Don’t Skip the Introduction

A great anecdote from Charles Nisbet, who back in the day was friends with the more famous John Witherspoon:

For a time, [Nisbet] served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian church on the square of Carlisle, in addition to his educational responsibilities. Once during that ministry, a woman of the congregation announced to him that she thought she could preach as well as he did. So Dr. Nisbet told her that before she would be allowed into the pulpit, she would have to know how to preach. She readily agreed, and was instructed that the average sermon had an introduction, a three point outline, and an application. When she asked him for a text, he responded with Proverbs 21:9, which states, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, then with a brawling woman in a wide house.” The woman was indignant, asking whether the pastor thought she was such a woman. Dr. Nisbet replied, “Oh my dear, you are already at the application. You must go back first and deal with the introduction.”

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share a good joke, and introduce the readers of the ‘house to This Day in Presbyterian History. It’s only been running for 18 days now, so it’s not too late to catch up (starting with Jan 1, the anniversary of Machen’s death).

This Day in Presbyterian History is written by Rev. Dr. David T. Myers, son of Rev. Dr. David K. Myers (whose memoir I helped to publish). Another connection; Charles Nisbet emigrated from Scotland to become the first president of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA; in the summer of 1992 I taught on the Dickinson Campus for CTY.

This entry was posted in Christian life, History, Humor, Links, Plugs, Protestant preaching, Quotes, Resources, Review, Some fun. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Don’t Skip the Introduction

  1. dr p says:

    OK, I volunteer to get things started: as amusing as I found this incident, I can only imagine what would have happened to Rev Nisbet in a modern PCA congregation, particularly if his interlocutrix (?) had held the highest office in our denomination; ie elder’s wife. The only question would be over the timing and method of his assisted departure.

  2. RubeRad says:

    the highest office in our denomination; ie elder’s wife.

    Hyuk, hyuk. Seriously though, the only PCA church I have any real knowledge of is my own, and that doesn’t grok with my experience. But then again, we used to be an OPC, and despite hopping denominations, we’re only heading higher-church.

  3. dr p says:

    @RR: then you must be truly blessed; in my experience the elders’ wives, although not exactly making their husbands wear their wedding rings in their noses, certainly wore their husbands’ ranks better than I ever saw whilst in the army. BTW by “higher-church” do you mean faux Anglican a la Tyler, or more along historical Presbyterian lines (eg the real RPW)?

  4. Zrim says:

    Why is the Christian Curmudgeon tagged for this? But it seems Nisbet is demonstrating the important difference between a male chauvinist and a male chauvinist pig.

  5. RubeRad says:

    I don’t know about Anglican/Tyler. And “real RPW” does not really describe it, because all that really says to me is “Psalms only”. We do sing more Psalms, but there is no chance of going exclusive. I think what I mean is more historical, dialogical, and intentional in our liturgy. Back in the day our services were pretty much just “singin” followed by “prayin”, concluding with “preachin”. But nowadays our liturgical structure is very pronounced and substantial: Call, Invokation, Psalm, Scripture, Confession, Absolution, Song of Preparation, Prayer of the Church, Scripture, Preaching, Lord’s Supper, Benediction.

  6. RubeRad says:

    I was speed-tagging. I guess I was thinking “Christian Curmudgeon” is to be applied sarcastically. I think somebody needs to clean up that tag list some time. (I mean, come on, a whole tag for Dario Franchitti & Ashley Judd?)

    As for the Driscoll interview, I haven’t listened yet, but that transcript is certainly an eyebrow-raising highlight.

  7. Zrim says:

    Ashley can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, so she gets her own tag. Take that, Mark “I’M MANNER THAN YOU!” Driscoll.

