Here's a commentary on the Westminster Standards you probably haven't heard of...

In 1900, Edward Dafydd Morris (yes, that middle name is spelled correctly) published a commentary on the Westminster Confession and Catechism, entitled Theology of the Westminster Symbols. Like Francis Beattie's commentary, Morris expounds the teaching not only of the Confession of Faith but also the Shorter and Larger Catechism. In addition, however, he incorporates the teaching of the Westminster Form of Government and Directory for Worship, as well as the Sum of Saving Knowledge. That fact alone makes this a fascinating find. 

Morris was a professor at Lane Theological Seminary from 1867 until the end of the 19th century. As a student at Auburn Theological Seminary, he was influenced by New School men. I haven't read through his commentary yet, but it will be interesting to see if his take on the Westminster Standards is affected by a New School theology.

Looking for information on the Westminster Assembly? Don't miss B. B. Warfield's "trilogy"

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was a voluminous author, and we've only just begun to post his works to the Log College Press website. Three of his works on the Westminster Assembly have already been posted: "The Making of the Westminster Confession, and Especially Its Chapter on the Decree of God," "The Printing of the Westminster Confession," and "The Westminster Assembly and Its Work." All three were originally journal articles. If you have an interest in the Westminster Standards, and/or the history of their composition, you can find these articles here.

Have you read John Chavis' "Letter on the Extent of the Atonement"?

John Chavis was an African-American pastor in North Carolina and Virginia in the early part of the 19th century. He was one of the most important free African-Americans in North Carolina before the Civil War. Educated at Washington and Lee University (before it was called that) and at Princeton under John Witherspoon, he also served in the Revolutionary War. You can read more about him on the biography linked to on his page, as well as in the biography written by Helen Chavis Othow.

On Chavis' page you will also find his "Letter on the Extent of the Atonement." In this letter, Chavis argues against a Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement, and for an Arminian doctrine of universal atonement. The University of North Carolina has graciously allowed us to post this letter on our site (from the North Carolina Collection. The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?R=UNCb3389811 ). It is a fascinating read from an early American Presbyterian. For the background of the letter, see Othow's biography.

The next time you eat the Lord's Supper, prepare your heart with these meditations by J. J. Janeway.

The Lord Jesus tells us to prepare ourselves before we come to His Supper, by examining ourselves and remembering the meaning of the sacrament of His body and blood. Jacob Jones Janeway has written a marvelous guide, a Manual for Communicants, to help us in that task. These twenty-nine meditations (nineteen for before the Supper, one at the Supper, and nine after the Supper) are rich in Scriptural and theological meat. Followed by a prayer, they present us with a Christ-centered devotional guide that will reward reading and rereading. 

Here is the first meditation and prayer:

MEDITATION #1

Again the administration of the Lord’s supper has been announced; and on the appointed day, it will be my privilege and that of other disciples of our Lord, to take our seats at his table. Invaluable ordinance! How powerful its influence in sustaining Christian character and deportment! The announcement of it has often found professing Christians slumbering and declining, if not backsliding. Aroused by it, in attending to the duties and meditations which preparation for it demands, they have discovered their slumbering and declension; and been by grace enabled to awake from sleep, and to recover what they had lost.

How precious this ordinance on various accounts! The consideration of its origin should endear it to our hearts. It did not take its rise from human wisdom. It is no appointment of man. No man, whatever may be his station and authority has a right to ordain a religious rite; nor has any assembly of men, whether civil or ecclesiastical, such a right. The exercise of such a right would be an invasion of the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church. He alone has a right to prescribe her laws, and to ordain her rites. Were the supper a human appointment, it would be mere will worship; and, in partaking of it, we might justly apprehend his rebuke, instead of expecting his approbation.

The great Lawgiver and Head of the Church instituted this ordinance. He made the appointment in circumstances of peculiar endearment. The same night in which he was betrayed, when he had a full view of his approaching sufferings, then his love appointed this supper, designed for the edification and comfort of his disciples, till the end of time. In such circumstances he took bread and wine, as memorials of his broken body and shed blood; and commanded them to be used as such, in remembrance of his sufferings for us, and his love to us. Three Evangelists, and the apostle Paul, have certified us of these facts. Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20; I Cor. 11:23-33.

This ordinance was first observed by the apostles of our Lord in a large upper room in Jerusalem; Mark 14:15; then by the Church in that city, after the Redeemer’s resurrection; and subsequently by the Church, wherever she was found in various parts of the world, in all succeeding ages; and now it is observed by the Church in these ends of the earth; and it will be observed by the Church till the end of the world. Let me then remember this great fact, of which not a doubt should exist, that this supper was appointed by the authority of Jesus Christ; and let me partake of it in obedience to his authority, and thus render it an act of acceptable worship.

