Category Archives: History

No Consideration for Rights Abandoned

During the last year, we have heard many stories about freedom of speech in the work place. These have come from a variety of people including NFL players and conservative Google employees. Is freedom of speech protected at work? The answer is not very clear.

However, during the 19th century, one man faced opposition for what he wrote about politics during his own time. After publishing articles under an assumed name, the clerk of the office of the Secretary of the United States Senate was confronted by his superior for expressing his opposition to the election of Andrew Jackson (1829-37). Apparently, his pseudonym had not hidden his identity very well.

Was it inappropriate for him to express his views outside of the workplace because of his position? In other words, should government officials be quiet about their political leanings on their own time? While there may be times when one’s position should prohibit his mouth from talking too freely, this clerk was not so inclined.

“Upon entering the public office, I engaged to perform, to the best of my ability, a known and prescribed duty; to conform to the instructions of the head of the office relating to that duty; and to receive as an equivalent for the services thus rendered, not as a consideration for rights abandoned, the compensation which might be allowed by law. But I never did engage to become an automaton or machine; to look on unmoved, or without effort, when I should see the republic institution of my country in danger, or to surrender a single right of an American citizen.

In the office and during the hours devoted to its duties, I acknowledge and obey an official superior. When my official duty has closed, I stand on an equal footing with any man that breathes. In the hours of relaxation from the toil and drudgery of office, my thoughts shall wander as discursive as the air; my opinions, uncontrolled by human authority, shall be embodied in any form my judgment shall approve; … it shall be my endeavor to treasure up these precious fragments of existence, and devote them to objects which I may deem beneficial to my family or society, and pleasing to that Being who has the time of all at his command.”1

Lewis H. Machen (1790-1863)

Machen wasn’t willing to give in to pressure just because someone disapproved of his opinions. He stood up for what he believed and continued speaking despite the frowns of those who were over him. While opinions may need to be held back at work, there is no law in the United States holding back the free expression of ideas at other times, nor should there be.

1As quoted in J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir by Ned B. Stonehouse.

Interesting Architecture

When Bible Community Church was going through a growth spurt years ago, the congregation chose to build our current building which was designed by some famous/infamous architect known for large windows. The building which is located at 8600 Lakeshore Blvd. in Mentor, Ohio is not so odd looking until you visit the auditorium.

As you can see, the roof rests on a large purple pole which just so happens to be in the middle of the platform. This pole has been the subject of many jokes, has been hidden during weddings, and could be the ideal prop for telling the story of Zacchaeus (or Samson’s death for that matter). But whatever your thoughts about “the pole,” it still catches my attention just about every time I enter the auditorium.

Definition: Protestant

This evening I came across a good explanation of the term Protestant. The explanation is given while describing the historical time when the German states were divided according to each prince’s religious beliefs. The Holy Roman Emperor had signed the Edict of Worms which considered Luther and his followers outlaws because of their opposition to the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Charles [the Holy Roman Emperor] ordered the German rulers to … enforce the Edict of Worms throughout Germany. But this was too much, even for some of the Roman Catholic princes. However, the Diet did make some changes. By majority vote it ordered the Edict of Worms enforced in all Catholic states. In them no Lutherans were to be allowed to practice their religion. Where the edict could not be enforced without bloodshed, both Lutheran and Roman Catholic teachings were to be permitted.

The Lutheran princes refused to accept such a rule. They argued that it was unfair and demanded the Lutheran lands should be and remain strictly Lutheran. “We protest before God and before men,” the Lutheran princes declared, “that we and our people will not agree to anything in this decree that is contrary to God, to His holy Word, to our right conscience, and to the salvation of our souls.”

Notice the word “protest.” When the Lutheran princes used it, they meant it in the sense of “testify,” or “tell what we believe.” From that time on they were known as the Protesters or as the Protestants. This name lives on today and is used to identify Christian churches which do not agree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic religion.

Frederick Knohl, Martin Luther: Hero of Faith, (St. Louis: Concordia, 1962), 97.

With the statistics quoted in articles such as “Most Americans believe many religions lead to heaven“, it may surprise some that this is still an issue after 500 years. But in reality, what one believes does make a difference. For instance, Richard Bennett, a former Catholic priest, does a good job of comparing what the Bible teaches and what is taught by the Roman Catholic religion in this article about justification.

The full picture of the Roman Catholic salvation process begins with new birth, which is said to occur in infant baptism and which purportedly washes away original sin. The process of salvation is a long journey through all the sacraments, with the Sacrifice of the Mass, central to most events. Good works, merit, sacraments and saints, are all involved, but the focal point is always on inner moral goodness which one is always attempting to increase in order to be good enough to die in “sanctifying grace” and then to be saved or at least to land for a time in purgatory. In the Roman teaching, no assurance of salvation is ever given, even to the most devout.

