Read History at Log College Press

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As Robert Pollock Kerr once wrote in the September / October 1892 issue of The Union Seminary Magazine:

Read history; but read it in the light of God; and ever feel that the story as it is told is penned on the pages of time by the overruling hand of the Infinite.

Kerr himself was the author of a history of Presbyterianism, a history of the Scottish Covenanters, and The Voice of God in History. He was deeply concerned that people in his own day developed an understanding not only of that which had gone before, but also that they see the hand of God in His Story. In the latter work, he writes:

Next to the knowledge of God, the best study for mankind is men. History, from one standpoint, is a record of the doings of men, and one learns the philosophy of humanity from the story of the race. From another standpoint, history is the study of God; for the Divine Ruler has not left the world to itself, but is continually acting in it, bringing to pass his great designs. God is sovereign, and man free; and history records the divine and human as they move together in the world. In history, then, man learns God and himself. If this be true, there can be no more profitable study. The Bible itself, the Book of books, is history; yes, history; not naked annals, but lines of events as they stand related to certain great fundamental truths, glowing with the interest which attaches to the joys and sorrows of humanity, over shadowed by an infinite love. Real history is the annals, the truths, and pathos of human existence combined; in other words, it is the world's life lived over again.

This being so, there is a great treasury of historical resources to be found at Log College Press. Our topical pages on Church History, Biographies and Autobiographies contain numerous volumes written by a range of authors.

Most recently, we have added to the site (among other works):

If you are in search of weekend reading material, these and many more works are available to bookmark, download and peruse at Log College Press. To see the hand of God at work in history and in the lives of his saints is a blessing which makes the reading that much sweeter to the Christian who knows that same hand at work in his or her own life. There is so much to read out there, but we have tried to dust off old worthies for the modern reader so that these gems will not remain buried in obscurity. Take advantage of this resource, and see what there is for the student of history to read at Log College Press.

Charles Hodge: Nothing but truth can really do good

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Charles Hodge, in his commentary on Romans 14, makes a point that Christians do well to consider in apologetics and other forms of conversation and discussion, especially in the age of social media.

It is, therefore, of great importance to keep the conscience free; under no subjection but to truth and God. This is necessary, not only on account of its influence on our own moral feelings, but also because nothing but truth can really do good. To advocate even a good cause with bad arguments does great harm, by exciting unnecessary opposition; by making good men, who oppose the arguments, appear to oppose the truth; by introducing a false standard of duty; by failing to enlist the support of an enlightened conscience, and by the necessary forfeiture of the confidence of the intelligent and well informed. The cause of benevolence, therefore, instead of being promoted, is injured by all exaggerations, erroneous statements, and false principles, on the part of its advocates.

According to Hodge, therefore, it matters not just what we say, but how we say it. The Lord, of course, can bring good out of evil, but as the Scripture teaches elsewhere, we are not just called to “speak the truth,” but to do so “in love” (Eph. 4:15). Hodge makes note of this in his commentary on Ephesians:

…the apostle, while condemning all instability with regard to faith, and while denouncing the craft of false teachers, immediately adds the injunction to adhere to the truth in love. It is not mere stability in sound doctrine, but faith as combined with love that he requires.

To truth, then, must be added that which is good. The presentation of truth must be done in love. In this way, Christians glorify God after the most excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31). Love “rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). Love, therefore, is the motive for “speaking the truth,” and as such, we must remember not only how to declare to others that which is true, but also to do in a manner consistent with the gospel of God’s grace. As Hodge also notes (again, in his commentary on Ephesians):

It is possible "to hold the truth in unrighteousness;" to have speculative faith without love. The character most offensive to God and man is that of a malignant zealot for the truth.

Hodge, then, emphasizes in these commentaries the unity of purpose in speaking truth in the right manner, and so glorifying God both in what we say, and in how we say it. May such a unity of purpose be the aim of all Christians who desire to exemplify that “more excellent way.”

Louis Meyer: A heart for Jewish missions

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Born on August 30, 1862, in Crivitz, Germany, to Jewish parents, Louis Meyer would eventually become a minister of the gospel in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). Before his conversion to Christ, he studied medicine and became a surgeon, but an infection lead him to put that profession on hiatus while he spent four years traveling on the seas in the interests of his own health.

After his recovery, he immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where, in the providence of God, though he intended to resume his medical practice, he was deeply affected by a sermon series on “Christ in the Book of Leviticus” given by the Rev. J.C. Smith of the RPCNA. Not only was Meyer enabled to behold Christ in the Old Testament, and by faith, Meyer also came to be married to J.C. Smith’s daughter.

As Franz Delitzsch has aptly stated, “We are all Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem” (a reference to Gen. 9:27). J.G. Vos has expounded upon the Jewish roots of Christian worship in his tract “Ashamed of the Tents of Shem? The Semitic Roots of Christian Worship.” The Psalms sung in the worship of J.C. Smith’s congregation were influential in the conversion of Louis Meyer. He would go on to study theology at the RPCNA seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and then minister to predominately Gentile RPCNA congregations in Minnesota and Iowa, but he always had a heart — like the Apostle Paul (Rom. 10:1) — for the salvation of the Jews.

He was also appointed, in 1900, to serve the Board of Home Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He lectured nationally and internationally on Jewish missions, and contributed often to periodicals, such as The Jewish Era, The Chicago Hebrew Mission, Christian Nation, Glory of Israel, Zion’s Freund, and The Missionary Review of the World (he became an associate editor of the latter).

Meyer once gave a series of lectures at McCosh Hall, Princeton in February 1911. A portion of his account of that event is given here to offer the reader a sense of the man and his mission.

None of us had any idea whether any of the students would attend. We counted upon a number of those from the Theological Seminary, who know me, and upon some of the people of Princeton, but all of us agreed that McCosh Hall, which seats 600 people, would prove rather large for the occasion. Thus the hour for the meeting came, and lo, there were less than fifty chairs vacant in the hall, and a large crowd of students had appeared. Our harpist and our singer, two good Christian ladies, proved a success, and their earnest music was well received. Then I was introduced. I commenced with a broad history of the Jews, past and present, speaking about twenty minutes without revealing my real purpose, and the audience followed me with interest. Suddenly I closed my narrative, and I went on somewhat like this: ‘Jewish History is true. It is recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was closed at least 2,500 years ago. Whence did its writers get the knowledge of such history which is peculiar and extraordinary? By divine inspiration. Then the Old Testament is the Voice of God. ’ While I was developing these thoughts, some of the students who had been lolling in their seats, sat up and leaning forward, began to show signs of special interest.

Then once more I turned to Jewish history and asked the question, ‘What does it teach us?’ My answer was, ‘It teaches us that the master sin of men is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It began to grow very still as I was thus appealing to every one present. Just as I closed the appeal and was ready to finish, the great bell of the university struck nine, and every one of the strokes was clearly heard amid the stillness. It was like the call of the Lord. It was of His ordering, for I had not known of the existence of the clock. Deeply stirred myself, I was silent while the clock was striking. When it had ceased, I simply said, Amen. For a little all was silence. Then two students arose, and, as their fashion is, showed their approval by applause, and in a moment the hall resounded with the clapping of hands, the Christian men and women, the professors and the preachers present joining in it. But I sat down, not even acknowledging the applause, because the praise belonged unto the Lord.

His contributions to the causes of educating Gentiles and calling the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament were many. At the time of his death in 1913 at the age of 50, he was working on a project to highlight the lives of notable Jewish Christians during the previous century. Twenty-one such biographical sketches by him were published in 1983 under the title Louis Meyer's Eminent Hebrew Christians of the Nineteenth Century: Brief Biographical Sketches. A German-born Jewish Covenanter minister of the gospel is not a juxtaposition of words that one sees every day, but such is the Christian gentleman highlighted at Log College Press today. Check out his page to explore a sample of his published writings.

The Sitting-Room by J.W. Alexander

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In most eloquent fashion, James Waddel Alexander reminds us why families need a place to come together, as well as a routine where the heart of family life is nourished. This piece was originally published in The Presbyterian Magazine (Jan. 1851) under the pseudonym “C.Q.” (for “Charles Quill,” a favorite nom de plume of Alexander), and later republished posthumously with the author’s true name. Though he wrote in the 19th century, the need expressed here is no less greater, perhaps much more so, in the 21st.

The Sitting-Room

There is, or there ought to be, in every house, a room where all the household come together every day; a dear, well-remembered chamber, hung round by memory with the portraits of father, mother, brothers, sisters, servants, kinsfolk, friends, neighbours, guests, strangers, and Christ's poor. O, my reader, do you not remember such a room? In your wanderings, in your voyages, in the group of your own family, and among your own children, does not your thought go back to the days when you gathered around that ruddy, crackling fire, and when the heads, which are now laid low, were as a crown of glory to their offspring?

In some houses, this common-room, or “living-room,” as our Puritan neighbours call it, is the only room in the house; it is parlour, bed-room, kitchen, all in one. Blessed compensation of Providence to the poor man and his offspring; they can be always together. Wealth multiplies apartments and separates families. Go to the western clearing, and before you reach the cabin, you descry through the chinks the glow of a fire, which would serve a city mechanic for a week; entering, you behold the illumination of a whole circle sitting around the blaze, perhaps singing their evening hymn. Are they less happy than the dwellers in ceiled houses? Change the scene to the uptown seats of wealth, where the merchant prince abides in greater conveniences than Nebuchadnezzar or Charlemagne; for he has baths, hot and cold water on every floor, furnace-heat, and gas-lights. You can scarcely number the apartments. You think it a paradise. Hold! reconsider the social, the domestic part. It is three o'clock. What a solitude: The father is slaving at his counting-house. The mother is dropping cards at fifty doors, or stiffly receiving fifty visits. The boys are sparring or walking Broadway or Chestnut-street. The girls are with masters in Italian, dancing, and philosophy. The babies are airing with French nurses. Do these ever come together? Not in the true family sense. Some Christian merchants have few home joys, and are content to pray with their families once a day. The very name of a sitting-room, living-room, or common-room sounds plebeian, and savours of “the country.” Yet I know men, rich believers, who make conscience of gathering their family, all their family; and to effect this requires a place. God's blessing is on the room, whether covered with Axminster carpets or unplaned plank, whether hung with damask or with hunting-shirts and bear-skins, where that little kingdom, a Christian household, daily meets for prayer, for praise, for kind words, for joint labours, for loving looks, for rational entertainment, for reading aloud, for music, for neighbourly exchanges, for entertaining angels unawares. Thanks be to God for our Presbyterian sitting-rooms!

The Report of the 1849 Committee on Congregational Singing

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The June 30, 1849, edition of The Presbyterian, published in New York and Philadelphia, records the report of the Committee on Congregational Singing to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, Old School (Dr. William Swan Plumer was on this committee). It is a fascinating read, particularly on what it has to say about the topic of choirs in relation to congregational singing. We quote the section in full:

While, in some places, as yet, singing in public worship is conducted by a precentor, or a choir, and the congregation generally join their voices in other places, a select choir performs the singing, with little or no assistance from the great body of the congregation. We are free to say that we consider the latter practice as very undesirable, at the least. It results, in some cases, from the too frequent introduction of new tunes, which are repeated so seldom, and at such long intervals, that the congregation has no sufficient opportunity to become familiar with them and this is one important reason of the dislike which is occasionally felt toward new tunes, otherwise unexceptionable. But the disuse of congregational singing arises, also, from the fact that as the more cultivated and skilful singers are apt to be collected in the choir, there is not only a corresponding diminution of the number of singers in the body of the congregations, by the transfer of voices which formerly rose from various points in the assembly, but an increased diminution is effected, because other persons, who now miss the leading voices, by whose vicinity they were encouraged to sing, have now ceased to sing at all; and at length, if the singing of the choir happens to be very excellent, the pleasure of listening to it supersedes what ought to be the pleasure, and is the duty, of following it and uniting with it; and in the end, the mass of the worshippers sit completely silent.