How precious this ordinance, when we consider who are the invited guests, and by whose presence the supper will be graced and honored! Whom shall I see at the table of my Lord? The rich, the great, the nobles, the princes, and kings of the earth? Oh no! Seldom have such been found to obey the Savior’s dying command. They prefer sitting at tables, which wealth and pomp delight to provide, spread with costly viands, that gratify and pamper their bodily appetites; and slight a feast designed to meet the wants of an immortal mind, and nourish its spiritual life, and prepare it for heavenly happiness. There shall I meet the poor, the unlearned, the unknown. Yet let me lift the veil that conceals them, and look at them with the eye of faith; and whom do I see? How changed! They are the disciples of Christ, the ransomed of the Lord, the saints of God, his children, the sons and daughters of the Almighty, the heirs of heaven, the expectants of crowns and kingdoms there. What a privilege! what an honor to sit with them at the same table of our common Lord!

Nor is the Lord absent. He is indeed in heaven. His glorified body is there, far removed from mortal sight. But, in his divine nature, Jesus is everywhere; and he will not fail to meet, with his gracious presence, his disciples, when, in obedience to his dying command, they gather around his table, to feed upon the spiritual repast his love has prepared for them. Compared with such a feast, partaken of by such guests, and graced with the presence and enriched with the smiles of the King of kings and Lord of lords, what is the most sumptuous entertainment that was ever prepared by earthly riches, for the display of human grandeur and magnifi­cence!

How precious too this supper, when its spiritual nature is considered! Heresy will have it, that the words of the institution are to be understood literally; that, in the supper, we eat the real body and drink the real blood of our Redeemer; and that the elements are really changed into his body and blood. What absurdity! When the Savior said “I am the door;” “I am the vine;” are we to understand him as meaning, that he was really a door, and really a vine? Heresy itself is compelled to assign a figurative meaning to some words in the institution. She does not contend we are to drink the cup and not the wine, when the cup is given; nor that the cup is really the New Testament, and not a sign and seal of it. “It is the spirit, said Jesus, that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:53-56, 63.

The feast is not designed to satisfy our bodily appetites. It is a spiritual feast, intended to nourish our spiritual life, and strengthen all the faculties and graces of that life. A small portion of bread and wine, used as symbols of the broken body and shed blood of our Lord, is given to us, that we may feed on his body and blood, not carnally and corporally, but spiritually and mystically, by faith. We are to receive, and eat, and drink the elements, to signify that, as we live by eating and drinking appropriate food, so we live spiritually by feeding by faith on the spiritual food, which he furnishes for the life of our souls; or, in other words, that we are willing to accept that spiritual and eternal life he has purchased by his sufferings and death, and to depend on him for its preservation, increase here, and final expansion in the world to come. Such is the nature of this blessed feast.

The supper of our Lord is precious also on account of the covenant engagements it seals. “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:20. The covenant of grace was ratified and sealed by the blood of the great Mediator, and all its blessings were made sure to all for whom he undertook to satisfy divine justice; and the cup or wine, the symbol of this blood, seals the New Testament or covenant in this ordinance. Here I am invited to renew my covenant engagements with God. Here I am allowed the great privilege of taking God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost to be my covenant God; the Father to be my reconciled father and covenanted portion, through Christ; the Son to be my Savior, friend, master and Lord; and the Holy Ghost to be my guide and teacher, my sanc­tifier and comforter; and to give myself up to God as his servant and child; to Christ as his disciple and follower, and to the Holy Ghost as his temple, forever. The elements are seals to this covenant, for both parties. I seal my engagements to God; and God seals his promises to me.

Amazing transaction! What astonishing condescension and grace on the part of God! and how should I admire and adore him for such condescension and grace!

Is this the feast I am invited to partake of? so heavenly in its origin, and instituted in circumstances so interesting; its guests so noble and dignified; its nature so spiritual, so nourishing to my spiritual life, and so strengthening to every grace and virtue; and the transactions to which it invites so wonderful and sublime? How joyfully ought I then to embrace every opportunity of supping and communing with my blessed Lord! For such an ordinance doubtless a corresponding preparation is required. By solemn meditation on suitable topics, by self-examination, by renewing my covenant engagements, by the exercise of repentance and faith, and by earnest and importunate prayer, let me then, endeavor to prepare for a believing and profitable communion season.

PRAYER

Blessed Redeemer, I praise thee for the institution of thy holy supper. I thank thee that, in circumstances so distressing, when thou hadst before thee all that thou wast about to suffer in the garden, in the palace of the high priest, in the hall of Pilate, and on the cross, thou didst not forget thy disciples. Then thou didst provide this memorial of thy love, this feast for the welfare, comfort, and edification of thy Church, to the end of time.

