The Great Secret of True Comfort - Archibald Alexander

When Archibald Alexander first published his devotional classic Thoughts on Religious Experience in 1841, it did not contain the Appendix that was first added to the 1844 edition which contains his “Letters to the Aged.”

It is difficult to ascertain for sure what led to the creation of those Letters to the Aged, but one possible explanation for their genesis might lie in a letter written by his son, James Waddel Alexander, to John Hall, dated August 10, 1837, in which J.W. makes this intriguing suggestion: "A book ought to be written with this title: 'The Aged Christian's Book: printed in large type for the convenience of old persons.' It should be in the largest character attainable. Such topics as these: The Trials of Old Age; The Temptations of Old Age; The Duties of Old Age; The Consolations of Old Age, &c, &c. It should be a large book, with little matter in it. Why has no Tract Society thought of such a thing? (J.W. Alexander, Forty Years' Familiar Letters, Vol. 1, p. 255; see also James M. Garretson, Thoughts on Preaching & Pastoral Ministry, p. 170).” This is an almost-perfect description of what came to be known a few years later as Alexander’s “Letters to the Aged” (republished by Log College Press under the title Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life, 2018).

Regardless of the particular origin of these “Letters to the Aged,” we have an early example of the same from the pen of Archibald Alexander as recorded by J.W. in the biography he wrote of his father. According to J.W., this is “the only letter to his aged and declining mother, which is known to be in existence” (dated May 25, 1823, from Princeton, New Jersey; see J.W. Alexander, Life of Archibald Alexander, pp. 402-404).

My Dear Mother: —

When I last saw you, it was very doubtful whether you would ever rise again from the bed to which you were confined. Indeed, considering your great age, it was not to be expected that you should entirely recover your usual health. I was much gratified to find that in the near prospect of eternity, your faith did not fail, but that you could look death in the face without dismay, and felt willing, if it were the will of God, to depart from this world of sorrow and disappointment. But it has pleased your Heavenly Father to continue you a little longer in the world. I regret to learn that you have endured much pain from a disease of your eyes, and that you have been less comfortable than formerly. Bodily affliction you must expect to endure as long as you continue in the world. 'The days of our years are three-score years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.' But while your Heavenly Father continues you in this troublesome world, he will, I trust, enable you to be resigned and contented and patient under the manifold afflictions which are incident to old age.

The great secret of true comfort lies in a single word, TRUST. Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain them. If your evidences of being in the favour of God are obscured, if you are doubtful of your acceptance with him, still go directly to him by faith; that is, trust in his mercy and in Christ's merits. Rely simply on his word of promise. Be not afraid to exercise confidence. There can be no deception in depending entirely on the Word of God. It is not presumption to trust in him when he has commanded us to do so. We dishonour him by our fearfulness and want of confidence. We thus call in question his faithfulness and his goodness. Whether your mind is comfortable or distressed, flee for refuge to the outstretched wings of his protection and mercy. There is all fulness in him; there is all willingness to bestow what we need. He says, 'My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. As thy day is so shall thy strength be. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' Be not afraid of the pangs of death. Be not afraid that your Redeemer will then be afar off. Grace to die comfortably is not commonly given until the trial comes. Listen not to the tempter, when he endeavours to shake your faith, and destroy your comfort. Resist him, and he will flee from you. If you feel that you can trust your soul willingly and wholly to the hands of Christ, relying entirely on his merits; if you feel that you hate sin, and earnestly long to be delivered from its defilement; if you are willing to submit to the will of God, however much he may afflict you; then be not discouraged. These are not the marks of an enemy, but of a friend. My sincere prayer is, that your sun may set in serenity; that your latter end may be like that of the righteous; and that your remaining days, by the blessing of God's providence and grace, may be rendered tolerable and even comfortable.

It is not probable that we shall ever meet again in this world; and yet, as you have already seen one of your children go before you, you may possibly live to witness the departure of more of us. I feel that old age is creeping upon me. Whoever goes first, the rest must soon follow. May we all be ready! And may we all meet around the throne of God, where there is no separation for ever and ever! Amen!

His mother was Agnes Ann Reid Alexander (1740-1825), and her earthly remains are buried with her husband at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.

Archibald Alexander clearly understood what it was like to be in the “autumn of life,” with its particular physical and spiritual challenges and opportunities, and the comfort and encouragement that is needed at this stage of life. This is why Log College Press chose to republish his worthy “Letters to the Aged” as Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life. Be sure to order your copy here, and consider purchasing extra copies for your pastor or loved ones.

World War I in Remembrance

The Lord’s Day, November 11, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that brought an end to the shooting in World War I, which came into force at 11 am Paris time on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

The American President at the time of this “Great War” was Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), the son of one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, Sr. Woodrow was a Presbyterian ruling elder [“When Woodrow Wilson was elected as a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in 1897, his preacher father allegedly remarked, ‘I would rather that he held that position than be president of the United States.’" — Barry Hankins, Woodrow Wilson, Ruling Elder, Spiritual President] who studied at Davidson College and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) — both Presbyterian institutions — and also served as President of Princeton University.

