Sermons on the Christian Life by John DeWitt

John DeWitt (1842-1923) was an highly-regarded pastor, and professor, who graduated from Princeton and served on the faculties of several theological seminaries, including Princeton. Church history was one of his specialties, but he was not just a scholar; he was a tender-hearted pastor who preached the gospel to his flock, along with lessons about many aspects of the Christian journey. His Sermons on the Christian Life (1885) bears this out. Take a look at the table of contents (and then download this work) of these 27 sermons for a glimpse into 19th century Presbyterian experimental piety. 

I. Man's Danger in Sudden and Disappointing Transitions
II. The Persistence of the Christian Character
III. The Completion of Man in Christ
IV. The Universality of the Christian Benevolence
V. The Christian Casuistry
VI. The Gain of the Christian in Christ's Departure
VII. The Sanctification of the Secular Life
VIII. The Gospel a Hope
IX. The Burden of the Body
X. The Relations of Religion and Business
XI. The Value of a Religious Atmosphere
XII. The Cost of Discipleship
XIII. The Christian Contentment
XIV. The Earthly Life Viewed From Heaven
XV. The Heavenly Life Viewed From Earth
XVI. The Transformation of the Outward Life
XVII. The Christian Name
XVIII. Christianity a Religion of Joy
XIX. Keeping in the Love of God
XX. The Light Granted in Darkness
XXI. Praying the More Because Doubting
XXII. Casting Anxiety on God
XXIII. The Foundation and the Building
XXIV. The Reward of Love
XXV. The Judgment of the Spiritual Man
XXVI. The Relations of Hope and Purity
XXVII. Christ a Gift, Not a Debt

Lives in Review: Francis Landey Patton

As President of both Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, Francis Landey Patton (1843-1932) served during a time of transition as many notable faculty passed away. It was Patton's place to give funeral sermons, memorial addresses and reviews of biographies for a remarkable number of Princeton luminaries, such as Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Sr., George Tybout Purves, and B.B. Warfield. They provide a unique insight into the lives of some worthy men as seen by one who knew them all well while memories were fresh. Tour their lives through Patton's heart-felt recollections here

Happy birthday to Henry Martyn Baird!

Henry Martyn Baird (January 17, 1832 - November 11, 1906) was a member of the notable Baird family, including his father Robert (1798 - 1863) and his brother Charles (1828 - 1887), all of whom contributed significantly to the American Presbyterian church of the nineteenth century by their ministry and writings. Like his brother Charles, Henry was an highly regarded historian of the French Huguenots (Robert too wrote of the "Waldensian Huguenots"). He lectured before the Huguenot Society of America, he wrote one of the premier biographies of Theodore Beza, and his volumes of histories on the Huguenots in France (his brother specialized in the history of the Huguenot diaspora), and he took a special interest in the 1598 Edict of Nantes, which granted certain liberties to the Huguenots, and its 1685 Revocation. He also wrote his father's biography and a volume on his travels and experiences in Greece. Although born in Philadelphia, with their father both Henry and Charles spent many years in Europe and were more widely-traveled than most Americans. Their experiences aboard led them to focus on European history for an American audience. If it is true that one can travel the world by means of a book in hand (or downloaded), so may one traverse the centuries. There is still much to be gleaned in the 21st century from these works for lovers of church history in the homeland of John Calvin.

Don't Miss the Four-Volume Works of Francis Grimke!