May I highly prize this ordinance, and rightly appreciate the high honor conferred on me, and the precious privilege granted to me, in being permitted to commune with thy people, and with thee, my Lord and Master! May my heart rejoice at every announcement that this precious supper will be again administered in the church of which I am a member!

Surely it becomes me to make a suitable preparation for taking my seat at a table covered with so rich a feast. Grant, O Lord, that I may come, having on the wedding garment, that I may meet with thy approbation, my King and my God. Incline my heart to meditate seriously and solemnly on all those interesting topics that will claim my atten­tion; to examine myself; to recollect my sins and renew my repentance; to dedicate myself again to thee, my Savior; to exercise my faith in thy atoning blood and justifying righteousness; and to pour forth my supplications for pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace. May it be a sweet and refreshing season to my soul, and to the souls of all communicants! May we meet with the Lord our Redeemer at his table, and enjoy com­munion with him, and with one another! Grant my prayer, for thy name’s sake. Amen.

What did 19th century Presbyterians think about the canon of Scripture? Here are two sources.

The topic of the canon of Scripture is always interesting and difficult for Christians. We must remember, however, that we are not the first to ask questions about the canon. In the 19th century, Archibald Alexander and Francis Smith Sampson each wrote on the topic of canon. Alexander wrote a book entitled The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, or The Bible Complete without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions (1851), and Sampson gave two lectures on "The Authority of the Sacred Canon and the Integrity of the Sacred Text."  Undoubtedly, the way we approach this question has changed since the mid-1800s. But there is bound to be wisdom and insight we can glean from these fathers in the faith.

This Presbyterian pastor was also a noted poet of his day - here are his volumes of poetry.

Samuel Jones Cassels was a Georgia native who pastored First Presbyterian Church in Macon from 1836-1842. While pastor, his wife and infant son died. His volume of poetry, Providence and Other Poems, was the first volume of poetry published in the state of Georgia. After leaving the state for other pastorates for a season, he returned when his health declined. He published two more books of poems, as well as a book on infant baptism, and a book proving Jesus was the Christ and the papacy of Roman Catholicism was the anti-Christ. All of his writings can be found here.

Have you seen this essay by Samuel Miller on the Sabbath?

Samuel Miller was perhaps the J. I. Packer of the early 19th century - not only was he a prolific author in his own right, but he also wrote introductory essays to the works of other authors. At least, he wrote a 1833 introductory essay to John Holmes Agnew's Manual on the Christian Sabbath. Miller's essay deserves to be more well-known - which is why Log College Press exists!

Have you lost a loved one? Few books address the topic of bereavement as beautifully as The Broken Home by B. M. Palmer

Benjamin Morgan Palmer's book The Broken Home: Lessons in Sorrow is a poignant, powerful journey through the deaths of Palmer's children, wife, and mother. He writes to bind up the broken-hearted by sharing the depth of his own feeling as he watched the Lord take his loved ones home to heaven. If you are grieving the loss of a family member, especially a child, this book will be a healing balm to the soul. 

Wisdom from William Swan Plumer for family worship...

Every Christian family should worship the Lord in the home. But it can be difficult to begin and to continue with consistency this blessed practice. William Swan Plumer, in his brief pamphlet "Family Worship," gives nine helpful instructions for heads of households as they seek to conduct this servie to the glory of God:

These rules may well aid in making this part of worship profitable:

1. Let it be at seasonable and convenient hours, commonly before breakfast and just after tea or supper.

2. Let it not be tediously long. It is sometimes painfully protracted. That is not edifying.

3. Let the reading of God’s word, prayer, and if possible, singing, be parts of each exercise.

4. Let great decorum and decent solemnity enter into all acts of family devotion.

5. Let not the presence of company nor business engagements interrupt the regular order for worship.

6. Let family mercies and afflictions be duly noticed by him who leads in the exercises.

7. Continually labor to have the heart right and warm.

8. Be joyful and cheerful in the whole service.

9. Never give reproofs to others in the forms of prayer.

And now, a book you didn't even know you've been waiting for...

This is a book I've been eagerly anticipating uploading to the Log College Press site, because it's never been reprinted, and because it can be hard to find an original copy of it. And becaus it's good, very good - for not only does John Lafayette Girardeau take on Jonathan Edwards toe to toe and win, but also he so helpfully expounds for us the will in its fourfold state. The Will in its Theological Relations is now available here online in PDF form! I must give credit to Travis Fentiman at Reformed Books Online, who originally scanned this book for his site. Thank you, Travis!

