THE HISTORY OF
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
820 COLONIAL AVENUE, NORFOLK, VA
1. "The Lesson of the Pestilence"
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
December 2, 1855,
at First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, VA.
2. The Victory of Manassas
"The Good Hand of God Upon Us: A Thanksgiving Sermon."
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
July 21st, 1861, at First Presbyterian Church.
3. "What Hath God Wrought: A Historical Discourse."
Preached by Rev. George D. Armstrong
June 25, 1876, at First Presbyterian Church
4. "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified"
Preached on September 16, 1888
By Geo. D. Armstrong, D. D., LL. D.
5. Farewell Sermon of Rev. James I. Vance,
Reported in the Ledger Dispatch January 29, 1895
6. Predestination: A Sermon
By Rev. James I. Vance, D. D.
* * * * * *
JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED
Preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, VA.
September 16, 1888.
By George D. Armstrong, D. D., LL. D., Pastor
[Published by the Congregation.]
Richmond, VA: Jenkins & Walthall, 1889.
"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
—1 Corinthians ii. 2.
ON the 15th of September, 1838, my twenty-fifth birthday, I was licensed to preach the gospel by Lexington Presbytery. My "trial sermon," preached on that occasion, was, by appointment of Presbytery, on the text I have just read in your hearing. To-day I will preach again on the text on which I preached fifty years ago—not the same sermon I preached then. The text is so comprehensive a one, suggesting so many different trains of thought, all alike appropriate to the pulpit, that it would not be natural for a man in his youth and in his old age to preach the same sermon, though on both occasions he confined himself strictly to his text.
In the text the apostle to the Gentiles, the most successful preacher among the apostles of our Lord, is giving an account of his ministry in Corinth; and what was true of his ministry in that city was, as we learn from other sources, true of his ministry in other cities also. And could he return to earth to-day, to give counsel to his successors in the Christian ministry, he would, I doubt not, say, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (1 Cor. xi. 1.)
"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ;" i. e., a Saviour anointed of God, and set apart of God to his work, "and him crucified;" i. e., Jesus Christ: not as the greatest of teachers, though even his enemies testified respecting him, "Never man spake like this man" (John vii. 46); not as a perfect example, though in his daily life and  conversation he has given us the one only perfect example the world has ever had of what the life of a good man ought to be, so that when Paul calls upon the Corinthian Christians to "be followers of him," he qualifies that call by adding, "as I also am of Christ;" not as a new starting point in the development of the human race, though his life on earth has proved the starting point of the grandest development onward and upward that humanity has ever known—but "Christ crucified," Christ dying that he might "save his people from their sins" (Matt. i. 21); Christ "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. v. 21.) Such, in brief, is the truth expressed in the text. In exposition of this truth I remark—
I. The Christianity which Paul Preached was a Religion, in the Distinctive Sense of that Term, and not a Philosophy.
The end and purpose of a philosophy is to teach its disciples to distinguish between the true and the false, the right and the wrong, assuming that an intelligent moral creature, such as man, when these distinctions are made plain, will at once choose the true and the right, and refuse the false and the wrong.
The end and purpose of a religion (from Lat. religo), as the etymology of the word points out, is "the re-knitting of a broken bond." the giving of an answer to the great practical question, old as the day of Job, "How shall man be just with God?" (Job ix. 2.)
A true philosophy would have served man's purpose had he retained "the image and likeness of God" in which he was originally created. Fallen man, man the sinner, must have a religion.
That man is to-day a fallen, sinful creature, his own conscience, experience and Scripture alike testify. To be convinced of this, you, my hearer, need but to bring your heart and life into the light of God's holy law, that which you cannot but recognize as God's law when fairly apprehended:
 "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, . . . and thy neighbor as thyself." (Matt. xxii. 37, 39.) Thus tried, man has ever found himself condemned at the bar of conscience, and yet more decisively condemned at the bar of God. Go to the sick man, sick of some mortal disease, and teach him clearly and thoroughly the laws of hygiene, the laws by obedience to which health is to be maintained. Of what use will all this be to him? He is sick, and what he needs to be told is of some remedy for his disease, some means by which his health may be restored. It is only after, by the use of some efficient remedy, he has recovered his health again, that a knowledge of the laws of hygiene can be of any practical benefit to him. So, in the case of man the sinner, his first great necessity is a religion, not a philosophy; and it is only after a religion has done its appropriate work that the knowledge of even a true philosophy can be of any practical benefit.
It is just at this point that Plato, among the Greeks, and Confucius, among the peoples of the East, have made their great mistake. They have given many an admirable rule of life to man; they have pointed out accurately in many particulars the distinction between the true and the false, the right and the wrong, and they have eloquently commended the true and the right to man's acceptance. And the same may be said of such men as Emerson in our day. But all alike have utterly failed in telling us how man's condition can be made permanently better, either for this world or for the world to come. A philosophy, good as it may be in its place, can never do the work of a religion. Plato and Confucius and Emerson have been guilty of the folly of preaching the laws of hygiene to men sick of a mortal disease. Not so did the Apostle Paul. He thoroughly understood the condition of those to whom he was called to minister. Going to Corinth—highly civilized, yet heathen Corinth-—he went among them preaching, not a philosophy, but a religion, "determined not to know anything among them, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
 II. The Religion Preached by Paul at Corinth was a Religion having for its Foundation a Fact, an Event in history, and not a myth, or a speculation, as other religions have.
The fact, the event, on which the religion preached by Paul is founded is, that Jesus Christ, God's anointed Saviour, has been crucified. The one true religion made known by God to man has always had this as a characteristic. As taught by patriarchs and prophets, the event was yet future"; but the certainty of its occurrence was secured by covenant between the Father and the Son. As preached by Paul, and God's ministers of the present day, it is an event which has already occurred. Jesus Christ has been crucified,—on Calvary, just outside the gates of Jerusalem—eighteen and a half centuries ago.
