May 7th in Christian History – Dr. James M. Boice and Elisha A. Hoffman

Series: On This Day In Christian History

 Dr. James Montgomery Boice: “He Realized His Boyhood Dream”

As a boy, James Montgomery Boice attended Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia with his family. He loved his pastor, Donald Grey Barnhouse, and he was an avid listener to Barnhouse’s radio program, The Bible Study Hour. At the age of twelve Boice decided he wanted to become a minister. Little did he know how closely he would follow in his beloved minister’s footsteps (Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia pictured left).

Boice attended Harvard, where he received a degree in English literature. There he met his future wife, Linda Ann McNamara, at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She received a master of arts from Harvard, and they shared a dream of creating a Christian college preparatory school for needy inner-city youth.

After Harvard, Boice went to seminary top prepare himself for becoming a minister. He then married Linda, and they moved to Switzerland so Jim could study at the University of Basel. After he received his doctorate, they settled in Washington, D.C., where he worked for the magazine Christianity Today.

In 1968 Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, the church of his youth, called him to be their pastor. In 1969 he also became the speaker for The Bible Study Hour. Boice continued Barnhouse’s legacy of providing clear, intellectual, heartfelt expository preaching to the Tenth Presbyterian congregation. Under Boice’s leadership the church grew in numbers, budget, and outreach programs. The church became ethnically diverse and intensely missions focused. Many of its ministries grew out of inner-city location: ministries to internationals, HIV positive individuals, inner-city youth, women with crisis pregnancies, and the homeless. Jim and Linda achieved their dream of a Christian college preparatory school for needy inner-city youth with the creation of City Center Academy, which was started and run by Tenth Presbyterian. Despite the lack of parking in its downtown location , the church has well over a thousand members.

In the 1970’s Boice started the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, which spawned many similar conferences in cities throughout the country. In 1977 he founded the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a topic on which he frequently wrote. In all he wrote or contributed to more than sixty books. Under Boice’s leadership Tenth Presbyterian left the Presbyterian USA in 1981 and joined the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that conformed more closely to the church’s Reformed theological beliefs.

On Good Friday 2000, two hours before he was to preach, Dr. Boice learned that he had an aggressive form of liver cancer. His prognosis was not good.

Jim Boice (pictured on left) mounted the pulpit of Tenth Presbyterian for the last time on Sunday, May 7, 2000. He announced to his stunned congregation that he was rapidly dying of cancer. He said to them: “Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to perform miracles—and he certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place…Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you thin of God glorifying himself in history and you say, “Where in all of history has God most glorified himself?’ the answer is that he did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have…And yet that’s where God is most glorified.”

On June 15, 2000, at the age of sixty-one, James Montgomery Boice died peacefully in his sleep, just eight weeks after his diagnosis.


How do you think you would react if you were given news of your impending death?

Dr. Boice’s inclination was not to pray for a miracle but rather to pray that Christ be glorified in his death.

What is your reaction to what Dr. Boice told his congregation?

“While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.” – Romans 14:8

Author’s of the Article Above: Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). Mike and Sharon have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the May 7th entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.

Elisha A Hofman: “I Must Tell of Jesus”

Many New Testament promises have corresponding verses in the Old Testament that reinforce their power. When Peter, for example, said, “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him” (1 Peter 5:7), he was but restating David’s words in Psalm 55:22: “Our Lord, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us, and you won’t let us fall.”

Elisha A. Hoffman loved those verses. He was born May 7, 1839 in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a minister, and Elisha followed Christ at a young age. He attended Philadelphia public schools, studied science, and then pursued the classics at Union Seminary of the Evangelical Association. He worked for 11 years with the association’s publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, following the death of his young wife, he returned to Pennsylvania and devoted 33 years to pastoring Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church.

Hoffman’s pastime was writing hymns, many of which were inspired by pastoral incidents. One day, for example, while calling on the destitute of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, he met a woman whose depression seemed beyond cure. She opened her heart and poured on him her pent-up sorrows. Wringing her hands, she cried, “What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?” Hoffman knew what she should do; for he had himself learned the deeper lessons of God’s comfort. He said to the woman, “You cannot do better than to take all your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”

Suddenly the lady’s face lighted up. “Yes!” she cried, “That’s it! I must tell Jesus.” Her words echoed in Hoffman’s ears, and he mulled them over as he returned home. He drew out his pen and started writing, I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / I cannot bear my burdens alone; / I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Hoffman lived to be 90, telling Jesus his burdens and giving the church such hymns as What A Wonderful Savior, Down at the Cross, Are You Washed in the Blood?, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and a thousand more.