During Wilson’s first term as President, his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, was also a Presbyterian ruling elder (who ultimately resigned in 1915 because of fears that Wilson would bring the U.S. into the War). Wilson initially tried to maintain a position of U.S. neutrality in the War but ended up — following the revelation of the Zimmerman telegram in January 1917 and the German sinking of American ships in March 1917 — declaring war on the German alliance known as the Central Powers in April 1917.

In light of the historical anniversary of the November 1918 Armistice, Log College Press is highlighting a few works on our site that pertain to World War I, in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives.

What is the Rule of Our Faith? - Thomas H. Skinner, Jr.

“God is His own interpreter.” — William Cowper

Thomas Harvey Skinner, Jr. (1820-1892) was the son of the senior T.H. Skinner (1791-1871), who was a founder of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Both men were prolific writers; the elder Skinner was a New School Presbyterian, while his son was Old School. For a time the younger Skinner pastored the First Presbyterian Church of Honesdale, Pennsylvania (pictured). In 1859, a controversy erupted in that church over what was to be the rule of the Christian’s faith. It was asked whether the Bible alone should be the rule of our faith, or a rule of our faith, in conjunction with subjective “reason.”

The controversy, sadly, resulted in Rev. Skinner’s departure from the congregation, but in a powerful Farewell Address to his flock, he clearly explained his minority position, describing his conviction that “the Bible is the word of God, the only rule of faith and practice” as the “citadel of the Christian religion…This is the Protestant formula.”

And on another vital point, the interpretation of the Scripture, the determinative authority as to what the Scripture does say and does mean, what say our excellent [Westminster] standards? They teach us that the Bible interprets itself; that God is His own interpreter; that if God has not made His truth plain, so plain, that in all important matters, the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein, man cannot help His Maker; that "God's own word must be as intelligible as any human interpretation of it." So our standards emphatically declare. Hear them on this subject: "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is" — what, my hearers? — reason? conscience? common sense? No, no. "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and, therefore, when there  is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." Oh, that God would give you grace to see the deep, vital necessity there is for contending for this truth, and make you all satisfied with God's own simple word, which shines in its own light, and is its own ornament and glory and defence. For, as has been eloquently said [by Charles Hodge], "If men bring their torches around this pillar of fire, the sacred light goes out, and they are left to their own guidance, and then the blind lead the blind." 

Rev. Skinner went on to minister to other Presbyterian churches and to serve as a professor at Northwestern (now McCormick) Theological Seminary. According to his obituary, which appeared in the July 1892 issue of The Presbyterian and Reformed Review and was authored by John DeWitt, towards the end of his life Skinner was given a new position at the seminary, specially created for him, called the “Chair of Divinity.” “For two years he performed his duties, lecturing during the first half of each seminary session on the ‘Rule of Faith.’” So important was the Protestant analogy of faith to Skinner that he made it the special focus of his seminary instruction to the very end of his life. In an age of reason, it was the very rock upon which he stood.

"Let Him Who Loves Me Follow Me": A Story by E.D. Warfield

Ethelbert Dudley Warfield (1861-1936) was the younger brother of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (visit their pages to see how alike their pictures are!). After studying and practicing law, E.D. Warfield would go on to serve in other capacities such as a Presbyterian minister and ruling elder, and as president of Miami (Ohio) University, Lafayette College and Wilson College, as well as a director of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Among his varied and interesting writings, many of which are fascinating histories, today we highlight At the Evening Hour: Simple Talks on Spiritual Subjects (1898) and, in particular, a story that he tells at the beginning, which is inspirational. This and other stories from this volume are derived from his Sabbath afternoon addresses to the students at Lafayette College, and were published with the aim to “bring a message of cheer to others who are seeking to live for Christ and his service.”

In April 1512, Warfield tells us, the French were facing a Spanish-Papal States alliance in Italy, at Ravenna, as part of the War of the Holy League. Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours, and nephew of King Louis XII of France, led the French forces as an extremely capable military commander, and though young (in his early twenties), he was known as “the Thunderbolt of Italy,” and was beloved by his men. De Foix died an heroic, gallant death in this battle, even as he led his soldiers to victory (though the French would soon be forced to vacate Italy).

The battle was waged with varying fortune. At length, when the triumph of the French seemed assured, there came a change in the tide of battle. Two battalions of the Spanish infantry, the wonder of the age, were about to break through their all but victorious foemen. The young general determined to avert this, and prepared to lead a charge. Those about him strove to prevent so hazardous an adventure, but in vain. As they still urged him, pressing round him on the field, he suddenly broke from them, crying, "Let him who loves me follow me!" and spurred upon the foe. For a moment they paused. Then every gentleman of France, every battle-scarred mercenary, every stout burgher and peasant pikeman, followed where he led, with that brave call, "Let him who loves me follow me!" ringing in his ears.