We do not object to choirs. They are eminently useful as leaders. The evil alluded to is not necessarily to be remedied by disbanding them. There is a more excellent way of supplying the defect. We do not insist that it is the duty of all to sing. We think rather that it is the duty of some persons not to attempt to sing in public worship. Such are the incurables in voice and ear. But, at the same time, far more persons than now attempt to sing, may, can, and ought to qualify themselves for an edifying use of their voices in praising God in his courts. And, before we too soon conclude against choirs, as the cause of the disuse of congregational singing, a little inquiry into the habits of the people, in regard to this matter, may disclose a reason or two, which make greatly against some of those who complain of the evil. In the first place, is it not a fact that people generally do not pay sufficient regard to the excellent recommendation in the Directory, (chap. 4, Sec. 2,) to "cultivate some knowledge of the rules of music, that we may praise God in a becoming manner, with our voices, as well as our hearts?" What can be expected from indolence on this point, but the dissonant marring of "becoming praise," which no man has a right to produce, or an unseemly silence, which no man has a right to relapse into, until he has made a fair, but fruitless effort to learn to sing. Secondly, let us inquire how much of this evil is to be attributed to another evil probably lying back of it: is there not reason to believe that singing in family worship has fallen into general desuetude? Where this exercise is neglected, not only does family worship lose one of its sweetest elements and attractions, with all its soothing and elevating influences, but the young are deprived of one of the most likely and important means and aids for acquiring the taste, the practice, and the skill, which fit them to join in the praises of the Lord's house, with advantage to themselves and others. The operation of these two causes appears to us to be so obvious, that they need only to be indicated in order to suggest the remedy. On this point, proper care must be exercised by pastors, elders, and heads of families. Let them co-operate in promoting the cultivation of sacred music in families, in singing schools, in Sunday schools, in singing meetings, and even in the week-day schools: and let the officers of the church take the supervision both of the instruction of their people, and especially the youth, and of the whole department of the singing in public worship. Thus much will be done to correct any undue innovations by precentors and choirs, and to secure that co-operation of choir and people which is most desirable and practicable. This combination is attainable in entire consistency with a style of church-music, such as is demanded by the dignity of the service and approved by good taste, and with the edification of the people and the greater glory of God. Otherwise, it may well be feared that the work of " praising God in his sanctuary" will be monopolized by a very few persons; and it will be no sufficient apology for the indolent worshiper, that he is ready to objurgate "singing by Committee," and "praising God by proxy," while, in contrast with his own remissness, the zeal and pains which strive to rescue the singing of God's praise from utter neglect and contempt, are worthy of all commendation.

The committee’s report can be read in full here (1849 Old School General Assembly Minutes, starting at page 390).

An Address to President Lincoln

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In the autumn of 1862 (after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, and before it took effect on January 1, 1863), two Covenanter (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) ministers met privately with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss some particular priority goals that they wished the Lincoln administration to achieve. The Oval Office has rarely heard such a speech reminiscent of Psalm 2.

The address below to President Lincoln was authored and presented by James Renwick Wilson Sloane and Alexander McLeod Milligan (brothers-in-law as well as brothers in the Lord).


We visit you, Mr. President, as the representatives of the Reformed Presbyterian, or, as it is frequently termed, "Scotch Covenanter," Church, — a Church whose sacrifices and sufferings in the cause of civil and religious liberty are a part of the world's history, and to which we are indebted, no less than to the Puritans, for those inestimable privileges so largely enjoyed in the free States of this Union, and which, true to its high lineage and ancient spirit, does not hold within its pale a single Secessionist, or sympathizer with rebellion, in these United States.

Our Church has unanimously declared, by the voice of her highest court, that the world has never seen a conflict in which right was more clearly wholly upon the one side, and wrong upon the other, than in the present struggle of this Government with this slaveholders' rebellion. She has also unanimously declared her determination to assist the Government by all lawful means in her power in its conflict with this atrocious conspiracy, until it be utterly overthrown and annihilated.

Profoundly impressed with the immense importance of the issues involved in this contest, and with the solemn responsibilities which rest upon the Chief Magistrate in this time of the nation's peril, our brethren have commissioned us to come and address you words of sympathy and encouragement, also to express to you views which, in their judgment, have an important bearing upon the present condition of affairs in our beloved country; to congratulate you on what has already been accomplished in crushing rebellion, and to exhort you to persevere in the work, until it has been finally completed.

Entertaining no shadow of doubt as to the entire justice of the cause in which the nation is embarked, we nevertheless consider the war a just judgment of Almighty God for the sin of rejecting his authority, and enslaving our fellow-men, and are firmly persuaded that his wrath will not be appeased, and that no permanent peace will be attained, until his authority be recognized, and the abomination that maketh desolate utterly extirpated.

As an anti-slavery church of the most radical school, believing slavery to be a heinous and aggravated sin both against God and man, and to be placed in the same category with piracy, murder, adultery, and theft, it is our solemn conviction that God by his Word and Providence is calling the nation to immediate, unconditional, and universal emancipation. We hear his voice in these thunders of war saying to us, "Let my people go." Nevertheless, we have hailed with delighted satisfaction the several steps which you have taken in the direction of emancipation. Especially do we rejoice in your late proclamation, declaring your purpose to free the slaves in the rebel States on the first day of January, 1863, an act which, when carried out, will give the death-blow to rebellion, strike the fetters from millions of bondmen, and will secure for its author a place high among the wisest of rulers and the noblest benefactors of the race. Permit us, then, Mr. President, most respectfully yet most earnestly, to urge upon you the importance of enforcing that proclamation to the utmost extent of that power with which you are vested. Let it be placed on the highest grounds of Christian justice and philanthropy; let it be declared to be an act of national repentance for long complicity with the guilt of slavery. Permit nothing to tarnish the glory of the act, or rob it of its sublime moral significance and grandeur, and it cannot fail to meet a hearty response in the conscience of the nation, and to secure infinite blessings to our distracted country. Let not the declaration of the immortal Burke in this instance be verified: "Good works are commonly left in a rude and imperfect state through the tame circumspection with which a timid prudence so frequently enervates beneficence. In doing good we are cold, languid, and sluggish, and of all things afraid of being too much in the right." We urge you by every consideration drawn from the Word of God and the present condition of our bleeding country, not to be moved from the path of duty, on which you have so auspiciously entered, either by the threats or blandishments of the enemies of human progress, nor to permit this great act to lose its power through the fears of its timid friends.

There is another point which we esteem of prominent importance, and to which we wish briefly to call your attention. The Constitution of the United States contains no acknowledgment of the authority of God, of his Christ, or of his law as contained in the Holy Scriptures. This we deeply deplore, as wholly inconsistent with all claim to be considered a Christian nation, or to enjoy the protection and favor of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is above all earthly rulers. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one Mediator between God and man, through whom alone either nations or individuals can secure the favor of the Most High God, who is saying to us in these judgments, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, O ye judges of the earth! serve the Lord with fear. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that trust in him. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."

This time appears to us most opportune for calling the nation to a recognition of the name and authority of God, to the claims of him who will overturn, overturn, and overturn, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. We indulge the hope, Mr. President, that you have been called, with your ardent love of liberty, your profound moral convictions manifested in your sabbath proclamation, and in your frequent declarations of dependence upon Divine Providence, to your present position of honor and influence, to free our beloved country from the curse of slavery, and secure for it the favor of the great Ruler of the universe. Shall we not now set the world an example of a Christian State governed, not by the principles of mere political expediency, but acting under a sense of accountability to God, and in obedience to those laws of immutable morality which are binding alike upon nations and individuals?

We pray that you may be directed in your responsible position by divine wisdom, that God may throw over you the shield of his protection, that we may soon see rebellion crushed, its cause removed, and our land become Immanuel's land.

Another Covenanter minister, Thomas Sproull, reminisced shortly after Lincoln’s assassination about the president’s response to this powerful appeal:

Some time last winter two men connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church were in Washington City, and called at the President’s house. While in the room that is always open to visitors, the President came in, and got into a conversation with them, in the course of which mention was made,of the Covenanters. The name seemed to arrest his attention, and he remarked: “I know something about these people — they want the Constitution amended by putting slavery out of it, and by putting a recognition of God in it.” To this they assented, and he proceeded to speak in kind and earnest terms of the brethren who had been with him urging the amendments. He added that they had obtained one object of their mission during his first term in office, and he hoped they would obtain the other before the end of his second term.

National Reform Association Officers at Log College Press

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We have previously written about the history and mission of the National Reform Association (NRA) here. Although closely associated with the Reformed Presbyterian of North America (RPCNA), which emphasizes the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ over all things, including nations, the mission of the NRA — firstly, to amend the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ’s kingship over the nation — was widely supported by 19th century American Presbyterians from a range of denominations. The number of ministers who were supporters or officers of the NRA is remarkable, some of whom are available to read here at Log College Press. The names which follow — and some of the quotes — are all highlighted in the January 31-February 1, 1872 and February 4-5, 1874 Proceedings of the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the 1877 National Reform Manual.

National Reform Association.jpg
  • Samuel Agnew - The Treasurer of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia also served as the Treasurer of the National Reform Association.

Our duty is plain. We must search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. The loss of his favor will explain everything that has happened. And the grand aim should be to learn how we have lost his favor, and by what means we can regain it. This is too large a theme to be discussed within the compass of a few pages. But there is one feature of our government too closely connected with this question and too conspicuous to be passed by in silence. I refer, as you will readily suppose — for the topic is a familiar one— to the absence of any adequate recognition of the sovereignty of God, and the religion of which he is the author and object, in our Constitution, and in the practical administration of our political system. It may be conceded that the spirit of Christianity is to a certain extent incorporated into our Constitutions. The legal recognition of the Sabbath, the oath on the Holy Evangelists, and the appointment of chaplains, are, so far, an acknowledgment of the Christian religion. But our national charter pays no homage to the Deity. His name does not once occur in the Constitution of the United States. And, as if to confound the charity which would refer this omission to some accidental agency, the same atheism is repeated and perpetuated in another form no less excusable. . . . . The coinage of the United States is without a God. . . . . Is it too much to hope that this opprobrium may be wiped away? If we have never been taught the lesson before, we are admonished of it now, that the ‘Lord reigneth.’ Has not the time come to make our formal national confession of this fundamental truth — to impress it upon our coinage; to insert it (peradventure it may not be too late,) as the keystone of our riven and tottering Constitution? If the country is not ready for these two simple but significant steps in the direction of Christianity, we have been chastened to very little purpose (The Sovereignty of God, the Sure and Only Stay of the Christian Patriot in Our National Troubles: A Sermon (1862), pp. 20-23).

The Constitution Should Contain a Recognition of the Sovereignty of God Over the Nation.

In the consideration of this topic three things will be assumed, as their establishment (in substance) belongs to another tract of this series, viz. -- (1) That every nation is an organism, a moral person, of which Jehovah is Creator and Sovereign; -- (2) That God, as Sovereign, gives a Nation its prosperity and its adversity, and that He gives these for purposes of reward, of chastisement, and of special training; -- (3) That it is the duty of every nation -- especially of every Nation blessed as we have been -- to recognize, as an organism, His Sovereignty (The Religious Defect of the Constitution of the United States (1868), pp. 1-2).