I would ask you to notice particularly, that it is not the birth, nor the subsequent life, nor even the resurrection of Jesus Christ—though each of these is important in itself— but his death, which was thus emphasized in the preaching of Paul. And so has it been with God's true ministers from the beginning; so is it with the Scriptures themselves. The vision of a spotless lamb, laid bleeding upon God's altar, as faithful Abel worshipped—not by its blood to wash away sin, but as a type, to foreshadow the death of Jesus Christ—is among the first visions which break upon our sight when, in the light of revelation, we attempt to trace the history of our race back to the beginning; and the same, vision of the "lamb slain" is seen upon the throne in the midst of heaven, when the "mystery of God is finished," and "a mighty angel, lifting up his hand to heaven, swears by him that liveth for ever and ever, that there shall be time no longer."
This event, thus fundamental in the Christian religion, is certified to us in such ways as to leave no reasonable ground for doubt.
1. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was in public, occurring at the time of the passover, when great multitudes of Jews, from all parts of the civilized world, were gathered in Jerusalem, and was witnessed by both friends and foes. Of his enemies we read, "And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chiefs priest mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others, himself he cannot save. Let Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see, and believe." (Mark xv. 29-32.) Of his friends we read, " And all his acquaintance "— including some of his disciples—"and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off beholding these things." (Luke xxiii. 49.)
2. The reality of his death was testified to by Roman soldiers, sent by Pilate to ascertain the truth respecting this matter, who "when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead, brake not his legs; but one of them with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith their came out blood and water." (John xix. 33, 34.) This testimony is confirmed by loving friends, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who "took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes, with spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury," and laid it in "a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid" (John xix. 38, 43,); and by his bitterest enemies, the chief priests and Pharisees, who having received from Pilate authority so to do, "went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch." (Matt, xxvii. 66.)
3. The record of Jesus' crucifixion, death and burial, which we have in our possession to-day, and on which the church's faith rests, is a fourfold record, written by eye-witnesses of
the events, and shortly after they occurred; and such is the relation in which they stand to the Christian religion, that this record has been copied and repeated in a great variety of ways and forms from that day to the present. It runs, like an unbroken thread, through the whole web of Christian his tory and literature.
In addition to all this, just before his crucifixion, "on the same night on which he was betrayed," Jesus Christ instituted a rite, known to us as the Lord's Supper, commemorative of  the event; and gave commandment that it should be observed by his disciples until his second coming. Thus did he make provision for the perpetuation of the memory of this event in the same way in which the memory of Israel's deliverance from Egypt has been perpetuated in the passover. The universal observance of the passover by the Jews, scattered as they are, and have long been, among all the nations of the earth, is regarded by all thoughtful men as affording irrefragable proof of Israel's deliverance from Egypt; such proof that of all the events which make up the past history of the world, this is regarded as among the most certain; and this, although this deliverance occurred more than three thousand years ago,—so long ago that the memory of most other cotemporary events has been lost to human knowledge.
A similar result has followed the commemoration of Jesus' death in the sacrament of the supper. This rite is and has been observed as far back as we can learn anything respecting the matter in every land into which Christianity has gone. However much men may differ as to the nature of the rite in certain particulars, all agree in this, that it was instituted to perpetuate the memory of " Christ crucified." Hence the death of Christ is received by all who claim the name of Christian as an unquestionable fact; and as a basis of doctrine it is incorporated in the creed of every body of men who claim for themselves a place in the Christian church. I speak advisedly, then, when I say, that of all the events in the past of which history has preserved for us the memory, the crucifixion of Christ is the most certain.
III. The Explanation of this Event Constitutes the "Glorious Gospel of Christ," is the Doctrine of "Christ Crucified," which Paul Preached at Corinth.
The historian, when he has made a true and faithful record of an event, has, in the judgment of thoughtful men, done but half his work. That his history may be such, as all history ought to be, he must trace out the connection of the event recorded with events which have preceded and those which follow after it. He must, if possible, answer the questions how and wherefore has this event occurred? Especially is this necessary in the case of so strange an event, one at first sight so incredible as that set before us in the words, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." For consider—
1. The death recorded is that of the "Son of God," the crucifixion of incarnate Deity.
The fact of an incarnation of Deity, of God assuming a human nature into union with the divine, though a very wonderful thing, has entered into the religious faith of many nations. This is owing probably in part to the preservation by tradition of some remembrance of the earlier promises respecting redemption and the Redeemer, and in part to man's conscious need of a divine interposition on his behalf, taken in connection with the many facts which mark man as a sinning, yet not a heaven-forsaken creature.
That the Son of God incarnate should have spoken as never man spake; that amid the selfish strifes and contentions of earth he should have taught to all the lesson, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke ix. 28); that he should have wrought the great and gracious miracles which he did in attestation of his mission; should have "healed all manner of diseases," "raised the dead," and "cast out devils," can cause us no surprise.
That the Son of God incarnate should have been born in humble life, and even that he should have lived in such poverty as to say, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. viii. 28), though far from what man would have thought likely to occur, yet does it not seem so very strange when we call to mind the truth that the stoop, from the tallest palace on earth to the dung-hill of the beggar is nothing when compared with the stoop from the throne of God in heaven to the tallest of earth's palaces; and remember further, that the greatest and best of men have ever cared but little for the honors and power and wealth of the world.
 But that the Son of God incarnate should have died the death of a malefactor, the accursed death of the cross, and this at the hands of his own "brethren according to the flesh," is a statement so strange that if it is to be believed must be established by indubitable evidence.