Francis Grimke (1850-1937), the son of a white plantation owner and a slave, was the pastor of 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., from 1878 until 1928 (with a brief pastorate in Jacksonville, Florida, in the middle of that period). He left his Charleston, South Carolina, home after the Civil War, and attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. From there he went to Princeton University, graduating in 1878. He was an ardent advocate for the rights of African-Americans, and helped to found the NAACP in 1909. His ministry was not only one of preaching, but of writing as well, and his collected writings are contained in the four volumes found here

Here's a sample of what Grimke had to say on preaching: "In preaching are we seeking to impress the truth, or to impress ourselves upon others,—to draw men's attention to Jesus Christ or to ourselves? Too often it is of ourselves that we are thinking; and this is one reason why, though we may preach brilliant and eloquent sermons, they are attended with so little results in the development of Christian character, in the building up of those who listen in faith and holiness. The preacher's aims should be to get such a clear conception of the truth, and should be so impressed with its value, its importance, that in his effort to present it, he will not only lose sight of himself, but his hearers also will, in thought of the truth. It is of no importance whatever that our hearers should think of us, but it is important that they should
think of the truth of God presented." (Volume 3, page 3)

Lays of the Covenant

David McAllister (1835-1907) was a Reformed Presbyterian minister who labored tirelessly for the cause of "Christ's Crown & Covenant" in America. He also, as he tells us in the introduction to a volume he edited titled Poets and Poems of the Covenant (1894), had an admiration not only for the Scottish Presbyterian Covenanters who sacrificed so much during the "Fifty Year Struggle" for freedom (1638-1688), but also for the poetic tributes their story has brought forth from so many gifted poets over the years, among them Robert Burns, William Cowper and William Wordsworth (as well as, for example, the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson). McAllister's carefully compiled volume, like J.C. Johnston's Treasury of the Covenant (1887) and James A. Dickson's Poems of Fighting Faith (1988), show the inspiration given to so many poets by the Covenanters whose blood was shed for Christ. 

Read the introduction for its personal reflections on how the history of the Covenanters has impacted the editor, and to better understand the principles that the Covenanters believed in and died for. Then read the fascinating biographical sketches helpfully contributed for each poet represented. If you can, read all the poems within this precious volume, but if your time is limited, consider especially James Hyslop's "The Cameronian Dream." As noted by McAllister, this is "the most popular of all poems ever written about the Covenanters." 

It begins on p. 25 thus:

In a dream of the night I was wafted away
To the moorland of mist where the martyrs lay;
Where Cameron's sword and his Bible are seen,
Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green.

A Text Should Not Be a Pretext

In the vein of Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students, the 1875 Lyman Beecher lectures on preaching at Yale College given by John Hall (1808-1898), as well as the 1870 volume of addresses to theological students on Successful Preaching by Hall, Theodore Cuyler and Henry Ward Beecher, contain much practical wisdom for students of the ministry. 

Born in County Armagh, Ireland, John Hall began in his own theological studies in 1845, and was ordained in 1850 to missionary labors in predominantly Catholic western Ireland. He went on to serve as pastor or associate pastor in Armagh and Dublin, before attending the 1867 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He was quickly offered a pastorate at the vacant pulpit of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. After moving his family to New York, he would go on to serve this congregation with great success until his death in 1898. Although he died on a trip abroad to Ireland, he was buried in New York. 

In God's Word Through Preaching, Hall expounds on many topics of importance to ministers and their flocks: the importance of preaching Christ, illustrations and controversies handled from the pulpit, the personal godliness of ministers, the question of whether sermons should be read, remarks on James Waddel Alexander's Thoughts on Preaching -- Hall was among those who preached at the memorial services for Alexander after his death in 1859 -- and many other interesting topics are worth perusing in Hall lectures. Following his remarks, an appendix includes real questions from Yale theology students to Hall and his succinct responses. 

To give but one example of this exchange: 

Question: What relation should the text bear to the sermon?

The text should sustain, suggest, and give tone to the sermon. The main thought of the text should usually be the main thought of the sermon. A text must not be made a pretext.

George Howe on the Unity of the Human Race

In 1850, what was the view of Presbyterian pastors on the origin of the various ethnicities, particularly European and African? George Howe, professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, from 1831-1883, gives the representative view, and the view he certainly taught his students at Columbia: 

"It certainly is the teaching of the Bible, that all men are from one original stock. He hath made of one blood all nations of men. By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Adam is represented as the root and federal head of the human race. And the doctrine of original sin, transmitted by ordinary generation to every member of the race from the first man, and the plan of salvation through the second Adam, alike imply the identity and common origin of men."
 -- From Howe's article, "The Unity of the Race," Southern Presbyterian Review Volume 3, Number 1, 124ff.