If you're interested, I've written an article examining Girardeau's critique of Edwards' view of Adam's will before the fall in Volume 11 of the Confessional Presbyterian, available for purchase here

Four volumes of sermons by Samuel Davies are on the Log College Press website

Samuel Davies was one of the great 18th century Presbyterians. A preacher without peer, he fought for religious liberty and was instrumental in the First Great Awakening in the South. He raised money for the newly formed College of New Jersey, and was the school's fourth President. Unfortunately, he died at the early age of 37. He was a prolific author, and four volumes of his sermons can be found here

Do you see your family as a religious institution, and heaven as its model? If not, read Erastus Hopkins.

Erastus Hopkins (1810-1872) was a Princeton Seminary graduate, and a Presbyterian pastor in South Carolina, New York, and Connecticut. His book The Family A Religious Institution: or Heaven Its Model is much needed reading for Christian families today, for in it he reminds us that the family is as truly a religious institution as is the church. After establishing this fact from the Scriptures, and showing how heaven is the model of the family, he examines the family from several different aspects: childhood piety, the habits of childhood, parental duties, the season of parental effort, the culture of childhood obedience, on guiding the affections to God, and the covenantal sign and seal of baptism. How we need to be reminded of these things today - and sometimes hearing it from a voice of a different century is just what we need to be awakened to our dutie anew. 

What does the preacher need as he prepares to preach Sunday by Sunday? Gardiner Spring answers.

"Two things you will find indispensable to profitable preparations for the pulpit: prayer and
toil. You must be a man of prayer. Prayer will give you thought, tenderness, and a power of feeling which nothing else can give. Sermons are heartless, lifeless things that are not elaborate with prayer. The difficulties of your work, and your own weakness invite you to your closet. If you look to yourself only, all is darkness, discouragement and despair. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be all of God. There is no substitute for Prayer. And you must consent to labour. There is no severer toil than the labours of the sacred ministry. Other men may rest; may retire from business and enjoy the fruits of their acquisitions; but there is no rest, no retirement for the minister of the gospel. The very Day of Rest of others, is a day of labour and solicitude with him. The duties of one Sabbath are scarcely fulfilled, and his thoughts are upon his preparations for another. And when he looks forward through life, he sees no end to his toil but in the grave. There is rest not until the battle is fought and the victory won."

-- Gardiner Spring, "Letter to a Young Clergyman," in Fragments from the Study of a Pastor (1838)

Ashbel Green on the moral nature of the Sabbath, & the right interpretation of Colossians 2:16

"Let us now consider this subject in the light of Holy Scripture: and here I remark that it would appear strange indeed, that in the midst of a code of moral laws, intended to be of perpetual obligation, we should find one, and but one, of a merely ceremonial and temporary nature; and this without the smallest intimation that it was of a character different from the rest. There was, moreover, a marked difference between the manner in which the ten commandments were given, and that which was adopted in instituting the temporary ritual of the Hebrews. The ten commandments were uttered by an audible voice of Jehovah from Mount Sinai; and were also engraved by the finger of God on two tables of stone, which were to be laid up in the ark, and preserved with it in the most holy place. Not a single ceremonial institution, unless the fourth commandment is one, was given in this manner—a manner clearly intended to denote that those laws possessed a dignity and perpetuity of character, which did not belong to the ceremonial rites. These rites were indeed given by divine inspiration to Moses, and till the advent of the Saviour, were doubtless as binding on the Jews, as the precepts of the Decalogue. But the different manner in which they were promulged and preserved, seems clearly to intimate the Divine appointment, that the latter should be temporary, and the former perpetual...

From these considerations, and some others of a similar nature, which I do not think necessary to specify, we conclude, that the fourth commandment ought, beyond a question, to be regarded as a part of the moral law—equally obligatory, and as perpetual in its nature and design, as any other precept of the decalogue.

We are aware that those who represent the Jewish Sabbath as a ceremonial institution, endeavour to support their hypothesis by what the apostle says, Coloss. ii. 16,17. "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." But when we consider that the writer of these words was in the practice of observing a particular day of the week, for special religious exercises, as is apparent from his epistles, as well as from the Acts of the Apostles, we cannot believe that he meant to condemn this practice. He would, by so doing, have condemned himself. By the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come, he plainly means the Jewish festivals, in which holy convocations were held; and which are often in the Old Testament denominated Sabbaths. Indeed, it seems evident at once, by the enumeration in this passage of rites confessedly ceremonial, that the apostle is speaking exclusively of them. And accordingly, this prohibition is directed to Sabbath days, in the plural number, and not to the weekly Sabbath, which would have been mentioned in the singular, if that had been his object."