2. More strange and difficult of belief than the ignominious death of the incarnate Son of God is the fact, so clearly testified to in Scripture, and preached by Paul at Corinth, that his deepest suffering in connection with his crucifixion came immediately from the hand of God. "Awake, O sword against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd" (Zech. xiii. 7), are the words in which God's prophet foretells the death of Jesus Christ while that death is yet future. And when we turn to the history of the event given its in the gospels, we find that the cruel treatment he received in Pilate's judgment hall, the mockery of the chief-priests and scribes as he hung upon the cross, the bodily suffering which must have accompanied the driving of the nails through the quivering flesh of his hands and feet, drew from his lips not one word of complaint; under this all, "as a lamb before her shearers is dumb he opened not his mouth." Above all such suffering he seems to have risen superior, as in later days many of his martyrs have. But his sufferings, when "smitten by the sword of the Lord of hosts," were such that in the bare prospect of them he was "in an agony, and his sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke xxii. 44); and when the sword-stroke actually fell upon him, he uttered that bitter cry, the meaning of which no mortal can ever fully comprehend, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew xxvii. 46.)
Remember now that this suffering of Jesus Christ, immediately at the hand of God, was suffering on the part of a perfectly sinless being, one of whom God himself declares, "Thou art my Son, in whom I am well pleased " (Mark i. 11). Such suffering as this is without parallel in the history of the human race.
 History tells us of many a good man—good not in the sense of sinless, for the apostle John testifies, "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us " (1 John i. 8), but good in the only sense in which any man can be said to be good in this life—suffering at the hands of God; but these are all cases of sinners suffering for their sins, as the confessions of the sufferers themselves prove. "All that is come upon us is for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve," (Ezra ix. 13,) is Ezra's confession on behalf of himself and his people with reference to their captivity in Babylon. Job, of whom God declares, "there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil," (Job i. 8), was a remarkable sufferer, and for a time seemed disposed "to charge God foolishly;" yet in the end, when God drew near and reasoned with him, exclaims, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job xlii. 5, 6).
The case of an intelligent moral creature suffering at the hand of God, though sinless, is without parallel in the history of our world; and neither heaven nor hell can furnish an example of such suffering. Heaven is peopled with myriads of sinless beings, but there is no sufferer among them all. Hell is full of suffering beings, but there is no sinless one to be found among those who there "gnaw their tongues for pain while they blaspheme the God of heaven."
In the case of "Christ crucified" we have presented us a sinless sufferer, suffering immediately at the hand of God, the strangest event in all history. We must believe it, if we believe anything in the history of the past. There is no other event which has ever occurred upon earth established by proof as irrefragable as this is. Such is the nature of that proof that, as a matter of fact, this, the most incredible event of all history, is the most universally and firmly believed of all.
 In view of all this the question will force itself upon the attention of every thoughtful person, Why was Christ crucified? What explanation can be given of this strange event?
The Scriptures, recognizing the supreme importance of this question, answer it in many forms and on many occasions. In the words of Isaiah, the evangelical prophet of the Old Testament dispensation, "He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. liii. 4-6.) Paul explained it to the Corinthians in his words, "God hath given to us the word of reconciliation. Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. v. 20, 21.) And our Lord himself explained it by saying, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up," i. e., crucified, (see John xii. 33,) "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John iii. 14-16.)
Such is the inspired explanation of this event; such is the doctrine of "Christ crucified" which Paul preached at Corinth, and which the Corinthian Christians believed, and were saved by their faith. Such has been the explanation accepted by God's people in every land and in every age, as "the glorious gospel of Christ," the gospel which the church is commissioned to preach "in all the world, to every creature." (Mark xvi. 15.)
The only other explanation ever given which could claim even plausibility is, that Christ died as our example; died to show us how the good man ought to die. God forbid that this should be true. I gladly recognize in Christ my only perfect example in so far as his human life, and conversation are concerned; and my daily prayer is, God grant me grace to follow closely in my Master's footsteps; God, give me much of his spirit, his zeal for God's glory, and his love for perishing men; for thus shall I be the better able to fulfil the ministry committed to my charge. But when I follow him into Gethsemane, and witness his bitter agony there, and then to Calvary, and hear his dying cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I cannot but exclaim, God forbid that I should die as he died.
And I feel assured that no such death as his will God ever call a believer in Jesus Christ to die. Christ's martyrs have died in all the cruel ways which the ingenious malignity of wicked men could devise; have even been nailed to the cross as Jesus was; but not one of them has died forsaken of God in his dying hour. In contrast with this, their experience has often been like that of Stephen, when suffering death by stoning, he "saw heaven opened, and the Son of man standing upon the right hand of God," his dying lips uttering the sweet prayer, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," (Acts vii. 59); and thus the sufferings of the body have been so completely overpowered by the rapture of the Spirit that there has been no pain in their death. God's promise can never be broken, and he hath said to the believer in Jesus: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee, so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." (Heb. xiii. 5, 6.)
IV. The Crucified Christ Jesus whom Paul Preached was the "Only Begotten Son of God;" God in very Deed.
This character he claimed for himself when he was hers upon earth, and was so understood to do by friends and enemies alike. His beloved disciple, John, begins his gospel with the declaration, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace  and truth." (John i. 1, 14.) When on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrim, "the high priest adjured him by the living God to say whether he was the Christ, the Son of God; Jesus answered him, Thou hast said; nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, ye have heard his blasphemy; what think ye? They answered, and said, He is guilty of death." (Matt. xxvi. 63-66.) That Paul believed and preached that Jesus Christ was very God, no one can read the Epistle from which our text is taken and doubt. With especial clearness does this faith of his appear in chapter x., where he is discussing the question respecting "eating meat offered to idols," and in chapter xv., in which he sets forth the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. And this should cause us no surprise, since it was as God, and manifesting something of the awful glory of God, Jesus met him outside the gates of Damascus at the time of his conversion; it was as God, and claiming the authority of God, that he appeared to him in the temple in Jerusalem, when he sent him away from that city to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; and it was as God, and exercising the prerogative of God, that he appeared to him when Paul learned the gospel from his lips, the gospel of which he writes: "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. i. 11, 12.)