There is one strictly national, that commenced in the adoption of the Federal Constitution, which is, the want of an acknowledgment in it of a Supreme Being and of a Divine revelation. That all-important engine of our national prosperity is, in form at least, entirely atheistical. Undoubtedly it was a great sin to have forgotten God in such an important national instrument, and not to have acknowledged Him in that which forms the very nerves and sinews of the political body. He had led us through all the perils of the Revolutionary struggle, and had established us in peaceful and plentiful security, and then to have been forgotten in the period of prosperity, certainly demanded His rebuke. Therefore hath the voice of His Providence proclaimed and even still it sounds in our ears: “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore will I be unto them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them” (Judgment and Mercy: A Sermon, Delivered...On the Day of "Humiliation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer" (1820)).

George Duffield V (not an NRA officer):

“Ye have robbed me, even this whole nation,” and as a nation He will hold us responsible for this robbery of his service and honor, just as much as he did Israel, and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece and Rome. To deny that God is ‘“THE GOVERNOR OF THE NATIONS,” (Ps. xxii. 28,) is to deny HIS DIVINE PROVIDENCE, acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, and to deny the providence of God is to deny his ATTRIBUTES. * * * It is that old story of Israel and human nature over again: “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.” Temporal prosperity was too much for him. “Then he forsook the God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.’” (Deut. xxxii. 15.”)

* "That no notice whatever should be taken of that God who planteth a nation, and plucketh it up at his pleasure, is an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate. Had such a momentous business been transacted by Mohammedans, they would have begun, "In the name of God." Even the savages, whom we despise, setting a better example, would have paid some homage to the Great Spirit. But from the Constitution of the United States, it is impossible to ascertain what God we worship; or whether we own a God at all. * * Should the citizens of America be as irreligious as her Constitution, we will have reason to tremble, lest the Governor of the Universe, who will not be treated with indignity by a people, any more than by individuals, overturn, from its foundation, the fabric we have been rearing, and crush us to atoms in the wreck." —Works of J. M. Mason, D. D., Vol. i., p. 50.

“Was this omission intentional, as in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence? or was it a moral oversight, even greater than the tremendous political oversight in the original Articles of Confederation?” "Is it not strange that it appears not to have been perceived by any one at the time that the whole of this controversy arose out of a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the substitution of State sovereignty, instead of the constituent sovereignty of the people, as the foundation of the Revolution and the Union?" — ''Jubilee of the Constitution," by John Quincy Adams, April 30th, 1839, pp. 30-36 (The God of Our Fathers: An Historical Sermon (1861), pp. 13-15).

We have formed an association to effect an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Our proposed amendment does not touch to change — much less to abrogate — one of the truths, the principles or the features of that great instrument. Nor does it imply that we are wanting in appreciation of it; that we are dissatisfied or are restless under its working hitherto. Whoever likes the Constitution will find that we like it, and the institutions that have grown up under it, in the same measure and probably for the same good reasons. He will find us joined with him in the loyal support of all the good that is in it, its implied assertion of the rights of man and its wise provision for the growth of the nation. For such political wisdom given to our fathers we devoutly thank God; and it is our conviction and our boast that this Constitution is the best national charter recorded on the pages of history. But our fathers were not infallible, and the Constitution which they made for us was not perfect. Our nation's growth and experience have suggested several important amendments which have been already adopted ; and, as it seems to us, the time has come to discuss the adoption of another. There are certain evils and cer tain signs of coming evil which give us anxiety. These evils and evil omens we trace back to an omission in the Constitution, and it is evident that if this omission be supplied the evils will be averted. And this is what we propose to do. Our amendment, like all the others, is suggested by our experience, and, however it may seem to be late in the day, can never be out of date. There is no mention of God in the Constitution, no word which recognizes His sovereignty over human affairs or His interest in them. One of the great — one of the chief characteristics of our people at the time they entered into national com pact is thus ignored. The underlying faith of our forefathers, a faith which must have given life and shape to their politics and their institutions, is thus not alluded to. I repeat, this is the omission which now engages our attention and which we wish to supply. We feel that such an omission does injustice to the people, who, because of it, are but partially described and but partially represented in their Constitution. It would seem as if they had not understood how great and how grave was the work of nation-making in which they were engaged, and that they gave only such earnestness as showed their desire for safety peace and wealth — mere material interests — though our forefathers, as we know, were a serious, thoughtful people, accustomed to do everything of a public nature in the name and the fear of God ; and though they settled the land and made their laws from the beginning as much for religious faith as for civil freedom, or rather, for the freedom of religious faith (Address of Dr. Edwards to the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

It is often claimed that the omission of all reference to God and His authority was simply an oversight; that His name was dropped from the oath by a mere inadvertence, and that the "no religious test" clause meant only no sectarian test; that some of the colonies had adopted sectarian tests, and that this was intended to forbid such tests under the Constitution. There are two things to be said in reply to this claim: First, that such deep forgetfulness and such astounding inadvertence in so grave a matter and in such circumstances, is wholly incredible and would scarcely lessen the nation's guilt if it were true. "For the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." And, second, there are historical facts connected with the framing, adoption, and first administration of the Constitution, which put beyond all question that our Constitution and government has this Godless, Christless character by the design and purpose of its founders (Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Vol. 3 (The Covenanter Vision) (1917), p. 293).

It is time that, without any narrowness or bigotry, Christians were united in the affirmation that this is and shall be a Christian land, and that the acknowledgment of this truth shall be put beyond all peradventure by being formally in the National Constitution (Letter to David McAllister, December 11, 1873).

This Church [Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America] is the special leader in the National Reform Movement. This is in the line of its testimony from the earliest days of Scotch Presbyterianism down to the present time. The thing which is peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Old Side) and which distinguishes it from all others, is the refusal of its people to vote, hold office, or do any other act definitely incorporating themselves with the government until the nation shall specifically recognize Jesus Christ as the source of its civil authority, and God's law as the rule of national conduct in legislation and in the administration of its affairs, both international and domestic. While the Covenanter Church is alone in maintaining the consistency of its political dissent by refusing to vote, large numbers of Christian American citizens in other communions look upon it as a radical, if not fatal defect of the Constitution that it contains no recognition of God as supreme, or of the nation as a moral person bound by the moral law. The Constitution acknowledges no benefit to be derived from the Bible, the Sabbath, Christian morality, or Christian conduct in officials, and gives no legal basis for any Christian feature of the government.

...Reformed Presbyterians feel specially called upon to aid the success of this association at any cost or personal sacrifice. They believe that when the proposed amendments to the Constitution shall have been incorporated into that document, and not until then, shall this be a truly Christian government.

...That Movement seeks to add to the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States, as the source of its civil authority some acknowledgment of God and the Nation's accountability to him. At present the Preamble of the Constitution simply says 'We, the people of the United States,' as if the people were independent of the Almighty. The National Reform Association seeks to have that Preamble amended by inserting after the words just quoted, 'recognizing the dominion of Jesus Christ over the nations, and this nation's subjection to the Divine law (Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements (1892), pp. 420-421).

Christ’s Mediatorial authority embraces the universe.—Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23. It presents two great aspects. 1st. In its general administration as embracing the universe as a whole. 2nd. In its special administration as embracing the church…

The truth as held by all branches of the historical church is, that while Christ has been virtually Mediatorial King as well as Prophet and Priest from the fall of Adam, yet his public and formal assumption of his throne and inauguration of his spiritual kingdom dates from his ascension and session at the right hand of his Father….

The state is a divine institution, and the officers thereof are God’s ministers, Romans 13:1–4, Christ the Mediator is, as a revealed fact, “Ruler among the Nations,” King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 19:16; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23, and the Sacred Scriptures are an infallible rule of faith and practice to all men under all conditions…

It follows therefore— 1st. That every nation should explicitly acknowledge the Christ of God to be the Supreme Governor, and his revealed will the supreme fundamental law of the land, to the general principles of which all special legislation should be conformed. 2nd. That all civil officers should make the glory of God their end, and his revealed will their guide. 3rd. That, while no distinction should be made between the various Christian denominations, and perfect liberty of conscience and worship be allowed to all men, nevertheless the Christian magistrate should seek to promote piety as well as civil order (“Confession of Faith,” ch. 23, § 2). This they are to do, not by assuming ecclesiastical functions, nor by attempting to patronize or control the church, but by their personal example, by giving impartial protection to church property and facility to church work, by the enactment and enforcement of laws conceived in the true spirit of the Gospel, and especially in maintaining inviolate the Christian Sabbath, and Christian marriage, and in providing for Christian instruction in the public schools (Outlines of Theology, pp. 428-429, 434).

The point we want recognized in the Constitution is not a dogma of the churches, nor a theory of the schools, but a simple fact, everywhere operating, and universally recognized by believers. Jesus Christ is, as a fact, “Ruler among the nations,” (I.) providentially guiding their affairs, and determining their destinies; (2.) morally, by the revelation of truth and duty, the exhibition of motives, and stimulus and discipline of providentially arranged circumstances. If this be a matter of fact generally believed, should not a great self-governing community like this nation, conscious of its acts and of their character, make a distinct profession of its allegiance?

The practical recognition of this fact is no new thing in American history. It has formed a prominent characteristic of our successive governments, colonial, state, and national, from the beginning. We propose the adoption of no new principles, and no radical change of customs. We propose only to recognize, as a fundamental principle in the National written Constitution, that which has been a universally recognized principle of national life from the first. We aim not at change, but at conservation. We want to preserve through all coming time, and consistently carry out in all departments of law, the hitherto universally admitted fact, that Christianity is an element in the common law of the land (Address Concerning a Religious Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1874)).

The grand defect in the bond of our national union is the absence of the recognition of God as the Governor of this world. We have omitted — may it not be said refused? — to own him whose head wears many crowns, as having any right of dominion over us. The constitution of these United States contains no express recognition of the being of a God: much less an acknowledgment, that The Word of God, sways the sceptre of universal dominion. This is our grand national sin of omission. This gives the infidel occasion to glory, and has no small influence in fostering infidelity in affairs of state and among political men. That the nation will be blessed with peace and prosperity continuously, until this defect be remedied, no Christian philosopher expects. For this national insult, the Governor of the universe will lift again and again his rod of iron over our heads, until we be affrighted and give this glory to his name (The Little Stone and the Great Image; or, Lectures on the Prophecies Symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of the Golden Headed Monster (1844), pp. 280-281).

We have never believed it perfect. Doubtless some improvements are possible; but it makes abundant provision for them, without utter demolition. The principal defect apparent to our vision meets us at the vestibule. The portico lacks one gem to perfect its lustre. There is union and justice, common defence and general welfare, blessing and liberty, but we cast our eyes about in vain for that which alone can give stability and beauty to the whole. The Koh-i-noor, whose radiant glories crown the grandeur of the beautiful temple, the Shekinah, is absent. The grand bond of our national Union does not distinctly acknowledge the being of a God. For more than forty years, a Fourth of July has seldom passed, on which I have not preached and warned my countrymen of this defect, and told them if it be not supplied, God would pull down their temple and bury a nation in its ruins. This warning has been sounded forth from thousands of pulpits in the land, and would have been much more extensively trumpeted but for the paralyzing influence of the fallacy couched in the demagogue's double entendre. ‘Religion has nothing to do with politics’ (Political Fallacies (1863), pp. 305, 306).

