 3-D technology. Unsure which material would be best for the penguin, they created three for the zoo to find a match. Modeling the beaks was time consuming: it took two weeks to complete them. As luck would have it, the penguin’s beak started to grow back so there was no need for the manufactured one, but this inspirational exercise illustrates how 3-D printing is crossing frontiers all the time, opening up new possibilities.

Published in: on September 5, 2014 at 6:14 AM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives – Seminary History (3)

SemCornerstone-1Last week I made mention of the fact that back in the 1940s our Synod started to publish a yearly summary of Seminary information, including a brief capsule of its history. Today for our PRC archives post, I reproduce here the first summary of that history as it appeared in the back of the 1947 Acts of Synod. I believe you will find this to be of interest.

Protestant Reformed Seminary


Combined Consistories decided to establish a Theological School on March 6, 1925. The Protestant Reformed Theological School opened on June, 1925, with the following Professors: the Revs. H. Danhof, G.M. Ophof (sic), and H.Hoeksema.

Instruction was given in the following courses: Dutch, English (go ahead and smile, but this was due to the fact that Dutch was still the first language among many of the Dutch Reformed folk, including our students -cjt), Hebrew, Greek, Old Testament Exegesis, Dogmatics and Homiletics. Other subjects were gradually added as the need required.

At present the following are giving instruction in our School: Professors.H.Hoeksema and G.M.Ophoff. Homer C.Hoeksema is the instructor in beginner’s New Testament Greek (read down further to discover his double-role -cjt).

Prof. H.Hoeksema has the following branches of study. Dogmatics, History of Dogma, N.T.Exegesis, N.T. History, Catechetics, Homiletics, Hermaneutics (that’s a bad but humorous typo when you consider the first name of the instructor  cjt), Conceptions (concepts in the Bible, a course revived in the 1980s -cjt), Greek Grammar and Reading.

Prof.G.M. Ophoff teaches the following branches: O.T. Exegesis, O.T. History, O.T. Isagogics, Typology of the O.T., Hebrew, Church Polity, Church History, Poimenics and German (where did that come from?! – cjt).

The following students are attending our School at present: H.C.Hoeksema (now you see the double-duty – instructor and student! cjt), H.Mensch (perhaps that explains the German?! -cjt).


Word Wednesday – Pericope

Word of the Day | Definition, Word Origins, and Quotes at

Bible reading-1For our “Word Wednesday” feature today we are simply going to point you to’s “Word of the Day“, since it is a fine one, with ties to books and reading, and specifically, to the reading of Scripture.

The word is “pericope” (not to be confused with periscope, which involves an instrument to help you look all around)!) – sadly, not even listed in my desk dictionary (Webster’s New World – College Edition, 1964)!

The origin is in a great Greek word (actually, two of them): peri (around) and koptein (to cut), which is how it gets these meanings:

1. a selection or extract from a book.
2. a portion of sacred writing read in a divine service; lesson; lection.

So if you are reading in a good book, and you highlight a great quote, or write down a sentence or paragraph that you want to keep, you have made a “pericope.” You have “cut around” some words and pulled out a selection for a special purpose.

Or if you are having devotions, and you decide to read only a portion of a certain chapter, as we have been doing as we read together through the gospel of Luke at the dinner table, you are reading a “pericope”.

Read any good pericopes lately? Have you saved them? And if they are from God’s Word, are you hiding them in your heart?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 490 other followers