The truth that this crucified Jesus, called of God by that name because "he should save his people from their sins," (Matt. i. 21,) was God in very deed, suggests many trains of thought upon which it would be both pleasant and profitable to dwell. To one only will I direct your attention on the present occasion.
As omniscience is characteristic of divinity, this divine Jesus must have been omniscient, even as he hung upon the cross. What do we mean by omniscience? If you ask for a distinct, precise definition of the term, a definition which will enable you fully to grasp the idea, I cannot give it. Well does Job exclaim, "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." (Job xi. 7-9.) This much, however, we can understand, that whilst man knows something of the present and a little of the past, but nothing of the future, except as God may make it known to him, to the omniscient God all the past and all the future are as distinctly known as is the present. Following out the Scriptural representation of knowledge as light, man's limited knowledge may be compared to the illumination made by a candle lighted amid the thick darkness of midnight. The objects within a narrow circuit are revealed to us by the lighted candle, and within its limited sphere this light searches out all things, the small as well as the great, so that they are brought distinctly to our attention. But turn now to the light of the mid-day's sun. The illumination is no longer confined to a narrow circuit. Were our powers of vision commensurate with the sun's power of illumination, everything on earth would be brought under our review, the microscopic plant as well as the tall cedar, the mote that floats in the sunbeam as distinctly as the great mountain. The light of the mid-day's sun searches all the earth, and there is nothing hid from the illumination thereof. So must it be with the knowledge of an omniscient God.
That Jesus, even while hanging upon the cross, knew and loved individually his disciples, and the holy women that were gathered around that cross; that he thought of and died that he might save them, it is easy for us to believe; that he knew and loved individually you and me, his disciples; that he thought of you and me, and died that he might save us, is far more difficult of belief; and yet, if he was indeed the omniscient God, this must be true. His divine omnis- 16] cience, like the light of the sun, searched out everything belonging to earth, brought everything, and every person, the poor but believing widow as truly as the honored prophet or apostle, distinctly before his mind.
There is a hymn of Dr. Watts which has long been a favorite with God's people, and often sung by them as they gathered around his table, which gives expression to this truth, and it has become the favorite it is because it does give expression to it.Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I had done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
If the crucified Son of God thus knew me personally, and even upon the cross thought of me personally, and loved me, and died for me, well may I say, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord." (Rom. viii. 35-39.)
My hearers, some of you are not believers in Christ crucified. You do not even profess to be such. Honest, upright men in all your transactions with your fellow-men; good citizens, kind neighbors, but yet treating the wondrous love of God with cold indifference. As an ambassador of Christ I say to you, this omniscient Son of God, as he hung upon the cross, knew you personally, individually; thought of you, loved you, for "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," (Rom. v. 8), and died that he might save you. How have you received this message in days past? How will you receive it to-day? Should you die as you are now living, and, going up to Christ's judgment seat, and there, for the first time, be made to face this truth, will not your own heart affirm the solemn sentence with which Paul closes the epistle from which our text is taken, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha." (1 Cor. xvi. 22.)* * * * * * * *
The First Presbyterian Church was filled to repletion Sunday night, when the pastor, the Rev. James I. Vance, preached his farewell sermon prior to his departure for Nashville, Tenn., to which place he was called some time since. He took as the text for his discourse Acts xx., 32: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
The preacher first sketch the farewell scene between Paul and the elders of Ephesus. He explained that if there was one church dear to the apostles' heart it was the Ephesian church, where he spent the precious years of his priceless ministry, and said, "And now, as I go away from a people who have ever been loyal, appreciative and careful of my comfort, and to whom I have become deeply attached, what word is worthier to leave in your hearts than this which Paul left in the hearts of his friends?"
Mr. Vance then dwelt briefly on each clause of his text, stating that a church with God and the Bible, and heaven as an inheritance, could never be poor or bereft. He touchingly alluded to the workers who had been called away by death during his ministry, and said: "Christians separate, but never part to meet no more. God sends them to different parts of this great world field, but when the day of service wears to its close and nightfall comes, they meet again in the glorious company of all them which are sanctified, and gathering around the fireside of divine love, recount to one another the experiences of their separation."
In speaking of leaving Norfolk, he said: "I am not going away because I am in any sense dissatisfied with the city or people, least of all with the church which I have had the honor of serving for the past three years." He then paid a high tribute to the officers of the church, to the communicants, and to the young people. His reference to the kindly fatherly way in which Dr. Armstrong had received him, brought tears to many eyes. He mentioned the kind treatment he had received at the hands of the members of other denominations, and declared that Norfolk had advanced so far into the spirit of genuine Christianity to tolerate a preacher of sectarian views.
In closing he said: "I have learned to love this church and its people. I have never gone away and returned without feeling that it was home, as I stood here, and reading in your faces a kindly welcome. Directly I shall go down these steps there and it will be my pulpit no longer. God bless the man who comes after me. May he be God's selection, a man who reverences the Bible as the inspired word of God and who preaches the old, old story."
At the conclusion of the service the young people of the church, through Mr. F. Wade Vaughan, chairman of the Christian Endeavor Society, presented the Rev. Mr. Vance a handsome gold watch, which is highly prized by the recipient.
The Rev. James I. Vance took charge of the First Presbyterian Church October 1st, 1891, since which time 240 new members have been received, the church roll has increased from 360 to 550, and the contributions have increased from $12,000 per annum to $17,500 received last year. During his pastorate pew rents were abolished and the envelope system adopted with happiest results.
He leaves to take charge of the First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tenn., the largest Presbyterian Church in the South, with perhaps the wealthiest and most influential congregation in the State. His members deeply regret his departure and he leaves the church here thoroughly united and aggressive in all lines of Christian work. He starts for his new home tonight.
