Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"A Story of Faith in Practice"

When I first came to the campus of the McCormick Theological Seminary as a student for the ministry, I was impressed by the professor of Pastoral Theology, the Reverend Dr. Jesse Halsey. He was a very quiet and humble man. I never heard him tell a joke or a funny story. But I never saw him standing or walking alone. In those early days I wondered why. I found the answer when I discovered that I was one who chose to stand and walk with him. I was never in the presence of Jesse Halsey--rather, I sensed that I was in the presence of God! The face of Jesus Christ shone through his smile. He fed my soul and warmed my spirit. His life was the incarnation of all that one could ever hope for in a "pastoral theology."

. . . 

Early in his ministry he had worked with Wilfred Grenfell in Labrador. He had a distinguished pastorate in Ohio, and during the time of his professorship at McCormick, he assumed responsibility for designing and refurbishing the chapel. The area was changed from an auditorium to a sanctuary--truly a place for worship. 

As Dr. Halsey entered the classroom his greeting was always, "The Lord be with thee!"

And the class responded, "And with Thy spirit!"

The Word and Words Made Flesh: A Story of Faith in Practice, by Raymond B. Knudsen, 1999.

"Outside the Inn"

"Causes for the Fall of France"

Walnut Hills Church Installs Its New Pastor; Former Minister Delivers Farewell Sermon

Just before the installation last night of the new pastor of Seventh Presbyterian Church, Walnut Hills, the incoming minister, Rev. Clayton E. Williams, center, joined the former pastor, Rev. Jesse Halsey, right, and Rev. Joseph R. Sizoo, New York City, who delivered the sermon, in a last-minute conference in the church study.

The Enquirer, Cincinnati
Monday, December 8, 1941

In a simple but impressive service, Rev. Clayton E. Williams was installed last night as pastor of Seventh Presbyterian Church, Walnut Hills, where for 28 years the pulpit was occupied by one of Cincinnati's most widely known clergymen and civic leaders, Rev. Jesse Halsey.

Rev. Mr. Halsey gave the charge to the  people in last night's ceremony, having delivered his farewell sermon at the morning service. He said in his sermon, "May our country ever be the instrument of righteousness in the hand of the Eternal."

Rev. Joseph R. Sizoo, New York City, gave the sermon last night, a talk fraught with the significance of the hour as he recalled that he and Rev. Mr. Williams, an old friend, were in France together in what must be known now as the "former war" and not the "last war."

"Believe or not---men are brothers," declared Rev. Mr. Sizoo. "Until they act brotherly there can be no peace."

Rev. Mr. Sizoo, a native of Holland, said: "If we had confidence in Jesus, we could expect him to say at this time the same thing with which he comforted people at a similar time in the first century."

"He would repeat today, 'at the heart of things there is a God who is not hate but love.'"

Rev. Mr. Sizoo flew here for the service after delivering a sermon in the morning at his church, St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, New York, one of the oldest churches in that city.

Aside from his part in the installation and propounding of the constitutional questions--conducted by Rev. John H. Cowan, pastor of Westminster Church and Moderator of the Presbytery, in accordance with custom--Rev. Mr. Williams was given little to say in his first service in the huge church. His only active part in the service was to pronounce the benediction.

 . . .

In his farewell sermon Rev. Mr. Halsey said that "memories are precious things. Man wants to be remembered, whether it is in gravestones, pyramids, or the cairns of cave men. Our Lord very humanly said, "This do in remembrance of me.'"

"We call His memorial a sacrament because He is in it. Many other memorials are sacramental in significance. In this hour the flag takes on new significance--it has sacramental value--it is a symbol of a living faith in great human values which we call democracy."

"We need to remember that he who puts the state before God, however, commits sacrilege. God comes first and under God governments are ordained."

Pastor Who Fled Germans in Paris Will Speak Here

Saturday, December 6, 1941

Seventh Presbyterian Church Pulpit To Be Vacated December 7

The Enquirer, Cincinnati
Saturday, November 29, 1941

On Same Day In Unusual Series of Ceremonies.

Dr. Jesse Halsey To Be Succeeded
By Rev. Clayton E. Williams
Of Sewickley, PA

Seventh Presbyterian Church will be the setting for an event unique in the history of Presbyterianism in Cincinnati on Sunday, December 7. On that date Dr. Jesse Halsey, who has been pastor there since Palm Sunday, 1913, will sever his pastoral relationship and "declare the pulpit vacant" at the morning communion service. At a special evening service will welcome the new pastor, Rev. Clayton E. Williams, who will be installed at that time and who immediately will assume full pastoral charge. Rev. Mr. Williams will assist Dr. Halsey at the morning service.

Seldom, if ever, in the history of the churches of the local Presbytery has the outgoing minister severed his connection with the church on the same day that the new minister was to be installed. The friendly cooperation of Dr. Halsey, Rev. Mr. Williams, and officials of Seventh Presbyterian Church has made several possible arrangements for such an auspicious occasion.

Rev. John H. Cowan, Moderator of the Presbytery of Cincinnati, will preside and propound the constitutional questions at the installation service Sunday night.


Rev. Samuel G. Warr, assistant pastor of the church, will offer invocation, Rev. Lester E. Kemper, Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church, will lead the responsive reading. Standish Meacham, elder of the church, will read the Scripture, and Dr. Earl R. North, Executive Secretary of the Presbytery, will offer the prayer.

Rev. Joseph R. Sizoo, pastor of St. Nicholas Collegiate church of New York City, will deliver the sermon. Dr. Halsey will give the charge to the people, and Rev. William T. Paterson, Norwood Presbyterian Church, will give the charge to the pastor.

Dr. Halsey, who is taking over the chair of pastoral theology and liturgics at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago, will leave with his family for Chicago December 8. In addition to his work at the seminary, he will act as supervisor of the students' time and be their "trouble shooter" in helping them to work out the theories that they have learned in the classroom. He and his family reside at 846 Chalmers Place in Chicago.


Nationally known as a Presbyterian leader, Dr. Halsey has been identified with many important church, civic, and philanthropic organizations throughout his many years in this city.

Rev. Mr. Williams, who served the American Church in Paris, France, for many years as assistant pastor and as pastor, brought his family to this country after the occupation of Paris, then returned to unoccupied France where he did refugee work last spring. As he was not allowed to return to his church in Paris, he again returned to the United States, and has been residing at Sewickley, PA.

Son of a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Mr. Williams was born in Peoria, Ill., on May 28, 1894. He attended Butler College, Indianapolis, the University of Paris, and Western Theological Seminary. He served with the Army Y. M. C. A. in France in 1917-18 and received a commission in the air service. He was ordained to the ministry in Indianapolis in September, 1925.

"Seldom, if ever, in the history of the churches . . ."

Pastor, Friend to Persons of All Faiths, To Be Honored at Dinner of Presbyterians

The Cincinnati Times-Star
November 29, 1941

Dr. Jesse Halsey Will Teach Theological Students.


Would Now Like to Serve With Red Cross in Russia.

By Paul B. Sullivan, Religious News Editor

One of the most publicly revered clergymen of whom the Queen City has had good reason to bost will be leaving for new fields of endeavor in a few days--leaving, after a fruitful pastorate of 28 years, more convinced than ever that the future lies wiht religion--religion in its broadest aspects.

If he lacked conviction that everything that could, should be done to make ministers of religion more idealistic and practical, he would not be leaving Seventh Presbyterian Church for a full-time professorship in the Presbyterian Seminary of Chicago; not Dr. Jesse Halsey.

"My brethren are foolish (or wise) enough to think that I might help in one of our seminaries to humanize our young ministers and fit them for their practical task of living their gospel among men as well as preaching it."

That is the Dr. Halsey who has been the guiding hand and sprit of many a young minister--many a person, in fact, clergy and laity of all religious faiths. He is the man who has made practical Christian service to his fellowmen the basis of his ministry of 31 years; and he will carry that ideal into his professorship of practical theology and liturgies.


It is he who is being honored by Presbyterians of this area at a dinner in Hotel Gibson Friday, 6:30 p.m., for which event reservations still were being accepted Friday at the office of the Cincinnati Presbytery. The dinner, open to the public, is being sponsored by Presbyterian Men of Greater Cincinnati.

Influence of Dr. Halsey's ministry has been felt widely among Protestants of all denominations, Catholics, and Jews, and all of these groups will be represented at the dinner, on the program for which will be the following:

Dr. J. Harry Cotton, president of the Chicago Seminary, in which Dr. Halsey has been teaching part-time for several months; Dr. Homer G. McMillen, Kenton, OH, moderator of the Ohio Presbyterian Synod; Mayor James G. Stewart, Dr. David Phillipson, rabbi-emeritus of Rockdale Avenue Temple; Dr. Robert S. Lambert, president of the Council of Churches; Dr. John H. Cowan, moderator of the Cincinnati Presbytery; John Hollister, lay representative of Seventh Church; Lawrence Lytle, president of Presbyterian Men, and Mrs. C.D. Valentiner, president of the Women's Council of the presbytery.

Messages will be read from Dr. Herbert B. Smith of Los Angeles, Calif., moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, and Dr. Jesse Herrmann of Lexington, Ky., formerly of Cincinnati and close friend of Dr. Halsey.

Two years ago, when Dr. Halsey was debating whether to accept the offer of a seminary professorship, he received letters from influential persons throughout the country, urging him to accept, saying that a man of his background and achievement could be of great service to young men entering the ministry.

**An American Privilege**

Madison Road at Cleinview.
Rev. Jesse Halsey.
11:00 A.M.--"I Have Learned."
 7:30 P.M. --Young People.

Jesse Halsey Refuses Seminary Post to Remain in Cincinnati

from The Presbyterian Tribune
c. April 1939

For two weeks Cincinnati church and civic circles were much concerned over the possible resignation of Rev. Jesse Halsey, the oldest minister in point of service in the presbytery and acknowledged leader of the Protestant forces in Cincinnati. Mr. Halsey's election to the professorship of practical theology in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago was acknowledged by everyone to be a perfect selection but he had so many ties binding him to so many church and other movements in Cincinnati that his leaving the city for anything was thought of, even by the most devoted friends of the seminary, as something unthinkable. His decision to remain in Cincinnati came as a result of pressure both of his congregation and those outside.

"but being let go, we go to our own company"

Elective Affinity
      And being let go, they went to their own company--Act 4:23
      After a Miracle, a Sermon, an Arrest and Release from Prison
      The healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful of the Temple had stirred an intense excitement in Jerusalem. Like the church bell which summons people to church, it had attracted a crowd to the disciples. And Peter, who never saw a crowd but he longed for the opportunity to preach to it, began to preach--there were about five thousand gathered--and many of his hearers were converted. The priests and the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees were very indignant at this powerful doctrine. They put an arrest on Peter and John and committed them to prison for the night, and the next day they had them out and examined them on their authority for this miracle. We know how bravely and nobly Peter answered: what a change from that night of denial before Calvary! We know into what a sorry pass the council came: they threatened Peter and John, and let them go. So by the narrative of facts we reach our text, "And being let go, they went to their own company."
      When We Are Released from Our Particular "Prisons"
      I wish, then, to spiritualize our text, for it seems to me to be full of rich suggestion. It hints at facts which lie very near to us, and which are worthy of our observation. None of us are prisoners in a literal sense. We are not immured in the dark or damp of dungeons. The age of persecution in its barbaric forms has fled from our land of liberty forever. But for all that there are shackles which still bind us, and we are under many constraints from day to day, and it is true of us as of Peter and John that being let go, we go to our own company. Like the carrier pigeon which, freed from it cage, wheels for its bearings and then starts for home; like the mountain stream which the little child may dam but which when released goes hurrying to the sea--so all of us are subject to constraint, but being let go, we go to our own company. That is the thought on which I wish to dwell.
      When Freed from Home
      First, then, I think of the constraint of home. It is the earliest pressure which we know. In the years when we are climbing towards maturity, we are in the sweetest of all earth's imprisonments. We are engirded by love then and by a father's ordering. We have to yield our wills up to another's will. It is not the child who chooses or decides; it is the father and the mother who do that. But the day comes when a young man leaves home. Like Peter and John in our story, he is let go. He has to face the world now on his own resources, and the day of authority and of command is over. It is in such a time, when the restraints are gone which were the safety and the strength of home, that a man steadily goes to his own company. What were the thoughts that were smoldering and burning under the gentle but firm constraint of home? What kind of life was being lived in secret under the quiet routine and through the family worship? What sort of ideal was glimmering and forming of which the mother knew absolutely nothing? It is not their liberty that wrecks men--what we call wreck is often revelation--it is the kind of life which they have led in secret before the hour of liberty arrives. The bonds of authority are broken now. There is no will to consult but a man's own. So being let go, with many a "God bless you," and hidden tears and prayers to a father's God, for all that is noblest or for all that is poorest, men go to their own company.
      The Prodigal
      You know the parable of the prodigal son by heart. Did you ever think of the story in this light? I am sure you would never have guessed how vile that youth was if you had seen him living with his father. But no man becomes a prodigal in one swift hour. If he went to the harlots he had been dreaming of them. There was not a hillside and there was not a field at home but could have told stories of his unclean heart. Then came the tales of his wild life abroad, and his brother said, "I could not have believed it." But in the sight of God the riot was revelation; being let go, he went to his own company.
      Example: Jesus As a Boy
      And you have often read of Jesus in the Temple. Did you ever think of that story in this light? Has it not been preserved for us out of these voiceless years because of its exquisite glimpse into that boyish heart? I doubt not that, as the companies turned homeward, other sons besides Jesus were missing from the crowd, and other mothers besides Mary of Nazareth went back to Jerusalem to look for them. And one would find her son among the soldiers, and another would find her son in the bazaars; Mary alone found her son in the Temple. As naturally as the sunflower to the sun, the heart of Jesus turned to that holy place. There was nothing on earth of such concern to Him as to ask and hear about eternal things. His mother thought that her dear son was lost, and she knew not where amid the crowds to find Him; but being let go, He had gone to His own company.
      When Freed from Work
      Again, I think of the constraint of work. There was a little book published some time ago with the attractive title Blessed be Drudgery, and I think that most of us, as the years pass, learn gladly to subscribe to that beatitude. What moods and whimsies does our work save us from! How it steadies us and how it guards us! If it were not for that bondage of our toil, how intolerable some of us should be to live with! I have known busy men who through the week would have scorned the very suggestion that they ailed, yet somehow they often ailed on Sundays. Of course there come seasons when such bondage irritates. We have all known how difficult it is in the summertime. When the cloudless mornings come and the shimmer of heat, and we hear the calling of field and lake and river, it is not easy then with quiet heart to get to the study and the office desk. But for all that, work is a wise constraint and a happy circumscription of God's finger, a narrowing of our way with such a hedge as will blossom into beauty by and by.
      Where You Go after Work Shows Your Makeup
      But being let go, we go to our own company. Every evening in a great city explains that. Men are imprisoned all day in the routine, but when the evening comes, they gravitate to their own. Here are three young fellows who work at the same desk. They are fellow clerks in the same city office. You will find all of them at the desk during the day; but the question is, where will you find them at night? You will find one of them in the dancehall, that most uninspiring of all haunts. You will find one at home with his few prized books around him, superbly happy in his Shakespeare or his Stevenson. You will find one down in the mission-hall, enthusiastic over his Boys' Brigade. What is your company? Where do you gravitate? When you can follow your own sweet will, where will it lead? Say to yourself when work is done tomorrow, "Being let go, I go to my own company"--and then thank God for it, or be ashamed.
      When Freed from Self lnterests
      Once more, and touching on more delicate matters, I think of the constraint of our self-interest. I speak of the bondage which everybody knows and which arises from our social system. No man is free, in an intricate society, to say and do exactly what he pleases. The most uncharitable people I ever met were the people who took pride in being candid. I grant you that in the heroic nature the thought of self-interest has hardly any place. But I am not talking about heroes now; I am talking of the average man in the average Christian city. And what I say is that he is so interlocked in this great mechanism which we call society that something of the rough and vigorous and outspoken liberty which characterized our forefathers is gone. It is expensive for the average citizen to speak out his whole mind. There are accommodations and compliance's and silences that are well understood on every exchange and market. And one of the hardest tasks for any man is to keep a clean conscience and an unsullied heart while bowing to those restraints of self which society or wise self-interest demands.
      But that bondage is not a perpetual bondage. All are released from it in various ways. If action be fettered, thought at least is free, nor is there any veil by the fireside at home. Or it may be that when a man has made his fortune he feels that at last he can dare to be himself, for he no longer depends for his advancement on the kindly offices of any brother. The question is what are you then? What judgements do you pass by the fireside? Are you less courteous and kindly now that you are made, than in the years when your career was making? Being let go from social entanglement and from the grim and ceaseless pressure of self-interest, steadily and silently and surely men go like the apostles to their own.
      When Freed from Evil Habit and Sin
      Again I think of the constraint of evil habit. One of the most arresting of Christ's miracles is the curing of the Gadarene demoniac. In his isolation and in his lonely misery the man is a type of sin's separating power. He had been very happy once in Gadara; his wife had loved him, and so had his little children. He was well thought of in his little village, and the evenings were pleasant there when work was done. Then fell on him the curse that ruined him, wrecking his intellect and all his happiness and driving him apart from those he loved until that hour when he was faced by Christ. In that great hour it was farewell to bondage. His fetters were broken and he was a man again. Fain would he have followed his deliverer and shared the fortunes of his Galilean healer. But Jesus said to him, "Go home again. Thy wife has been praying for thee and thy children love thee." So being let go from the tyranny of sin, the poor demoniac went to his own company.
      And that is always one of the plagues of sin. It separates a man from his own company. We may be under the same roof as our own company, and yet be a thousand miles away from them. There is a burst of temper, and then misunderstanding, and then the pride which will never ask forgiveness--and hearts that were fashioned in eternity for one another go drifting apart like ships upon the sea. Sin separates the father from the son. Sin separates the mother from her child. From all that is ours by birthright of humanity we are barred out by the tyranny of evil. And then comes Christ and gives us spiritual freedom, rescuing us from the bondage of the years, and being let go we go to our own company. For the best is our true company and not the worst. We were made for goodness; we were not made for evil. It is love and tenderness and purity and light which are the true society of a God-created spirit. So when a man is released from sin's imprisonment by the word and present power of his Redeemer, being let go, he hastens to his own.
      When Freed from the Constraint of Life
      Then lastly, I think of the constraint of life, for there is a deep sense in which this life is bondage. We are the children of immortality and not of time, and here we are cribbed and cabined and confined. Nothing is perfect here, and nothing rounded. We are not built to the scale of three score years. There is no such thing as ultimate success here; the only success is not to give over striving So are we fettered and hampered and imprisoned, and the bird is beating its wings against the bars; but when death comes, the spirit is set free, and being let go, it travels to its own. Did you ever think of eternity like that? It is an arresting and an awful thought. It is far wiser to think of it like that than to go about saying you do not believe in hell. I never read that even Judas went there. I read that Judas went to his own place. Being let go by his own act of suicide, he went to his own company--the rest is silence. God grant us all such love for what is good, such kinship of heart with the brave and the pure and the lowly, such secret comradeship with all who are wrestling heavenward in the living fellowship of Jesus Christ, that when death comes and the prison doors are opened and we go to our own company at last, we may go to be forever with the Lord.