  8. dr p says:

    @RR: real RPW is more than a capella exclusive psalmody; most think of it negatively as no holy days, but forget that that leaves 52 Sabbaths per year to receive their due honour. I came to this position whilst ibn the RPCNA, but have modified it a bit because I believe that long pastoral prayers are less Scriptural and more low mass. Our PCA congregation uses the traditional American Bapterian “hymn sandwich” format, with a monthy communion glommed on at the end like one of Bogart’s cigarettes; hardly Reformed and making me nostalgic for my brief encounter with real RPW worship in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia. From that persepctive, I missed my old LCMS days with chanted psalms and incense; to borrow from CS Lewis, I like my will-worship as I like my whisky – neat. As for Tyler, it describes the cabal of James Jordan, Ray Sutton and a few others who taught a strange chimera of liturgical worship, 2-office polity, and paedocommunion in the erstwhile PCA congregation in Tyler, TX, back when I was just introduced to the OPC in the mid ’80’s

  9. RubeRad says:

    Hmmm. I’ll take a pass on anything to do with JJ. But it sounds like my church might be up your alley (or at least we’re heading up a parallel alley ourselves — our Long Prayer isn’t going anywhere. We are Presbyterians after all).

    In terms of chanted psalms, that is also something I remember fondly from previous episcopal experience (Episcosperience?). I recently ran across this new book, which includes Psalm Tones (see p. 5 in the preview) that I was hoping to demonstrate to my pastor to see if he would be interested in giving them a try.

  10. RubeRad says:

    Aha, I see now that “Christian Curmudgeon” must be in reference to a particular member of our blogroll. When did that guy get Outhouse-Sainted?

  11. dr p says:

    @RR: I checked out your link, but will stick with the 1650 for our family devotions. At the very least, it works for those of use who are musically challenged.

  12. Zrim says:

    DP, the sort of high church Calvinism espoused here isn’t FV friendly. When I think high church Calvinism I think of this sort of liturgical and sacramental doxology, which includes weekly communion but not paedo.

  13. dr p says:

    @Zrim: glad to hear that you share my negative view of FV, although I could say that the link shows “Tyler Lite.” Liturgical colours are more associated with Anglicans and Lutherans than Reformed, which is either suit and tie or Geneva gown. Since you aren’t a Tylerite, would you be so kind in explaining to me the attraction of this sort of thing? Again, I get it with the Anglicans, Lutherans, and Catholics of various stripes, but the Presbyterians baffle me.

  14. RubeRad says:

    So Z, is Redeemer Traverse City where you go now? (Or are you still suffering in the CRC)?

    the Presbyterians baffle me

    Dr P, most Presbyterians baffle us too. Have you read this? I can’t remember if this was posted before you found us.

  15. dr p says:

    @RR: read your links, and must raise an heartfelt “Kaka de toro!” thereto. Traditional Presbyterian worship follows from the Standards, including those not recognised by the American church. What DGH and all too many others offer is, well, the same sort of mix-n-match, whatever-floats-your-boat logic cum niche marketing the CCW crowd does; the difference boils down to personal aesthetics.

    I have before me “The Directory for the Publick Worship of God” as found in the FPC’s WCF, in which I see none of the liturgical innovation (including instruments, hymns of human composition, lectionary year, etc) associated with so-called HIgh Church Presbyterinaism. The Kirk did not mean its directory to be an ecclesial “Hints from Heloise” which a church may wish to consider; rather, it was the outline of what was expected and enforced. Back then, going to church wasn’t like Forrest Gump’s mum’s box of chocolates – you knew what to expect.

    I’m not inclined to get into a test of wills and bladders over exclusive psalmody, mainly because I don’t strictly hold to it myself (I’ll accept the other canticles of Scripture, but no man-made hymns). However, I chafe at the handling of church history in the same manner libs handle the constitution (“it means what it means to me today”), and I think there is more to battlling CCW than merely asserting one’s own preferences. Also, like Chesterton, I beliieve in giving our forebears a vote.