Nations have no difficulty in recognizing and acting on the principle of national, responsibility in their dealings with each other. In our recent troubles with Spain on account of the capture of the Virginius and the barbarous deeds that followed, we did not go to the individuals who perpetrated the outrage; we did not go to Cuba with our demand of reparation; we took our case directly to those who represented the supreme authority of Spain. From the nation we demanded reparation, and from it we received it. On the same principle God deals with all nations. They may refuse to acknowledge his authority; they may seek to throw off all responsibility to him; but it is in his prerogative and power to hold them to it, whether they acknowledge it or not. He claims, not only under his general ordinance, but in specific terms, to be the “Governor among the nations;” and in his Providence, as in his word, has shown that he does “judge among the nations,” and that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” The sacred history abounds with records of this, not only in respect to the chosen people, but the nations around them whose history is interwoven with theirs. And in records outside of the sacred history, we have the evidences, in all the ages, of his judgment and power, approving or condemning, blessing or punishing, the nations according to their character and acts. The history of our own nation is a sufficient illustration of this; as, also, of the fact that no existing nation of all the world has been brought under greater obligations to acknowledge and honor him (Moral Responsibility of Nations (1874)).

  • David McAllister (NRA General Secretary) - McAllister’s labors on behalf of the National Reform movement were diverse and extensive. Some of his writings from the 1870’s promoting an amendment to the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ as King are available to read at Log College Press. He also wrote a manual of the NRA’s history and principles.

The amendment proposed is such an addition, in substance, to the Preamble of the United States Constitution, as will suitably express our national acknowledgment of Almighty God as the author of the nation's existence and the source of its authority; of Jesus Christ as its ruler; and of the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

This is the great purpose of the National Association, based on the fundamental truth that a nation, as such, stands in clear and definite relations to God and his moral laws, and that in the Constitution, as well as the administration of its government, it is under obligations to acknowledge these relations (The Aims and Methods of the Movement to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

The doctrine here advocated is, that as the different branches of our national government, the executive, legislative, and judicial, are co-ordinate, each supreme within its own sphere, and independent of the others, but all alike responsible directly to the people, so the church and state are co-ordinate institutions, totally independent of each other, each, in its own sphere, supreme with respect to the other, but both alike of Divine appointment, having one and the same head and fountain of all their powers, which is God. Whence both alike are bound to acknowledge, worship, and obey him. It is as great a solecism for the state to neglect this, as it would be for the church. Many seem to think that the complete separation of church and state, implies that the state, as such, has no duties to God, and no religious character. As logically it could be inferred from the family’s independence of the church, that that family has no religious character, and no duties to God. The family, the church, and the state, these are all co-ordinate institutions, severally independent of each other, yet all alike having one and the same Head, which they are equally bound in solemn form to acknowledge, worship, and obey. When the state, for any reason, declines to do this, it falls into a gross anomaly, and exemplifies that which is described in the second Psalm: Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; Jehovah shall have them in derision (A Nation’s Right to Worship God (1859), pp. 36-37).

Nor is slavery by any means the only sin with which, as a nation, we are chargeable. Our constitution of government, and its administration, are, to all intents and purposes, atheistic, ignoring the existence of God and every institution that he has established among men. This constitution was formed at a period when this country and Europe were both overrun by the principles of French infidelity, by men who were notoriously sceptical, and by whom all recognition of God was purposely excluded from this “remarkable document.” This no one can deny who has any acquaintance with the history of this period (God's Judgments, and Thanksgiving Sermons: A Discourse (1858), p. 12).

The first which I name, Religion, is first also in point of importance and necessity. This is a prime support of national greatness and perpetuity. No government, much less one that is wholly dependent upon the morals of the citizens, will long exist without it. By religion in this connection, I do not mean merely the religion of the individuals composing the State, but national religion acknowledged in the Constitution, embodied in the laws, and entering as an element into all those institutions which are the outgrowth and the exponents of the national life….We refuse, then, the profane maxims current in the mouths of political speculatists: "Religion has nothing to do with politics," "The State has no God," "Law knows no Bible."…We do not affirm that as a nation we are wholly destitute of the Christian element. There is much in our country which is the direct result of its influence. There are certainly here a large number devotedly attached to Christian principles. Our great benevolent and educational institutions are largely moulded and controlled by Christianity. Its powerful and permeating influence is everywhere felt. Nevertheless, as a government, we are not merely profoundly laic, as Guizot would say, but absolutely infidel and atheistic. Our Government is no more Christian than it is Jewish or Mohammedan. There is no recognition of God in its Constitution, no allusion to his name, authority, or law, not the most remote allusion to that great fundamental truth which, as the General Assembly in its late deliverance upon this subject truly declares, must underlie all our claims to be considered a Christian nation; viz., that there is one mediator between God and man (The Three Pillars of a Republic (1862) in Life and Work of J.R.W. Sloane, D.D. (1888), pp. 235, 238-240).

We respectfully submit to your consideration, whether these amendments are not simply an appropriate recognition of the relations which all just human authority sustains to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Is not anything less than this wholly inconsistent with those relations? We propose the recognition of God, not only be cause He is the Supreme Ruler of all men and all organizations, but because it is He who has given the institution of civil government to man, and the just authority of the magistrate is derived from Him. "There is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God." It is surely fitting that a constitution framed by a Christian people should recognize a higher source of civil authority than the mere will or con sent of the. citizen. And in presenting civil government thus, as a divine institution, we enforce, by the highest possible sanctions, its claims upon the respect and obedience of the citizen. The true strength of a government lies in the conscientious regard felt for it as the ordinance of God. Thus only is the magistrate clothed with his true authority, and the majesty of the law suitably preserved. "The sanctions of religion," says De Witt Clinton, "compose the foundations of good government."

Government is instituted for man as an intellectual, social, and moral and religious being. It corresponds to his whole nature. It is intended (o protect and advance the higher as well as the lower interests of humanity. It acts for its legitimate purposes when it watches over domestic life, and asserts and enforces the sanctity of the marriage bond ; when it watches over intellect and education, and furnishes means for developing all the faculties of the mind; when it frowns on profaneness, lewdness, the desecration of the Sabbath, and other crimes which injure society chiefly by weakening moral and religious sentiment, and degrading the character of a people. Acting for such purposes, government should be established on moral principles. Moral principles of conduct are determined by moral relations. The relations of a nation to God and his moral laws are clear and definite: 1. A nation is the creature of God. 2. It is clothed with authority derived from God. 3. It owes allegiance to Jesus Christ, the appointed Ruler of nations. 4. It is subject to the authority of the Bible, the special revelation of moral law. In constituting and administering its government, then, a nation is under obligations to acknowledge God as the author of its existence and the source of its authority, Jesus Christ as its ruler, and the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

Up to the time of the adoption of the National Constitution, acknowledgments of this kind were made by all the States. They are yet made by many of the States. And in the actual administration of the national government the principle is admitted. But the fundamental law of the nation, the Constitution of the United States, on which our government rests and according to which it is to be administered, fails to make, fully and explicitly, any such acknowledgment. This failure has fostered among us mischievous ideas like the following: The nation, as such, has no relations to God ; its authority has no higher source than the will of the people; government is instituted only for the lower wants of man ; the State goes beyond its sphere when it educates religiously, or legislates against profanity or Sabbath desecration.

The National Association, which has been formed for the purpose of securing such an amendment to the Constitution as will remedy this great defect, and indicate that this is a Christian nation, and place all Christian laws, institutions, and usages in our government on an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the nation, invites all American citizens who favor such an amendment, without distinction of party or creed, to meet in Thorns' Hall, Cincinnati, on Wednesday, January 31, 1872, at 2 o'clock, P. M. All such citizens, to whose notice this call may be brought, are requested to hold meetings and appoint delegates to the Convention (Call For a National Convention (1872)).

Persuaded that God is the source of all legitimate power; that he has instituted civil government for His own glory and the good of man; that he has appointed His Son, the Mediator, to headship over the nations; and that the Bible is the supreme law and rule in national as in all other things, we will maintain the responsibility of nations to God, the rightful dominion of Jesus Christ over the commonwealth, and the obligation of nations to legislate in conformity with the written Word. We take ourselves sacredly bound to regulate all our civil relations, attachments, professions and deportment, by our allegiance and loyalty to the Lord, our King, Lawgiver and Judge; and by this, our oath, we are pledged to promote the interests of public order and justice, to support cheerfully whatever is for the good of the commonwealth in which we dwell, and to pursue this object in all things not forbidden by the law of God, or inconsistent with public dissent from an unscriptural and immoral civil power. We will pray and labor for the peace and welfare of our country, and for its reformation by a constitutional recognition of God as the source of all power, of Jesus Christ as the Ruler of Nations, of the Holy Scriptures as the supreme rule, and of the true Christian religion;. and we will continue to refuse to incorporate by any act, with the political body, until this blessed reformation has been secured (The Covenant of 1871)

The Death of J.W. Alexander

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In the spring of 1859, at the age of 55, the health of James Waddel Alexander began to decline. He made the decision to leave New York City, where he labored as pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and head south to Virginia. It was thought that the curative effects of the western mountain springs could help to alleviate the chills he was experiencing. His long-time correspondent, John Hall, encouraged him to think about a trip out West, but Alexander determined to return to his home state (Alexander’s letter to Hall from Charlottesville, dated June 7, 1859).

Red Sweet Springs, as it appeared in 1867. Source:

Red Sweet Springs, as it appeared in 1867. Source:

In the mid-19th century, places such as Warm Springs in Bath County and Red Sweet Springs (also known Sweet Chalybeate Springs) in Allegheny County drew many visitors and patients seeking a return to good health. Alexander visited the Warm Springs Hotel first, arriving on July 13. His delight in seeing the mountains was evident during the days following. Dr. James L. Cabell, Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who accompanied him to the springs, reported that:

In his daily drives, his enjoyments of our mountain scenery, which is unsurpassed for its varied beauty and grandeur, was almost rapturous. It had never before, he said, been half so great. He would repeatedly say that he had no language of his own adequate to the expression of his feelings, and could only exclaim with the Psalmist: ‘Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.’

Dr. Cabell also reported that Alexander experienced an immediate boost in his health, but that he was also anxious to move on to Red Sweet Springs. On July 20, Alexander commenced the next leg of his trip, but had to stop for the night due to the onset of extreme physical pain while traveling on a hot Virginia road. Dysentery began to afflict him that night. The next day he made it to the Red Sweet Springs. But over the course of the following week, he battled a fever, and the dysentery took its toll on his body too. Although the proprietor of the cottage he stayed at, the doctor, and others, made every effort to provide comfort and aid, Alexander realized that he was coming to the end of his mortal journey. Before the end came, according to Cabell, Alexander said:

I have not been in the habit of talking much on the subject of my own spiritual states of feeling. With respect to my subjective religion, I have often disappointed people who look for manifestations of a certain kind. But I have frequently made known to Elizabeth [his wife] the grounds of my hope…Let me say one word more with respect to the solemn event to which you have called my attention. If the curtain were to drop now, and I were this moment ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings? They would be these: first, I would prostrate myself in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt; but, secondly, I would look upon my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love. A passage of Scripture which expresses my present feeling is this: “I KNOW WHOM” (with great emphasis) “I have believed, and am assured that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.

These words were uttered by Alexander about 20 hours before he breathed his last at around 5:00 am on the Lord’s Day, July 31, 1859. Thus did he, who had brought such consolation and comfort to many during his ministry, enter into the presence of the Lord whom he loved.

J.W. Alexander’s grave at Princeton Cemetery (photo by R. Andrew Myers).

J.W. Alexander’s grave at Princeton Cemetery (photo by R. Andrew Myers).

Alexander’s body was transported from Red Sweet Springs, Virginia and buried some days later at Princeton Cemetery, where his father Archibald Alexander, and later his brother Joseph A. Alexander, were also laid to rest. Last year, this writer paid a visit to his grave. Today, we remember a prince in Israel who died exactly 160 years ago.