This, sadly, has convinced many people that they can be good enough to earn God’s favor. But the Bible plainly teaches that we all are sinful people who have no hope except for the fact that Jesus died for us (see Rom. 3:21-26). That’s quite a difference. If you’re not convinced, read the rest of Bennett’s article.

Because of this important difference and many others, I will continue to claim the title Protestant. In the words of Martin Luther, “Unless I am convinced by the Holy Scriptures or by sound reasoning … I am tied by the Scriptures I have quoted and by my conscience. … God help me. Amen.

Cupola Tour

The state capitol building in Columbus offers tours of the building to various groups. While visiting family in Columbus, we had the opportunity to take the tour hosted by none other than my brother, Mike. It was quite interesting to see the historical aspects of the building. And the architectural layout of the building is interesting especially when you realize that electrical indoor lighting was not available at the time of its construction (begun 1838-40). However, the most interesting section of the structure is the cupola. If you have never had the opportunity to visit this off limits area (like me, hint hint), This Week Community Newspapers gave permission to link to this video on their web site of Mike giving a tour.

Click here to view the three minute video. You’ll enjoy it despite its likeness to a B-rated martial arts sound track. Our video camera does the same thing, so what can I say?

For more information about the state capitol, download this five page history. Or just ask my brother.

Alexander Alane

Alexander Alane was a Scotsman born April 23, 1500 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the age of 15, he graduated from St. Andrews and became a canon (clergy who lives at the church) in the St. Andrews collegiate church. Alexander became quite the defender of the Roman Catholic Church. So much so that, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, Alexander was unconvinced and continued to stand for the old faith instead of Luther’s “heresy.” Thankfully, his thinking would later change.

In the year 1528, the Scottish Reformer Patrick Hamilton was deceived into attending a debate with the Archbishop Beaton. But instead of being given the opportunity to argue the merits of his views, Hamilton was imprisoned and given over to Alexander Alane in hopes of converting him back to Roman Catholicism. But Hamilton was no match for the godly reformer. His godly testimony made an impact on the life of the twenty-eight year old Alexander.

He had been chosen to meet Hamilton in controversy, with a view to convincing him of his errors, but the arguments of the Scottish proto-martyr, and above all the spectacle of his heroism at the stake, impressed Alesius so powerfully that he was won over to the cause of the Reformers.1

After Hamilton’s martyrdom, Alexander embraced Reformation doctrine especially because of Hamilton’s godly testimony as compared to his superior’s immoral life style. His new thinking became known when he preached against the immorality of the clergy before the Synod of St. Andrews. He was imprisoned for this preaching for almost a year, but later escaped to the continent with the help of some friends. He eventually settled in Wittenberg, Germany where he met Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon who gave him the Latin name Alesius (pronounced “uh-lee-shus”).

All went well for Alexander despite his being condemned as a heretic by the Scottish church. But in 1533, when the Scottish laity decreed that the common people could not read the New Testament, Alexander blew his top. He wrote several strong letters to King James V arguing that the Scriptures should be made available to the common man. (He eventually wrote 28 books about this subject.) But the only answer given him was his excommunication by the deputy for the archbishop of St. Andrews in 1534.

Things changed, however, when King Henry VIII took the throne. In 1535 Alexander was able to visit England with a letter of recommendation from Melanchthon. There he was well received by the king and his advisors and was given a post at Cambridge University. But the good times were not to last. After only a few lectures about the Hebrew psalms, a papal party saw to it that he was dismissed. Then in 1540, when King Henry VIII began to lean toward Roman Catholicism again, Alexander decided it would be better for him to return to Germany.

But Alexander’s work was “not in vain in the Lord.” After a short term at another school, the Lord enabled him to teach at Leipzig University for 21 years. During that time, change did take place in Scotland. In 1543, the Scottish Parliament passed a decree allowing the reading of the Bible. Then toward the end of his life, the Scottish Reformation broke loose in 1560. Despite the fact that he never returned to his native country, Alexander enjoyed a fruitful ministry in Germany. It was there that Alexander Alane died March 17, 1565.

The life story of Alexander Alane reminds me of that of the Apostle Paul. Both were zealously involved with the persecution of the Church (Gal. 1:13-17). And after being converted, both were greatly used by the Lord away from their native land. May the Lord open the eyes of more like Alexander Alane who will preach the true gospel both here and in other lands.


“Alesius, Alexander.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001–04. April 11, 2007.

“Alesius, Alexander.” Who’s Who in Christian History. Ed. J. D. Douglas. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1992. 15.

