The Pastorate is a Formidable Calling (Joseph Buck Stratton)

The following description of the work of the ministry by Joseph Buck Stratton, Sr. (found in his book Memorial of a Quarter-Century’s Pastorate), is known intimately by every faithful pastor, and should be read by every man preparing to become a pastor. For the ministry is no place for a man who desires to be lazy, as we see even in the example of the apostle Paul: “I worked harder than any of them” (I Corinthians 15:10). The rest of that verse reminds us, however, that the minister must be absolutely dependent upon God’s strength, and so ministry done in one’s own strength, or for one’s own glory, is in vain: “…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Stratton’s words depict plainly the nature of the minister’s labors, and make us cry out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (II Corinthians 2:16). May the Lord give us strength day by day to do His will for the good of His people.

The claims of the pulpit must ever present themselves to the young minister as most formidable in their dimensions. And they ought to do so. For an ambassador of Christ to treat his message with levity is sadly out of harmony with his demand that his hearers should hear it as though "God did beseech" them by him. These claims necessarily involve an application of mind, in the way of research and reflection, of the severest kind. And then they are incessant and inexorable in their exactions. As soon as one effort is concluded, another must be prepared for. "The inevitable hour" when the congregation must have its lecture or discourse, and must have it whether the preacher be in frame or out of frame, is always impending over him. Entertaining the views which I held of obligation on this subject, and haunted always, perhaps criminally, certainly painfully, with a feeling of self-distrust, the work of preparing for the pulpit, with me, has been an arduous one. I have been accustomed, as you are aware, in my Sabbath preaching, to make a large use of the pen. Sometimes in my earlier ministry I felt constrained to depend upon this altogether. The draft upon a clergyman's time, created by this practice, I am coming more and more to think, should be avoided by such training as may qualify him to preach without the labor of literal composition. Pursuing the plan which I have adopted, and which it is not easy now to depart from, I have written out completely at least six hundred discourses of different kinds during the twenty-five years of my pastorate in this place.

A minister, again, at a central point like this, will find his duties as a presbyter extending beyond the circle of his own charge. And as one result of this he will have a large amount of correspondence thrown upon his hands. I have found that one day in each week, and often two, were required for this species of work.

Then the maintaining of an intercourse with the individuals and families of his flock, is a part of his duty which allows a pastor no rest. Although he may know that his rule here, as in all things, is " to study to show himself approved unto God," he knows, too, that his people expect him to show himself approved unto them. He may know, as is the case in a charge as extensive as this, that it is impossible to satisfy the wishes of his people without sacrificing every other department of his work; but the reflection that he is not satisfying them will be in his mind like a goad, driving him forward, and yet always tormenting him with the consciousness of falling behind the required measure of performance.

Then the casual services which are demanded of him in connection with the wants, the troubles, and the afflictions of the community in which he ministers — services which are indefinitely various, which may spring upon him at the most inopportune moment, and which are sometimes inconsiderately imposed — constitute a tax upon time, upon thought, and often upon feeling, of the most exhaustive nature.

Then the teacher who is constantly teaching, must seek to be constantly taught. He must keep himself informed, that he may inform others. He needs the opportunity and the freedom of mind required for study; not merely such as shall furnish him for an exercise, but such as shall make him generally intelligent.

And then, lastly, he has the same infirmities, the same inaptitudes and indispositions, clogging his movements, which other men feel, and under which they usually indulge themselves with a cessation from labor; and he has the same kind and the same measure of household responsibilities claiming his attention and burdening his mind, which other men, encompassed with domestic ties, have.

Two Companion Books on the Christian Life by Joseph B. Stratton

New Jersey-born Joseph Buck Stratton, Sr. (1815-1903), after graduating Princeton and practicing law for three years, spent the next five decades in the pastoral ministry in Natchez, Mississippi. A prolific writer, two companion volumes published by him in the 1880’s show the warmth of his pastoral ministry. Both volumes were written as aids to those within the scope of his local pastorate, but have a wider and long-lasting sphere of influence.

The first is Confessing Christ: A Manual for Inquirers in Religion (1880). This is a work designed to persuade men to come to Christ, to profess his name and to embrace the life of a true believer. Also, he addresses matters which can be stumbling-blocks to the new believer, such as the tendency to fall into the pit of unnecessary theological controversies early in the Christian walk or “to ‘look back’ after you have been led to ‘put your hand to the plough,’” thus proving oneself unfit for the kingdom of God. It is a work of great practical value and encouragement to take up one’s cross and confess Christ.