What's in a name? Part 2

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One of the greatest tributes to a respected person is the children who are named after them (even beyond Jr.’s and so forth). This has occurred quite a few times within American Presbyterianism. Some rather interesting examples pertaining to Log College Press authors can be found below.

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) - Charles Hodge (1797-1878) named his son Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886) after his mentor. Archibald Alexander Edward Taylor (1834-1903) was also named after the great Virginia-born Presbyterian.

Elias Boudinot IV (1740-1821) - Elias Boudinot (1802-1839) was a Cherokee Presbyterian minister who was born with the name Gallegina Uwati (Buck Watie). He took the name of his mentor after his conversion to Christ.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) - At least two American Presbyterian ministers have been named after the English Baptist author of The Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan Reeve (1831-1916) and John Bunyan Shearer (1832-1919). Additionally, William Drew Robeson I (1844-1919) named a son John Bunyan Reeve Robeson (1886-1930, the son did not care for the name and was referred to as “Reed”).

Reeve, John Bunyan photo.jpg

John Calvin (1509-1564) - John Calvin Boyd (1814-1886) and John Calvin Barr (1824-1911) were both named after the French Reformer.

Richard Cameron (1648-1680) - Richard Cameron Wylie (1846-1928), the American Covenanter, was named after the Scottish Covenanter martyr.

Henry Clay (1777-1852) - Henry Clay Cameron (1827-1906) was named after the American statesman.

William Cowper (1731-1800) - Archibald Alexander named his son William Cowper Alexander (1806-1874) after the English poet.

Samuel Davies (1723-1761) - Both Samuel Davies Alexander (1819-1894), son of Archibald Alexander; and Samuel Davies Hoge (1791-1826), son of Moses Hoge (1752-1820) and father of Moses Drury Hoge (1819-1899); were named for the Delaware-born “Apostle to Virginia.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Benjamin Franklin Bittinger (1824-1913) was named for the American Founding Father.

Ashbel Green (1762-1848) - Both Ashbel Green Fairchild (1795-1864) and Ashbel Green Vermilye (1822-1905) were named for this noted New Jersey-born Presbyterian.

John Huss (1369-1415) - The Cherokee Presbyterian minister John Huss (1787-1858) was originally known as We-Cha-Lah-Nae-He (“the Spirit” or “Captain Spirit”). but took the name of the Bohemian Reformer after his conversion to Christ.

John Knox (1513-1572) - John Knox Witherspoon (1723-1794) was not only named for Scotland’s Reformation hero, but was also related to him through his mother, Anne (née Walker). The grandson of Witherspoon was also a Presbyterian minister named John Knox Witherspoon (1791-1853).

Alexander McLeod (1774-1833) - Alexander McLeod Stavely (1816-1903) of the RPCNA was named after an earlier leading American Covenanter.

John Newton (1725-1807) - John Newton Waddel (1812-1895) was named for the English Anglican minister and poet.

William Swan Plumer (1802-1880) - William Plumer Jacobs (1842-1917) was named after the adoptive father of his mother.

James Renwick (1662-1688) - James Renwick Willson (1780-1853), the American Covenanter, was named for a famous Scottish Covenanter.

James Waddel (1739-1805) - Archibald Alexander named his son James Waddel Alexander (1804-1859) after his father-in-law. J.W. Alexander would go on to write a biography of James Waddel, “the Blind Preacher.”

The connections between these names reminds us that the past is not dead, and that names of heroes of the faith live on in more ways than one.

* This is an updated edition of a post originally published on April 19, 2018.

Samuel Davies taught us to 'live not for yourselves'

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During his final illness, Samuel Davies selected the text upon which Samuel Finley would preach Davies’ funeral sermon: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7-8). This was done by Finley under the title The Dis-Interested and Devoted Christian [1761]. George Pilcher says that this Scripture text “expressed the belief that had governed [Davies’] life” (Samuel Davies: Apostle of Dissent in Colonial Virginia, p. 187).

Davies was a man who loved his family and his studies, and would have contented himself to serve his flock in rural central Virginia for the rest of his days. In 1751, he wrote to his brother-in-law, John Holt:

I can tell you that I am as happy as perhaps the Creation can make me: I enjoy all the Necessaries and most of the Conveniences of Life; I have a peaceful Study, as a Refuge from the Hurries and the Noise of the World around me; the venerable Dead are waiting in my Library to entertain me, and relieve me from the Nonsense of surviving Mortals; I am peculiarly happy in my Relations, and Providence does not affect me by afflicting them. In short, I have all a moderate Heart can wish; and I very much question if there be a more calm, placid and contented Mortal in Virginia.

But though Davies, with characteristic humility, thought himself unworthy to take up calls to serve the College of New Jersey (Princeton) by fundraising in Europe or in the capacity of President, and resisted those calls strenuously, he was not deaf to the call of duty when pressed upon him by others. He himself preached war sermons during the French and Indian War in which he told others: “FOLLOW THE PATH OF DUTY wherever it leads you” (Religion and Patriotism: The Constituents of a Good Soldier [1756]).

As President of Princeton — which he spoke of as “a Seminary of Loyalty, as well as Learning, and Piety: a Nursery for the State, as well as the Church” (A Sermon Delivered at Nassau-Hall, January 14, 1761, on the Death of His Late Majesty King George II [1761]) — Davies delivered a discourse on the importance of cultivating a public spirit which is reminiscent of wisdom from Thomas à Kempis, who said “Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or endeavoring something for the public good” (The Imitation of Christ). Let us give heed to Davies:

Whatever, I say, be your Place, permit me, my dear Youth, to inculcate upon you this important instruction, IMBIBE AND CHERISH A PUBLIC SPIRIT. Serve your Generation. Live not for yourselves, but the Publick. Be the Servants of the Church; the servants of your Country; the Servants of all. Extend the Arms of your Benevolence to embrace your Friends, your Neighbors, your Country, your Nation, the whole Race of mankind, even your Enemies. Let it be the vigorous unremitted Effort of your whole Life, to leave the World wiser and better than you found it at your Entrance (Religion and Public Spirit: A Valedictory Address to the Senior Class, Delivered in Nassau-Hall, September 21, 1760 [1762]).

Samuel Davies did much good in the span of 37 years on this earth. He left a legacy of godliness which continues to encourage and inspire. May his “important instruction” to the students of his beloved college ring in our ears today: “Leave the world wiser and better than you found it at your entrance.”

The former American slave-turned Presbyterian missionary who signed the Liberian Declaration of Independence: Amos Herring

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The history of Liberia, founded in the 19th century by the American Colonization Society (ACS), to enable former American slaves to live free in Africa, is very much interwoven with American Presbyterianism. The Society was established in 1816 under the leadership of Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, who died one year later. It was in 1847 that Liberia officially became an independent nation (more on this later). Ralph Randolph Gurley, a Presbyterian chaplain to the US House of Representatives, was another founder of the ACS.

Not all black Americans or black American Presbyterian ministers supported the idea. Theodore Sedgwick Wright and Samuel Eli Cornish jointly published a rebuttal to the project in 1840 titled The Colonization Scheme Considered. They were both editors at Freedom’s Journal, which had previously engaged in an 1827 dispute with Samuel Miller, who had transmitted to them a letter signed with the nom de plume “Wilberforce,” likely authored by Archibald Alexander, which was critical of the journal for its anti-colonization perspective. Frederick Douglass also engaged in a bitter dispute with African-American Presbyterian minister Henry Highland Garnet over this issue (and others). Garnet would go on to become the first black minister to preach to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1865, but also was appointed the first black American to serve a high-ranking federal position when he was appointed US minister and consul general to Liberia in 1881, where he died the following year.

It was Alexander who preached the ordination sermon for both John B. Pinney and Joseph W. Barr, the first foreign missionaries sent by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in 1832, but Barr died before leaving for Africa (his funeral sermon was preached by Miller). Pinney served under the auspices of the ACS as missionary and Governor of Liberia. John Leighton Wilson was also sent to Liberia in 1833, and spent almost two decades on the mission field there.

Other black Presbyterians were eager to minister the gospel in Liberia, such as Armistead Miller, James Ralston Amos and his brother, Thomas Henry Amos, all of whom were ordained in 1859 by the New Castle Presbytery. James M. Priest, a former slave from Kentucky who was freed and sent to Liberia by his former owner, returned, studied for the ministry, and was ordained by the Presbytery of New York and sent as the first foreign missionary of McCormick Theological Seminary to Liberia. Eventually, he served as Vice-President of Liberia from 1864-1868, and later as a justice on the Liberian Supreme Court.

The Liberian national flag.

The Liberian national flag.

All of which brings us to Amos Herring. Born as a slave in North Carolina, Herring moved to Augusta County, Virginia as a child, where he came under the ministry of the Old Stone (Presbyterian) Church. After gaining his freedom at the age of 26, he took his family and emigrated to Liberia in 1833 under the auspices of the ACS. He became pastor at the Presbyterian Mission in Monrovia and was esteemed so highly that in 1847 he served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on July 26, 1847 - a date which is celebrated annually as Liberian Independence Day. He was one of eleven signatories to the Declaration and the Constitution (hence, eleven bars in the Liberian flag). In 1871, after the disappearance and presumed death of the Liberian President, James Roye, Herring was one of three men appointed to a executive committee which temporarily took charge of the government. Herring himself died two years later on November 14, 1873.

The Liberian motto adopted in 1847 reads: “THE LOVE OF LIBERTY BROUGHT US HERE.” The Declaration of Independence, which Herring signed, unlike its 1776 American counterpart, contains an acknowledgment of God, and it tells the story of Liberia’s remarkable founding as well.

We the representatives of the people of the Commonwealth of Liberia, in Convention assembled, invested with authority for forming a new government, relying upon the aid and protection of the Great Arbiter of human events, do hereby, in the name, and on the behalf of the people of this Commonwealth, publish and declare the said Commonwealth a FREE, SOVEREIGN, AND INDEPENDENT STATE, by the name and title of the REPUBLIC of LIBERIA….

Our churches for the worship of our Creator, every where to be seen, bear testimony to our piety, and to our acknowledgment of His Providence.

The native African bowing down with us before the altar of the living God, declare that from us, feeble as we are, the light of Christianity has gone forth, while upon that curse of curses, the slave trade, a deadly blight has fallen as far as our influence extends.

Therefore in the name of humanity, and virtue and religion — in the name of the Great God, our common Creator, and our common Judge, we appeal to the nations of Christendom, and earnestly and respectfully ask of them, that they will regard us with the sympathy and friendly consideration, to which the peculiarities of our condition entitle us, and to extend to us, that comity which marks the friendly intercourse of civilized and independent communities….

It is our earnest desire that the affairs of this government may be so conducted as to merit the approbation of all Christendom, and restore to Africa her long lost glory, and that Liberia under the guidance of Heaven may continue a happy asylum for our long oppress ed race, and a blessing to the benighted and degraded natives of this vast peninsula. To secure which is our ardent wish and prayer.

With these profound words, the Liberian Declaration of Independence makes clear the nation’s early reliance upon Almighty God for its success. As Liberian Independence Day is observed in 2019, may American Presbyterians take note of this inspiring history, recalling to mind Amos Herring and the many who served as missionaries to Liberia, and continue in prayer for a nation that was founded by black Americans who sought freedom to live and to worship God in Africa.

