Robert Jefferson Breckinridge's 24-page pamphlet entitled Two Speeches on the State of Our Country (1862) opens a window into the way that Northern Presbyterians viewed the Civil War, the South, and Southern Presbyterians. Breckinridge had been close to many Southerners throughout the early days of Old School Presbyterianism (1837ff.), but he could not tolerate the views they held on slavery and secession. Read these speeches and you will discover the reasons why.
William Buell Sprague's 1832 work, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, gives us the answer to this question. His lectures cover an array of topics (the nature of revival, obstacles to revival, divine agency in revival, etc.), and he also includes letters from twenty different Presbyterian clergymen concerning revival.
Here is a portion of Archibald Alexander's letter, on the nature of true revival:
But I come now to speak of genuine revivals, where the gospel is preached in its purity, and where the people have been well instructed in the doctrines of Christianity. In a revival, it makes the greatest difference in the world whether the people have been carefully taught by catechising, and where they are ignorant of the truths of the Bible. In some cases revivals are so remarkably pure, that nothing occurs with which any pious man can find fault. There is not only no wildness and extravagance, but very little strong commotion of the animal feelings. The word of God distils upon the mind like the gentle rain, and the Holy Spirit comes down like the dew, diffusing a blessed influence on all around. Such a revival affords the most beautiful sight ever seen upon earth. Its aspect gives us a lively idea of what will be the general state of things in the latter-day glory, and some faint image of the heavenly state.
The impressions on the minds of the people in such a work are the exact counterpart of the truth; just as the impression on the wax corresponds to the seal. In such revivals there is great solemnity and silence. The convictions of sin are deep and humbling: the justice of God in the condemnation of the sinner is felt and acknowledged; every other refuge but Christ is abandoned; the heart at first is made to feel its own impenetrable hardness; but when least expected, it dissolves under a grateful sense of God's goodness, and Christ's love; light breaks in upon the soul either by a gradual da^vning, or by a sudden flash; Christ is revealed through the gospel, and a firm and often a joyful confidence of salvation through Him is produced: a benevolent, forgiving, meek, humble and contrite spirit predominates — the love of God is shed abroad—and with some, joy unspeakable and full of glory, fills the soul. A spirit of devotion is enkindled. The word of God becomes exceedingly precious. Prayer is the exercise in which the soul seems to be in its proper element, because by it, God is approached, and his presence felt, and beauty seen: and the new-born soul lives by breathing after the knowledge of God, after communion with God, and after conformity to his will. Now also springs up in the soul an inextinguishable desire to promote the glory of God, and to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth, and by that means to the possession of eternal life. The sincere language of the heart is, "Lord what wouldst thou have me to do?" That God may send upon his church many such revivals, is my daily prayer; and many such have been experienced in our country, and I trust are still going forward in our churches.
The Lord's Supper is a means of grace, yet it is so often misunderstood by the church of our Lord. In 1854, James Waddel Alexander wrote Plain Words to a Young Communicant (reprinted by Banner of Truth as Remember Him). These short devotional thoughts on so many aspect of our Lord's person, work, and sacrament are a wonderful way to prepare your heart to come to the table - or to prepare your children to make a profession of faith and take communion for the first time.
If you've ever seen a map of American Presbyterianism from the 1700s till today, you understand why it's often called "Split P soup," and you also perhaps scratch your head in confusion as to what kept all these different groups from uniting as one large Presbyterian body en masse. Alexander Blaikie (1804-1885) was an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister who was familiar with the differences between the various denominations of Presbyterians, and his 60-page pamphlet entitled "The Schools" (written in 1860) is helpful in sorting out who believed what in those days. Check it out - and if anyone knows where we can find a picture of Blaikie, let us know!
One purpose of Log College Press is to bring back to the corporate memory of Presbyterians the forefathers we have forgotten, and their writings. None are more forgotten than the African-American Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century.
Francis Grimke (1850-1937) was a 1878 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. He pastored the 15th Street Presbyterian Church from 1878-1928, with a few years of ministry in the middle of that time at a Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL. In 1909 he helped to found the NAACP. He was a prolific writer, and in due time we will post all of his writings that we can locate. For now, we have posted Volume 1 of his Works, which contains biographical addresses on distinguished Americans, racial addresses, a three part series on the causes and remedies of lynching in the South (written in 1899), and twenty-two miscellaneous sermons.
Get to know this servant of the Lord and what he had to say to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
I knew that James Waddel Alexander was a poet. He translated "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" from the German. But I had no idea that B. B. Warfield and John Lafeyette Girardeau were also poets and hymn writers. Yet listen to these rich gospel lines from the pen of Girardeau:
'Nothing to pay?' No, nothing, to win
Salvation by merit from law and from sin;
But all things, to buy, without money and price.
The wine and the milk of a free Paradise.
'Nothing to do?' No, not to procure
A heaven, by infinite blood made secure;
But all things, with labour and sweat of the face,
To honor my Saviour and magnify grace.
'What of the law?' Its thunders were stilled
Against my poor soul, by the blood that was spilled:
But the hands which were nailed to the wood of the Tree
Now wield its commands to be honored by me.
'Nothing of guilt?' No, not to my God,
As Judge and Condemner, uplifting His rod;
But, ah, I am guilty of breaking His Word
In the house of my Father—the Church of my Lord.
'What am I waiting for?' Spare me a while
To tell of Thy love to a sinner so vile!
Then take me to Heaven, which is not my due.
And give me the Crown of Fidelity, too!
You can find Alexander's translations of German hymns (entitled The Breaking Crucible) here; B. B. Warfield's Four Hymns and Some Religious Verses, a published volume of hymns (with some musical settings!) and poems, here; and Girardeau's poems on pages 345-364 of The Life Work of John L. Girardeau by George A Blackburn. Use these volumes in your private worship. And let me know if you think it would be a worthy project to reprint these hymns/poems in a single book.