The Scriptures say, “God opposes proud people, but he helps everyone who is humble.” Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes. God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him. 1 Peter 5:5b-7

About the Author: Robert J. Morgan, is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best-selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, Red Sea Rules, and On This Day – this article was adapted from the May 7th entry in this excellent book. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country.

 Significant Events on This Day:

1274: The Council of Lyons II met. The council was supposed to promote plans to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches, but nothing came of it.

1794: French revolutionaries proclaimed the worship of a “supreme being,” a Deist god.

1823: A group of Russian Orthodox missionaries left Irkust to evangelize the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

1844: Protestants burned dozens of Irish Catholic homes and the St. Augustine Church in Kensington, a suburb of Philadelphia. The action was in retaliation for the killing of one of their own by a Catholic the day before during an ill0advised rally in the Irish streets. Protestants were outraged that Catholics would not participate in school Bible reading (the Catholics believed that Church leaders, not individuals, should interpret Scripture). In defense of their property, Catholics killed several more Protestants as the riot progressed.

1859: Guido Verbeck and his bride, Maria, destined for Shanghai, sailed from New York aboard the Surprise. With them were Rev. and Mrs. Brown and the medical missionary Duane B. Simmons and his wife. Verbeck was so notable a missionary that the Japanese honored him highly.

A. Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves edited This Day In Christian History. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications Inc., 2005. The events above were adapted from the entry for May 7th.

Ratherius – The Combative Bishop

Series: On This Day in Church History

April 25, 975 – By R.J. Morgan

 No generation is without its Christian heroes, but they were scarce in the tenth century. Ratherius might have been one but for his headstrong style. He was brilliant and religious, but opinionated and envious.

Ratherius was born near Verona, Italy. He excelled in school and eventually became a monk. In 931 he was consecrated Bishop of Verona. His tenure was turbulent, for he railed against the sins of the clergy. “The cohabitation of clergy with women,” he wrote, “is so customary, so public, that they think it lawful.” It wasn’t just immoral relationships that Ratherius had in mind, but wedded ones. He was merciless on priests who married, calling their unions “adulteries.”

The concept of a celibate clergy reaches early into church history. In the Eastern Church, the early councils approved marriage for clergymen. But the Western Church wasn’t so sure. At the Council of Nicaea, an idea arose for ministers to leave their wives and devote themselves to the single life. The scheme was rejected, but a few years later Pope Siricius ordered celibacy for priests. Later, Pope Leo decreed that if a married man entered the ministry, he was not to “put away” his wife, but to live with her “as brother and sister.”

The issue was being vigorously debated during the days of Ratherius, and the Bishop of Verona knew what he believed—that the single life allows full devotion to Christ. But his aggressive stance on that and other issues provoked backlash. He was deposed and imprisoned for two years, during which time, being without books, he wrote one entitled The Combat. He escaped to Southern France and supported himself by tutoring rich children. Being restored to his bishopric, he was soon deposed again. This time he became abbot of Alna, but he argued with his monks about the Eucharist. They sighed with relief when he returned a third time to Verona. Once again he was exiled, returning to the abbotship of Alna. He stayed there awhile then moved to other positions here and there before dying on April 25, 974.

Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. And do your best to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:10-12,18

Adapted from the April 25 entry Robert J. Morgan. On This Day. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

Who Was John Calvin’s Mentor? By Robert J. Morgan

On This Day in Church History – April 12th

Few assume greatness by themselves. Behind the scenes often lies an older mentor, watching with pride. John Calvin exists as a hero in church history because of Guillaume Farel.

Farel was a traveling evangelist in France, full of fire and fury. He was likened to Elijah and was called the “scourge of priests.” He considered the pope the Antichrist and viewed the Mass as nothing but idolatry. Priests wishing him dead, carried weapons under their cloaks to assassinate him. After one attempt on his life, he whirled around and faced the priest who had fired the errant bullet, “I am not afraid of your shots,” he roared.

He was small, sunburned, fiery, and powerful. His sermons were canon blasts, and his oratory captivated the nation. He often said too much, and one friend cautioned him, “Your mission is to evangelize, not to curse.”

On April 12, 1523 Farel was forbidden to preach in France. He fled to Switzerland and wandered from town to town, turning stumps and stones into pulpits. When he entered Geneva, the city fathers and priests tried to make him leave. “Who invited you?” They demanded. Farel replied:

I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and am not of the devil. I go about preaching Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification. Whoever believes in him will be saved; unbelievers will be lost. I am bound to preach to all who will hear. I am ready to dispute with you, to give account of my faith and ministry. Elijah said to King Ahab, “It is thou, and not I, who disturbest Israel.” So I say, it is you and yours, who trouble the world by your traditions, your human inventions, and your dissolute lives.