On the recent occasion of the merger of the old First Presbyterian Church on Church Street with the Ghent Presbyterian Church at Colonial and Redgate Avenues, the merged body to be known as the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, a silver service of eight pieces was presented to the congregation through Mrs. Washington Taylor in behalf of the Whitehead family, which was represented by the children of the late Hon. John B. Whitehead, who were Mrs. Carter B. Poindexter, Hugh Blair Grigsby, Mrs. Henry Irvin and William Whitehead. The service consisted of four silver baskets and a like number of silver goblets. It was brought over many years before from Scotland by Hugh McPherson and his wife, Mrs. Lilias Blair McPherson. Through the years it had figured often in the Presbyterian communion services here through loan by its owners.
* * * * * *
"Thou, O God, has made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless
till they find rest in thee." —Augustine.
Richmond, VA.: Presbyterian Committee of Publication.
Whittet & Shepperson, 1898.
Courtesy of Virginia Historical Society.
"The will of the Lord be done." —Acts xxi. 14.
THE doctrine of predestination furnishes serious difficulties to not a few thoughtful people who are religiously inclined. There are some disposed to connect themselves with the Presbyterian Church, but who are kept from doing so by their inability to subscribe to this characteristic doctrine of the Presbyterian faith. Predestination is thought to discount Presbyterianism in the popular esteem. Nearly every great church has some prominent denominational characteristic which offers a shining mark for adverse criticism, and which it is called upon to defend against all attacks. The Baptists have close communion, the Methodists have peculiar methods, the Episcopalians have apostolic succession, and the Presbyterians have predestination. What have Presbyterians to say in defence of predestination? It is hardly an adequate defence to say that private church members are not required to subscribe to the doctrine of predestination on uniting with the church. To be sure this is true. Only ministers and church officers are required to subscribe to our doctrinal standards. The private church member merely makes a creditable confession of Christ as his personal Saviour, and is left to form his own doctrinal views from the study of the Bible. Still one should be in harmony with his church. Why belong to a certain denomination unless you sympathize with its denominational characteristics? Why become a Baptist unless you believe in close communion? Why become a Methodist unless you endorse the methods which have given that church its name? Why become an Episcopalian unless you believe in apostolic succession? Why become a Presbyterian unless you believe in predestination?
The difficulties raised by this doctrine are not imaginary. They are very real. Is God arbitrary? Is he a partial God? Has he from all eternity, and apart from all voice and act of ours, sovereignly decreed one por-  tion of the human race to everlasting happiness and another portion to everlasting woe? Is the world what it is because of God's fore-ordination? If so, how can God escape responsibility for the existence of sin? Is not divine justice reduced to a fiction? Do not God's eternal decrees brand him with favoritism in that highest and most sacred of all the realms of life—the spiritual? These are some of the difficulties connected with predestination. It is useless to deny them, for they are there and insistent. Nevertheless, it is pertinent to inquire whether they are difficulties that inhere [to be inherent] in the doctrine or difficulties that arise because of the limitations of human thought in its efforts to apprehend and understand the doctrine.
We may lay it down as a safe rule to begin with, that the Christian should go fearlessly and unhesitatingly wherever the Bible may lead. A doctrine is true and credible not because it is pleasant to believe, or easy to understand, or popular with the masses, but because it is taught in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which contain the word of God. The Christian must be will-  ing to sacrifice human reason and human logic to the explicit statements of Scripture. Reason and logic are notoriously fallible; they will not stand the test of experience. The Bible we believe to be infallibly inspired, and inerrant in all questions of faith and practice. It invites the test of experience, and is vindicated thereby. The Bible gives to man his highest, clearest, truest, divinest vision of God.
When Mr. Stanley was wandering around in Central Africa, in connection with his relief expedition for the rescue of Emin Pasha, who, as it turned out afterwards, did not want to be rescued, he came upon the famed and what up to that time were thought to be the fabulous ''Mountains of the Moon.'' For days he and his men wandered around the base of these mountains, catching glimpses of projecting spurs and ample slopes, but the heavy and perpetual mists that swathed the loftier summits limited the perspective, and made the vision unsatisfactory. One day, however, the atmospheric conditions suddenly changed, the clouds lifted, there was a rift of heaven's sunshine in the veil of mist, and the great explorer saw mighty Ruwenzori in its full and undiminished Splendor, looked upon the lofty mountain from its base sheer up to the dizzy summit of its sublime peaks, towering eighteen to nineteen thousand feet in height, crowned with perpetual snows, and standing through all the centuries as the source of the Nile and the annual replenisher of its fertile valleys.
The view which human reason has of God is like the cloud-shut, mist—limited perspective; which Stanley and his men had of the Ruwenzori mountain. We touch God here and there in our little life, but God is infinitely more than that we touch. The Bible gives us the one clear view of God, from earth to heaven, from this point of time here out into the limitless eternities. It is God's own revelation of himself. It is faultless.
What does the Bible discover God to be? What has the Bible to say about this doctrine of God which we have before us?
Predestination is in the Bible.
There can be no more doubt of it than that the sun shines. Whatever predestination  may mean, it is in the Bible explicitly, repeatedly, unmistakably. The word and its counterparts are ever occurring. God "chooses," "elects," "wills," "arranges," ''determines," "foreordains," "predestinates." Israel was an "elect nation," "a peculiar people." ''The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Prov. xxi. i.) "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. viii. 30.)
Similar passages might be quoted at length. The Bible teaches predestination, whatever that may definitely mean. It recognizes that God was thinking, planning, determining from the foundation of the world, and that what has transpired has transpired not by accident, but by divine prearrangement. Bethlehem was not the product of chance, the cross of Calvary was not a fortuitous incident, the Bible is not the creature of circumstances. Back of all is the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."
