75th Anniversary of Dr. Machen's Death

January 02, 2012

On January 1st, 1937, Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen died of pneumonia.

One of the key founders of Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, J. Gresham Machen, died 75 years ago.  He was instrumental in fighting for the Biblical faith against many forms of liberalism that he encountered while a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Westminster honors Dr. Machen's passing by posting an article from the January 7th, 1937 issue of Christian Beacon entitled "Simplicity Marks Machen Funeral".


Simplicity Marks Machen Funeral

in Christian Beacon Vol. 1—No. 48; Thursday, January 7, 1937

Simplicity marked the funeral service of the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen in the Spruce Street Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Tuesday morning, January 5, 1937.  More than an hour before the service, people began to arrive, and by the time the service was to be begin every available space was taken.  People were standing all about the church, and individuals were turned away.  A reserved section in the center of the church was held for the student pallbearers, the immediate relatives, and the directors of Westminster Seminary

At exactly 10:30, eight students of Westminster Theological Seminary, acting as pallbearers, carried into the church the casket which was blanketed with green smilax, and across the top red roses formed a cross.  The casket, unopened, was placed in front of the pulpit which was surrounded on every side with beautiful floral sprays.

The Rev. Edwin H. Rian, General Secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the Presbyterian Church of America, and the Rev. R. B. Kuiper, professor of Homiletics in Westminster Seminary, had charge.  Not one word of eulogy was spoken.  His name was not mentioned.  The service opened by the congregation singing one of Dr. Machen's favorite hymns, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."  Mr. Rian read certain portions of Scripture—the 23rd Psalm, the 90th Psalm, and Job 19:23-25.  After one of the Seminary students sang a solo, the Rev. R. B. Kuiper led in a magnificently simple prayer which he followed by the reading of passages of Scripture—Romans 8:35-39; Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 25:15, 20; Revelation 1:18,19; Revelation 2:7, 17, 26-28; Revelation 3:5, 12, 21; I Thessalonians 4:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:2, 5-8; I Corinthians 15:20-28.

The congregation joined in singing the favorite hymn on which Dr. Machen had preached many ordinations for his students:

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall.
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough,
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in
Oh dearly, dearly, has He loved,
And we must love Him, too,
And trust in His redeeming blood,
And try His works to do.

The benediction was pronounced and the two ministers led the procession from the building followed by the student pallbearers carrying the casket.  Familiar faces from all over the eastern part of the United States, and as far West even as Iowa, were seen.  These friends had come for a last farewell tribute to Dr. Machen.  he words of the Scripture spoke more eloquently of the true servant than any words the ministers might have said.  The deep affection in which he was held was manifested throughout the crowded church on every hand as people were unable to restrain the tears.  They loved him so much.


J. Gresham Machen with the YMCA

Keep your eyes peeled in the first quarter of 2012. Westminster will be publishing J. Gresham Machen with the YMCA: Letters Home from France During the First World War by alumnus Dr. Barry Waugh (MAR '80, MDiv '81, PhD '02).

Visit Westminster's website in the coming months for more information on this upcoming publication!