The second is Following Christ: A Manual for Church-Members (1884). In this volume, Stratton helps those who have confessed the name of Christ to come to understand the necessity of joining with the local body of believers, and following the rules of Christian community, including worship in the public, family and private spheres, as well as what it means to live a religious life outside the church. Again, this is a work of practical value coming from a writer with decades of experience in the pastoral ministry.

These two books were appreciated by Stratton’s original audience, and they are worthy of study and consideration by a 21st century audience as well. Take time to download them and ponder the wisdom of a 19th century under-shepherd who had a heart for his flock to lead them in confessing and following the Great Shepherd.

The Pseudonyms of Samuel Miller

Students of the writings of Samuel Miller (1769-1850) have several places to go to find a bibliography of his writings.

  • Jeremiah Chamberlain (1794-1851), “Catalog of Books by the Rev’d Samuel Miller D.D.” (n.d.) in Papers, Presbyterian Historical Society;

Miller’s writings are voluminous, and Log College Press is working to add as many as possible to the site. Careful distinctions have to be made between the writings of Samuel Miller the Elder, and his son, Samuel Miller, Jr. (1816-1883); Samuel Miller of the German Reformed Church (1815-1873); Samuel Miller of Glasgow (1810-1881); etc. Some of our Miller’s writings, it may be observed, were published under pseudonyms. They are varied and curious.

  • The Doctrine and Order of the Waldenses. Signed, HistoricusFive articles in The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine, pp. 259-264, 297-301, 370-374, 514-520, of 1820, and pp. 57-63 of 1821. Richmond.

  • Open Letter on the observance of Christmas. Signed Biblicus.  Commercial  Advertiser, Dec. 29, 1825. New York.

  • Remarks on a Certain Extreme in Pursuing the Temperance Cause. Signed, A Friend to Temperance SocietiesIbid., vol. II, 1830, pp. 242-250. Philadelphia.

  • Open Letter on Voluntary Societies, signed Pacificus. The New York Observer, Dec. 3, 1837.

  • Micae Ecclesiasticae, signed BiblicusThree open letters. The Presbyterian, Feb. 9, 16, 23, 1839. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Open Letter "To T L, Esquire," signed Apostolus. The Presbyterian, Feb. 29, 1840. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Licentiates. An open letter, signed Clericus. The Presbyterian, May 21, 1842.

  • Rights of Ruling Elders. An open letter, signed Canonicus. The Presbyterian, May 21, 1842. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Rights of Ruling Elders. A series of five open letters, signed CalvinThe  Presbyterian, Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10, 17, 24, 1842. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Remarks on Clericus. An open letter, signed S.M. The Presbyterian, Feb. 19, 1848. New York and Philadelphia.

  • The Bishop and the Bible, or, the nail driven home, by “Old Covenanting and True Presbyterian” and Samuel Miller (Albany [NY]: Munsell & Rowland, 1858), 35pp.; 23cm. Under the pseudonym, some 60 works, published between 1714-1981, can be located; the section attributed to “Samuel Miller” is an outline of a sermon on women’s rights, or rather, the rights of women in all ages, stations and nations. Given the date of publication, the work is more likely authored by some other Miller, perhaps his son. Copies of this particular work were located at the Upper Hudson Library System and at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

These pseudonyms tell us something about the writer, and the emphasis he wished to place on particular writings. The full survey of Samuel Miller’s written corpus has yet to be assembled, but we are working at Log College Press, along with others, to advance that worthy project.

Three Indian Catechisms by American Presbyterian Ministers

The Reformed Faith has long been a missional faith, and America’s early Presbyterians had an interest in propagating the Gospel among the Native Americans. The first Presbyterian minister America sent as a missionary to Indians on Long Island was Rev. Azariah Horton (1715-1777).

Another early Presbyterian minister, Rev. Abraham Pierson (c. 1611-1678), composed a catechism for Algonquian Native Americans, in the Quiripi language of Connecticut and Long Island, under the title Some Helps For the Indians. The catechism was designed to show them that there was one God, and then to teach them about Gospel of Christ. It is an interesting piece, and a helpful one in understanding how Catechisms have been used to help people of every tribe and tongue to understand the Gospel of Christ. Like John Eliot’s A Primer or Catechism in the Massachusetts Indian Language (1654), Pierson’s catechism borrows much material from William Perkins’ The Foundation of Christian Religion Gathered Into Six Principles (1558).

In the 19th century, Stephen Return Riggs (1812-1883) served as a missionary to the Sioux or Dakota Indians of the Great Plains. He did much to translate the Scriptures into their language, and published a Dakota Catechism as well. His autobiography — Mary and I, or Forty Years with the Sioux — is a fascinating account of his missionary endeavors.