A Prayer for New Orleans by Sylvester Larned

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“The first pastor of the first Presbyterian church in New Orleans,” Sylvester Larned (1796-1820), was Massachusetts-born, but after his Princeton education and 1817 ordination, he was appointed as a missionary to the “Old Southwest.” The city of New Orleans captured his heart, and in 1818, when he arrived, there was very limited knowledge of the gospel in this mostly Roman Catholic city. He coordinated outreach efforts for a time with the local Episcopalian minister (who, after his death, presided over his funeral). The cornerstone for the First Presbyterian Church was laid on January 8, 1819 and was dedicated on July 4, 1819 (two hundred years ago this month). Rev. Larned’s ministry to the people of New Orleans lasted but a short while before he succumbed to yellow fever on August 31, 1820 at the age of 24.

Ralph Randolph Gurley, a Presbyterian chaplain to the US House of Representatives and a founder of the American Colonization Society, wrote a biographical sketch of Larned along with a compilation of his sermons: Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned: First Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans (1844). Along with that material is included a prayer by Larned found in manuscript form. Part of that prayer is reproduced here because it shows his heart’s desire for his adopted city, a place which has endured great suffering over the years, as well as recent flooding even this month. It is a prayer that begins with a general exaltation of the God of the universe, and which descends into the particulars that were on his heart.

Look down in mercy on this favored land, to which Thou hast already extended so much kindness and care. Dwell in our public councils. May the Congress of these United States, now assembled, be directed to such measures as Thou shalt own and bless. May all our civil and religious liberties be secured. May every form of infidelity, vice, and error be done away. May we cherish a lively sense of Thy rich and bountiful blessings which we enjoy, while so many other countries are consigned to ignorance, to oppression, or to captivity. May we witness the universal effusion of Thy Spirit, and the multiplied trophies of Thy grace and mercy, till we can confidently appropriate the benediction of that happy people whose God is the Lord. Especially, O our heavenly Father, do we implore Thy smiles on this city. Here, may the Redeemer appear in the greatness of his power, and gather many sons and daughters unto glory. Here, may the Holy One of Israel be seen repairing the desolations of Zion, and visiting Jerusalem with peace. Here, may that religion be revived which Jesus Christ has given to men as the medium of forgiveness and joy to all who are governed by its principles. Pour out Thy Spirit, we beseech Thee, on Thy servants in this place, who are appointed to proclaim the truth and dispense the consolations of the Gospel. May their responsibility be faithfully discharged. May their labors be rewarded in the efficacy and success in which Thou art able, amidst all their trials, to make them rejoice. Smile, we pray Thee, on the children of Thy grace, and strengthen them to perform the duties of their profession. O may they feel, in all its emphasis, the impressive declaration of Thy word, that they are as a city set on an hill, — that by their fidelity and exertions, and prayers, the visitations of mercy in this place may be instrumentally accelerated…

Larner, Sylvester photo.jpg

Do we pray not only for our nation, but also for the particular place in which we live? Do we pray for the gospel to go forth and accomplish great things for the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the city or town or county in which we reside, and work, and study, and worship? May our hearts be so affected by the spiritual needs of our home, adopted or otherwise, that we pray as Sylvester Larned did for the city of New Orleans.

Lost Treasures of American Presbyterianism

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What light would be thrown upon the dim past if we had to-day the diaries of Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, Francis Doughty, Richard Denton or Matthew Hill. Had we the catechism which Makemie published, but which has absolutely disappeared, we should understand fully his attitude toward the Quakers and why he came into conflict with George Keith. Had we all the discussions and the letters which must have been written about the famous Adopting Act of 1729, how many precious hours of time in later years would have saved, misunderstanding avoided and the Church spared much restlessness and bad feeling. Could we but have the lost minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia from 1717 to 1733, the action of that body and the opinion of its members on the Adopting Act and other similar matters, might have proved mouth and wisdom to some of the men of later generations. Would it be more than the mere gratifying of an idle curiosity if we knew the reasons why the Presbyterians did not have a conference with the Baptists after having requested it and with whom they had worshipped in the Barbadoes Store, Philadelphia, from 1695 to 1698? If we could but see the lost page or pages of the first minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, it would settle for the Church the question of time and perhaps the question as to the declaration of doctrine and the attitude of the early fathers to the Confession of Faith. If we could but read 'the loving letters from Domine Frelinghuysen,' it might reveal to us the secret as to the change in the ministry of Gilbert Tennent to a more evangelistic style of preaching. -- William L. Ledwith, "The Record of Fifty Years, 1852-1902: Historical Sketch of the Presbyterian Historical Society" in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 404

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia was built to preserve the records and artifacts of Presbyterian history, and provides climate-controlled record storage services, along with fire protection, and other document preservation resources.

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia was built to preserve the records and artifacts of Presbyterian history, and provides climate-controlled record storage services, along with fire protection, and other document preservation resources.

At Log College Press, we delight in bringing old, dusty, classic American Presbyterian works into the light of day again for a new generation to appreciate. But there are some works that are simply lost to history, as painful for we bibliophiles to admit, and as William Ledwith has shown us already (the Presbyterian Historical Society was founded mainly to protect and preserve the treasures of Presbyterian church history). There are works known to exist at one time that have simply disappeared from the stage before the advent of digital imaging. These include diaries, Presbytery minutes, letters, and even entire books.A few examples which pertain to Log College Press authors:

The first two pages of the first Presbytery’s Minute Book, which describe the first meeting, are lost to history. Pictured above is page 3 of the Minute Book, which gives an account of the ordination of John Boyd.

The first two pages of the first Presbytery’s Minute Book, which describe the first meeting, are lost to history. Pictured above is page 3 of the Minute Book, which gives an account of the ordination of John Boyd.

  • Francis Makemie - Besides the aforementioned Catechism, and his personal Diary, which are both gone, Makemie was accused by Lord Cornbury (who had previously tried him for preaching without a dissenters’ license and lost) with authorship of a 1707 New Jersey publication titled Forget and Forgive — of which Makemie denied authorship — for apparently slanderous remarks directed at him contained within. That book, which would certainly shine light on the ongoing dispute between Makemie (even if he was not the author) and Lord Cornbury, is simply nowhere to be found today.

  • Alexander Craighead - The first American Covenanter minister has left us some remarkable writings, but there are some gaps in his bibliography as well. His 1742 Discourse Concerning the Covenant is, strangely, missing eight pages. Moreover, no copy of an anonymous 1743 pamphlet thought to be published by him has survived after it was condemned by the Synod of Philadelphia for seditious principles. Considering his known published views on resistance to British tyranny, and the influence he had posthumously on the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, this missing pamphlet constitutes a rather large gap in our understanding of a fascinating colonial Presbyterian.

  • Titus Basfield - Basfield was a former slave who studied at what is now known as Franklin College, where he was mentored by the college president and Associate Presbyterian pastor John Franklin. John Bingham (later the architect of the 14th Amendment) was a fellow student and close friend of Basfield with whom he carried on a correspondence of 40 years. Bingham's letters to Basfield were destroyed in the 1990s, after John Campbell, a private collector who owned them, died, and his widow threw them away (source: Gerard N. Magliocca, American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment, p. 197).

  • Samuel Davies - At one point during the ministry of Davies in Virginia, a writer who took the pen name “Artemas” attempted to “lampoon” Davies by association with alleged excesses related to the Great Awakening, including “a copious flow of tears” and “fainting and trembling” by some under his ministry. Davies responded with a pamphlet titled A Pill For Artemas, which according to a 19th century anonymous writer (“ A Recovered Tract of President Davies,” The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (1837), Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 363-364), “evinced the power of his sarcasm.” Davies sought a middle ground between extremes of lukewarmness and frenzied ecstasy in his hearers as the received the word of truth and responded appropriately. In any case, although the anonymous writer above said he had seen Davies’ pamphlet, George H. Bost wrote in 1942 that “Both pamphlets seem to have been lost” (Ph.D. dissertation titled Samuel Davies: Colonial Revivalist and Champion of Religious Toleration, p. 53).

So while we will continue to hunt for the interesting, rare and special works pertaining to American Presbyterianism to make them available at Log College Press, sadly, there are some things that are apparently lost to history. Would it be wonderful though, to find something thought to be lost in a drawer or attic somewhere? A church historian can dream, can’t they?

African-American Presbyterians at Log College Press

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About a year ago, we invited our readers to take note of a growing number of African-American Presbyterian authors available to read and learn about here at Log College Press. These are some of the names that we highlighted last year.

  • Matthew Anderson (1845-1928) - In 1874, Anderson became the first black student to reside in the main seminary building. He became the pastor of Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and in 1897 he wrote Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro.

  • Titus Basfield (1806-1881) - A former slave from Virginia, he studied at Franklin College in Ohio under the Rev. John Walker and eventually became a minister in the Associate Presbyterian Church. He served as a missionary in Canada for time and struggled with adversity there. He wrote a remarkable autobiography in 1858 titled An Interesting History of the Life of the Rev. Titus Basfield, a Colored Minister in the Associate Presbyterian Church.

  • William Thomas Catto (1810-1869) - Catto served as minister at the First African Presbyterian in Philadelphia. His historical sketch of that church and its first minister (see below) is of great value.

  • John Chavis (1763-1838) - Chavis was born free in North Carolina, and was tutored by Henry Pattillo, studied at Liberty Hall Academy in Virginia, and eventually (on November 19, 1800) became the first black licensed Presbyterian minister in America. We have added a great deal of correspondence by him to Willie P. Mangum, who later served as a US Senator from North Carolina.

  • John Gloucester, Sr. (1776-1822) - Born as a slave, Gloucester was at one time owned by the Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian missionary to Cherokee Indians, who set him free and encouraged him to pursue the ministry. Gloucester became the first black ordained Presbyterian minister in America on April 30, 1810. He then founded the First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.

  • Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) - Having escaped from slavery in Maryland, Garnet grew up in New York, studying at the African Free School and the Oneida Theological Institute. An accident deprived him of the use of his right leg, the lower portion of which had to be amputated, which hindered with his studies. He went on to serve as pastor of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York, and as pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. He was a leading abolitionist who at one time called for armed rebellion by slaves against their masters, and supported efforts for American blacks to colonize Africa. He was the first black minister to preach to Congress with a sermon to the US House of Representatives on February 12, 1865, and became the first high-ranking black federal official when he was appointed as Minister Resident and Consul General to Liberia on June 30, 1881. He died in Liberia the following year.

  • Francis James Grimké (1850-1937) - Born a slave on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, Grimké was the son of a slave-owner of French Huguenot descent, and a slave of European and African descent. Francis and his brother Archibald gained their freedom after the War, and went on to study at Lincoln University, graduating there in 1870, and then Francis studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1878. He became the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, and was also a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His Meditations on Preaching is available here.

  • James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) - Born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Pennington escaped from slavery at the age of 18 and traveled north with the help of the Underground Railroad. Under the influence of the Rev. Samuel H. Cox, by the grace of God, Pennington was converted to Christ. He studied at Yale, and was eventually ordained to the ministry. He traveled much in Europe, and was the first person of African descent to be awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by any European university at the University of Heidelberg in 1849. A leading black abolitionist of his day, he was opposed to African colonization efforts. His popular autobiographical account is titled The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W.C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States (1850).

  • William Henry Sheppard (1865-1927) - Born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at Waynesboro, Sheppard studied at the Hampton Institute under Booker T. Washington, and at the Tuscaloosa Theological Institute (now Stillman College). He was ordained as a minister in the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) in 1888. After a brief stint as a pastor in Atlanta, he volunteered to serve as a pioneer missionary in the Congo Free State of Africa, where he would serve with Samuel N. Lapsley and William M. Morrison. With Morrison, Sheppard did much to expose the atrocities of the Belgians in the Congo. Both men were sued for libel against the Kasai Rubber Company, and both were acquitted. Mark Twain mentioned Sheppard by name and referred to Sheppard’s account of the atrocities in King Leopold's Soliloquy (1905). Sheppard’s collection of Kuba art remains on display today at Hampton University Museum. He also wrote poetry.