These are much-needed words in our day, as they help us to view one another rightly, and shed light on our Presbyterian forefathers in the American South. 

Whatever You Do, Do It All to the Glory of God

Christianity speaks to the whole man, in all his capacities, in every sphere of life, in all his roles and functions in this world. Henry Augustus Boardman (1808-1880) emphasized that point with three works targeted at how the claims of Christ must not be dismissed, but rather recognized and acted upon, by men in their professional lives, whether they be doctors, lawyers or merchants. Take time, even if your profession is something other than the three listed, to download and look over these works to better understand how to apply that principle of which the Apostle speaks, that "whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). 

The works of Thomas Smyth on missions are a hidden gem

One goal of Log College Press is to collect in one place all of the works of 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians that are accessible in digital format. Some of these works are nearly unavailable in actual book form, unless you are near one of the few libraries that hold copies. The Works of Thomas Smyth fall into this category. A Southern Presbyterian from Ireland, and the brother-in-law of John Bailey Adger, he was a stalwart of the Presbyterian church in South Carolina, though he was also something of a thorn in the side of James Henley Thornwell, opposing him on the question of church boards and ruling elders. Yet one of the things that Thornwell and Smyth agreed on was the importance of gospel missions. Volume 7 of Smyth's works (found here) contains his works on missions. They are a rich encouragement to the church today, though are little known. His article on "The Duty of Interesting Children in the Missionary Cause" is particularly helpful. A taste:

"A missionary is one who is sent to preach the gospel to those that are “sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death,” whether abroad, or in our own country. To have a missionary spirit, is to be anxiously desirous that such missionaries should be sent, and the gospel made known to all that are “perishing for lack of knowledge.” And a missionary practice or habit, is the habit of carrying out this desire, first, by praying that such missionaries may be raised up and sent forth by the Lord of the harvest, into every part of his vineyard; secondly, by contributing as far as we can towards meeting the necessary expense of sending and supporting these missionaries, and supplying what is necessary to establish schools and print bibles, and other needful books; and, thirdly, by uniting with zeal in such efforts as will promote this spirit, and secure this habit…"

We're almost finished uploading all the volumes of Smyth's works, so check back frequently for more! 

Happy Birthday to and Happy New Year from Henry Augustus Boardman!

Henry Augustus Boardman (1808-1880) was born on January 9, 1808 (210 years ago today), in Troy, New York. A most prolific writer, and an ecclesiastical leader of the Northern Presbyterian Church with Southern connections, he would go on to serve 43 years in the pastorate of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. It was his custom to preach New Year's sermons for the edification of his flock, a volume of which was published under the title Mottoes For the New Year as Given in Texts of Sermons (1882). On the occasion of his birthday, and while we are still in early January, we commend these sermons to your edification as well. 

Pilgrim, Be of Good Cheer

The English Puritan John Trapp once wrote: "One Son God hath without sin, but none without sorrow." The American Presbyterian clergyman Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was also, like his Savior, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). 

Cuyler lost two infant children, as well as a daughter who was 21 when she died. In the midst of the deepest bereavement, he began to write God's Light on Dark Clouds (1882). Later, he would go on to write Beulah-Land; or, Words of Cheer for Christian Pilgrims (1896); and Help and Good Cheer (1902). These devotionals for weary, hurting and discouraged Christian pilgrims were all written by one who understood the hurt and anguish of loss, and had tasted of the sweet comfort of Christ, who tells his disciples to be of good cheer, for he has overcome the world (John 16:33). Cuyler also wrote Pointed Papers for the Christian Life (1879), a guide for the Christian along the journey, through all its vale of tears (Ps. 23:4; 84:6). 