The Spaniards, not used to falter, faltered at that shock; the lions of Aragon and the castles of Castile gave way before the lilies of France, and the trumpets and clarions pealed forth gladly the notes of triumph. But the noblest lay round their leader slain. They had heard his call, "Let him who loves me follow me!" and they had followed him to "death and glorious victory." They followed him, even unto death, for the love they bore him. They followed him, they died with him, though with them perished the cause they served.

Louis, when he heard the story of that fatal field, exclaimed that he would rather have lost Italy than that gallant boy. Well might he say so, for in losing him he lost Italy.

Across the centuries comes the call of one who hath loved us unto the death, bidding us follow him. We have not loved him first, but he has loved us, even from the foundation of the world. He saith to us, "If any man will come after me, let him . . . take up his cross, and follow me."

Who is this that speaks to us thus? He is the Captain of our salvation. His right to our allegiance is absolute, because he is the Son of God. But he does not base his call on this claim, which he might justly assert, but on the character of the service. It is a good service, a service in itself joyous, in which those who are employed are ennobled by the cause they serve, and in which victory is sure.

The men who followed Gaston de Foix on that memorable day knew that they were doing a foolhardy thing; they did not know that it would be a thing remembered through many generations. They knew it was to end in almost certain death; they did not know that it was to be crowned with glory. They followed, not for glory, nor for the fruits of victory, but for the love of him who called them. Theirs was a hard service, and its reward was death.

Those who follow Christ know that they are doing the wisest possible act; they are able to read in the countless examples of men in many generations the results of such a following of him. They know that it means effort, constant, unfailing courage, boldness, faithfulness. They know that it means the giving up of all sinful pleasures; but they know also that it means, even in this world, triumph; that the Christian wins from all good men respect and confidence, and wrings from bad men even a grudging, but no less real, trust and acknowledgment of qualities which they do not covet, yet must needs admire; and, at the end, fearless death, and, as we confidently believe, endless life beyond the grave. The Christian does not need to take thought how he shall die bravely, for he who has lived well need take no thought how he shall die.

Check Out the Writings of Geerhardus Vos at Log College Press

Log College Press has been working to add more literature by Geerhardus Vos to our site. In the past week, we have added around 20 new PDFs, which include some of his shorter writings published in The Princeton Theological Review.

In many of these essays, he examined a number of exegetical and eschatological issues, and these works have been republished under various titles. Here the original works are available to download for free.

It was John Murray who said that "Dr. Vos is, in my judgment, the most penetrating exegete it has been my privilege to know, and I believe, the most incisive exegete that has appeared in the English-speaking world in this century."

Take time to peruse his works at Log College Press. His writings are a treasure that the church can benefit from in the 21st century as it did in the 19th and 20th.

B. B. Warfield's "Nutshell" Argument for Infant Baptism

Today, November 5, 2018, is the 167th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, the masterful theologian of Princeton Theological Seminary. In honor of his birth we offer this gem of a quote on the topic of infant baptism, taken from his article, “The Polemics of Infant Baptism,” found in Volume 9 of his Works, pp. 389-408 (this article was originally printed in The Presbyterian Quarterly, Volume 13, 1899, pp. 313-334).

Having rightly asserted, “According as is our doctrine of the Church, so will be our doctrine of the Subjects of Baptism” (9:389), Warfield summarizes the Presbyterian position in this way:

So long as it remains true that Paul represents the Church of the Living God to be one, founded on one covenant (which the law could not set aside) from Abraham to today, so long it remains true that the promise is to us and our children and that the members of the visible Church consist of believers and their children - all of whom have a right to all the ordinances of the visible Church, each in its appointed season. The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His Church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinance. Among these ordinances is baptism, which standing in similar place in the New Dispensation to circumcision in the Old, is like it to be given to children.

And we might rightly append, “Q. E. D.”

A Thought on Legalism by Geerhardus Vos

Geerhardus Vos wrote much on the epistle to the Hebrews. In one particular essay published in The Princeton Theological Review (Jan. 1916), titled “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke” (Part 2), Vos makes an insightful observation about the nature of legalism that is worth pondering.

Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore. And no deeper notes of adoration have ever been struck than those inspired by the Reformed Faith, no finer fruit of the lips making confession to God’s name has ever been placed upon the Christian altar.

Happy Birthday to Samuel Davies!

The “Apostle of Virginia” — Samuel Davies — was born at Summit Ridge in New Castle County, Delaware, on November 3, 1723. His parents were Thomas and Martha Davies, at the time Baptists of Welsh heritage. As the time of Samuel’s birth drew near, “his mother…had special occasion for the exercise of her faith, in waiting for the answer to her petition” (Appendix, Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 1, p. xxxi).