He was ridiculed, beaten, shot at, and abused. But he wouldn’t give up on Geneva. Several years later when young John Calvin came passing through. Farel spotted him and gave him a place top minister—and, as it turns out, a place in church history.

Ahab went to meet Elijah, and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, “There you are, the biggest troublemaker in Israel!” Elijah answered, “You’re the troublemaker—not me! You and your family have disobeyed the LORD’s commands by worshiping Baal.” – 1 Kings 18:16b-18

*Robert J. Morgan is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, and Red Sea Rules. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country. This article was adapted from the April 11 entry in his book On This Day, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

 *Significant Events on April 12th in Church History:

352: Pope St. Julius died on this day. He was a staunch defender of Athanasius of Alexandria, and once gave him asylum when the Arians drove him into exile.

366: Pope Liberius died. It is said he was restored from exile by swearing to a heretical Arian creed. Under threat, he also agreed to allow Athanasius of Alexandria to be deposed.

1204: In three days of looting, the Fourth Crusade sacked the Christian city of Constantinople. The attack ended any hope of reunifying eastern and western Christendom.

1850: Adoniram Judson, Baptist Missionary pioneer to Burma, died on this day. He translated the Bible into Burmese. At his death, he was on a voyage in an attempt to regain his health and overcome depression that made him doubt his salvation.

1978: Two hundred Makarere Church people were arrested in Uganda under Idi Amin’s cruel regime.

*Adapted from This Day In Christian History, edited by A Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications.

“Christmas in April” By Robert J. Morgan & Other Significant Events on This Day In Church History

On This Day in Church History – April 10th

On December 25, 1766 a son was born to an impoverished Welsh shoemaker and his wife. They considered naming him Vasover, but chose instead to name him for the day of his birth. When Christmas Evans was nine his father died in his cobbler stall, awl in hand. His mother farmed out the children, and Christmas went to live with am alcoholic uncle. The boy ran with rough gangs, fighting and drinking and endangering his life. He was unable to read a word.

But then Christmas heard a Welsh evangelist David Davies. He soon gave his life to Christ, and Davies began teaching him by candlelight in a barn at Penyralltfawr. Within a month Christmas was able to read from his Bible, and expressed a desire to preach, and preach he did. Wherever he went—churches, coal minds, open fields—crowds gathered and a spirit of revival swept over the listeners. Unable to afford a horse, he started across Wales by foot, preaching in towns and villages with great effect.

But Christmas Evans eventually lost the joy ministry. His health broke, and he seemed to have used up his spiritual zeal. On April 10, 1802 he climbed into the Welsh mountains, determined to wrestle with God until his passion returned. The struggle lasted for hours, but finally tears began to flow, and Christmas felt the joy of his salvation returning. He made a covenant with God that day, writing down 13 times, initializing each one. The fourth said, “Grant that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither…” And the eighth said, “Grant that I may experience the power of thy word before I deliver it.”

The burly, one-eyed preacher left the mountaintop that day with power that shook Wales and the neighboring island of Anglesea until his death 36 years later. He is called the “Bunyan of Wales.”

Create pure thoughts in me

And make me fruitful again.

Make me as happy as you did when you saved me.

Then I will shout and sing about your power to save. – Psalm 51:10,12a,14b

* Robert J. Morgan is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, On This Day, and Red Sea Rules. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country. This article is from the April 10 entry in On This Day, Nashvill, Nelson,1998.

 *Other Significant Events on April 10th in Church History:

419: St. Boniface entered Rome to the cheers of the populace who supported his papacy against antipope Eulalius. Emperor Honorius had to decide between the two claimants.

428: Nestorius was consecrated as the bishop of Constantinople.

1512: The Fifth Lateran Council began, running to March 1517, and declared that the soul is immortal. It also invalidated anti-papal decrees formulated at the Pisa council.

1829: William Booth was born. A Methodist, Booth founded the Salvation Army to reach out to those who were missed by the churches. He worked in the slums, offering breakfasts and other assistance for the needy, often accompanied by brass bands. The Salvation Army observes this day as Founder’s Day.

1868: Brahms’ A German Requiem was first performed. It has been described as music not for the dead but for the living. It is not certain whether Brahms’ was a Christ follower or not – but his music was inspired via his reading of the Scriptures.

1952: Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian, was arrested. He was well-known in the West for his writings such as Sit, Walk, Stand and The Normal Christian LIfe.

*Adapted from This Day In Christian History, edited by A Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves, Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications.