Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

Manuscript Collections :
Synthetic Collections :


[excerpted from The Christian Beacon, 2.17 (3 June 1937): 1, 4.]

The following memorial minute was adopted by the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, on May 31, in honor of the late Dr. J. Gresham Machen, founder and first president of the Board.

In the departure from earth of the Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D.D., the members of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and all of those interested in its work have lost the fellowship and guidance of a man who stood out from among any company in which he found himself as pre-eminent in the ability to think clearly, to analyze situations, to testify effectively for Christ’s cause and to press home to the intelligent man the claims of the Christian Gospel to a respectful hearing and a considered response.

Dr. Machen carried with him throughout life the unmistakable evidence of having been nurtured in a home where values are assessed upon a scale of inward worth rather than of outward show. The glory that crowned the old South was richly reflected in this son of Maryland.

The years that Dr. Machen gave largely to study were spent in places where his talents could fruitfully develop. The Johns Hopkins University in its earlier years, Princeton Theological Seminary, the Universities of Marburg and Gottingen were academic institutions which gave him opportunities for labor and reflection.

Dr. Machen’s personal decision to commit himself wholeheartedly to the exposition of the Christian faith was not made in either a routine or an ill-considered manner. He weighed the evidence in favor of the Christian position carefully and thoughtfully before he decided that he should use his life in defending that position before a hostile world. That it was a hostile world was a fact concerning which he was not for a moment in doubt. He share none of the current illusions concerning the compatibility of the Christian faith with the temper of this world.

Dr. Machen’s ability to state the Christian position with clarity, vigor and essential dignity was not long in making itself manifest. To the volume of the Presbyterian Theological Review for 1912 Dr. Machen contributed three articles on questions related to the Virgin birth of our Lord which marked an interest in this theme that continued throughout his life and saw its crown in the volume, The Virgin Birth of Christ, which was completed in 1930 and appeared in a second, revised edition in 1932.

The volume entitled Christianity and Liberalism was recognized by the true Christian public as the vade mecum of every thinking Christian in the contemporary battle between Christianity and its most dangerous present-day opponents. The volumes which followed this one were hailed with delight by Christians who love the Reformed faith and wish to see it effectively presented.

But Dr. Machen’s books were not the only medium by which he presented the Gospel. His ten-minute talks in the chapel of Princeton University at week-day chapel services for the undergraduates were gems of clear brilliance. The sermon on “The Salt of the Earth” preached in the chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary was a presentation of the Christian issue which some who heard it will never forget. It was a last trumpet call. Soon afterward the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. forced the collapse of that institution before the advance of modernism.

In 1929 Dr. Machen’s clear realization of the importance of true Biblical training for the ministry of the Christian Church was demonstrated when he resigned from the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary and joined with others in the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary. This latter institution was founded for the purpose of providing a truly Biblical training for men who are called to preach the Gospel.

To the same great end of making the Gospel known the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was founded in 1933 under the immediate inspiration and guidance of Dr. Machen in order that there might be an agency definitely committed to the sending forth of missionaries who firmly believe, and who use their earnest endeavors under the blessing of the Holy Spirit to propagate the Reformed faith. Dr. Machen was elected the first President of the Independent Board and continued in that office, using his efforts tirelessly for the great cause which the Board represented, until he was succeeded in this office by the Rev. Harold S. Laird on the 16th of November, 1936.

Dr. Machen throughout his life represented the finest ideals of Christian courtesy. He respected honest opponents. Subterfuge was abhorrent to him. He was a great lover of the principles of true democratic liberty. He opposed the encroachments of government upon the freedom of the individual citizen.

He believed the Bible to be the final standard of faith and conduct. It was an infallible guide in all mattes upon which it spoke. He was unwilling to lay chains of confinement upon any Christian which went beyond the precepts of God’s Word, but those precepts he diligently enjoined. It behooves us in a day of regimentation, of standardization, and of tyranny in the name of both state and church to keep ever in mind the great principles of the Scriptures which Dr. Machen loved and taught, to which he was unreservedly loyal and beyond which he was unwilling to impose a yoke of bondage.

Dr. Machen’s personal unselfishness, his delight in the happiness of others and his devotion of everything he possessed to the cause of Christ and the Gospel make him a unique figure in his day and generation. The church of Christ must, if it speak truly, say that he left no peer. Thanks be to God who gave us the privilege of fellowship with him.


┬ęPCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2018. All Rights Reserved.