These volumes of encouragement have helped many pilgrims from the 19th century to the 21st. Dear Reader, if you have need of such encouragement, take note of them and may you find comfort there. 

The Death of Samuel Miller: January 7, 1850

It was the end of a span that covered the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the colonial era to the establishment of the American republic. He had been ailing for some time. At the age of eighty, he had regrets from his early years, including his involvement in the Masonic Lodge (which he would later warn his children against), and his political support for Thomas Jefferson (whom he came to regard as a dangerous infidel). But over his lengthy career as a pastor and professor, he was the epitome of "an able and faithful ministry." Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1793, Samuel Miller (1769-1850) served as Trustee of Princeton University from 1807 to 1850, and as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1813 to 1846. As a writer, he was prolific; as an historian and as a theological scholar, he distinguished himself. As a pastor, father, husband, and friend, he was beloved by many.

His funeral sermon was preached by his close friend, Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), for whom Miller had preached on the occasion of Alexander's inauguration as professor at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1812. Commemorative discourses on his life were given by other close friends, such as William Buell Sprague (1795-1876) (see here) and Henry Augustus Boardman (1808-1880). Miller's son, Samuel Miller, Jr. (1816-1883), tells of his final days and the memorials rendered to him in The Life of Samuel Miller; as does James Waddel Alexander (1804-1859) in his Life of Archibald Alexander, who was one of the last men to speak with Miller on this earth (Miller died about six hours after Archibald Alexander's visit). See more about Miller's life, theology and final days in James M. Garretson, An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office (2014).

Alexander said this of his friend: "In all the private and domestic relations of his life he was exemplary. As a neighbor he was kind and courteous to all, and exactly just in his dealings. As a minister he was faithful and evangelical, and was accustomed to present the truths of the Gospel in a manner so distinct and methodical, that his discourses could not only be understood with ease, but readily remembered by the attentive hearer. As a member of the church judicatories, he was an able advocate for truth, a warm friend to experimental and practical piety, and of course a friend of revivals. No member of the Church has done more to explain and defend her doctrines than our deceased brother. With his colleagues he was uniformly cordial; and I have never known a man more entirely free from vainglory, envy, and jealousy." 

We remember his passing on this anniversary with the text that Henry Boardman chose for his discourse on Miller's life: "And Samuel died: and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him" (1 Sam. 25:1). 

Devotional Poems of James Waddel Alexander

As we have before noted, J.W. Alexander (1804-1859)'s Thoughts on Preaching: Being Contributions to Homiletics (1861, 1864) is not a volume confined just to the subject of homiletics. The whole of the book is made up of extracts from Alexander's private journal and correspondence, most of which share insights about aspects of preaching. The final section ("Miscellaneous Paragraphs") includes devotional meditations and poems that he wrote in his journal. All of these extracts were edited into one volume posthumously by his brother, Samuel Davies Alexander (1819-1894).

Four of Alexander's poems are found in the Miscellaneous Paragraphs, along with one prose paragraph on the nature of "true poetry," which, he says, should aim at religion for its highest theme.

Just one of his poems is here given, along with encouragement to the reader to seek out the other three as well ("Thy Word is Truth"; "The Scriptures"; and "Song in the Night"). 

On the Late Cloudy Weather

Clouds on clouds have long been here,
Overhanging all our sky;
Scarce a sunny hour did peer
Through the mantle spread on high.

Yet we know the sun is still
Reigning in his bridegroom power,
And the happy instant will
Pour his radiance through the shower.

Then the tinted promise-bow,
Spanning woods and meads, shall smile,
Then the cornfields brilliant glow,
If meek patience wait a while.

Nature is the type of grace --
Spirits have their cloudy time;
'Tis, alas! our present case,
While we wait the dawn sublime.

