Ecclesiastical Separation from Brethren is Not a New Doctrine

Image result for daniel baker presbyterianThis has been a canard foisted upon biblical fundamentalists for some decades, and I’d like to share an example from church history demonstrating that ecclesiastical separation from brethren is not a new doctrine.

I’ve been reading a biography of Presbyterian pastor and evangelist Daniel Baker (1791-1857) titled Making Many Glad: The Life and Labours of Daniel Baker, by William M. Baker (Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858; Banner of Truth edition, 2000). It has been an interesting and encouraging read.

About mid-way through Baker’s ministry a controversy arose between the Old and New School Presbyterians.

At the risk of being overly simplistic (which is good, as I’m not an expert on this!), Old School Presbyterians (OSP; examples: Ashbel Green, Charles Hodge, William Sprague) were theologically conservative holding to traditional Calvinistic orthodoxy, believing that conversions and revival were by sovereign grace.

New School Presbyterians (NSP; examples: Albert Barnes, Nathan Tyler, Charles Finney) denied total depravity and advocated human ability of the Pelagian variety, and the adoption of Finney’s “new measures” whereby revival could be accomplished at any time by following prescribed steps.

OSP was concerned with doctrinal purity, whereas NSP was concerned with enabling professions of faith.

Enter Daniel Baker.

Baker ministered primarily in the South, and admitted that “their wranglings grieved me much. I was wont to say, ‘I have no horns; I know not how to fight; I am one of the working ants.’ On account of my not coming out strongly on either side, I was called a ‘fence-man;’ and upon the fence I remained until, so to speak, every rail was taken down” (pp. 205-06).

Despite his professed inherent non-militancy, once the battle lines were clearly drawn he was avowedly on the OSP side.

Things came to a head when the NSP seemed to rally enough political influence to carry the day. Some of Baker’s NSP friends joyfully triumphed at his expense and asked what he and his Old-school brothers would do? Baker’s response is the first illustration of the doctrine and practice of ecclesiastical separation:

“Well,” said I, “if our goodly temple is taken from us, we will put up a shanty and get along as well as we can,” (p. 207).

As things turned out, the OSP’s carried the day and enacted the Exscinding Act in 1837 that put out several synods found guilty of NSP. Baker considered this “a strong measure” and “I did not like it much, but I knew of no other that would meet the exigency.” His conclusion provides the second illustration of ecclesiastical separation:

And now, after many years have passed away, I believe it was, so to speak, the very salvation of our Church; for certain forms of heresy and wild measures were coming in like a flood, which, if not checked in time, and effectually, would have led to most disastrous results. (p. 208, emphasis added)

Thus, ecclesiastical separation, while “a strong measure,” is a necessary one to preserve the church by protecting her from destructive error.

Godly Soil





William Baker describes Midway, GA, where his father, the godly Presbyterian pastor Rev. Daniel Baker (1791-1857), arose from:

They were a race, the chief culture of whose heart, conscience, and understanding, was at the family altar, and in the closet; was in the Sabbath sanctuary, that central home of their souls; was in often repeated seasons of fasting and prayer, and gathered in real as well as outward brotherhood around the table of the Lord’s Supper.With them religion was a matter of their brightest hopes, their warmest feelings, their deepest convictions; it was the knowledge in which their servants and children were chiefly instructed; the thing to which they instinctively and habitually subordinated every thing else. Knowing all this so well, the writer understood how, with the blessing so often and so fully promised of God in such a case, it was but in the order or things that there should have been trained up there so many holy men and women serving God in private life; so many ministers of the gospel to serve God over a vast empire, but just born when this spot was first settled; so many servants of God to go thence to preach Jesus, even beneath the palm-trees, and beside the pagodas of heathen lands.

Making Many Glad: The Life and Labours of Daniel Baker, pp. 16-17

My Grandpa’s WW2 Navy Experiences

My Grandpa, Norman Greenfield, is still alive at 96 and lives in Florida. We’ve always been proud of his service for our country during World War II. Some of that he relates below. In addition to the Normandy Invasion on D-Day he also served during campaigns in Northern Africa. In his account (below) he mentions his “girl,” Arline, who would become his wife and eventually my Grandma. Grandma went to be with the Lord in 1999, and shortly afterward Grandpa married “Grandma Pat.” Cute couple! 🙂


Grandpa’s ship was a Landing Ship Tank, the USS Cheboygan County (LST 533). I remember Grandpa telling us they said LST stood for “large, slow target”!