Samuel later told his friend Thomas Gibbons (as reported in Gibbons’ “Divine Conduct Vindicated,” ibid, p. 22): “That he was blessed with a mother whom he might account, without filial vanity or partiality, one of the most eminent saints he knew upon earth. And here, says he, I cannot but mention to my friend an anecdote known but to few; that is, that I am a son of prayer, like my name-sake Samuel the prophet; and my mother called me Samuel because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord, 1 Sam. i.20. This early dedication to God has always been a strong inducement to me to devote myself by my own personal act; and the most important blessing of my life I have looked upon as immediate as immediate answers to the prayer of a pious mother. But, alas! What a degenerate plant am I! How unworthy am I of such a parent and such a birth!”

Samuel Davies would go on to be noted as “the first Presbyterian minister east of the Shenandoah and Appalachian mountains to be lawfully licensed in Virginia…active in promoting the flames of revival throughout Virginia for over a decade…one of the first American ministers to actively labor among the African slaves…he started a mission to the Overhill Cherokees along the western borders of North Carolina and South Carolina…his sermons were among the most popular in print for nearly a century after his death…[and] he was the fourth President of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton College or Princeton University)” (Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia, pp. 21-22).

We remember his birth, life, work and legacy on this day, as a man who was indeed a “son of prayer.”

College Basketball and Presbyterians

In a week where the World Series has wound down and the college basketball season gears up in America, it is worth recalling that once upon a time there were strong connections between the sport of basketball and Presbyterians.

The Rev. Dr. James Naismith - the man who invented basketball (and who is credited by some with inventing the football helmet) - was a medical doctor, Presbyterian minister, ruling elder and chaplain. It was in 1891, while at serving at Springfield (Mass.) YMCA as a physical education instructor, that he originated the game that has become so popular around the world.

A Canadian-American, he received his degree in theology from Montreal’s Presbyterian College. He would later serve “as chaplain in the Army National Guard and as a volunteer chaplain in France during World War I.” He also served as a ruling elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Lawrence, Kansas, where he would preach - and he preached at other churches as well. Not unlike Eric Liddell, James Naismith was a believer in the concept of “muscular Christianity”: strong mind, strong body, strong spirit. Naismith wrote the original rule book for the game he invented, which you can read at here, along with his posthumously-published Basketball: Its Origin and Development.

It is in the latter volume that he identifies the place where basketball was first played at the college level: Geneva College of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

"Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the University of Iowa both played basketball in the season of 1892. Which of these two colleges may claim the first game, I do not know. Mr. C.O. Beamis [sic], a Springfield boy, had gone to Geneva College as a physical director. Beamis had seen the game played in the Training School gymnasium while he was home on a vacation. He realized that it might solve the need of a winter activity in his school. I told him of the success we had and explained to him the fundamentals of the game. On his return to Beaver Falls he started the game in Geneva College; it is my belief, therefore, that this college was the first to play basketball” (Naismith, Basketball: Its Origin and Development, p. 118). [Charles O. Bemies was the first athletic director at Geneva College.]

David Carson adds with more precision: “The first college basketball game in the United States was played at Geneva on April 8, 1893, when Geneva defeated the New Brighton YMCA” (Carson, Pro Christi et Patria: A History of Geneva College, p. 33).

Basketball today is quite different from its 19th century beginnings in many ways. But the Presbyterian heritage of this sport is not to be forgotten.

Happy Birthday to Samuel Miller!

It was 249 years ago today, on October 31, 1769, that Samuel Miller was born in Dover, Delaware to the Rev. John and Margaret Miller. From the two-volume biography of his life by his son, Samuel Miller, Jr., we may learn about his early years.

The elder Samuel Miller (then known as “Sammy”) was a young witness to history having been present at the State House in Philadelphia (Independence Hall) at the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He watched as George Washington, and many other founding fathers, some of whom were friends of his father, entered and departed while the work of preparing the US Constitution was going on. He was also a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1789 while the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was meeting and working to revise the standards of the church. Miller’s friend — and later, colleague — Dr. John Rodgers played an important role at that Assembly (Miller was Rodgers’ biographer). He also developed close ties at this time to Dr. Ashbel Green, whose advice and counsel to young Miller would prove important as he entered upon his theological studies.

Miller was just beginning his pastoral career as the 18th century was coming to a close. In this period of his youth he would embrace some things that he later repudiated (Freemasonry, Thomas Jefferson) while he took an early stand in 1797 promoting the freedom of slaves as well as their protection after receiving freedom. After preaching a New Year’s sermon on January 1, 1801, Miller was inspired to publish a remarkable work in two volumes: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803). More volumes were projected but not completed. However, the value of this comprehensive look at the various progress and accomplishments in a diversity of fields within the preceding century earned Miller great respect as an academic, as well as the degree of Doctor of Divinity from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and Union College, and also membership in the prestigious Philological Society of Manchester, England.

Miller’s life and career as a pastor-educator (he became the second professor to serve on the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary) would go on to span another nearly 50 years. The young American Republic became established and grew during this period, while Miller’s beloved Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) would undergo several significant upheavals, before Miller entered his eternal rest on January 7, 1850.

