Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"they upheld liberty for the gospel's sake"

Liberal Presbyterianism at once answered in the protest of many commissioners to the General Assembly of 1893 against the suspension of Dr. Briggs, which rejected the Assembly's assertion that "the inerrancy of the original autographs of the Scripture" was "the faith of the Church," and "the imposing of this new interpretation of our Standards upon the Church, to bind men's consciences by enforced subscription to its terms." The liberals were further aroused by the exercises of ecclesiastical authority in 1894 and 1899 against Dr. Henry Preserved Smith of Lane Seminary and Dr. Arthur C. McGiffert of Union Seminary, on the same general ground as the action against Dr. Briggs. In these years many Presbyterian ministers and laymen determined that in the Church there must be freedom of study and thought and speech, so that it could preach the gospel with power in a time of changed conceptions of the Bible and of new light upon it and upon Christian truth from science and history. Evangelicals, they upheld liberty for the gospel's sake.

These same years were the time of the rise of the social gospel. Not all, but many Presbyterian liberals came under its inspiration and gave its message, as it was understood in those early days. They were profoundly persuaded that the gospel commanded a more righteous industrial and economic order and that such an order must needs be to give the gospel free course. These same years saw also the coming with power of the impulse for Christian unity. Many Presbyterians caught the vision that was rising before the Christian world, caring supremely for the one gospel, above denominational particularities.

Thus about 1900 a body of liberals had formed in the Presbyterian Church. Many were younger men, but by no means all. Some of the most convinced and courageous were older. For this body held the old liberal evangelical position, in new conditions. Among the younger men was Henry Sloane Coffin. --Robert Hastings Nichols from "Leader of Liberal Presbyterianism" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

"It was the height of the 'jazz age'"

In the wider orbit of the world's life, the hopes which had inspired sacrifice in the "war to end war" were crumbling before resurgent power politics. The League of Nations still struggled to redeem international chaos; but, to those with eyes to see, its doom was already foreshadowed by futility. The course of the United States was wellnigh irretrievably set in recoil from responsibility. Those who cared deeply for social advance had not yet surrendered to the rising despair, but they felt their backs against a wall and confessed to one another their helplessness in the face of reaction and brute force.

In the meantime, in the day-by-day life of men, wealth multiplied, fortunes were made (and lost) almost overnight, sensuality softened the native fibre of youth, a new leadership unschooled in traditions of culture and social trusteeship gloried in irresponsibility, life whirled with ever faster tempo and was at once coddled and demoralized by ever more refined luxuries and amusements. It was the height of the "jazz age."   --Henry P. Van Dusen, on the year 1926, from "Theological Education" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Francis B. Sayre

from The Washington Post, 26 November 1913:

He went as the personal assistant to Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell to do hospital work along the coast of Labrador in 1909, and it was in those days when young Sayre joned him in holding services on the rocks for the Labrador fishermen, that an affection and close friendship developed, which was reflected in the selection of Dr. Grenfell as best man at the wedding.

Was Secretary to Peary 

When returning from the Grenfell camp in 1909, Sayre missed his steamer, but found the arctic ship, ROOSEVELT, with Peary aboard, at Battle Harbor, and acting as secretary for the explorer. At another time, in Newfoundland, he tramped 100 miles in ten days with a friend. They could not keep the route planned, and, after much suffering from black flies in the forest underbrush, reached the habitation of a friendly hermit, exhausted from want of food and rest. Sayre’s companion on this expedition was Dr. DeWitt Scoville Clark, jr., of Salem, Mass., one of the ushers at the wedding.

Once the same two traveled 2,300 miles down the Yukon River, in Alaska. And when they got to Nome they wanted to get to Siberia across the Bering Strait. Most folk told them it couldn’t be done, but they set out in a 15-ton schooner, which they happened to pick up, and after a thrilling adventure in a deep fog, hauled up against Asia. Sayre got as far north as 86 degrees.

"The sea tugged at his heart--"

(Gentlemen—I didn’t mean to preach. This was written primarily for my children. I have hoped they would catch some of my enthusiasm that Grenfell gave to me.)

The last time we talked (in Spring of 1940), we both wished that we were young enough to go to the English Channel now. Twenty years ago we went as did our ancestors three hundred years before us. We also reluctantly admitted that our boys are not so eager to go as were we, or their ancestors twelve generations ago. They do not see the treat—to Dover sands and all else besides that we covet dear. We (old fellows) wondered if the stock is running out.