USS Cheboygan County (LST-533)

Here’s two pictures of Normandy beach; Grandpa’s LST 533 is on the far right

Dropping anchor at Normandy:

Norman Greenfield’s Navy Experiences
November 1942–January 1946

As a boy growing up on the farm you had to sign up for the military draft when you reached the age of 18. I didn’t want to go in the Army so I signed up for the Navy…just after that I received a call to go to the Army. Too bad it was too late for the Army. In due time I was called to go to Lansing and join a group that was going to Detroit to be sworn into the Navy. Then we were sent to Great Lakes for six weeks of military training. A bunch of us were assigned to gunnery school in Gulfport, Mississippi for four weeks. During that time we were learning about different guns and went out on a ship practicing, etc.

Following the Gunnery school, we were put on merchant ships out of Newport News, Virginia for a year. Then we were sent to New Orleans to get on a Landing Ship Tank (LST 533) to go to France for the invasion at Normandy. We went in DAY 2 with a load of Army personnel, supplies, guns, tanks, etc. back and forth for a whole year. We couldn’t get very close to the shore because of obstructions hidden…back and forth the Germans above on the cliff were firing at the boys as they were being dropped off. They had to be let off in three feet of water and carrying 80 lb. packs on their back. The area was supposed to have been prepared to be free and clear but that took a while. It was hard seeing so many of the Army guys get injured so quickly and many died.

After getting back to the Armed Guard Center in New York for a week or so then we were transferred preparing to go to California to get on a destroyer in the South Pacific. On the way to California we were in a train wreck which delayed us to be on time in California and when I handed the papers of our group we were told we were AWOL. The railroad finally let them know and they were okay—nothing we could do about it anyway. I ended up in sick bay and couldn’t go when the group went even though I had looked forward to be on a destroyer. The powers that be looked over my time in the Navy and decided I had put enough time to be discharged. Norm’s feeling about that piece of news: “I never was so glad in my life when I got the word, I was told I was being transferred to go home. I had a girl waiting for me in Michigan.”

The Lord watched over me all the time, but I didn’t know the Lord then. The only Bible training I knew was when we were on the farm and in bed upstairs, my mother would sit on the stairs and read the Bible to us every night. I was the youngest of eight and the only one left.

Years later after Arline and I were married and had two of our three children, my daughter, Penny, wanted to go to Sunday School, so we let her. The pastor called on us and led us to the Lord. I thank the Lord for His watchcare over my life and for His continuing care even though some of my health isn’t too pleasant some of the time. Maranatha!

Pope Francis and Roman Catholic Charismaticism

Here’s an interesting article from today’s Crux:

Summary: “At the request of Pope Francis, the Vatican has established a new body to oversee the global Catholic Charismatic Renewal.”

At first Francis questioned the legitimacy of Catholic charismatics, but as he has seen the effect on others his skepticism has changed to enthusiasm. NOTE: experience, not doctrine, is the driving force here.

The North American representative of the new committee, Bishop Peter Smith, said three themes tie legitimate church movements together:

  1. “an encounter with Jesus Christ or the Trinity,”
  2. “a desire that leads to people seeking a deeper communion with others that share the faith,”
  3. “and a greater sense of the importance of the apostolate and the mission of the Church.”

Lots could be said here, but it boils down to experience and faithfulness to Rome/the pope.

Scripture alone must determine the truthfulness or error of anything and everything.

See this resolution by the American Council of Christian Churches on the theological dangers of evangelical charismaticism.

The Golden Rule

If you’d like to stir the pot, tell folks that the “Golden Rule” doesn’t apply to everyone.

If you’d really like to stir the pot, say the same thing about the entire sermon encompassing the Golden Rule (Matthew 5-7, the “Sermon on the Mount”).

Lest one think my dispensational convictions have carried me too far, listen to another, who was definitely not a dispensationalist:

The fact is that the ethics of the discourse, taken by itself, will not work at all. The Golden Rule furnishes an example. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is that rule a rule of universal application, will it really solve all the problems of society? A little experience shows that such is not the case. Help a drunkard to get rid of his evil habit, and you will soon come to distrust the modern interpretation of the Golden rule. The trouble is that the drunkard’s companions apply the rule only too well; They do unto him exactly what they would have him do unto them—by buying him a drink. The Golden Rule becomes a powerful obstacle in the way of moral advance. But the trouble does not lie in the rule itself; it lies in the modern interpretation of the rule. The error consists in supposing that the Golden Rule, with the rest of the sermon on the Mount, is addressed to the whole world. As a matter of fact the whole discourse is expressly addressed to Jesus’ disciples; and from them the great world outside is distinguished in the plainest possible way. The persons to whom the Golden rule is addressed are persons in whom a great change has been wrought—a change which fits them for entrance into the Kingdom of God. Such persons will have pure desires; they, and they only, can safely do unto others as they would have others do unto them, for the things that they would have others do unto them are high and pure (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 37–38).