We have written much about the life and works of Samuel Miller previously here at Log College Press, but on the occasion of his 249th birthday, it worth taking note of his early beginnings. To read more about Samuel Miller, please consult:

  • Samuel Miller, Jr., The Life of Samuel Miller (2 vols.);

  • John DeWitt, The Intellectual Life of Samuel Miller;

  • Henry A. Boardman, A Discourse Commemorative of the Character and Life of the Late Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D. of Princeton, New Jersey; and

  • William B. Sprague, A Discourse Commemorative of the Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D.

Archibald Alexander's Aging in Grace is Now Available!

Exciting news from Log College Press! Our newest booklet is now available for purchase: Archibald Alexander, Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life.


This is a small collection of letters originally appended to Alexander’s spiritual classic, Thoughts on Religious Experience. Together, they constitute a wonderful, pastoral encouragement to those in the “autumn of life,” written when Alexander himself was in his 70s. Here he candidly addresses the sorrows, trials and temptations of old age, while offering Biblical wisdom, encouragement, and practical counsel to his fellow aged friends. This counsel, thought written over 150 years ago, is equally applicable today.

To order this booklet for yourself, or for a loved one, visit our Bookstore today. Besides the booklet format ($3.99 plus shipping), one may also order this work in Kindle or EPUB formats ($2.99 each). Because this is our fifth volume, we are also offering a “Pastor’s Package” special, which includes all five volumes ($22 + free shipping). This is a special opportunity that you don’t want to miss!

Pastor's Package.jpg

Alexander’s Aging in Grace tackles the challenges of old age honestly, from first-hand experience, and in a series of five letters, empathizes with the struggles we face in this stage of life, while offering cautions and encouragements to move forward in the path of obedience and duty. Most helpfully, he highlights how mature saints can help guide those that are younger, and emphasizes how our lives and labors, most particularly at this advanced stage of life, are not less valuable in the service of Christ the King and his church, but in fact more so. Alexander reminds us that there are special ministry opportunities that are unique to those in the autumn of life.

Read what others have said about this booklet:

"While grateful that the letters of Archibald Alexander to the aged have been made available to our Lord’s church, I am also overjoyed as a pastor that I now have them as an excellent asset for discipleship and encouragement to the Titus 2 'older men and women,' as well as an instrument of insight for the Titus 2 'young men and women' in our Lord’s church." - Harry L. Reeder, III, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama

"...Filled with keen insight into the physical, mental and spiritual conditions that accompany and come to define growing older, these letters should be required reading for Christians entering their fifties and older, their children and those who minister to all ages. Far beyond pious platitudes, Alexander offers not only comfort and warning regarding approaching the end of life but extremely helpful and realistic suggestions to make these years productive and richly satisfying." - Dr. W. Andrew Hoffecker, Emeritus Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary 
"...In a time when many want to deny the approach of old age, Alexander’s letters are an honest, refreshing, and helpful encouragement to grow in God’s grace at all ages and to serve Christ faithfully to the end. The younger generation in the church will always need mature saints who take to heart what is written in these pages." - Mr. Wiley Lowry, Minister of Pastoral Care at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

The Protestant Reformation in the Writings of 19th Century American Presbyterians

To commemorate what is arguably the greatest event in church history since Pentecost, Log College Press wishes to highlight select works by early American Presbyterians which relate to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation:

  • Ezra Hall Gillett (1823-1875)The Life and Times of John Huss (1864) – This is a good introduction to the Bohemian (Czech) proto-Reformer, John Huss.

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)Aonio Paleario and His Friends, With a Revised Edition of "The Benefits of Christ's Death" (1866) – This is an interesting work which contains both a biography of the Italian Reformer, Paleario, and an edited version of the great Italian spiritual classic that was long attributed to him (modern scholarship now attributes authorship of “The Benefit of Christ” to Benedetto Fontanini, also known as Benedetto da Mantova (1495-1556)).

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)William Farel, and the Story of the Swiss Reform (1867) – A fascinating look at the life of the Swiss Reformer, William Farel, who with his friend John Calvin, so influenced Geneva and the world.

  • Henry Martyn Baird (1832-1906)Theodore Beza: The Counsellor of the French Reformation, 1519-1605 (1899) – The classic biography of the French Reformer Theodore Beza, who became Geneva’s spiritual leader after the death of John Calvin.

  • Thomas Carey Johnson (1859-1936)John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation (1900) – An important biography of the great French Reformer and spiritual leader of Geneva, John Calvin.

  • B.B. Warfield (1851-1921)The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance  (1917) – Originally published in The Princeton Theological Review in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Reformation, this is a fascinating study of the document by Martin Luther that launched the Reformation on October 31, 1517.

  • Thomas Ephraim Peck (1822-1893), Martin Luther (1895) - This biographical lecture about the great Reformer was originally delivered in 1872, and is here found in Vol. 1 of Peck’s Miscellanies.

