/ Nathan Eshelman

Theoretical-Practical Memorial Day

Here are some thoughts on Memorial Day that I sent to my congregation this morning:

Memorial Day became popular after the First World War (it started after the Civil War) as graves of fallen soldiers were decorated with flags, ribbons, and other commemorations for the sacrifice of a life for our nation. The RPCNA has always had an "it's complicated" relationship with the US government due to the Constitution not recognizing Jesus Christ as the king of the nation and God, in the Scriptures, being the source of authority for governance. Much RPCNA ink has been spilled on this topic.

Despite the "it's complicated" nature of our relationship with the government, the RPCNA has always loved our nation and our sons were always willing to give their lives for the freedom for which our nation stands. The RPCNA is the only Presbyterian denomination that has sons that have fought and died in every war in US history--from the American Revolution to today's conflicts in the Middle East. The one exception was the Mexican-American War because the synod declared it an unjust war (a power and land grab that sought to extend slavery into Mexico).  As Memorial Day became popular during the First World War, the RPCNA sought to both fight/defend and reform. Our syond sent the following letter to the president of the United States in the hopes of balancing this fight/defend and reform spirit:

Dear Mr. President:—The Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church sends greetings. Strength and wisdom unto you from our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Church, deeply interested in the welfare of the country and the progress of the war, wishes to express gratitude to God and to you for the manner in which the power of the nation is employed in defense of the world's freedom.

We believe there never was a more righteous cause; the fight is for the rights and liberties won in all former battles. The final issue of the war, in our judgment, is certain; victory, vindication and peace; but its protraction, with the cost of blood, treasure and tears, appalls us. We are not afraid of the enemy; but regarding the long exhausting process at evidence of God's displeasure, we tremble. Serious inquiry is surely now in order.

We believe the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of Nations has a place in national government, which has not been accorded Him; has a part in the war, which has not been duly recognized; has supreme power to coordinate the nations and restore peace; and that His power should be acknowledged and honored by the nations. The Bible says: "Be wise, O ye kings; kiss the Son, lest He be angry." "All kings shall bow down before Him; all nations shall serve." "He is King of kings, and Lord of lords."

We believe the greatest need of the times is the recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Moral Governor of the nations. The heart of mankind, almost in despair, cries out for a deliverer. None but Jesus can deliver, for the Father has given the nations into His hand. We beseech you, therefore, to use your office to the utmost, to give the NAME of Jesus Christ prestige in your administrational work, and to recommend to the Congress the recognition of His authority in the laws of the country, endeavoring to harmonize the government with His will.

We know you have no precedent in modern history for your herculean task. But these are times when we look not backward for examples, but upward for vision, and onward for action. A mighty flood has carried us beyond all landmarks. The Lord, who has elevated you to the highest office of the land, and to the most influential position in the world, give you power and wisdom to reach the greatest possibilities of your office for the redemption of the world, that looks for a man, and listens for a voice, to lead her out of the present horror, into the marvelous light of the God of peace.

Very respectfully,
G. A. EDGAR, Moderator.
D. C MATHEWS, Clerk.

As our sons gave their lives for this nation and as the synod sought to reform both church and state, the RPCNA was pleased to take time to pause, give honor, and commemorate those who gave their lives for freedom and open access for the Gospel to go forward.  World War I saw 604 RPCNA men serve and 15 die; the Irish RP Church had 242 serve and 48 die, and the Scottish RPC had 164 serve and 33 die.

Despite the complicated history between the USA and the RPCNA, the RPCNA has been loyal to this nation and the cause of freedom--not theoretically--but practically willing to give her sons to die.

One historian reflects this way:

"The Covenanters conception of civil government is to them something more than a theory;it is a sacred and fundamental principle. So thoroughly are they persuaded of the correctness of their conception, and its divine sanction, that they have consecrated themselves before God to "maintain the responsibility of nations to God, the rightful dominion of Jesus Christ over the commonwealth and the obligation of nations to legislate in conformity with the written Word.
The Covenanters have ever been a loyal people."
 -John W. Pritchard, Soldiers of the Church.

As you remember today, know that the Reformed Presbyterian Church has done her part in shedding blood for freedom. For us national conviction and political theory and the reign of Christ has been more than something argued in the classrooms of Geneva College or the lecture halls of RPTS, it is a truth for which our sons have died.

Jesus Christ is king.

For Christ's Crown and Covenant,
Pastor Nathan

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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