Yet in darkness we will hope,
He is coming who is Light,
Though we may disheartened grope
For a season -- as in night -- 

He is coming; lo! his beam
Gilds already yonder hill,
Streaks of opening clearness seem
The horizon's edge to fill.

Come, expected brightness, come,
We are panting for thy ray,
Let not hopeless grief benumb
Souls that do thy word obey.

Weeping may a night endure,
Yet the morning shall be joy;
Trust the promise -- it is sure,
Hopeful toil by thine employ.

He who loves me makes my day,
Clouds but minister his will;
Christ is waiting to display
Charms that every wish shall fill.

To Catch Sight of the Ineffable Vision

Have you visited the Compilations page at Log College Press recently? We are adding special volumes by multiple authors as we can. One such gem that is very much worth downloading and studying with care is the 1909 Calvin Memorial Addresses.

In May 1909, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) assembled in Savannah, Georgia, to honor the 400th anniversary of the birth of the French Reformer, John Calvin. It was on this occasion that a gavel was presented to the Moderator of the General Assembly. That gavel was made from a timber of wood obtained from the tower of the St. Pierre
Cathedral in Geneva from which John Calvin preached. It was a fitting tribute to a man whom we admire because he, it seems, had "caught sight of the ineffable Vision." In the Calvin Memorial Addresses delivered on that occasion, B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) gave a description of Calvinism and what it means to be a Calvinist, a description that resonates a century on: 

"The Calvinist, in a word, is the man who sees God. He has caught sight of the ineffable Vision, and he will not let it fade for a moment from his eyes—God in nature, God in history, God in grace. Everywhere he sees God in His mighty stepping, everywhere he feels the working of His mighty arm, the throbbing of His mighty heart. The Calvinist is therefore, by way of eminence, the supernaturalist in the world of thought. The world itself is to him a supernatural product. not merely in the sense that somewhere, away back before all time, God made it, but that God is making it now, and in every event that falls out. In every modification of what is, that takes place, His hand is visible, as through all occurrences His “one increasing purpose runs”. Man himself is His— created for His glory, and having as the one supreme end of his existence to glorify his Maker, and haply also to enjoy Him for ever. And salvation, in every step and stage of it, is of God. Conceived in God’s love, wrought out by God’s own Son in a supernatural life and death in this world of sin, and applied by God’s Spirit in a series of acts as supernatural as the virgin birth and the resurrection of the Son of God themselves—it is a supernatural work through and through. To the Calvinist, thus, the Church of God is as direct a creation of God as the first creation itself. In this supernaturalism, the whole thought and feeling and life of the Calvinist is steeped. Without it there can be no Calvinism, for it is just this that is Calvinism....But let us make no mistake here. For here, too, Calvinism is just Christianity. The supernaturalism for which Calvinism stands is the very breath of the nostrils of Christianity; without it Christianity cannot exist. And let us not imagine that we can pick and choose with respect to the aspects of this supernaturalism which we acknowledge—that we may, for example, retain supernaturalism in the origination of Christianity. and forego the supernaturalism with which Calvinism is more immediately concerned, the supernaturalism of the application of Christianity. Men will not believe that a religion, the actual working of which in the world is natural, can have required to be ushered into the world with supernatural pomp and display. These supernaturals stand or fall together....This is what was meant by the late Dr. H. Boynton Smith, when he declared roundly: 'One thing is certain,—that Infidel Science will rout everything excepting thoroughgoing Christian orthodoxy. . . . The fight will be between a stiff thoroughgoing orthodoxy and a stiff thoroughgoing infidelity. It will be, for example, Augustine or Comte, Athanasius or Hegel, Luther or Schopenhauer, J. S. Mill or John Calvin.' This witness is true....Calvinism thus emerges to our sight as nothing more or less than the hope of the world."

The Published Works of James W. C. Pennington

James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) was an African-American pastor in the Congregational and Presbyterian churches. He escaped from slavery at the age of 19 and became a leading abolitionist. His story is told on the website of the Presbyterian Historical Society and in the 2011 book  American to the Backbone: The Life of James W.C. Pennington, the Fugitive Slave Who Became One of the First Black Abolitionists by Christopher L. Webber. 

Pennington wrote many articles for magazines and newspapers, and he published two books: The Fugitive Blacksmith (1841), and A Text Book of the Origin and History of the Colored People (1850)Both can be found on the Log College Press website here

Dabney Translated: January 3, 1898

Have you read the lectures given by Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) in October 1897 on the penal satisfaction of the atonement of Christ? These lectures, given at Davidson College, North Carolina and Columbia (South Carolina) Seminary, while Dabney was frail and blind, comprise the last written work of his life, published posthumously as Christ Our Penal Substitute (1898). 

Read an account of these lectures and the reception given to them, and of Dabney's final days, in Thomas Cary Johnson (1859-1936)'s Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney (1903), pp. 520 ff.

Dabney's writings, of course, are in English, but to speak of his translation is to recall that on January 3, 1898, he left this world for a better, heavenly country. His final lectures remind us of a precious truth - that we need the vicarious substitution of One who was perfect, righteous and holy, who alone could pay the penalty for our sins, and that because we are sinners, there is no hope for us apart from this precious gospel truth! 

The 1813 Resolutions of Samuel Miller

When Samuel Miller took his place as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1813, he set down in writing a series of resolutions. Though not New Year resolutions per se, yet they set a good example of what pious resolutions can be.

December 3d, 1813. This day I arrived in Princeton, to enter on the discharge of my duties, as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government in  the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

I feel that, in coming hither, I am entering on a most weighty and important charge. At this solemn juncture I have adopted the following Resolutions, which I pray that I may have grace given me faithfully to keep.

I. Resolved, that I will endeavor hereafter, by God's help, to remember more deeply and solemnly than I have ever yet done, that I am not my own, but Christ's servant; and of course, bound to seek, not my own things, but the things which are Jesus Christ's.

II. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to set such an example before the candidates for the ministry committed to my care, as shall convince them, that, though I esteem theological knowledge and all its auxiliary branches of science very highly, I esteem genuine and deep piety as a still more vital and important qualification.

III. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary [Archibald Alexander], as never to give to give the least reasonable ground of offence. It shall be my aim, by divine help, ever to treat him with the most scrupulous respect and delicacy, and never to wound his feelings, if I know how to avoid it.

IV. And whereas, during my residence in New York, a very painful part of my trouble arose from disagreement and collision with a colleague, I desire to set a double guard on myself in regard to this point. Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my colleague, I will, in no case, take offence at his treatment of me. I have come hither resolving, that whatever may be the sacrifice of my personal feelings - whatever may be the consequnce - I will not take offence, unless I am called upon to relinquish truth or duty. I not only will never, the Lord helping me, indulge a jealous, envious, or suspicious temper toward him; but I will, in no case, allow myself to be wounded by any slight, or appearance of disrespect. I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or contest. What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master? 

V. Resolved, that, by the grace of God, I will not merge my office as a minister of the Gospel, in that of professor. I will still preach as often as my Master gives me opportunity and strength. I am persuaded that no minister of the Gospel, to whatever office he may be called, ought to give up preaching. He owes it to his ordination vows, to his office, to his Master, to the Church of God, to his own character, to the benefit of his own soul, to go on preaching to his last hour. Lord, give me grace to act on this principle!

VI. Resolved, that, as indulgence in jesting and levity is one of my besetting sins, I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to set a double guard on this point. The example of a professor before a body of theological students, in regard to such a matter, is all important.

VII. Where so many clergymen are collected in one village, clerical character is apt to become cheap; and it seems to me, that a peculiar guard ought to be set, by each one, to prevent this, by a careful, dignified, and sacredly holy example. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to exercise special and prayerful attention to this matter.

From Samuel Miller, Jr., The Life of Samuel Miller, 2:9-10 (quoted in James Garretson, An Able and Faithful Ministry, 83-85

A New Year's Sermon by Benjamin Morgan Palmer

In the twilight of his life, Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818-1902) was asked to give a sermon marking not only the beginning of a new year, but a new century as well. At his Presbyterian church in New Orleans, on January 1, 1901, he gave what has become known as the "Century Sermon." In it, he reminds his listeners of God's providential workings through history up until the present day, and ponders the future ahead as it lays in God's hands. While much has happened in the last century that Palmer perhaps could not have imagined, his faith in the Lord of history ought to be our faith. We can learn much from a step back in time to listen to a 19th century Presbyterian pastor's words at the cusp of the 20th century. 

Happy New Year from all of us at Log College Press, and blessings upon you and yours! 

Have You Read Samuel Davies' New Year's Sermons?

Samuel Davies (1723-1761), who was only 37 years old when he died, preached two New Year's Day sermons at the end of his life. Together, they constitute a remarkable examination of the brevity of life and the importance of redeeming the time - given providentially as he prepared to step into eternity. He, now being dead, yet speaketh (Heb. 11:4). 

On January 1, 1760, he preached "A New Year's Gift" (see Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 3, Serm. 59, pp. 309 ff), using Rom. 13:11 for his text: "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."

Listen to how he begins: "Time, like an ever-running stream, is perpetually gliding on, and hurrying us and all the sons of men into the boundless ocean of eternity. We are now entering upon one of those imaginary lines of division, which men have drawn to measure out time for their own conveniency; and, while we stand upon the threshold of a new year, it becomes us to make a solemn contemplative pause; though time can make no pause, but rushes on with its usual velocity. Let us take some suitable reviews and prospects of time past and future, and indulge such reflections as our transition from year to year naturally tends to suggest. 

The grand and leading reflection is that in the text, with which I present to you as a New-Year's Gift: Knowing the time, that it is high time to awake out of sleep."

The following year, his last on earth, on January 1, 1761, Davies preached "A Sermon on the New Year" (see Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 2, Serm. 34, pp. 139 ff), from Jer. 28:16: "This year thou shalt die." Because Davies died just one month later, on February 4, 1761, it has often been said (even by Davies himself before he died) that here Davies preached his own funeral sermon. Interestingly, he borrowed the same text that College of New Jersey Founder and President Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716-1757) had preached on his last New Year's Day on earth. 

In a most sobering sermon, Davies reminds us that "Thus it appears very possible, that one or other of us may die this year. Nay, it is very probable, as well as possible, if we consider that it is a very uncommon, and almost unprecedented thing, that not one should die in a whole year out of such an assembly as this. More than one have died the year past, who made a part of our assembly last new year's day. Therefore let each of us (for we know not on whom the lot may fall) realize this possibility, this alarming probability, 'this year I may die.'" 

None of us knows how long the thread of our lives may extend on earth. Our times are in the hands of the Lord (Ps. 31:15). Therefore, as one year closes, and a New Year begins, let us take stock and heed the words of Samuel Davies: "Therefore conclude, every one for himself, 'It is of little importance to me whether I die this year, or not; but the only important point is, that I may make a good use of my future time, whether it be longer or shorter.' This, my brethren, is the only way to secure a happy new year: a year of time, that will lead the way to a happy eternity."

The Presbyterians, by Charles Lemuel Thompson

Charles Lemuel Thompson was a 19th-century Presbyterian pastor in Juneau, Wisconsin; Janesville, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Kansas City, Kansas; New York City, New York; and the Secretary of the Board of Home Missions of the PCUSA. He was a poet, a preacher, and an historian. His book The Presbyterians (1903) gives us insight into how a northern Presbyterian who ministered a good deal of his life in the west of his day, and was involved deeply in home missions, viewed the history of his church. 

Log College Press exists to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries, and works from the period that tell the story of the period are particularly interesting to the historian. Browse our site and you'll find many more books like this history by Thompson.