  • John William Mears (1825-1881), The Beggars of Holland and the Grandees of Spain: A History of the Reformation in the Netherlands, From A.D. 1200 to 1578 (1867) - This is another comprehensive look at the Dutch Reformation, and in particular, what lead up to it.

Note: This blog post was originally published on October 31, 2017, and has been edited.

William S. Plumer on the Offices of Christ

There are two volumes published by William Swan Plumer which examine in great deal the mediatorial offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, both of which merit in-depth study by those who wish to delve into this important aspect of Christology.

The first is an abridgment of an original work by George Stevenson (1771-1841), a Scottish divine who was instrumental in the founding of the Associate Synod of Original Seceders, having written the doctrinal part of its 1827 Testimony (the historical portion of the Testimony was written by Thomas M’Crie the Elder). Stevenson’s original work, The Offices of Christ, was first published in Scotland in 1834, with a second edition following posthumously in 1845, and it has received high acclaim. Plumer published his abridgment with the same title in 1840. The 1845 edition has over 500 pages of material, while Plumer’s abridgment tops out at around 150 pages.

The second is an original work by Plumer titled The Rock of Our Salvation: A Treatise Respecting the Natures, Person, Offices, Work, Sufferings, and Glory of Jesus Christ (1867). It covers many additional aspects of the person and work of Christ beyond his mediatorial offices (see here for our previous notice of this work along with a table of contents), but the portion covering the mediatorial offices constitutes just under 80 pages out of a volume that is over 500 pages in length. His practical lessons for Christians after examining Christ as Priest and King are very devotional and encouraging.

Together these works represent a synthesis of Scottish and Southern Presbyterian (though Plumer was born in Pennsylvania, he ministered and taught a great deal in the South and is considered to be “one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church”) perspectives on the mediatorial offices of Christ. And though neither Stevenson nor Plumer was a Reformed Presbyterian (or Covenanter), a Reformed Presbyterian in the vein of William Symington (author of the classic work on Christ’s kingship, Messiah the Prince (1840), would find in their works much with which to happily agree on the kingly office of Christ, particularly regarding the universal scope of his dominion and reign. (Another similar Scottish-Southern Presbyterian take on the universal dominion of Christ in his kingly office as mediator can be found in the Sermons of Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, republished by Sprinkle Publications.)

Presbyterians of all branches and stations would do well to read Plumer / Stevenson on the offices of Christ. These works will help to enrich your understanding of the work that Christ performed and continues to perform to accomplish our redemption.

Thomas Murphy's Recommended Pastoral Library

The following is a list of recommended books that should be had and consulted by the Christian minister in his library, prepared by Thomas Murphy, an Irish-American Presbyterian, who was born in Country Antrim in 1823 and died in New Jersey in 1900. Many of the authors he cites in his most valuable Pastoral Theology, pp. 144-147, not surprisingly, are to be found here at Log College Press. This guide can be useful to all Christians, but especially if you are a pastor or seeking to become one, take note of the authors and titles and links below.

In order to give some assistance in the selection of books, we would name a few upon the respective branches of ministerial study. We pass by general reading and culture, for it is with the minister in his special calling as pastor that we are now concerned. We give only a few authors as many as may serve at the beginning of the ministry a sort of indispensable apparatus for commencing the great work. At least, the pastor's library should be stocked with most of these as soon as circumstances will allow. The books we name have been well tried, and are recommended by persons whose judgment is worthy of confidence.

1. Books of general reference….

2. Interpretation of Scripture….

3. Commentaries. On the whole Bible, [Matthew] Henry's Commentary; Critical and Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Faussett and Brown; [Johann Peter] Lange's great Bible work is a thesaurus of scriptural exposition which may be secured as the wants of the pastor require. Many of the best expositors have written on only one or a few books of Scripture. A detailed list of some of the most useful of these may now be given: On Genesis, [James Gracey] Murphy, [Melancthon Williams] Jacobus, [George] Bush; on Exodus, Murphy, Jacobus, Bush; on Leviticus, Bush, [Andrew] Bonar; on Numbers, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Deuteronomy, Keil and Delitzsch; on the whole Pentateuch, [John] Calvin; on Joshua and Judges, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Ruth and Samuel, Keil and Delitzsch; on Esther, [Thomas] McCrie [the Elder]; on Job, [Albert] Barnes; on Psalms, Barnes, Calvin; on Proverbs, [Charles] Bridges, [Moses] Stuart; on Ecclesiastes, Bridges; on Song of Solomon, Newton; on Isaiah, Barnes, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on Jeremiah and Lamentations, [Ebenezer] Henderson; on Ezekiel, [Patrick] Fairbairn; on Daniel, Barnes, [Karl August] Auberl[e]n, Stuart; on the minor prophets,  Henderson; on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi[T.V.] Moore; on the four Evangelists, John J. Owen; on Matthew and Mark, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on John, [George] Hutch[e]son; on Acts[Joseph Addison] Alexander, [Horatio Balch] Hackett, Jacobus; on Romans, [Charles] Hodge, [Samuel Hulbeart] Turner; on Corinthians[Charles] Hodge; on Galatians, [Martin] Luther; on Ephesians[Charles] Hodge; on Philippians and Colossians, [John] Eadie; on Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barnes; on Hebrews, Stuart, [John] Owen; on James, Barnes, [Robert Everett?] Pattison; on Peter, Barnes and [Robert] Leighton; on John and Jude, Barnes; on Revelation, Stuart, Barnes and Auberl[e]n.