For thirty years he was my hero—and still is. He spoke of life and treated it as “An Adventure.” He could steer his ship by the stars or the sun or by dead reckoning. He used to say that a poor chart was worse than none at all. Many poor charts he revised, and many a storm he has outridden (these things are a parable). He wrecked some boats and bumped the bottom of others, but he built a ship railway to repair his own and those of all others.

The sea tugged at his heart—He’s off on another voyage. That’s what he believed. And I believe it too; he taught me. The first books he ever gave me were on immortality. He used to talk about it—quite naturally, just as he talked of other things. I listened, but I wasn’t entirely interested. But now . . . well, one gets older . . . things gain perspective . . .

"In the Early Days: A Presbyterian Sermon"

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"the octopus of Modernism had gotten its tentacles around every Board and Agency of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A."

"Paving the Way for the Exodus" 
Merril T. MacPherson | Church of the Open Door, Philadelphia, PA | from Voice, April and May 1945

On Easter Day, 1930, I began my pastorate of the Central North Broad Street Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, PA. Located on Broad Street, just a few blocks north of City Hall, this downtown church had a substantial brown stone building, with Sunday school rooms, offices, etc., on the ground floor, and a large auditorium upstairs. It was not only debt-free, but had an endowment fund of a quarter of a million dollars. Here we proclaimed the Gospel, both in the pulpit and over the radio, and soon had the joy of seeing great crowds, and best of all, souls saved at practically every Sunday evening service. Great monthly meetings of the Philadelphia Fundamentalists were held here, and annual conferences were conducted by the Moody Bible Institute. Before long, the newspapers referred to the Church as the "Citadel of Fundamentalism."

The financial crash of 1929 began to paralyze our Nation, and Philadelphia really felt the "Depression." Bank after bank crashed, many never to open again. Some of you "old-timers" will also remember the beginning of what happened "again and again and again." Booze then began to flow once more in America, but even a deadlier poison had devitalized the visible Church. For years godly men had warned against the encroachment of Modernism. We of the Presbyterian Church knew that it was becoming more powerful and brazen year by year. Through the General Council and the Boards of the Church, Modernism was beginning to dominate the Denomination.

The political power of the Auburn Affirmationists and other Modernists had become evident, and increasingly so since 1925. The Boards of the Church were going modernistic. While the modernism of the Foreign Board was specifically attacked, for reasons which we shall explain, yet all were guilty. Space will not permit me to give the evidence, but a few examples will suffice to show how the octopus of Modernism had gotten its tentacles around every Board and Agency of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Blatant Blasphemy

The Board of Christian Education was surely a transgressor. Many had pointed out the growing apostasy evidenced in the Sunday school helps, which stressed the "Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man." In the Twelfth Annual Report of this Board, we read: "The occasional and fleeting moments of insight and power that all of us have known may be transformed into more frequent and enduring periods of illumination and victory. The high achievements of persons like Gandhi and Kagawa in our own age bear eloquent testimony to the ability of modern man to recover the spirit and technique of Jesus of Nazareth and Francis of Assisi." As one said: "This scarcely requires comment. The paralleling of Gandhi, Kagawa and Francis of Assisi with Christ is blatant blasphemy."

A pamphlet published in 1935 revealed that there were twenty-two Auburn Affirmationists connected with the National Board, either as Secretaries, Board Members, or Synodical Executives, among whom were Henry Sloan Coffin and George A. Buttrick, the Modernistic writing and teachings of whom are well known. It was revealed that even the Board of Pensions had a President, Andrew Mutch, and a Board Member, Jesse Halsey, who were Auburn Affirmationists.

But the Board of Foreign Missions became the "storm center" in 1933. Both Pearl Buck and "Re-Thinking Missions" were in the limelight. Because of public sentiment concerning the rank modernism of both, the book was furiously attacked all over our nation, and Mrs. Buck resigned as a Presbyterian Missionary. In the Minutes of the Board of Foreign Missions, we read: "A letter was presented from Mrs. J. Lossing Buck, of the Kiangan Mission, requesting to be released from responsible relationship to the Board. The Board had hoped that this step might be avoided, but in view of all the considerations involved and with deep regret it voted to acquiesce in her request. The Board expressed to Mrs. Buck its sincere appreciation of the service which she has rendered during the past sixteen years and its earnest prayer that her unusual abilities may continue to be richly used in behalf of the people of China."