-- From his Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, Volume 2

If you've never heard of Benjamin Morgan Palmer's Theology of Prayer, download it here today.

Benjamin Morgan Palmer, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans from 1856-1902, wrote a beautiful volume on the theology of prayer, as viewed in the religion of nature and under the covenant of grace. You can find it for free here. To whet your appetite, here is a snippet:

In the last analysis, then, what is prayer but the language of creaturely dependence upon that God from whom being itself is derived? ... This consciousness of dependence finds its only full expression in prayer; we lean upon God, and are at rest. It may pour itself forth with a pathos that stirs the heart of sympathy, or despair may muffle 'the groanings which cannot be uttered'; in either case the intelligent recognition of creature-helplessness leaning upon divine power is the kneeling posture of the soul in prayer. It is the thirst of ignorance drinking deep draughts from the overflowing fulness of divine wisdom. It is the exhaustion of weakness drawing nerve into a broken will from the resources of infinite strength. This is prayer: when, sinking through the earthly crust, the creature seeks repose in God; when from the eternal fountain he derives the help and solace which the creature always needs, and which the Creator alone can supply. (15-17)

It gets even better. So spend some time this weekend reading this book - you will be thankful you did. 

12 Rules for Promoting Harmony Among Church Members, by Thomas Smyth

Thomas Smyth, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., from 1832-1873, gave several practical directions in a Manual for the members of his congregation (found in Volume 5 of his Complete Works). The following are twelve rules for promoting harmony among church members (that he appears to have taken out ofWilliam Plumer's Manual for Church Members) - something every church needs to hear:

1. To remember that we are all subject to failings and infirmities, of one kind or another. (Matt. 7:1—5. Rom. 2:21—23.

2. To bear with and not magnify each other's infirmities. (Gal. 6:1)

3. To pray one for another in our social meetings, and particularly in private. (James, 5:16)

4. To avoid going from house to house, for the purpose of hearing news, and interfering with other people's business. (Lev. 19:16)

5. Always to turn a deaf ear to any slanderous report, and to allow no charge to be brought against any person until well founded and proved. (Prov. 25:23)

6. If a member be in fault, to tell him of it in private, before it is mentioned to others. (Matt. 18:15)

7. To watch against shyness of each other, and put the best construction on any action that has the appearance of opposition or resentment. (Prov. 10:12)

8. To observe the just rule of Solomon, that is, to leave off contention before it he meddled with. (Prov. 17:14)

9. If a member has offended, to consider how glorious, how God-like it is to forgive, and how unlike a Christian it is to revenge. (Eph. 4:2)

10. To remember that it is always a grand artifice of the Devil, to promote distance and animosity among members of Churches, and we should, therefore, watch against every thing
that furthers his end. (James 3:16)

11. To consider how much more good we can do in the world at large, and in the Church in particular, when we are all united in love, than we could do when acting alone, and indulging a contrary spirit. (John 13:35)

12. Lastly, to consider the express injunction of Scripture, and the beautiful example of Christ, as to these important things. (Eph. 4:32; 1 Peter 2:21; John13:5, 35)

If you don't own the works of Thomas Ephraim Peck, you can find them here.

Thomas Ephraim Peck was a student of James Henley Thornwell, and a church history and theology professor at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. His Notes on Ecclesiology are a deep well of sound teaching on the church, and his three volume collected writings, or "Miscellanies," is a treasure trove for the church today. You can access all of these works for free in PDF form here. If you would like to buy the three volume set of his collected writings, published by Banner of Truth, you can do so here

Log College Press just hit 100 authors!

There are now 100 authors in the Log College Press Library of 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians! New books and authors are being added daily. If there is a particular author or title that you would like to have access to, let us know and we'll do our best to track it down. Our goal is to find every PDF that is available online and make it accessible from our site. This will take time, but it will be worth it to historians, armchair historians, pastors, students, and all of God's people who want to discover the rich writings of our American Presbyterian forefathers. 

Are you preaching or teaching on the parables or the gospel of Luke? Check out Alfred Nevin's commentaries!

The purpose of the Log College Press website is to collect the writings of the 18th and 19th century Presbyterians. Sometimes, those works are well known. Other times, they are more obscure, and I feel like a detective or archaeologist digging through a dusty attic and discovering things I didn't know existed. That's what it was like to come across these commentaries on the the Parables and the Gospel of Luke, by Alfred Nevin, who also edited the 1884 Presbyterian Encyclopedia. If you're spending time personally in Luke or the parables, or feeding God's sheep from these portions of Scripture, don't miss Nevin.