  16. RubeRad says:

    Well then probably OHS Scott Clark is to your liking. He says much the same in RRC (although more to do with confessions than DPW/BCO), and ever so generously goes “beyond” exclusive psalmody to exclusive canonicity. It’s as if somebody walked into an argument about “exclusive earthism” and “spaceism”, and tried to appease with “earth-and-atmospherism”

  17. dr p says:

    @RR: as for Clark, I find his concepts of QIRC and QIRE enthralling, but I’ll wager I hold to a number of positions he’d find exasperating (eg 6/24). I left the OPC (for the first time) in 1986 when I had to leave the area for residency training; it was the MInority Report by Murray that convinced me of (well-nigh) exclusive psalmody and the RPW more than anything the RP’s had to offer.

  18. Zrim says:

    Rube, Redeemer TVC is our church away from home. But we are in the process of transferring our membership from the local CRC to the local URC. From what I understand, RTVC is also where the local URCers find themselves when in the great white north. I’m grateful for my hometown to finally have an orthodox work in its midst these last few years.

    DP, the pastor is a friend of mine who was raised Lutheran, so I suspect that the colors are something of a residual Lutheranism, which doesn’t bother me in the least, though I’d prefer the Genevan gown over either the colors or the suit and tie. But your point about chocolates is well taken. I have often found it baffling how the only tradition that has something like the RPW isn’t also the most predictable. One more or less knows what he will get in any four corners of the earth in a Pentecostal church, which is all about spontaneity and innovation, yet one actually has to do his homework to find Reformed worship according to Scripture when out of town. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? This is why the traditionalists are of no help.

  19. RubeRad says:

    I don’t think Clark is agin 6/24 per se, but the assertion (and attempted enforcement!) that it is required for orthodoxy.

  20. dr p says:

    @RR: I’ll have a whisky with anyone, and I’m loathe to judge the intentions of those with whom I disagree, but sitting under anything other than 6/24 pegs my gnosticism metre.

    @Zrim: IMNSHO modern-day Reformed types have turned the RPW into a nose of wax. Indeed, my intro to CCW was through the OPC courtesy of the RHM (Buffalo) Chip Stonehouse; I couldn’t square what he did with what I had to learn in my new members’ class, but later via the RPCNA I realised that, except for those churches which still hold to exclusive psalmody, the term was nothing more than Reformed in-house jargon. We differed from the fundies insofar as we responsively read Psalm selections a la Zwingli, recited a creed, and didn’t sing “I Come to the Garden Alone” or “The Old Rugged Cross” – two hymns best accompanied by steam calliope or, for poorer congregations, an organ-grinder cum monkey*. The fact that “Master the Tempest is Raging” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” are both in the blue Trinity Hymnal (the one used at the Last Supper) never seemed to raise an eyebrow or provoke introspection.
    *if used for special music, one may consider a tuba ensembe

  21. Zrim says:

    DP, you’re killing me with the organ grinder and monkey stuff. But our URC still shows a lot of evidence of revivalist influence. “Great Hymns of the Faith” sits beside the blue Psalter. The last time I saw that revivalist hymn book was in our old IFCA. I about choked when we first walked in. Good thing pateince is a Reformed virtue.

  22. RubeRad says:

    Nice turn of phrase Dr P — you are right on the mon(k)ey. I too have a keen ear for revivalist hymns. My rule of thumb is, if it would sound right as background music for a carousel, then it was written around 1880, +/- 20years

  23. Zrim says:

    And almost invariably by a woman. I always envision Fanny Crosy looking like Tweety Bird’s mother.

  24. dr p says:

    Out of respect for the departed hymnodist and outhouse decorum, I’ll refrain from my usual remark when Miss Crosby’s name is mentioned; suffice it to say, though, that she continues to inspire my confidence in exclusive psalmody. Then again, I’ve endured some rather putrid Psalm renditions as well, particularly a faux Latin setting juitable for precenting by Ricky Ricardo; perhaps the “selah’s” could be replaced with a “babaloo!” or two to achieve cultural relevancy?

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