4. TheologySystematic Theology, by [Charles] Hodge; [George] Hill's Divinity; [Timothy] Dwight's Theology; [John] Dick's Theology; Outlines of Theology, by A. A. Hodge; [Benedict] Pictet's Theology.

5. Church History. [Johann Lorenz] Mosehim's Ecclesiastical History; [W.G.T.] Shedd's History of Doctrines; [Johann Heinrich] Kurtz's Sacred History; [Philip] Schaff's Apostolic Church; [Thomas] McCrie's [the Elder] Life of Knox; History of the Church in Chronological Tables, [Henry Boynton] Smith; The Ancient Church, by Dr. [William Dool] Killen; [Jean-Henri Merle] D'Aubigne's Histories.

6. Church Government and the Sacraments[Samuel] Miller on the Christian Ministry; [Samuel} Miller on the Ruling ElderPrimitive Church Officers, J.A. Alexander; [Richard] Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; [Lyman] Coleman's Primitive Church

7. Sermons. This field is a boundless one, and we give only a few books which are known to be of standard value: [Robert] South's Sermons; Robert Hall's Sermons; Sermons of John M. Mason — these should be read by all means; [Samuel Davies’] Sermons; Archibald Alexander's Practical Sermons; Gospel in Ezekiel, [Thomas] Guthrie; Principal [William] Cunningham's Sermons, amongst the best in the language; [Charles] Spurgeon's Sermons; Bishop [Samuel] Horsley's Sermons, among the best.

8. Practical Piety. [Lady Rachel] Russell's Letters; [Samuel] Rutherford's Letters; [Thomas] A Kempis; [John Angell] James's Earnest Ministry; [Octavius] Winslow's Precious Things of God; [Richard] Baxter's Reformed Pastor; Daily Meditations by [George] Bowen; Owen on the Glory of Christ — a work of pre-eminent value; Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness — Dr. [Archibald] Alexander said this should be read once a year; [John] Howe's Delight in God; [John] Flavel's Keeping the Heart.

9. Christian Biography. Lives of [Robert Murray] McCheyne, [Charles] Simeon, Henry Martyn, [Thomas] Hal[y]burton, Archibald Alexander.

10. Great Puritan Writers. John Howe -- all of his works. Says James W. Alexander, "A little reading in the pages of great thought will sometimes set one thinking, as if by a happy contagion. Such pages are those of John Howe." Owen, especially on Hebrews Dr. Mason used to say all his theology was from this. Some of his most valuable productions are on "Spiritual-Mindedness," on the "Glory of Christ," on "Forgiveness of Sin," "Indwelling Sin," and "Mortification of Sin;" Baxter, especially his "Saints Rest" and "Reformed Pastor," Leighton's works; Flavel's works highly recommended; and [Stephen] Charnock on the "Divine Attributes." 

11. On Sabbath-school Work. "Sunday-School Idea" ([John Seely] Hart); "Sabbath -School Index" ([Richard Gay] Pardee); "Preparing to Teach" (Presbyterian Board).

The minister who has secured most of these books is furnished with the best of reading for many a day, and with authorities on almost all subjects that can come before him in his profession. Of other authors he will find out the value in the progress of his ministry, and purchase them as new wants arise. It was an excellent advice of Dr. Archibald Alexander that ministers should buy books only as they are actually needed, and not to be stored away on the shelves of the library for future use. Our last advice is to be sure of getting only the standard and very best authors.

J.W. Alexander: Remember to pray for your pastor

James Waddel Alexander reminds us what a privilege it is to lift our pastors before the heavenly throne to receive grace and blessing from above upon the ministry of Christ’s word:

The primary advantage of family-prayer to the church, is that it is answered. It is no small thing for any congregation to have daily cries for God's blessings on it ascending from a hundred firesides. What a spring of refreshment to a pastor! The family-devotions of praying Kidderminster, no doubt, made [Richard] Baxter a better minister, and a happier man; and it is possible that we are reaping the fruits of them, in his "Saints' Rest," and "Dying Thoughts." We have all heard of the preacher who told his flock that he had "lost his prayer-book," meaning their prayers; as also that good quaint saying of the last age, "A praying people makes a preaching minister." Such aid has been well compared to that of Aaron and Hur. Faithful and affectionate Christians never fail to remember their spiritual guide in their household supplications. (Thoughts on Family Worship, pp. 148-149)

The Ecclesiastical Catechisms of Alexander McLeod and Thomas Smyth

Most Presbyterians are familiar with the Westminster Shorter/Larger Catechisms, or the Heidelberg Catechism. But have you heard of Ecclesiastical Catechisms? At least two were written by Presbyterians in America in the 19th century: one by Alexander McLeod (1806) and one by Thomas Smyth (1843). (Another was written by Luther Halsey Wilson titled The Pattern of the House; or, A Catechism upon the Constitution, Government, Discipline and Worship of the Presbyterian church, which we hope to add to the site in the future.) These books present the doctrine of the church in question and answer format, so that God's people might more easily understand what the Scriptures teach about the institution that Jesus is building. McLeod and Smyth won't agree on everything (for instance, the number of offices Jesus has appointed in His church), so comparing and contrasting these two documents, written 40 years apart, will undoubtedly be an edifying and rewarding use of your time. 

