Scottish Presbyterians cast long shadows. Catherine Robertson grew up in Scotland where her father owned the largest cotton factory in the world. She was refined, wealthy, passionately Christian, and strongly Presbyterian. She married a preacher-professor, and the two began ministry in rural Ohio. They had seven children, and the last one—Clarence Edward Noble Macartney—became one of the greatest Presbyterian leaders of the twentieth century.

Clarence excelled in both studies and debating, but he wrestled with doubt and suffered serious bouts of shyness. He enrolled in Princeton Seminary, and studied under Archibald Hodge and B. B. Warfield. During his long and distinguished career, Clarence pastored three churches in Pennsylvania. He averaged six hours a day in study and, as a pastime, wrote books and delivered lectures on the Civil War. He was a lifelong bachelor.

In 1924 he was named Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He was described as dignified, eloquent, Napoleon-like, aloof. He wrote 57 books and was a staunch conservative in a liberal time. To those who denied the authority of Scripture, he thundered, “A deleted Bible results in a diluted gospel. Protestantism, as it loses faith in the Bible, is losing its religion.” We can decaffeinate coffee, he said, and de-nicotine tobacco, but we can’t de-Christianize Christianity.

The pulpit was his throne, and he preached well-crafted sermons without notes. His best known message, repeated many times around the country, was an evangelistic sermon entitled “Come Before Winter,” taken from 2 Timothy 4:21 and first preached in Philadelphia October 18, 1915. It emphasized the need to receive Christ now, not later: The Holy Spirit, when he invites men to come to Christ, never says, “Tomorrow” but always “Today.” If you can find me one place in the Bible where the Holy Spirit says, “Believe in Christ tomorrow” or “Repent and be saved tomorrow” I will come out of the pulpit and stay out of it—for I would have no gospel to preach.

Make good use of God’s kindness to you. In the Scriptures God says, “When the time came, I listened to you, and when you needed help, I came to save you.” That time has come. This is the day for you to be saved. (2 Corinthians 6:1b,2)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.18.

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