--George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons

from The Afterglow of God, Sunday Evenings in a Glasgow Pulpit by Rev. G.A. Morrison, Glasgow, 1912, p. 285.


"There are two things I admire in Sir Walter (*Hazlitt to Northcote) his capacity and his simplicity, which indeed I am apt to think are much the same. The more ideas a man has of other things the less he is taken up with things of himself."
Sir Walter [Scott] went to Paris no one knew he was there. Fenimore Cooper came to Paris "strutted thru streets with a consequential air, held up his head, screwed up his features" nor wished it to be forgotten that he was the American Sir Walter. "The real one never troubled himself about the matter. Why should he?" (Hazlitt)

"Recollect that you must be a seaman to be an officer; and also you cannot be a good officer without being a gentleman." Southey's Life of Nelson

"There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Chas the Second but the seamen were not gentlemen, and the gentlemen were not seaman."

I am working on SPIRITUAL GRAVITATION (or Their Own Company) (Elective Affinity--says Morrison) Acts 4:23 "And being let go, they went  . . . " (Disciples verdict on Judas--to his own place) James Hillhouse has a poem describing Last Judgment--myriads of earth coming up before Great White Throne; no word uttered, a shifting and automatic dividing right and left. (Woe to them that call good evil and evil good.)

*First printed in The Schoolmaster & Edinburgh Weekly Magazine, 1832, p. 285. Collected in "Northcote's Conversations . Characteristics" from The Round Table: A Collection of Essays on Literature, Men, and Manner by William Hazlitt; London, 1871.