Note: This blog post was originally published on November 8, 2017 and has been slightly edited.

The Man Who Coined the TULIP Acrostic: Cleland Boyd McAfee

Although many credit Loraine Boettner (1901-1990) in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932) with originating the acrostic for the Five Points of Calvinism known as TULIP, it is believed that the real originator was instead Cleland Boyd McAfee (1866-1944)who did so in 1905 (whose TULIP was a slightly different version than that of Boettner). More widely known for his study of the King James Version of the Bible, and other works, McAfee is a 19th century American Presbyterian worth getting to know. Visit here for more information on his life and works. 

Note: This blog post was originally published on January 24, 2018 and has been very slightly edited.

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 the Model of the Christian Family 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 duties anew. 

Note: This post was originally published on September 12, 2017, and has been very slightly edited.

October 22, 1880: William S. Plumer Entered Into Glory

It was at 3:20 am on Friday, October 22, 1880, that William Swan Plumer breathed his last in a hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland after complications from kidney stone surgery.

His daughters wrote a memorial to their father describing his last days in which they recounted some of his last words: “‘When I first knew of the operation, my faith was as a mountain that could not be shaken. Then for awhile my thoughts were of man; but since I have been here I have never had in my life such clear manifestations of divine love.’ Again: ‘I did not want to die without giving my testimony on this bed that God is a faithful God.’”

His body was afterwards transported by train and laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, next to his wife’s, where their earthly remains await the great Resurrection. His tombstone reads: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil. i.21. A tablet erected to his memory in the First Presbyterian Church of Petersburg, Virginia, where he ministered for 4 years, also reads:

“Strengthened with might by His power.”

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”

Plumer once mused following a return visit to his old childhood home:

How short is life! It is a vapour, a shadow, a tale that is told. Fifty years have passed since I roamed over these fields, and bathed in these waters, and yet that whole time seems like a dream. All flesh is grass. Most of the companions of my early life have already gone beyond the bounds of time. Soon earth will know none of us any more forever.

How certain is death. None escape. The young and healthy may die; the old and sickly must. None can long withstand the assaults of disease. The grave-yard has filled up wonderfully.

What a Saviour we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! How wisdom and tenderness, power and love, grace and truth, shine out in him. “He is still in office for us; he pleads our cause before his Father; he rules the universe for our welfare; and he teaches us wisdom." Blessed one! how we ought to love him.

If we are in Christ, what a blessed meeting we shall soon have with all the redeemed in glory. Many of the best friends I ever had are gone before me. I sympathize with good old Richard Baxter when he says: "I must confess, as the experience of my own soul, that the expectation of loving my friends in heaven principally kindles my love to them while on earth. If I thought I should never know them, and consequently never love them after this life is ended, I should number them with temporal things, and love them as such; but I now converse with my pious friends in a firm persuasion that I shall converse with them forever; I take comfort in those that are dead or absent, believing that I shall shortly meet them in heaven, and love them with a heavenly love." It would be easy to make out a list of such old friends large enough to cover many pages. Their memory is precious. I hope soon to see them, and unite with them in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Words of Truth and Love [1867], pp. 51-52, 58-59).

What did a 19th century African-American think of Presbyterianism's relationship to African-Americans?

Matthew Anderson entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1874, and was the first black student to reside in the main seminary building. He became the pastor of Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, and in 1897 he wrote Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro. As the 21st century church seeks gospel peace and harmony among various ethnicities, this book would be an interesting and important source from which to learn how our heritage has thought through these issues in years gone by.

In the preface to his work, Anderson remarks, "We have always thought, and we believe rightly, that the Presbyterian Church has an important mission to perform among the colored people of the United States. The doctrines held by the church are the best calculated to correct the peculiar faults of the Negro, his legacy from slavery, and thus give him that independence and decision of character necessary to enable him to act nobly and well his part as a man and a citizen of our great republic" (7-8). In spite of what from our vantage point could be viewed as a paternalistic tone from Anderson toward his own people, yet his conviction is sound: the Presbyterian Church does indeed have a great and important mission to perform among - and the doctrines of our church are best calculated to correct the faults of - white, black, brown and every other color of skin under the sun. 

Ed. note: This post was originally published on July 8, 2017, and has been only slightly edited.