  • Theodore Sedgwick Wright (1797-1847) - Born free in Providence, Rhode Island, Wright was the first African-American to attend any US theological seminary (Princeton). He later wrote about the racism he experienced there. After graduating, he served as pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City for the rest of his life. He wrote for William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, and co-edited Freedom’s Journal with Samuel Cornish (see below). He was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

In the past year, we have added more 19th-20th century African-American Presbyterians who are very much worth getting to know.

  • James Ralston Amos (1824-1864) - Amos, and his brother Thomas Henry, both graduated from what is now known as Lincoln University in Pennsylvania under the supervision of the Rev. John Dickey, and were ordained by the New Castle Presbytery in 1859 to serve as some of the first black American missionaries in Liberia.

  • Thomas Henry Amos (1826-1869)- See above. Cheryl Renée Gooch has written a valuable study of the lives of both brothers titled On Africa's Lands: The Forgotten Stories of Two Lincoln-Educated Missionaries in Liberia (2014).

  • Samuel Cornish (1795-1858) - Born free in Delaware, Cornish later founded the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York City. He later served as the pastor at the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and Emmanuel Church in New York City. He co-edited Freedom’s Journal with Theodore S. Wright (see above), and with him was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

  • Samuel Jackson Fisher (1847-1928) - Born in Ohio, Fisher went on to study at Hamilton College, graduating in 1867, and at Auburn Theological Seminary (1870). He would later receive two doctorates in divinity. Ordained in 1870, he served as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Swissvale, Pennsylvania from 1870 to 1905. A leading African-American Presbyterian minister in his day, he also served as a long-time member of the faculty of Chatham University (then known as the Pennsylvania College for Women; served as President of the Presbyterian Board of Missions to the Freedmen; and who authored many articles, as well as a volume of poetry dedicated to his deceased wife: The Romance of Pittsburgh or Under Three Flags, and Other Poems.

  • William Henderson Franklin (1852-1935) - Franklin was a respected Presbyterian minister and educator who was both the founder and president of Swift College in Rogersville, Tennessee. He and his wife are buried on the campus. He was also the first moderator of the East Tennessee Synod.

  • James Newton Gloucester (1810-1890) - The son of John Gloucester, Sr., James also became a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist. He founded the Siloam Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York in 1849, and later in life also served as a physician.

  • Stephen Henry Gloucester (1802-1850) - The son of John Gloucester, Sr., Stephen also became a Presbyterian minister and was active on the Underground Railroad. He founded the Lombard Street Central Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

  • Amos Herring (1793-1873) - Born as a slave in North Carolina, Herring moved to Augusta County, Virginia as a child, where he came under the ministry of the Old Stone (Presbyterian) Church. After gaining his freedom at the age of 26, he took his family and emigrated to Liberia in 1833 under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. He became pastor at the Presbyterian Mission in Monrovia and was esteemed so highly that in 1847 he served as a delegate to the 1847 Constitutional Convention, where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In 1871, after the departure of the Liberian President, Herring was one of three men appointed to a executive committee which took charge of the government.

  • Joseph Winthrop Holley (1874-1958) - Born in South Carolina to former slaves, Holley studied at the Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In preparation for the ministry, he finished his education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He served as pastor at the Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church in Macon, Georgia, and also founded the Albany (Georgia) Bible and Manual Training Institute (later known as Albany State University.

  • Lewis Johnston, Jr. - Born in Pennsylvania, Johnston was raised in the Covenanter (RPCNA) Church under the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Sproull. He served the Union army briefly, was educated at Geneva College, and at the Allegheny Theological Seminary, after which he was ordained sine titulo on October 14, 1874 — the first black minister ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. He organized the RP church at Selma, Alabama, where he ministered alongside his father and ruling elder, Lewis Johnston, Sr. The younger Johnston also founded what was originally Geneva Academy, and later named Knox Academy in Selma.

  • Armistead Miller (1830-1865) - North Carolina-born as a slave, Miller was emancipated and went to Africa as a boy. He returned and was theologically trained at Ashmun Institute, Oxford, Pennsylvania. In 1859, he was ordained to the ministry by the New Castle Presbytery. He served as the pastor of the Mount Coffee Church in Liberia until his death in 1865.

  • James M. Priest (1819-1883) - Born a slave in Kentucky, Priest’s owner, Jane A. Meaux, educated and emancipated him, sending him to Africa to evaluate the condition of former slaves there. Upon his return, he received theological training and became a Presbyterian missionary. He emigrated to Liberia in 1843 under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. He served as Vice-President of Liberia from 1864 to 1868, and later, as a Justice on the Liberian Supreme Court.

  • William Drew Robeson I (1844-1918) - Born a slave in North Carolina, Robeson escaped at the age of 15 with the help of the Underground Railroad to freedom in Pennsylvania. He served the Union army as a laborer, and then studied at Lincoln University. He served as pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey from 1880 to 1901. He was forced to resign, yet in his farewell sermon on January 27, 1901, he told his congregation without recriminations, "As I review the past, and think upon many scenes, my heart is full of love.... Do not be discouraged, do not think your past work is in vain." He and his wife are buried at Princeton Cemetery. He was the father of the famous artist and social activist Paul Robeson.

  • Betsey Stockton (1798-1865) - Stockton was born into slavery, and served the household of Ashbel Green, Presbyterian minister and later the president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). He emancipated her around 1817 or 1818. In 1822, she traveled by ship to Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands) with Charles Samuel Stewart, where she was appointed to serve at Lahaina, Maui as the first single African-American female missionary from North America. Her missonary journal was reprinted by Ashbel Green in The Christian Advocate.

We intend to keep building on our efforts to illustrate the many contributions of 18th-20th century African-Americans to Presbyterianism. This is a rich heritage to be remembered and explored in the 21st century. We also intend to highlight later this week, DV, African-American Presbyterians contributions to the building of a new nation on a different continent. Stay tuned!

The Glory of Woman, according to Charles Colcock Jones

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Iain Murray writes that

[Charles Colcock Jones] believed that only Christianity teaches the proper relation between the sexes and is unique in its power to elevate womanhood…. On this subject he preached one of his best-remembered sermons, 'The Glory of Woman Is the Fear of the Lord'. Much in that sermon reflected his own experience, beginning with his opening sentence: (Heroes, p. 246).

Here is that opening paragraph by Charles Colcock Jones, Sr.:

No one thing in social life, more distinguishes a Christian from a heathen country, than the consideration in which females are held, and the important and influential station which is assigned them in society. As the farther you depart from Christianity, the deeper is the degradation of females, and the more miserable and polluted the state of society; so, the nearer you approach to Christianity, and the purer its nature and the more efficient its influence, the higher is the perfection of female character, and the more virtuous and happy the community at large.

Read the rest of Jones’ sermon here. It is both a tribute to the godly woman, as well as an encouragement to women to pursue godliness and the fear of the Lord.

This post was inspired by a friend who shared the quote.

Psalms for special occasions as selected by John Craig

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Howard McKnight Wilson describes what regular Presbyterian worship looked like in the mid-18th century in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in his enduring and valuable study of a noteworthy historic congregation. The congregation is Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia, and the pastor to whom he refers is John Craig.

The singing of Psalms was a regular part of their worship. The book from which they sang was, of course, the same as the pastor’s copy preserved by a descendant. His Psalter might have been the only copy possessed by the gathered congregation, since the clerk lined out each verse before it was sung. His book is The Scottish Psalter about 3/4 inch thick, measuring 2 X 3 1/2 inches. It is bound in leather and has the Scottish form of his initials “I.C.” stamped in gold on both front and back. It contains the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament “IN Metre.”

Shown here is a 1763 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter. John Craig owned a 1729 edition published in Belfast.

Shown here is a 1763 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter. John Craig owned a 1729 edition published in Belfast.

Wilson continues with a note of interest that gives us an insight into the piety of this frontier Presbyterian minister.

Some of these Psalms were favorites of Mr. Craig’s and therefore may have been chosen more frequently. In his handwriting on the flyleaf of his Psalter, Mr. Craig records the following:

Ps’ms to be sung upon particular times & occasions as in ye morning Pms 3: 5: 16: 22: 144
in ye evening 4: 121: 141
for mercy after a sin Committed 51, 102
in Sickness or heaviness 1, 13, 88, 90, 91, 137, 146
when recovered 30, 32,
on ye Sabbath day 19, 9, 95
in time of joy 80, 98, 107, 145, 136
before Sermon 1, 12, 119 — 1 & 5 part
at ye communion 22, 23, 103, 111, 116, 45, 72
for spiritual solace 15, 19, 25, 46, 67, 112, 146
after wrong & disgrace received 42, 69, 70, 140, 144

Source: Howard McKnight Wilson, The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom: A Study of the Church and Her People, 1732-1952, pp. 102-103

The 4th century Church Father Athanasius once wrote:

It is possible for us, therefore, to find in the Psalter not only the reflection of our own soul's state, together with precept and example for all possible conditions, but also a fit form of words wherewith to please the Lord on each of life's occasions. (Letter to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms)

John Craig found this to be true, and so may every Christian today in the singing of God’s Word. There is a Psalm for every condition and occasion in human life, because it is, as John Calvin says, “an anatomy of the soul,” which is, if we may say so, part of the genius of the Psalter.

A 19th century Presbyterian publisher whose name you might know

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The subject of today’s post had an elder brother, William, who became a Presbyterian minister. The story is told, by Rev. William Hammil, the Principal of the Boys’ School at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, of William’s conversion, followed by that of his brother days later.

He [William] came to me,” says Mr. Hammil, “ and said, ‘I have found the Saviour, and I wish you would tell my companions.’ I said to him, ‘William, you had better tell them yourself. It will do them and you both good.’ He stood up and said, ‘My dear schoolmates, you have, perhaps, not understood why I have not been out upon the playground as much as usual for some days past. I have been seeking the salvation of my soul, and trust I have found my Saviour, and wish to tell you how much joy I have.’ After prayers, William came to me and said, ‘ I wish you would speak to my brother…, and pray for him.’ I promised to do so. Like Andrew the Apostle, he was desirous that his brother should see Jesus. In a few days, … his younger brother, was indulging a good hope of an interest in Christ.

James W. Alexander once wrote in a preface to his Discourses on Common Topics of Christian Faith and Practice that “The appearance of these Discourses is due to the kind importunity of the Publisher, once my pupil and since my esteemed friend, who has for several years asked this contribution.”

The man who would one day became a publisher whose name is known around the world studied at Princeton, graduating in 1840. After health issues derailed an initial venture into the legal profession, he instead went into the business of publishing books. His first base of operations was in meeting rooms leased from the Presbyterian Brick Street Chapel in New York City for $600 annually. Shepherd Knapp, Jr., in his sketch of this famous historical congregation, tells us that:

In 1846 another publishing house became the church's tenant, that of …, whose successors, …, and the present … have continued the firm's long relationship to the Brick Church by becoming the publishers of the principle works of the church's ministers during the last half century.

Charles Scribner Brick Chapel Church.jpg

J. David Hoevelter, Jr., in James McCosh and the Scottish Intellectual Tradition: From Glasgow to Princeton, p. 308), adds:

The firm had an eclectic list of works, but it excelled in high scholarly, and especially theological, works. These included books by Horace Bushnell, Henry B. Smith, Noah Porter, and others that especially illustrate the Princeton connection — Archibald and James Waddel Alexander, Charles Hodge, and then McCosh.