Not that Mesopotamia, but the Ohio Mesopotamia, called “Mespo” for short. 🙂

Last night I took my family for ice cream to Ohio’s oldest general store, End of the Commons. They have great sugar-free butter pecan ice cream! Afterward we wandered the area a bit.


We made our way to the cemetery across the street from the store, and saw a number of interesting head stones. I liked this one–


There was a cool old barn too–


A fine summer evening, for which we praise the Lord.

The Effect of Unbelief in Ministers

autumn-2182010_640In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar challenges us in the Lord’s service:

Thus did they preach and thus did they hear in those days of terror and death. Men were in earnest then, both in speaking and hearing. There was no coldness, no languor, no studied oratory. Truly they preached as dying men to dying men. But the question is, Should it ever be otherwise? Should there ever be less fervor in preaching or less eagerness in hearing than there was then? True, life was a little shorter then, but that was all. Death and its issues are still the same. Eternity is still the same. The soul is still the same. Only one small element was thrown in then which does not always exist to such an extent; namely, the increased shortness of life. But that was all the difference.

Why then should our preaching be less fervent, our appeals less affectionate, our importunity less urgent? We are a few steps farther from the shore of eternity; that is all. Time may be a little stronger than it was then, yet only a very little. Its everlasting issues are still as momentous, as unchangeable. Surely it is our unbelief that makes the difference! It is unbelief that makes ministers so cold in their preaching, so slothful in visiting, and so remiss in all their sacred duties. It is unbelief that chills the life and straitens the heart. It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step “that awful place the pulpit,” to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.

Preach as a Dying Man to Dying Men

cemetery-2894142_640In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in the Lord’s service:

Many of our readers have seen, we doubt not, a small volume of Vincent, the non-conformist minister, respecting the great plague and fire in London. Its title is “God’s Terrible Voice in the City.” In it there is a description of the manner in which the faithful ministers who remained amid the danger discharged their solemn duties to the dying inhabitants, and of the manner in which the terror-stricken multitudes hung with breathless eagerness upon their lips, to drink in salvation ere the dreaded pestilence had swept them away to the tomb. Churches were flung open, but the pulpits were silent, for there was none to occupy them; the hirelings had fled.

Then did God’s faithful band of persecuted ones come forth from their hiding-places to fill the forsaken pulpits. Then did they stand up in the midst of the dying and the dead, to proclaim eternal life to men who were expecting death before the morrow. They preached in season and out of season. Weekday or Sunday was the same to them. The hour might be canonical or uncanonical, it mattered not; they did not stand upon nice points of ecclesiastical regularity or irregularity; they lifted up their voices like trumpets, and spared not. Every sermon might be their last. Graves were lying open around them; life seemed now not merely a handbreadth but a hairbreadth; death was nearer now than ever; eternity stood out in all its vast reality; souls were felt to be precious; opportunities were no longer to be trifled away; every hour possessed a value beyond the wealth of kingdoms; the world was now a passing, vanishing shadow, and man’s days on earth had been cut down from threescore years and ten into the twinkling of an eye!

Oh, how they preached! No polished periods, no learned arguments, no labored paragraphs, chilled their appeals or rendered their discourses unintelligible. No fear of man, no love of popular applause, no ever-scrupulous dread of strong expressions, no fear of excitement or enthusiasm, prevented them from pouring out the whole fervor of their hearts, that yearned with tenderness unutterable over dying souls.

“Old Time;” says Vincent, “seemed to stand at the head of the pulpit with his great scythe, saying with a hoarse voice, ‘Work while it is called today: at night I will mow thee down.’ Grim Death seemed to stand at the side of the pulpit, with its sharp arrow, saying, ‘Do thou shoot God’s arrows, and I will shoot mine.’ The grave seemed to lie open at the foot of the pulpit, with dust in her bosom, saying:—

‘Louden thy cry—To God, To men,
And now fulfill thy trust;
Here thou must lie—mouth stopped, breath gone,
And silent in the dust.’

“Ministers now had awakening calls to seriousness and fervor in their ministerial work, to preach on the side and brink of the pit into which thousands were tumbling. There was such a vast concourse of people in the churches where these ministers were to be found that they could not many times come near the pulpit doors for the press, but were forced to climb over the pews to them; and such a face was seen in the assemblies as seldom was seen before in London; such eager looks, such open ears, such greedy attention, as if every word would be eaten which dropped from the mouths of the ministers.”

Labor On Until the End

In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in the Lord’s service:

“When do you intend to stop?” was the question once put by a friend to Rowland Hill. “Not till we have carried all before us,” was the prompt reply. Such is our answer too. The fields are vast, the grain whitens, the harvest waves; and through grace we shall go forth with our sickles, never to rest till we shall lie down where the Lamb himself shall lead us, by the living fountains of waters, where God shall wipe off the sweat of toil from our weary foreheads and dry up all the tears of earth from our weeping eyes. Some of us are young and fresh; many days may yet be, in the providence of God, before us. These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.

Go, labor on; spend, and be spent,
thy joy to do the Father’s will;
it is the way the Master went;
should not the servant tread it still?

Go, labor on; ’tis not for naught;
thine earthly loss is heav’nly gain;
men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not;
the Master praises–what are men?

Go labor on; enough while here
if He shall praise thee, if He deign
thy willing heart to mark and cheer;
no toil for Him shall be in vain.

Go, labor on while it is day;
the world’s dark night is hast’ning on.
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.

Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray;
be wise the erring soul to win;
go forth into the world’s highway,
compel the wand’rer to come in.

Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice;
for toil comes rest, for exile home;
soon shall you hear the Bridegroom’s voice,
the midnight cry, “Behold, I come.”

Horatius Bonar

Labor with Zeal and Love in the Lord’s Harvest Field


In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in light of our sins and failures:

In the fifth and sixth centuries, Gildas and Salvian arose to alarm and arouse a careless church and a formal ministry. In the sixteenth, such was the task which devolved on the Reformers. In the seventeenth, Baxter, among others, took a prominent part in stimulating the languid piety and dormant energies of his fellow ministers. In the eighteenth, God raised up some choice and noble men to awaken the church and lead the way to a higher and bolder career of ministerial duty. The present century stands no less in need of some such stimulating influence. We have experienced many symptoms of life, but still the mass is not quickened. We require some new Baxter to arouse us by his voice and his example. It is melancholy to see the amount of ministerial languor and inefficiency that still overspreads our land. How long, O Lord, how long! The infusion of new life into the ministry ought to be the object of more direct and special effort, as well as of more united and fervent prayer. The prayers of Christians ought to be more largely directed to the students, the preachers, the ministers of the Christian church. It is a living ministry that our country needs; and without such a ministry it cannot long expect to escape the judgments of God. We need men that will spend and be spent—that will labor and pray—that will watch and weep for souls.

In the life of Myconius, the friend of Luther, as given by Melchior Adam, we have the following beautiful and striking account of an event which proved the turning point in his history and led him to devote his energies to the cause of Christ.

The first night that he entered the monastery, intending to become a monk, he dreamed; and it seemed as if he was ranging a vast wilderness alone. Suddenly a guide appeared and led him onwards to a most lovely vale, watered by a pleasant stream of which he was not permitted to taste, and then to a marble fountain of pure water. He tried to kneel and drink, when, lo! a crucified Savior stood forth to view, from whose wounds gushed the copious stream. In a moment his guide flung him into the fountain. His mouth met the flowing wounds and he drank most sweetly, never to thirst again!

No sooner was he refreshed himself than he was led away by his guide to be taught what great things he was yet to do for the crucified One whose precious wounds had poured the living water into his soul. He came to a wide stretching plain covered with waving grain. His guide ordered him to reap. He excused himself by saying that he was wholly unskilled in such labor. “What you know not you shall learn,” was the reply.

They came nearer, and he saw a solitary reaper toiling at the sickle with such prodigious effort as if he were determined to reap the whole field himself. The guide ordered him to join this laborer, and seizing a sickle, showed him how to proceed. Again, the guide led him to a hill. He surveyed the vast plain beneath him, and, wondering, asked how long it would take to reap such a field with so few laborers? “Before winter the last sickle must be thrust in,” replied his guide. “Proceed with all your might. The Lord of the harvest will send more reapers soon.” Wearied with his labor, Myconius rested for a little. Again the crucified One was at his side, wasted and marred in form. The guide laid his hand on Myconius, saying: “You must be conformed to Him.”

With these words the dreamer awoke. But he awoke to a life of zeal and love. He found the Savior for his own soul, and he went forth to preach of Him to others. He took his place by the side of that noble reaper, Martin Luther. He was stimulated by his example, and toiled with him in the vast field till laborers arose on every side and the harvest was reaped before the winter came. The lesson to us is, thrust in your sickles. The fields are white, and they are wide in compass; the laborers are few, but there are some devoted ones toiling there already. In other years we have seen Whitefield and Hill putting forth their enormous efforts, as if they would reap the whole field alone. Let us join ourselves to such men, and the Lord of the harvest will not leave us to toil alone.