Additionally, Amory Nelson Chamberlin (1824-1894) is worthy of mention. In the War Between the States, Chamberlin served as a scout and quartermaster for Brigadier General Stand Watie, a Cherokee leader who fought for the Confederacy (together with his brother Buck Watie, later known as Elias Boudinot, Stand Watie had earlier written articles for The Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper). After the War, Chamberlin followed in his father’s and grandfather’s steps to become a Presbyterian missionary to the Cherokee Indians, who typically preached his sermons bilingually. After persistent requests, he received a press which used the Cherokee font (the written alphabet was developed by Sequoyah only in 1821) and he used that to publish such valuable works as The Shorter Catechism With Proofs in Cherokee (1892), and the Cherokee Pictorial Book: With Catechism and Hymns (1888), a partial PDF of which may be found at Log College Press.

Catechisms have long been a useful tool to inculcate knowledge, and these Quiripi, Dakota and Cherokee catechisms provide a window into the lengths to which American Presbyterian missionaries have gone historically to help Native Americans to better understand Scriptural truths in their own languages. For further study on 19th century American Presbyterian missionary labors on behalf of the Indians, see Michael C. Coleman, Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893.

The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry, by William Swan Plumer

In 1831, at the age of 28, William Swan Plumer was the pastor of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. As a member of his Presbytery he was engaged in working with those preparing for the gospel ministry. He would frequently receive requests for information on what the Bible teaches about a call to the ministry, but he could find no essay that met the need. So eventually he wrote one himself, and delivered it to the students of Union Theological Seminary in April 1831. His text was the same that Thomas Boston had used in his book The Art of Man Fishing (Matthew 4:18-22), though interestingly Plumer did not know of Boston’s book when he wrote his essay, “The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Work of the Gospel Ministry.”

In his Preface, Plumer helpfully lays out the spirit in which such an important topic ought to be studied. First, we must approach it seriously, solemnly, and reverentially. We ought not to trifle with the thought of being an ambassador of Christ, an official servant of the Lord. Second, we must patiently wait upon the Lord in caution and deliberation. Purposes hastily formed are often foolishly or hastily abandoned, thus God calls on us to move slowly. Third, humility is indispensable. Plumer reminds the reader that he must never be ignorant of “Pope Self,” for one who denies either his faults and deficiencies, or his attainments and abilities, will not make a wise judgment. Finally, those seeking the Lord’s guidance in this question must be docile - that is, teachable. We are to shun mere human wisdom, seek the Lord heartily, desire to know our duty, and a willingness to act upon what we learn.

Available here, Plumer’s essay is only 34 brief pages, so take time to read it today and recommend it to those preparing for the ministry.

Debate in Detroit

Presbyterian minister George Duffield IV (1794-1868) in Detroit, Michigan, at the behest of his congregation, confronted the local Episcopal Bishop over a sermon that he had preached arguing for Episcopal Government and Apostolic Succession. In 1842, Duffield, in a series of letters, addressed the Bishop, and challenged him on Episcopal Government. For students of polity, or those with an interest in Presbyterian church government, Rev. George Duffield’s work against Episcopacy showcases a debate in an American context and would prove helpful to anyone studying the subject.

The Storm Is in His Hand

William Cowper once famously wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Samuel Jones Cassels, whose pastorates ranged from Norfolk, Virginia to Savannah, Georgia, was a 19th century Presbyterian minister and poet who was acquainted with coastal storms. The imagery of tempests figures often in his poetry. In fact, his gravestone in Midway, Georgia was badly damaged by a storm in 2012.

Like Cowper, he knew who was sovereign over the wind and the waves. In Providence he wrote:

Himself an ocean wide of purest bliss

O’er Ocean’s face He drives the storm along,
And at his bottom deep He counts his pearls;

The storm that raged He held in firmest grasp,
And to it gave its power, and course, and end.

Samuel Davies Alexander

Bearing the name of the Princeton’s fourth President, and being a son of her first Seminary Professor and alumni of the University and Seminary, Samuel Davies Alexander was in a unique position to write about the institution’s history. He produced two books on the subject Princeton College Illustrated and Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century. Alexander also catalogued all the writings of his father and brothers (so if you love Archibald Alexander and J.W. Alexander check out the Catalogue).

Another interesting and helpful work by this lesser known but most erudite historian is his History of the Presbytery of New York which includes a list of ministers in the Presbytery as well a wonderful account of Presbyterianism in the City and State of New York. Though perhaps one of the lesser known of the Alexander family, yet Samuel Davies Alexander still made valuable contributions.