The list of works by Log College Press authors published by this man and his company is voluminous. Some of the names and titles can be noted on this Princeton chronology here. The publisher’s name remains well-known today, in the 21st century: Charles Scribner (1821-1871). Although he died at the age of 50, his work was carried on under the name Charles Scribner’s Sons. One of his sons, who later led the family business, was John Blair Scribner - named after a former Log College student, John Blair. His legacy has endured, and we at Log College Press are grateful for the many Presbyterian works that he and his family published during the 19th century.

Charles Scribner photo 2.jpg

A New Booklet by Charles Allen Stillman and a New Audiobook of Archibald Alexander's Aging in Grace!

If you haven’t heard the news yet, we've recently published a new booklet by Charles Allen Stillman, the founder of what is now known as Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s called “The Pulpit and the Pastorate,” and examines the connections between a pastor’s pulpit ministry and his pastoral ministry. It was originally an address giving at an anniversary celebration of Columbia Theological Seminary in 1881, and is a great encouragement to all pastors to be faithful in all the work God has given us to do. You can purchase it in booklet or ebook format here. And if you’re interested in buying all eight of our titles for yourself or for a friend, you can purchase them for $35 here.

We’ve also just come out with an audiobook edition of Archibald Alexander’s Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life. This audiobook will eventually be available on Audible and other audiobook online stores, but when you purchase it on our website we get more than just a mere percentage of the sales price, so if you’re interested in buying it please do so from our webstore. We are in the process of creating audiobooks of all our titles, so if you prefer to listen to your books rather than read them, then be on the lookout for news of future releases in the coming months. (Sign up at the bottom of this page if you’d like to be alerted to new titles and receive a weekly glimpse into new content on our website.) We’re excited about being able to reach folks who possibly won’t or can’t read, but love to listen to books as they drive, work, workout, etc.

Please tell your friends both in the flesh and online about our new titles. It’s because of the support of our readers and customers that Log College Press has been able to do what it’s done, both in terms of our free PDF library on our website, and our publications. Thank you!

The Motive for Missions, according to J.W. Alexander

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

James M. Garretson has written of James W. Alexander’s “passion” for missions which was “stimulated by preaching from Psalm 72 and his reading (in German) of [Ernst Wilhelm] Hengstenberg’s massive study on the christological passages in the Old Testament” (Thoughts on Preaching & Pastoral Ministry: Lessons from the Life and Writings of James W. Alexander, p. 103).

A powerful example of that passion is found in the sermon he preached before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Old School) meeting in Richmond, Virginia on May 23, 1847. Titled Love to Christ the Motive of Missions: A Discourse, he focused on the primary reason why the church engages in missionary labors. It is, simply put, “that the great motive to Christian Missions is personal love to the Lord Jesus, manifested in the desire and expectation of his reign over converted sinners.”

Acknowledging that missionary work results in many kinds of temporal and spiritual benefits to the redeemed — “they inform the Intellect, and enlarge the knowledge; they civilize and refine; they rescue from temporal evil, and they save the soul” —

Yet all these are but subsidiary to one grand intention, which is the glory of Messiah in his kingly power over redeemed sinners, as his satisfying recompense; and holy affection reaches forward, to accomplish by this means the mighty yearnings of an incarnate God, who is at the same time the Husband of His elect and loving Church. So that the subjection of man to our Redeemer, as the reward which He claims and waits for, is a result which true piety craves, with immeasurable love, and inexpressible longing.

Again and again, Alexander brings home the point that all that we Christians do to magnify and honor our King and our Redeemer on earth arises out of the love in our hearts towards him and the consequent desire to see him exalted by all.

  • “What is true religion? Not fear — not submission — not benevolence — not regard for being in general — not philanthropy — great and essential as some or all of these may be — but LOVE TO CHRIST.”

  • “Love to the person of Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh, a dying, reigning Saviour, is the mark and criterion of all the family in heaven and earth.”

  • “‘Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep!’”

  • “Here is the token of the missionary host; and the missionary spirit, whether in childhood or age, in the pastor or the apostle, looks up, from the cross and the sepulchre, to the crown and the second-coming; and sighs forth its expectant longing, and says to the Bridegroom, Priest, and Sovereign, ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips; therefore God hath blessed thee forever.’”

  • The individual, and the church, glow with unspeakable desire for the universal acknowledgment, that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

  • “To behold this love, and the things therein freely given us of God, is faith, is eternal life: but it is also the prime motive to all individual effort, and to all the sacrifice and warfare of the church.”

  • “What has peopled these wastes, and pushed the tide of population even to the wintry coast of the inhospitable North? What has reared cities, and impelled the wheels of a thousand manufactures, and decked the earth with an agriculture unsurpassed among men? — The love of Christ. What has scattered schools, from town to town, and hamlet to hamlet, and founded universities, which, in spite of sectarian narrowness, are yet the pride of human learning? — The love of Christ. What has exchanged the misrule of Celtic chieftainship, and the feuds of warring tribes, for rational government and balanced concord? — The love of Christ. What has sent colonies, to become greater and happier and freer nations, in a late undiscovered hemisphere? — The love of Christ.”

  • “…we shall one day cry, ‘All Israel shall be saved, as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer!’ To this Deliverer, the whole missionary work is a tribute of love.”

Alexander also cites the words of his uncle and mentor, Dr. John Holt Rice, as quoted by William Maxwell, in an 1831 overture to the General Assembly to this effect:

In the judgment of this General Assembly, one of the principal objects of the institution of the Church, by Jesus Christ, was, not so much the salvation of individual Christians — for, ‘whosoever believeth shall be saved’ — as the communication of the blessing of the Gospel to the destitute, with the efficiency of united effort….The Presbyterian Church is a Missionary Society, the object of which is to aid in the conversion of the world, and every member of the Church is a member for life of said society, and bound to do all in his power for the accomplishment of this object.

If we love Him who saved us, we will desire the glory of his name to be exalted in us and by all those around us. This is the true motive for all kingdom work, according to our place and calling. But especially in the case of missions, where love compels us to speak to others of the love that set us free — His love towards his sheep. May the love of Christ stir us all up to do what we can on behalf of the kingdom of Christ, and for the good of the lost souls all around us. Read Alexander’s sermon here, and get a glimpse of the passion and desire of this 19th century minister for that very goal.

The Mother of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County, South Carolina

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John Abney Chapman writes concerning one particular South Carolina county (History of Edgefield County: From the Earliest Settlements to 1897, p. 299):

Edgefield was one of the three counties in the State of South Carolina, Lexington and Georgetown being the other two, which never, until 1877, had a Presbyterian Church in its bounds. This is somewhat remarkable when we consider the fact that the adjoining County of Abbeville is one of the great strongholds of Presbyterianism in the State. Abbeville, however, was settled by large colonies of Scotch-Irish and Huguenots, who brought their religion with them, whilst no such colonies of Presbyterians located in Edgefield.

As Chapman also notes, efforts were made in the first half of the 19th century to establish a Presbyterian church in the county, but the War of 1861 put a stop to that.

Meanwhile, there was at least one lone Presbyterian who resided in the county. Born in 1842, Martha (“Mattie”) Wardlaw Hill over a period of many years would cross the state line to worship in Augusta, Georgia, while praying and working towards the goal of establishing a Presbyterian church in her county of Edgefield. Her persistence would ultimately lead to its founding.

Source: Margaret Adams Gist,  Presbyterian Women of South Carolina

Source: Margaret Adams Gist, Presbyterian Women of South Carolina

Mary D. Irvine tells the story in Pioneer Women of the Presbyterian Church, United States (1923), p. 297:

Edgefield Church, Congaree Presbytery, owes its existence to Mrs. Martha Wardlaw Hill, through whose efforts an organization was effected. There were only four members, Mrs. Hill, herself, Mrs. A. E. Anderson, Miss Esther Rainsford and Mr. S. H. Manget. The latter was immediately elected and installed as elder and Mrs. Hill acted as deacon for some years. Mrs. Hill's wonderful magnetism and beauty of spirit drew many friends to her assistance. She solicited subscriptions far and wide and raised over $3,000.00. She organized a Sunday-school and when no man was available, was her own superintendent, her own organist, her own janitor, and at the same time served as the whole board of deacons. In May, 1882, through her efforts, the first pastor was called, our own Secretary of Assembly’s Home Missions, Rev. S. L. Morris. As soon as this good woman lifted all debt from the church, she began to dream of a manse. Miss Esther Rainsford (Mrs. Bunyan Morris), gave the lot for this manse and the communion service as well.

Mrs. Hill began teaching music and doing everything she could to create a manse fund. To make a long story short, the manse became an assured fact. At the age of fifty-two, she went Home, and on the walls of the church which stands as a memorial to her, the women placed a tablet, on which she is called “The Mother of Presbyterianism in Edgefield County.”

Margaret Adams Gist adds, in Presbyterian Women of South Carolina (1929), p. 324, that was so identified with the village church, finally constructed in 1884, that it was referred to by some as “Miss Mattie Hill’s Church.”

Rick Barbare, formerly pastor of the Edgefield Presbyterian Church (PCA) before it was disbanded in 2010, has done yeoman’s work over the years in researching and writing about the history of Edgefield Presbyterianism. He has a valuable series of articles posted on his blog covering many phases of the church’s history, including the additional congregations which grew out of the work. He writes:

Mrs. Hill remained a loyal Presbyterian even when her parents became Episcopalians. She never gave up on the idea having a Presbyterian Church in Edgefield Village, so she kept her church membership at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA in the intervening years between 1859 and 1877. The sum of money raised for this purpose before the war was lost during hostilities. (No doubt it was in Confederate currency in a bank at the end of the war).

After reconstruction (1876), Mrs. Hill found three other persons in the county who were Presbyterians: (1) Mr. S. H. Manget …; (2) Mrs. R.  S. Anderson …; and (3) Miss Etta Rainsford. … Mrs. Hill enlisted them in a plan to get the Presbytery to organize a church. Three of the four then lived in Edgefield Village at the time. Miss Etta Rainsford lived at Pine House, later Trenton.

The labors of Mrs. Hill bore fruit as the Presbytery from 1875 to 1877 paid visits and sent men to preach to the core group that would constitute the initial members. During this period, visiting ministers who preached included John L. Girardeau (December 24, 1876) and William S. Plumer (February 25, 1877). After a petition was presented to Presbytery in April 1877 calling for the organization of the church, the charter was granted and the congregation was established on May 20, 1877.

Samuel Leslie Morris (who would later become the Secretary of Home Missions for the Southern Presbyterian Church) was installed as the first pastor of the Edgefield congregation in August 1882. Barbare adds that “The organization at that time included three churches — Trenton, Johnston, and Edgefield Village.” These preaching stations enabled the broader county to be covered. More congregations would grow out of this initial organization, and in 1884, Edgefield Village would get its own church building.

Rev. Barbare has wise words to ponder in conclusion as we consider the person credited with founding the first Presbyterian Church in Edgefield County. Such a thing is rarely the work of one person — especially not within Presbyterianism, which is based on the communion of saints, and the plurality of elders. Some have highlighted Mrs. Hill’s role to the exclusion of almost all others. The first pastor, Samuel L. Morris, in his autobiography does not even mention her. Barbare writes:

So, who was it that really planted the Edgefield Presbyterian Church? Rev. Morris? or Mrs. Hill? Neither one alone, both together, and with other people’s help is the short answer.

In the story of the Edgefield Presbyterian Church, when looking back at the history and taking note of the secondary causes, we ought not to lose sight of — indeed our primary focus should be to remember — the hand of God at work in the building of his kingdom.