Independent Board Formed

Dr. J. Gresham Machen then printed a booklet giving documented evidence of the Modernism of the Board of Foreign Missions, in which he dealt with such chapters as "Re-Thinking Missions"; Mrs. J. Lossing Buck; the Auburn Affirmation; Modernistic Propaganda by the Candidate Department, the Secretary of which was an Auburn Affirmationist; Cooperating Agencies; Modernism in China, etc. Great protest rallies were held, in Philadelphia and other places, against the Modernism of the Foreign Board, requesting that the modernists be recalled and the Board purged. The General Assembly of 1933 was overtured in this respect. When the overture was disregarded and the Board "white-washed," announcement was made that an Independent Board would be formed for the purpose of propagating truly Biblical Foreign Missionary work. Shortly thereafter, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was incorporated, with Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Pres., Merril T. MacPherson, Vice Pres., H. McAllister Griffiths, Secy., Murray Forst Thompson, Esq., Treas., and a long list of Board Directors. Charles Woodbridge, because of the modernism on the foreign field resigned as a Missionary under the Foreign Board in Africa, and returned to America to become the General Secretary of the Independent Board. We were off to a good start. Fundamentalists were rejoicing in the new Board, both as a testimony for Christ, against the current modernism, and as a channel through which they could give to help support sound missionaries.

Machine "Cracks Down"

We were sure of our Constitutional rights to form such a Board, and little dreamed of the strategy which the "machine crowd" of the Church would use in an attempt to destroy the New Board. But when they saw that money was rolling in for its support, they felt it was time to "crack down." Just before the General Assembly of 1934, Dr. Machen and three other members of the Independent Board were asked to meet with the Administrative Committee of the General Assembly. They were handed a document which contained the following words: "We wish to make known to you that after a most careful study the General Council is of the unanimous opinion that the following inferences may be drawn from this study: 1) That the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in its organization and operation is contrary to fundamental principles of the Constitution of the Church. 2) That you and your associates in this organization are violating your ordination or membership vows or both." They were informed that a 43-page pamphlet entitled "Studies in the Constitution," was already on the press, and would be placed in the hands of all the Commissioners to the General Assembly. Dr. Machen asked for an advance copy of this document, in order that a reply might be made to it, and also placed in the hands of the Commissioners, but he was informed that this could not be had. It was a stab in the back, for at the strategic moment the pamphlet was mailed so as to reach the Commissioners just before they left their homes for the General Assembly, and before a reply could be sent to them by Dr. Machen and his associates.

Only a person who has made some study of Presbyterian law and polity can fully understand the significance of this circularization, for its purpose was to prejudice minds and incite action, yes, illegal, unconstitutional action, against the members of the Independent Board. How well this was accomplished is now a matter of history--history which makes unscrupulous modernists to gloat and bloat, but still causes fundamentalists who once stood with us in the fight for Christ to blush and hang their heads in shame.

Frederick A. Isham 1895

From: The Adirondack Enterprise Supplement, Vol. I, No. 1, Thursday, February 21, 1895, page 2.

No name is more intimately associated with Saranac Lake than that of Frederick A. Isham, attorney, and present counsel of the village. Mr. Isham came here when the town was in its infancy, and he has been foremost among the energetic ones who pushed forward enterprises for the welfare of the town, assisting greatly in bringing this beautiful mountain village to the place of its present occupancy among the villages and cities of the State.

Frederick A. Isham was born in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on May 22, 1860. He attended schools in that vicinity and, after graduating from Plattsburgh Academy, went to Columbia Law School, New York, from which institution he graduated with the degree of L.L.D. in 1883. He was then in the buoyant flush of youth and, having been admitted to the bar in Jan. 1884, began the practice of his profession in New York. There he became very successful and he had the promise of a still brighter future when ill health compelled him to leave the city in 1889.

Mr. Isham arrived in Saranac Lake in June, 1889. The population was then [. . .t] 200, yet Mr. Isham, believing that the place was destined to grow and flourish, at once invested heavily in real estate and decided to remain here permanently.

Mr. Isham was married in 1885 to Miss Laura Haynes, of Plattsburgh, a daughter of one of the best known men of that town. Three bright children bless the union.

Transcribed from a poor photocopy by Mary Hotaling, 3/31/2010.