 Predestination is likewise in the creeds of all Christian churches. It is there either explicitly or implied, either by direct statement or by necessary inference. There is no exception. It is true of Papal as well as of Protestant communions. It must be true so long as the Bible has any authoritative voice in shaping the church creed. All churches do not give predestination the same interpretation. They may not state the doctrine as strongly as do the Presbyterians. Some, however, do even this, notably, the Episcopalians. The seventeenth article of their Thirty-nine Articles of Religion ranks John Calvin himself in its bold, bald extreme statement of predestination. It declares, "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor."
Other churches state the doctrine more mildly. They endeavor to mellow it, limit  its sweep, reduce it to the measurements of human thought, but they must recognize its presence. The difference between the denominations with regard to predestination is not that one church accepts it and another denies it. The difference is in the place assigned to the doctrine. One gives it the first place, another the second, still another the third. One stands it in the forefront, another hides it in the background. The Presbyterian Church places the doctrine first. It unhesitatingly emblazons divine sovereignty on its banner, and places God in the front of its faith. It does not begin by asking, "What is God for?" but "What is man for?" It believes that man was created to glorify God rather than that God exists to glorify man. It teaches that the supremest worship is not that which insists that man shall have his way, but that which adoringly exclaims ,"The will of the Lord be done!"
We Must Believe in Predestination,
If one thinks at all on the subject of religion he must believe in predestination, or he must believe in something worse. We  face a condition. The world exists, humanity is here, with a certain history behind it, with pertain influences and opportunities around it, with certain aspirations and dispositions within, and all of this under certain laws and for manifest purposes. How did it all come about? If there be a God, what part did he take in what lies behind, what has he to do with the present, and what influence will he have on the future? Is he silent ,indifferent, or active? Is God merely a spectator? Having made the world, does he leave it to manage itself, while he sits serene and satisfied in his distant heaven, looking on with supreme indifference and unconcern, beholding the struggles of his creatures, a witness to their woes, and himself clothed with omnipotence, but refusing to enter the combat or lend a hand in the struggle?
This is one view—God is merely a spectator. If he is that, he is unmerciful. He may call himself a God of love, but it is an empty boast. If God sees our hardships, trials, temptations, sorrow, and incessant struggles, and, while possessing the power, refuses to speed to the relief of his creatures, he is a heartless God. Rather than accept such a monstrous distortion of the deity, I welcome predestination with all of its difficulties.
Is God not even a spectator? Is he ignorant as well as unconcerned? Having made the world, has he not only turned his back on it, but forgotten all about it? Is the present condition the product of chance? Are the laws of nature the result of accident? If so, never parent had stranger offspring. Chance is fickle, but the laws of life are fixed. From the earliest dawn of history they have been working with clock-like regularity. How comes it that a thing so fickle and changing as chance has brought about a result so fixed and unchanging as law? Nevertheless, there are those who are willing to accept even this in order to get rid of God's interference. God is not only not looking on; he does not even know that we are here. If that be true, one may be excused for asking, '' Where is God?" "What is he for?" "What is he about?" "Is he at all?"
 But one other alternative is possible. It is predestination. God had, has, and will always have, a controlling hand in the affairs of the world. He is neither indifferent nor ignorant. He sees, knows, feels, thinks, plans, executes, and has always. If God is in ignorance of human life, there is no escape from atheism; if God is merely a spectator, there is no escape from infidelity. Only when God's mighty will is found behind all, working out his eternal purposes, does faith find standing room and prayer a voice. With this alternative on the throne, prayer ceases to be a rush light, flickering fitfully in the swamps of superstition, and becomes life's guiding star, shining high and clear above the tablelands of faith.
Caricature and Apology.
Perhaps predestination has suffered in the estimation of the general public because of caricatures, unworthy apologies, and inadequate statements. It has been confounded with absolutism. It has been regarded as an iron-shod decree of the Almighty that rides remorselessly over human need, human de-  sire, human merit, human character, driving resistlessly towards its fixed and unalterable predetermined goal, landing one portion of humanity in heaven and another portion in hell despite all efforts they may make to the contrary. The dogmaticians have divorced God's decrees from God's heart. They have made the doctrine into a dogma, dry and sapless; they have reduced it to a meatless skeleton and offered it to the soul to feed upon. Having lost its fragrance, its bloom, its life-beat, is it strange that men have come to regard it as a hard doctrine? If predestination is only the arbitrary fiat of an, a priori God, there is little in it, to comfort faith or encourage hope. But that is not predestination; it is the nightmare of it. Rather than believe in such a God as this, I prefer not to know him at all.
Predestination has been matched against human freedom. It has been thought to reduce man's free agency to a fiction. Necessity has been confounded with certainty, and it has been thought impossible for man to do freely what God has purposed. It has thus branded with insincerity every gospel invita- tion, and scheduled for everlasting happiness or endless woe, with total disregard of individual preference or personal fitness. This is not predestination; it is caricature. Such a dogma is contradicted in our own experience and by every page of revelation. The Bible teaches that God's decree, instead of destroying, establishes the right of choice on the part of his creatures. God projected the human race along the lines of free agency. A part of his eternal plan was that man should not be an automaton, but an intelligent being, susceptible to motives, and invested with the right and power freely to choose; so that predestination, instead of preventing man's free agency, is its everlasting decretal.
These are some of the caricatures of the doctrine. It has also suffered from apology and unworthy defence. Accepting the caricature as a fair and faithful portraiture, it has been urged that the doctrine is to be embraced because God has the right to do as he pleases with his creatures. He owns us absolutely. If he wants to send some to heaven, he may; if he would send others to  hell, it is his right. Who shall question the rights of the Almighty or put him on trial for any of his acts? If this be true, God is only a great slave master, his people the most abject of slaves, and worship but sullen submission to the inevitable. But God is a Father, his people are his children, and worship is adoration of God's goodness and love. A second defence is that God is under no obligation. He has made us. We are pensioners on his bounty for our existence. God owes us nothing. He is not responsible. Logically, that is true; morally, it is a lie. God is under obligation—the obligation of his love, of his mercy, of his nature. God is bound to be true to himself; and to say that he may arbitrarily save one and damn another is to bring an indictment against the character of God as black as hell itself.