The Providence of God is Our Consolation

Some words of wisdom from two Princeton men on how a right understanding of and faith in the Providence of God is a great comfort to us amidst the troubles and trials of our daily pilgrimage in this earth.

“A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthy troubles. It is almost equally true that a clear and full apprehension of the universal providence of God is the solution of most theological problems.” — B.B. Warfield, “God’s Providence Over All” in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1, p. 111


”Men are prone to think of God, says the excellent Melancthon, as of a shipbuilder, who, when he has completed his vessel, launches and leaves it. In opposition to this error of the Epicureans and Stoics, we are to be reminded that God never abandons his work, but is as much with it the last day as the first. This governing presence of God with all his creatures and all their actions, is called Providence, from a Latin word which means to see beforehand….

The view which we here take of Providence, regards the universe of mind and matter, not as a machine, wound up and left to run its career of centuries, without the Maker’s care, but as requiring and receiving at every moment his mighty influence, a stream of power perpetually proceeding from the Godhead. The very essence of God is, therefore, everlastingly present with every atom and every spirit. This is exactly accordant to those places in Scripture where God is spoken of as the universal cause, and is said to do those things which are done, secondarily, by creatures. Ps. 104:8, 30. And to this is referred the supporting of life in the most insignificant birds. Matt. 10:29. Enough has been said in regard to this primary acting of divine Providence, in preserving all things. How God does this it would be madness for us to inquire. The simplicity of the divine acts causes them to elude our faculties. He wills it, and that is enough; just as at the beginning he willed creation. What we chiefly need is to bear this in mind, with daily faith, awe, and thankfulness. Such is God’s preserving of the creature, as a part of Providence….

It is our privilege, not only to hope in Providence, with regard to the lesser affairs of life, but to recognize it — to see God’s hand in our daily walk, with wonder and love. ‘They that observe providences, shall have providences to observe.’ The simple faith of the patriarchs saw God’s hand in every thing that befell them; and so might we. I appeal to aged and observant Christians, whether the happiest persons they ever knew, have not been those who were most ready to eye God in all the events of life: in health and sickness, in business, and in family occurrences. Let us hope in Providence. Let us hope mightily. ‘But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.’ Do days look dark? O remember, every cloud is governed by the God of truth and the God of power. The house in which you dwell is not without a master.” — James Waddel Alexander, “The Providence of God a Ground of Consolation” in Consolation, pp. 37, 40-41, 54-55

It's Never Night in Heaven

Louis FitzGerald Benson was not only, as a scholar and an historian, "America's foremost hymnologist," he was also a poet in his own right. This composition is from his 1897 volume titled Hymns and Verses. It is a sweet meditation on Revelation 22:5. 

"And There Shall Be No Night There"

THERE'S a red burst of dawn, and a white light of noon,
[And the hues of the rainbow are seven;]
But the best thing of all, when the dark comes so soon,
Is to know that it's ne'er night in Heaven.

There's a break in the clouds, and a sheen on the rain,
[And the hues of the rainbow are seven;]
But the sweetest of lights that can brighten our pain
Is to know that it's ne'er night in Heaven.

There's a calm' of the heart through the long after- noon,
[And the gifts of the Spirit are seven,]
When there floats on the dusk, like a leaf-whispered tune,
"Did you know that it's ne'er night in Heaven?"

There's a gleam through the night of a throne set afar,
[And the hues of its rainbow are seven;]
But it stands not so sure as God's promises are. Who has said,
"There is no night in Heaven."

Has God Given Rules for the Government of His Church and for Worship?

B.B. Warfield addresses a fundamental question about whether God has given rules for how His church is to governed and how He is to be approached in worship in an address titled "The Mystery of Godliness" in Faith and Life, pp. 375-378. Taking I Tim. 8:16 for his text ("And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness"), Warfield responds to the idea that God has given no such direction. 

It is of the more importance that we should note this, that there is a disposition abroad to treat all matters of the ordering of public worship and even of the organization of the Church as of little importance. We even hear it said about us with wearisome iteration that the New Testament has no rules to give, no specific laws to lay down, in such matters. Matters of church government and modes of worship, we are told, are merely external things, of no sort of significance; and the Church has been left free to find its own best modes of organization and worship, varying, doubtless, in the passage of time and in the Church's own pas sage from people to people of diverse characters and predilections. No countenance is lent to such sentiments by the passage before us; or, indeed, by these Pastoral Epistles, the very place of which in the Canon is a standing rebuke to them; or, in fine, by anything in the New Testament. 