“Alexander Alane.” The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes. Vol. III. 1907–21. April 11, 2007.

“Alexander Ales.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 11, 2007.

“Alexander Ales.” About: Medieval History. April 11, 2007.

“Hamilton, Patrick.” Who’s Who in Christian History. Ed. J. D. Douglas. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1992. 301.

“Luther, Martin.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. April 11, 2007.

Five Years Ago …

Many people have changed their mind about the decision to attack Iraq a few years ago. As the number of casualties rises, and the media talks about the lack of progress, I wonder how long things can continue as they have been. But look back a few years. Remember the events surrounding September 11th, the reports about WMD, and all the emotions involved? I recall that most Americans were for the conflict at the time. On February 13, 2002, columnist Michael Kelly wrote an article that well represents what we were thinking.

I would argue that Bush’s new doctrine is as good as doctrine generally gets—necessary and workable, although not perfect. The chief points for the “axis of evil” doctrine may be seen in considering the chief points against it:

• It is “simplisme.” It is simplistic, or simple-minded, as the French foreign minister, whose name is Petain or Maginot or something, sniffed last week. C’est vrai. It is indeed “simplisme” to pick fights with evil regimes just because those regimes want to kill you or enslave you or at least force you to knuckle under and collaborate in their evil, when one might choose the far safer and far more profitable path of shrugging one’s shoulders in a fetchingly Gallic fashion and sending one’s Jews off to the camps, as one’s new masters in government request.

On the other hand, as the foreign minister might have noticed, the French may today enjoy springtime in Paris without the annoying sounds of jackboots all over the place, and the reason for that was the simple-minded determination of the British, the Russians and the Americans to fight the Nazis and to die by the millions, in order to make the world safe for, among other creatures, future French foreign ministers. “Simplisme” works. Against evil, it is the only thing that does.

• It is a confusion between war and police work. This argument holds that terrorism is a crime (as opposed to the official belligerence of a state) and that the terrorist groups we wish to destroy are criminal enterprises (as opposed to states), so war (which is between states) is wrongheaded. Yes, terrorists are criminals. But they are, in specific cases, state-sanctioned and -supported. The specific cases involve, as Bush noted, the states of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The state support of terrorism vastly magnifies its threat. Without the Taliban and Afghanistan, al Qaeda would have been an evil without a country — fundamentally vulnerable, weak, baseless. Terrorists supported and hidden by nations enjoy not only the wealth of nations but also the protection of nations: They enjoy a shield of sovereignty that effectively puts them outside the law of other nations — outside the realm of police forces and courts.

Only military force can pierce this shield (the Hague got Slobodan Milosevic in the end, but only because the U.S. Air Force got him first). It is not possible to end terrorism. It is possible to end the state support that raises terrorism’s danger to levels that threaten other states. But only by going after the states: war, not police patrols.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

My Father Planned it All

In the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, something good happened in Cochranton, Pennsylvania. The local Presbyterian church was in need of a pastor. And being unable to find a pastor from their own denomination, they interviewed a man from the Evangelical United Brethren. The church extended the call to him, but before accepting, he made one stipulation. He must be allowed to give a salvation invitation at the conclusion of every service. The leadership of the church agreed to this and the man began preaching the gospel in the United Presbyterian church.

The Spirit used his presentation of the gospel to open the hearts of quite a few people, including a little boy named Hobart. As Hobart listened to the message, he began thinking about his own sinfulness. Could God save someone like him? One morning, as the pastor preached, the good news of the gospel pierced his heart. But when the invitation was given, he didn’t respond. He wanted to make that commitment by himself away from the pressures of the crowd. Finally one evening, Hobart knelt beside his bed and called out to the Lord for salvation. And that night, God saved him.

Shortly after Hobart’s conversion, the church began to experience a division within its membership. While people had been saved under this pastor’s ministry, some of the members began to feel agitated. It may have been his constant use of the salvation invitation that caused them to dislike him. But some think the problem was the fact that many of the older members simply didn’t know the Lord. The pastor’s continued stress on salvation caused them to squirm in their seats. But, whatever the case may be, the older members got their way, and the gospel preaching pastor finally left the church.

This true story was told to me by my father-in-law during the week of Thanksgiving. The story is especially interesting because it is the account of his own conversion. It is also a wonderful account of how God graciously placed his servant in the right place at the right time. As you consider what God did for one boy many years ago, think also of the details of your own conversion. No matter how exciting or dull your story may seem to be, it is good to look back and see how God planned it all out. What a great God we serve!

An Ancient Treasure

Wednesday evening, our family visited Grandpa Grimes, Uncle Bob, and my parents in Meadville, Pennsylvania. After going out for supper we went back to the house to talk and look over the boxes of things grandpa is trying to get rid of. He and Uncle Bob saved a treasure for me—an 1828 Bible which belonged to grandpa’s great uncle, Moses Grimes. (I think that’s right but am not sure because there are two relatives named Moses.) The inside cover has several names written in it, including: Moses, his daughter Deborah (1839), Bert Grimes (1842), J. Ernest Grimes (my great grandfather), Robert G. Grimes, Sr. (1974), and Robert G. Grimes, Jr. (2006).

No genealogies were included in this Bible, but tucked away in the back cover was a copy of the National Sunday School Teacher lesson paper for January 1872. The lesson for January 14 proposes this central truth for Hebrews 4:11-16: Jesus is the perfect Mediator between us and God.

In the last lesson we learned that Jesus is the exalted Savior, elevated to be our Lord and King that he might send us blessings. In this lesson we are to find him standing as a loving Mediator between us and God. The connection of the first three verses and the great central truth to be taught is not at once obvious. The course of thought seems to be: We are in danger of losing the rest of heaven through unbelief; God’s word searches us as a sharp, piercing sword, and exposes all our unfitness for that rest, but in Jesus we have a divine and compassionate Mediator, who feels and pities our infirmities.

It is obvious that the lessons are geared toward the self-motivated Bible student as this first paragraph is followed by no less than 39 questions, such as:

Why is heaven called a rest?
How does unbelief prevent our entering heaven?
In what sense is the Word of God quick and living?
How has Jesus as our High Priest made atonement for us?
What is meant by holding fast our profession or confession?
What does Christ’s mediation procure us at this throne?
Why do we need mercy?

After all the questions, the lesson ends with an “easy” question:

Describe Alexandria in Egypt, to which the Epistle to the Hebrews is supposed to have been sent.

Not bad for a 134 year old Sunday School lesson. By the way, if you’d like to order a lesson, the back page offers them for “One cent each, or 75 cents per hundred. In packes of ten or more, can be ordered by the month of year without the TEACHER. ADAMS, BLACKMER, & LYON PUB. CO., Chicago, Ill.” Let me know when you get your’s.


My previous experience with Lutherans had been limited to what Grace MacDonald (Bible Community Church) had told me about her Lutheran upbringing in Wisconsin. Until Dale’s recent comments about this article, I was only aware that the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) was more conservative than the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America). But I couldn’t tell you if either was faithful to the Scriptures. Because of the prevalence of theological liberalism in mainline denominations it has been easier to view all Lutherans as liberal until proven conservative. Dale’s comments gave me the desire to look into things a little closer.

Apparently there are three major divisions of the Lutheran denomination: ELCA, LCMS, and WELS. WELS is the acronym for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. From what I have read, it seems to be the most conservative of the three.

WELS, characterized as theologically conservative, is the third largest Lutheran church body in America. With national offices today at 2929 N. Mayfair Rd., Milwaukee, Wis., WELS began in 1850 when three German pastors met in Milwaukee. Today, it has grown to over 1,200 congregations in North America. It has over 400,000 baptized members, which includes over 300,000 communicants, served by over 1,000 pastors.

During its history, WELS has taken a stand for what they believe. In 1961, they separated from the LCMS because of what they believed to be error in doctrine and practice. Of interest is their explanation of that withdrawal of fellowship between the WELS and LCMS.

Since 1872, when this confessionally sound federation of Lutheran synods was founded, the member synods were fully agreed on the fellowship principles that had brought them together. All held that complete confessional unity is the necessary scriptural basis for all practice of church fellowship, that is, for pulpit, altar, and prayer fellowship.

… In 1960, the Missouri men submitted their “Theology of Fellowship” to the Joint Union Committees. On the crucial point noted above, this document spoke of a “growing edge of fellowship” and contended that “in reaching out to those not yet in confessional fellowship with us there is the possibility of the beginning of the practice of fellowship.” This was the start of what has become Missouri’s position on “levels of fellowship.” In the meetings in May 1960, after three days of discussions, the Wisconsin delegation recognized that the consideration of this subject had reached an impasse.

The doctrine of church fellowship became the primary divisive issue that resulted in the 1961 Wisconsin Synod resolution suspending fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The resolution recognized the “Theses on Church Fellowship” [link] as “an expression of the scriptural principles on which the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has stood and which have guided it in its practice for many years.” Since their appearance the theses have been and are still recognized as such.

I don’t know enough about the WELS or LCMS to consider either a fundamentalist Lutheran denomination. And I would certainly disagree with the practice of infant baptism as described in this and other Q&A. But it is interesting to read about their willingness to defend and separate from those not holding to what they consider sound doctrine.