A third defence is that God, for some inscrutable purpose, in order to accomplish his own glory, has sovereignly decreed some to be saved and others to be lost. It is said that there have been church courts, regarding themselves as the Lord's elect representatives in the earth, who made the supreme test of orthodoxy on the part of any one seeking admission into the church, ''the willingness to be damned should it be for God's glory." What blasphemy! God is not glorified by the damnation of his creatures. "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Matt. xviii. 14.) Besides, if God can be glorified by the salvation of a part, why not by the salvation of all? How comes it that God's glory is so easily satisfied? God's glory is his goodness, his grace; and if he can be glorified by the redemption of one soul, much more by all.
Another lame defence is that predestination has reference to nations, and not individuals. God predestinates the mass; he does not touch the unit. But this will not stand the scrutiny of strong, vigorous thought. Any one who thinks a thing out knows that, in its last analysis, the nation is made up of and is dependent upon the individuals. The individual citizens of a nation determine the nation's destiny. God can only predestinate America by predestinating Americans. This substitution of nations for  individuals is only an artful dodge of the main issue. It is not an explanation; it is only a fog-bank.
Over these caricatures and inadequate apologies some have stumbled to a denial of the doctrine, and a great gospel truth has been obscured and discounted. Gospel truth is usually hurt rather than helped by apologies. We would best let God's word make its own statement and offer its own defence.
The Bible's Statement of Predestination.
Tersely it is given in these words: ''The will of the Lord be done." The fundamental truth there stated is the backbone of predestination. God has a will, a plan, a purpose about the world. He has always had as much. When he started out to make a world there was a definite plan in the mind of the Creator. Nothing was left to chance or fate; everything was a matter of pre-arrangement. ''He hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their  habitation." (Acts xvii. 26.) Why not a dozen primal races instead of one? Because God had a plan, and that plan provided for but one. This will of God has its origin in God's heart. God's plan is the expression of God's goodness. The tap-root of predestination grows out of the soil of divine love. God's decrees are not the manifestation primarily of power, wisdom, expediency, or foreknowledge, but of eternal and unchangeable love.
Let that statement stand out conspicuous and above everything else in the sermon. If you forget all else, remember this, that God's decrees are God's love in thought and action. The evidence of this is abundant in the Bible. Wherever there occurs a statement of predestination, one will find hard by in the context a reference to divine compassion. Perhaps the strongest, clearest statement of predestination is that contained in the latter part of the eighth chapter of Romans, beginning with, "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called." Lying side by side with this, in the same part of the same chapter, is the Bible's strongest, sublimest statement of divine, inseparable love: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans viii. 38, 39.)
The Bible's strongest statement of predestination, and also its strongest statement of divine love, are placed side by side, and the two are joined together with the question, "What shall we then say to these things?" (Rom. viii. 31.) Predestination there, and inseparable love here. What shall we say to predestination ? Inseparable love!
The best thing that can befall the world is the accomplishment of God's will. His plan is wisest, his purposes the most beneficent. Under any and all circumstances predestination says, "the will of the Lord be done," because God's way is best.
"God is in his heaven;
All's well with the world."
 Predestination also means that the will of the Lord will be done. Omnipotence is behind it. God's plan will certainly be carried out sooner or later. Time is no factor with God, because he is without beginning or end; "a thousand years in his sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night." Delays are not defeats with God. Individuals may reject God's plan, but they cannot thwart his purposes. A limited survey of a single chapter of human history may seem to suggest that God's plan is failing, but with wider view comes greater light. History's pages but record
"One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own." By James Russell Lowell.
"The will of the Lord be done." Such is the Bible's statement of predestination. God has a will about the world; his will  is the same now that it has always been; his will is the expression of his love; its accomplishment is the best that can befall the world; its accomplishment is sure.
The Condition Predestination Confronts.
Let us look for a moment now on the field in which God's will is to operate, the condition which predestination meets, and the obstacles it must overcome. The condition is a human race, dead in trespasses and in sins. God's will infringes upon a soul spiritually dead, lost. It will not help the present discussion to inquire into the cause of this, and it will not change the facts either to deny their existence or denounce their cause. One may be spiritually dead and not know it. The story is told that in the days of stout Damascus blades a royal executioner one day cut off a culprit's head, and did it with such skill and deftness that the criminal did not know he was dead. His head retained its position on the trunk, his eyes continued to blink, and his lips to twitch, until the executioner put a pinch of snuff to his nose, when the head sneezed and rolled off on the ground.
One may simulate spiritual life without experiencing it. One may be spiritually dead, and still reason, moralize, and even philosophize about religious truth. His dead condition asserts itself whenever the demand is made upon him for the functions of spiritual life. The Bible recognizes the sinner's total spiritual inertia. "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." (John vi. 44.) "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Rom. ix. 16.) The objection is raised that this is itself a part of the divine plan, and that God is responsible for its existence. ''A weak place in your doctrine," the objector says, "is that predestination has created the very condition it proposes to overcome."
The objection is valid, but over against it stands the fact that predestination was bound to permit the existence of the condition, or else take away man's freedom at the start, and reduce him to a mere automaton. Man was invested with the right of free choice at his creation. In the exercise of that choice he sinned and fell, and as a fact his posterity has continued to sin and fall with him. To object that predestination has created the condition it proposes to cure, is to demand that man be an automaton at creation and a free agent now.
The objection loses its last vestige of plausibility when we confront the gospel call, which clothes the human will with ability to accept, if it chooses to do so, the gracious provisions of the gospel and enter into life. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John vi. 63.)
Into a world peopled with dead souls the champion of spiritual life comes. The device on his shield is a cross, his motto is, ''God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John iii. 16), and the name of this knight is ''Predestination."
The Bible's Interpretation.
Having allowed the Bible to state the doctrine, let us now have the Bible interpret it.  What is the goal of predestination? What does the will of God propose to accomplish? Just what is provided for and decreed in God's everlasting plan.
First, a kingdom. "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared (or predestinated) for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. xxv. 34.) God has a kingdom of redeemed, recovered and enthroned manhood. In this kingdom Christ is sovereign. Into this kingdom God wills that his people shall be gathered and invested with the high rights and holy privileges of citizenship. If predestination provides for this, if it has for its goal the establishment of the glorious kingdom of divine grace, in the stead of Satan's anarchy and sin's misrule, the will of the Lord be done.
Predestination has for its goal the restoration of the fallen and the outcast. This is precisely the lesson taught in the famous passage in Jeremiah about the clay and the potter. (Jer. xviii. 2-6.) The meaning has often been horribly distorted from its plain and evident intention. It has been made to teach that God fashions some lives for an everlasting heaven and others for an endless hell; and he does this because we are clay and he is our potter. Nothing could be further from the meaning of Jeremiah. The potter finds the clay "marred," useless, but instead of casting it away, he touches it with the alchemy of his art, fashions it with the skill of his genius, until under his deft care the "marred" clay becomes a vessel shaped for use and invested with beauty. So God, the divine potter, deals with human clay. He finds us "marred," sinful, but instead of casting us away, he touches us with the alchemy of his holy love and fashions us with the skill of his grace, until under his patient, considerate care, the "marred " clay once more becomes a vessel mete for the Master's use, and invested with imperishable beauty and worth. And when we ask why all this patience and care on the part of the divine potter for the marred clay, the answer is, "That he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared (predestinated) unto glory." (Rom. ix. 23.)
No earthly potter ever makes a vase for thepleasure of destroying it. Why should God? If predestination means such work as this, the will of the Lord be done!
Predestination also provides for all the steps of grace in the restoration of the sinner. "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Rom. viii. 30.) Calling, justification, glorification are all provided for in God's will.
Predestination provides for the gospel call, "Whosoever will may come." (Rev. xxii. 17.) It also provides for the sinner's justification when he accepts the gospel call: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. v. 1.) It also provides for the sinner's glorification: ''We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. iii. 18.)
Thus God's plan sweeps the full gamut of grace, and provides for all that is needed in the redemption of the sinner. If so, the will  of the Lord be done! But the doctrine does not stop here. God's decree provides for goal as well as journey. The goal of the redeemed life is the family of God, and this also is foreordained, "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children." (Eph. i. 5.) God's plan is to gather the wandering prodigals back into their Father's house and under the roof-tree of home. He has "predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. viii. 29.) What a sublime picture of redemption is this! The lost image is to be recovered, the lost home regained, the lost family circle reentered, the lost love ours once more and for ever. The will of the Lord be done!
But the Bible will not let the doctrine go even at this. God's plan pushes further. It ordains ''function as well as favor." It provides for a holy character and a life of service. "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." (Eph. i. 4.) "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. ii. 10.) God predestinates "to good works," to holy living, to service. '' The will of the Lord be done!"
Such is God's statement of the doctrine, and such his interpretations as found in the Scriptures. From first to last it is everywhere and always a predestination to privileges. The decrees do not impoverish but enrich, do not damn but save. Instead of destroying, predestination recovers and establishes human freedom. It substitutes the motives of divine love for those of sin. There is no freedom so great as the freedom to do right. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John viii. 36.)
In carrying out his beneficent plan, and accomplishing his holy purposes, God lays under tribute earth and heaven, nations and individuals, nature and grace, time and eternity. In one place we are told that the times were ''shortened for the elect's sake.'' (Matt. xxiv. 22.) High up above all that transpires this glorious doctrine soars, proclaiming its  victorious ascendancy over chance and fate, and cheering God's people in battle, discipline and service with that topmost promise of grace: ''All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom. viii. 28.)
Do I believe in predestination? Yes; but not in the nightmare of it. I do not believe in the caricature of the doctrine; but let the Bible present and interpret, and I subscribe to predestination unreservedly. I could not believe in the gospel if I did not believe in this fundamental doctrine of grace, for its scope takes in the gospel in its entirety. I believe that the provisions of grace are not afterthoughts of God, but forethoughts.
Renan, with a sneer, said: "Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat John Calvin." Monsieur Renan's genealogical table is good enough for Presbyterians. If Calvin be the theological successor of Augustine, and Augustine of Paul, their doctrines are from heaven, for Paul caught his message close from the lips of the risen Christ.
''The will of the Lord be done.'' Why?  Because it is the wisest, the most merciful, the best; because it establishes an everlasting kingdom on the ruins of sin, and makes all believers children of the kingdom; because it rebuilds home and gathers the wanderer once more into the family of God; because it gives to life its saintliest character and to the world its most disinterested and self-sacrificing service.
Predestination pushes heavenward with the destiny of the human race in its keeping. The will of God is the hope of the world. God's face is against sin. He is always found fighting on the side of man's highest good and best happiness. Our only hope of some day coming off conquerors, and more than conquerors, is that we have a God whose will is omnipotent, whose eye never sleeps, whose arm never grows weary, and whose great loving heart has determined that his people shall at last be victors.
"I say to thee, do them repeat
To the first man whom thou mayest meet
In lane, highway, or open street,
"That he and we and all men move
Under a canopy of love
As broad as the blue sky above;
"That doubt and trouble, fear and pain,
And anguish, all are shadows vain,
That death itself shall not remain.
"That weary deserts we may tread,
A dreary labyrinth may thread,
Through dark ways underground be led;
"Yet if we will one guide obey,
The dreariest path, the darkest way,
Shall issue out in heavenly day;
"And we, on divers shores now cast,
Shall meet, our perilous voyage past,
All in our Father's house at last. —By Richard C. Trench.
"THE WILL OF THE LORD BE DONE!"