On the contrary, you will observe, Paul's point of view is precisely the opposite one. He takes his start from the inestimable importance of the Gospel. Thence he argues to the importance of the Church which has been established in the world, so to speak, as the organ of the Gospel — the pillar and buttress on which its purity and its completeness rest. Thence again he argues to the proper organization and ordering of the Church that it may properly perform its high functions. And, accordingly, he gives minute prescriptions for the proper organization and ordering of the Church — prescribing the offices that it should have and the proper men for these offices, and descending even into the details of the public services. His position, compressed into a nutshell, is simply this: the function of the Church as guardian of the truth, that glorious truth which is the Gospel, is so high and important that it cannot be left to accident or to human caprice how this Church should be organized and its work ordered. Accordingly, he, the inspired Apostle — "an Apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour and Christ, our Hope" — has prescribed in great detail, touching both organization and order, how it is necessary that men should conduct themselves in the household of God — which is nothing other than the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. In other words, it is God's Church, not man's, and God has created and now sustains it for a function; and He has not neglected to order it for the best performance of this function.

To imagine that it is of little importance how the Church shall be organized and ordered, then, is manifestly to contradict the Apostle. To con tend that no organization is prescribed for it is to deny the total validity of the minute directions laid down in these epistles. Nay, this whole point of view is as irrational as it is unbiblical. One might as well say that it makes no difference how a machine is put together — how, for example, a typewriter is disposed in its several parts, — because, forsooth, the typewriter does not exist for itself, but for the manuscript which is produced by or rather through it. Of course the Church does not exist for itself — that is, for the beauty of its organization, the symmetry of its parts, the majesty of its services; it exists for its "product" and for the "truth" which has been committed to it and of which it is the support and stay in the world. But just on that account, not less but more, is it necessary that it be properly organized and equipped and administered — that it may function properly. Beware how you tamper with any machine, lest you mar or destroy its product; beware how you tamper with or are indifferent to the Divine organization and ordering of the Church, lest you thereby mar its efficiency or destroy its power, as the pillar and ground of the truth. Surely you can trust God to know how it is best to organize His Church so that it may perform its functions in the world. And surely you must assert that His ordering of the Church, which is His, is necessary if not for the "esse," certainly for the "bene esse" of the Church.

Samuel Miller on Spiritual Weapons for the Christian Soldier

In an 1826 sermon delivered at the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, on the occasion of the installation of John Breckinridge in the pastoral office there, titled Christian Weapons Not Carnal, But Spiritual (based on the text from 2 Corinthians 10:4: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds"), Samuel Miller explains both the defensive and offensive spiritual weapons that Christians have at their disposal in the spiritual warfare that all saints must face in this earthly pilgrimage. 

After first discussing the carnal weapons which Miller says the Apostle means to exclude from the Christian's armament, he delineates the Christian's defensive spiritual weapons from Ephesians 6. 

The same apostle who penned our text, in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, speaks at large of the christian armour; describing its several parts, and showing the use of each. In that place it served his purpose to speak chiefly, though not exclusively, of the christian's DEFENSIVE ARMOUR; such as the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation; which belong to all believers. 

But in the passage before us, he had occasion to refer partictularly to the weapons of CHRISTIAN MINISTERS, and more especially to those of the OFFENSIVE kind; or those which are important, not merely for the protection and defence of their own persons; but also for attacking and vanquishing the enemies of their Master.

The offensive spiritual weapons at the disposal or Christians, or Christian ministers, for overcoming the spiritual forces that wage war against the Church, according to Miller, include the following:

  • The Christian's "grand weapon" is the WORD OF GOD, which is the "sword of the Spirit" spoken of in Ephesian 6;
  • The RIGHT ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS, whereby "the 'sacramental host' of God's people are embodied and arrayed, in the sight of the enemy's camp; and an epitome of their religion, as it were, addressed to the senses of every beholder";
  • The HOLY DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH is the outworking of the keys of the kingdom given to Christ's ambassadors;
  • FERVENT, IMPORTUNATE PRAYER is one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of every believer, whereby God is called upon to act and to defend his own cause, while saints are thereby strengthened; and
  • HOLY EXAMPLE, as Miller says: "It was long ago enjoined by the Saviour himself — Let your light shine before men, that others, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father in heaven." Thus have many enemies of Christ been converted from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light after seeing the faithful example of believers and martyrs. 

    The whole sermon by MIller was a fitting word for one beginning the pastoral ministry, and remains a powerful exposition of what is meant by carnal and spiritual weapons. This division between defensive and offensive spiritual weapons is a good one for believers to keep in mind since we have need of both to protect ourselves from the evil one, and to do what we can, by the grace of God, and the power of His Spirit, to advance the work of the kingdom of Christ on earth. 

A Presbyterian Minister's Rebus Letter

In the second (1904) edition of Frank Rosebrook Symmes' History of the Old Tennent Church - a valuable resource for the study of colonial American Presbyterianism - his daughter Marion has included some interesting prefatory material, including a biographical sketch of her father, and a sample of his personal correspondence. 

Symmes, Frank Rosebrook, Rebus Letter 1.jpg

This two-page sample reveals a side of the respected Presbyterian minister and historian that shows his creativity and (to this writer) a loveable quirkiness. He enjoyed writing rebus letters. Here, both one of his letters and the interpretation are given. Enjoy, and read more by his hand here

Symmes, Frank Rosebrook, Rebus Letter 2.jpg

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit to Unbelievers and Believers

What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers? Does the Holy Spirit give gifts to unbelievers as well as to believers? These are among the important questions tackled by Clement Read Vaughan (1827-1911) in The Gifts of the Holy Spirit to Unbelievers and Believers (1894). 

Famous for editing the Discussions of his life-long friend Robert Lewis Dabney, and noted for his biographical sketch of Thomas Ephraim Peck, Vaughan was also a beloved minister and theologian who was Dabney's successor at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. According to Morton Smith, Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology, p. 295, he was "an Old School Presbyterian." Thomas Cary Johnson wrote a very useful biographical of Vaughan in the Union Seminary Magazine (which uses the name 'Vaughn' throughout). 

In this particular study of the Holy Spirit, Vaughan looks first at the ways in the Holy Spirit performs His work amongst unbelievers. These "common operations of the Spirit" (Westminster Confession of Faith 10.4 and Westminster Larger Catechism Q/A #68) include the restraint of depravity in man, and awakening and convicting influences that work in the conscience of men, even the reprobate. 

Next, with a view towards helping saints better apprehend "the comfort of hope," Vaughan explores how the Spirit gives knowledge to believers, seals, witnesses, leads, intercedes, comforts, and gives graces to those who are thereby become the children of God. 

The practical benefits of such a study of this cannot be understated. This is a valuable 19th century American Presbyterian contribution to our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit both within and without the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Bookmark this volume for further prayerful study, and be comforted, dear saints. 

On the Atonement

For those who study the doctrine of the atonement, and particularly its extent, Log College Press has some valuable resources for you. 

In 1817, James Renwick Willson wrote A Historical Sketch of Opinions on the Atonement, which includes his own translation of Francis Turretin's Institutes on that subject (this was several decades before - at Charles Hodge's direction - George Musgrave Giger of Princeton translated the whole of Turretin's Institutes, an 8,000+ page handwritten manuscript). A posthumously-published edition of Willson's work came out in 1859.

A.A. Hodge wrote an important treatise on the atonement in 1867. His father, Charles, wrote On the Nature of the Atonement (1832) and a January 1845 article in the The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, republished in 1846 under the title The Orthodox Doctrine Regarding the Extent of the Atonement Vindicated. This latter work was edited and prefaced by several leading Scottish Presbyterian divines, including Thomas M'Crie, William Cunningham, Robert Candlish and William Symington, who had, in 1834, published his own major work titled On the Atonement and Intercession of Jesus Christ. William Hetherington, another noted Scottish divine, in 1846, endorsed the work in the Free Church Magazine

In 1803, William Gibson wrote A Dialogue Concerning the Doctrine of the Atonement, Between a Calvinist and a Hopkinsian. Jacob Jones Janeway's Letters on the Atonement were published in 1827.

These and other works on the atonement can be found here. Check out this page,these writers and these works to better understand this important doctrine. 

The Gift of Men

"Among the great gifts that God has given to men is the gift of men; and among all the gifts with which God has enriched His church, one of the greatest has been the gift of consecrated men, for they are the instrumentalities by which the church has been moulded and prospered in all the generations of the world." -- Moses Drury Hoge, Memorial Sermon for John Albert Broadus

With this thought in mind, be sure to check out the Biographies and Autobiographies and Funeral Discourses pages at Log College Press to read the stories of some godly, amazing and inspiring men, women and children. 

Christ is More Willing to Save

The Puritans used to say that Christ was more willing to save, than sinners are willing to be saved by Him. "I may say that Jesus Christ is more willing to save sinners, than sinners are to be saved by him!" (William Bridge, "Evangelical Repentance" in Works, Vol. 4, pp. 434-435). "We should trust our salvation on Jesus Christ, not only as on him only that can save, and that is able to save perfectly; but as on him that hath more good-will to save, than we can have willingness to be saved by him. None had ever been saved by him, none had ever been brought to heaven, unless Christ had had more willingness to bring them thither, than they had to be led thither by him" (Robert Traill, Sermon 3 in "Sixteen Sermons on the Lord's Prayers" in Works, Vol. 2, p. 46). 

Southern Presbyterian "worthy" (see John M. Wells, Southern Presbyterian Worthies, for an excellent biographical sketch) Givens Brown Strickler concurs, as we can see in a powerful sermon titled "Christ's Willingness to Save." Taking John 6:37 for his text ("And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out"), expounds the Scriptural truth that men too often fail to appreciate the willingness of Christ to save sinners, and how a right understanding of this point is crucial to the invitations He gives to come unto Him and be saved, that is, what we call the free offer of the gospel. 

One evidence that they do not fully appreciate the willingness of Christ to save is found in the fact that they imagine that they are more willing in the great matter than He is. They imagine, many of them, that they are perfectly willing to be saved; to be delivered from the presence and the power and the guilt and all the consequences of their sins, and that the only reason why they have not already been thus delivered is that Christ has not been willing to interpose in their behalf. But if they saw His willingness as it is revealed in His word, they would see that they could hardly labour under a more unfortunate and mischievous misapprehension than when they imagine that their willingness here exceeds His.

Now, because men do not properly appreciate His willingness to save, and because it is not appreciated by Christians as it should be, your attention is called to this text. You observe that it not only asserts His willingness to save, but asserts it in the most emphatic way: "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out."

Strickler also calls our attention to the invitations of Christ to sinners to come to Him and be saved. 

Do you want an invitation so comprehensive that you may be sure that you are embraced in its wide compass? There are a number in the Scriptures, as for instance, "The Spirit and the Bride say come, and let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Can you conceive of an invitation that would more certainly include you than that invitation does, if you desire to be saved? Why, if you had an invitation addressed to your own name and to your present place of residence, you could not be so certain that it was intended for you as you may be that that invitation is intended for you, for while there may have been no one of your name in the past living just where you now do, there might be such a one in the future, and, therefore, you could not be sure but that the invitation might be intended for him instead of yourself; but when the invitation is to "whosoever is willing," and you are conscious that you are willing, you know that it is your privilege to accept it. Richard Baxter, it is said, thanked God that the invitations of the Scriptures were not addressed to Richard Baxter, for he did not know how many Richard Baxters there were in the world; and, therefore, they might be intended for some other Richard Baxter instead of for himself; but he rejoiced that they were addressed to "whosoever is willing," for he was conscious that he was willing, and therefore was sure that it was his privilege to embrace them. The invitations, then, are a strong proof of Christ's willingness to save.

Christ is indeed willing to save reluctant sinners. Strickler lays out many demonstrations of this fact. Let this be an encouragement to sinners, who typically over-estimate their own willingness to come to the Savior and under-estimate the Savior's willingness to embrace sinners. to avail themselves of the grace of God in Christ Jesus - there will never be a better, and a more sincere and willing, offer of salvation.  

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon on the Importance of Building a Relationship with Your Children

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon was a 19th-century Presbyterian pastor who ministered in Oxford, MS, and Memphis, TN, among other places. We have published his summary of Presbyterian church government in the booklet The Five Points of Presbyterianism. But he also had much wisdom for Christian parents in his book Children of the Covenant. The following paragraphs come from a section in which he is unpacking several difficulties that he believes lie at the root of why we do not see more conversions among our covenant children:

But a third difficulty, and one far more subversive of the great end of the family relation, is found in the failure of Christian parents to cultivate perfect freedom of communication, and intimacy of relationship, with their children. Many parents never seem to win the confidence of their children at all. They never come into confidential relations with them. The most intimate thoughts of the child's mind, the most sacredly cherished emotions of its heart, are never communicated to the parent. Between father, or mother, and child, there is an unnatural barrier of reserve—a wall of mutual separation. The few communications as to its inner life, which the natural yearnings of the child lead it to make, are treated with indifference, or, perhaps, made the occasion of severe rebuke.

At all events, they do not meet with the proper encourageinent, and its timid nature recoils upon itself. Henceforth, these deep experiences are concealed from parental view. As the nature unfolds, and the confiding spirit of early childhood begins to give place to the reserve and coyness of youth, there comes a studied habit of concealment. The parent sees only the outer life of the child. Its inner nature is a hidden mystery. And there are now long constituted and strengthened barriers to intimate and confidential intercourse, which can never be overcome, however much the parent may strive to secure the end.

And yet, how miserably has that parent failed to secure the true end of the family relationship, whose child respects him, fears him, obeys him, and, it may be, loves him, with a kind of distant, reverential affection; but whose bosom has never become the repository of the joys and sorrows of his child; whose  heart never beats in conscious accord with the deep and yearning sympathies of its nature; to whom the most tender and sacred experiences of its young life are all a sealed book! How can such a parent exert over his child the influence which God designed him to exert? How can such a house, (for home it does not deserve to be called,) witness anything else than the growth into manhood and womanhood, of children who are virtually orphans in the world, and who, like waifs of the sea, are liable to be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine"—the easy sport of circumstances, the strong anchorage in the family circle being totally wanting? 

How easy it is in early childhood to gain this intimacy and confidence to which I have referred. The little child naturally seeks to confide everything to its parent. Let but the slightest encouragement be given; let the little one only feel that there is a loving heart ready to sympathize with it; to rejoice with it; to solve patiently its difficulties; to bear forgiveingly with its wrongs, and to lead it kindly by the hand through all the perplexities of its path; and how naturally, how unreservedly does it cast itself upon the bosom that seeks its confidence, and pour out there the very deepest and most sacred thoughts and feelings of its heart.

And who shall say what advantage such a parent will have, in the training of his child! He is like the physician who has had the full diagnosis of the disease he is to treat. He Is like the lawyer to whom the client has fully unburdened his case. He knows how to direct the mind and mould the character of his child; and at the same time, as the result of this loving intimacy, he acquires an influence over it — the influence of mind over mind, and of heart over heart — the blessed results of which it is impossible to estimate.

-- Thomas Dwight Witherspoon, Children of the Covenant, 198ff.

Tribute to James McLeod Willson

James McLeod Willson, son of James Renwick Willson, both eminent Reformed Presbyterian pastors and theologians, entered into glory on this day, August 31, 1866

Born in 1809, J.M. Willson was a very gifted pupil of his father, who went on to graduate from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1829. After some years as an educator, he was licensed and ordained by the Southern Presbytery of the RPCNA in 1834. He served a pastorate in Philadelphia for many years, some of them in conjunction with duties as Professor of Theology at Allegheny Seminary of the RPCNA. He edited both The Covenanter, and its later title, the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, magazines. He also authored a number of important works, such as: 

  • The Deacon;
  • Bible Magistracy;
  • Civil Government: An Exposition of Rom. 13.1-7 (reprinted by American Vision in 2009);and 
  • The True Psalmody (as chairman of the joint RPCNA-UPCNA committee that published it). 

He wrote other important works as well, and did much to serve the church as a writer and teacher, as well as a pastor. Many consider The True Psalmody to be the best defense of exclusive psalmody ever written.

David Smith, a ruling elder who served with Dr. Willson, wrote a tribute to him which has appeared in the December 1866 issue of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, and in the 1867 volume of Joseph M. Wilson's The Presbyterian Almanac and Annual Remembrancer. Smith wrote: 

"Prof. Willson was an 'Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile.' His whole life gave evidence of this....He took a deep interest in all the public schemes of the Church; he was eminently public-spirited. He took an active part in promoting the interests of our Foreign Mission, as well as the Domestic and Freedman's Missions. He early identified himself with the cause of abolition in Philadelphia in the days of its trial. The humble edifice in Cherry Street below Eleventh, in which he ministered, was for many years the only building that could be obtained in the city for abolition meetings...As an American, he loved his country, and was her earnest friend in her time of peril. As a Covenanter, he could not approve her relation to the name and Church of Christ, nor identify himself with her, yet when her very existence was endangered he separated between the national life which was at stake and the form of government which is subject to change. He died as he lived a firm dissenter from the present Constitution."

We remember this man today, an "Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile."

An Upcoming Publication of Log College Press!

Here's a sneak peek at the cover of one of our upcoming publications, Lord willing: Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life, by Archibald Alexander. It will consist of five letters (originally styled "Letters to the Aged" by Alexander) that appeared in the third edition of Thoughts on Religious ExperiencesAnyone dealing with the infirmities of encroaching frailty and death (i.e., everyone) will be richly encouraged by Alexander's counsel. I hope that this booklet will be a blessing especially to the seniors in our congregations, who can sometimes be overlooked in pastoral ministry in favor of those younger. Alexander isn't afraid of speaking truth into difficult situations, so he names some of the sins peculiar to old age, and speaks frankly - yet hopefully - of death for the believer. We'll let you know once we've published it; and be on the lookout, it may even be a free ebook giveaway at some point!