It is perhaps not surprising that 19th century American Presbyterians, who followed largely the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564), wrote much in appreciation of the French Huguenots. It was the French Huguenots after all who established the first Protestant colonies in America, and the story of the Huguenots is a story, not unlike that of the Scottish Covenanters or the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, of men, women and children who pursued liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences.
Between the Huguenot and Puritan there was no stream to bridge over. They had in their common Calvinism and love of freedom a bond of sympathy and union that brought them into harmony as soon as their tongues had learned to speak a common language.
-- Lucian J. Fosdick, The French Blood in America (1911), p. 210
Two brothers, Charles (1828-1887) and Henry M. Baird (1832-1906), in particular, wrote a great deal about the Huguenots. Charles wrote: 1) History of the Huguenot Emigration to America (1885), Vols. 1 & 2; while Henry published: 1) History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France (1879), Vols. 1 & 2; 2) The Huguenots and Henry of Navarre (1886), Vols. 1 & 2; 3) The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1895), Vols. 1 & 2; and 4) Theodore Beza: The Counsellor of the French Reformation, 1519-1605 (1899).
William M. Blackburn (1828-1898) authored a series of well-researched historical biographies, including Young Calvin in Paris (1865); The College Days of Calvin (1865); William Farel, and the Story of the Swiss Reform (1867); and Admiral Coligny, and the Rise of the Huguenots, Vols. 1 & 2 (1869).
These books are available on the Log College Press website, so take some time to browse through them soon.
"Water baptism is a sacrament or holy ordinance instituted by Christ. It is a lively emblem of spiritual baptism. It is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace; and implies that the subject is a sinful creature, needing to be cleansed, and that this cleansing is to be accomplished only by the application of the atoning blood of Christ, and the purifying influences of the divine Spirit...
Our argument is this: Infant membership formed a part of the original constitution of the visible Church of God. Infant membership has never been abolished, and therefore infants have a right to member ship still. Baptism has taken the place of the ancient initiatory or recognizing ordinance, and therefore infants are to be baptized. This is the ground which we take."
-- Daniel Baker, A Plain and Scriptural View of Baptism , pages 7-8
In his 1867 Inaugural Address at Columbia Theological Seminary, William Swan Plumer explained what ought to be the right "temper" of the student of God's word. You can find his address along with others works we've posted by him, but here's a sneak peek to the answers he gives: the theologian should possess modesty, impartiality, independence of thought and freedom of inquiry, profound reverence for what he studies, a love of truth, patience, a spirit of diligence, a genuine lively faith, just moderation, the spirit of prayer, a commitment to practice what he learns, and a gospel centered, evangelical spirit. The address is only 16 small pages, so make sure to read how Plumer unpacks each of these points.
(This is actually an abridged version of his address, published for the popular press as a booklet. You can find the entire address in the Southern Presbyterian Review , 19.1 (January 1868), which we have not posted to our site yet!)
From the time of the introduction of Isaac Watts’ psalm paraphrases into the American Presbyterian church in the mid-18th century (see Julius Melton, Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787 [1967, 2001], pp. 11-12), the content of praise in public worship has been a matter of controversy. Though challenged by New School views on worship, the streams of Presbyterianism found among the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter), Associate Reformed Presbyterian, and United Presbyterian branches throughout the 19th century were all marked by a consistent desire to sing the Psalms of David in worship. A sampling of their literature on the subject is as follows:
2) Thomas Clark (c. 1720-1792), Plain Reasons, Why Neither Dr. Watts' Imitation of the Psalms, nor His Other Poems, Nor Any Other Human Composition, Ought to be Used in the Praises of the Great God our Saviour (1783, 1828);
3) John Anderson (1748-1830), Vindiciae Cantus Dominici: 1. A Discourse on the Duty of Singing the Book of Psalms in Solemn Worship. 2. A Vindication of the Doctrine Taught in the Preceding Discourse (1800);
6) William Sommerville (1800-1876), The Psalms of David Designed for Standing Use in the Church (1835), republished later as The Exclusive Claims of David's Psalms (1855);
We hope in the future to add to the Log College Press website, Alexander Blaikie (1804-1885), Catechism on Praise (1849, reprinted in 1997 and 2003 by the James Begg Society); as well as John Thomas Chalmers (1860-1902), Ten Reasons Why the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church Adheres to the Exclusive Use of the Inspired Psalter in the Worship of God (1900).
Not all pastors have the opportunity to live through a revival of religion, a time of the Spirit's refreshing and life-giving in ample measure. James Waddel Alexander did. In 1857-1858, he was a pastor in New York City, and had the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit work in tremendous ways. You can read his thoughts on this time in a volume entitled The Revival and Its Lessons (1859).
In the preface he explains the circumstances behind the revival and the book:
The short papers here for the first time gathered, had a certain measure of acceptance, less from their own merit, than from their having been struck off during the prevalence of an unusual interest in divine things. For the most part they were penned in the intervals of a hurried life, with the hope that scriptural instruction of the simplest kind might gain a hearing, at a time when every one's attention was drawn to the work of God in the land.
The occasion may be fitly seized for a brief retrospect of the scenes through which we have been led, and which, to a certain extent, surround us still; for we would fain speak of this Revival of Religion, not as past, but as present.
The greatest commercial alarm which our country ever experienced took place in the summer and autumn of the year 1857. It is unnecessary to rehearse what is imprinted on the hearts of thousands, or to open wounds which are still bleeding. Besides the great numbers who were utterly ruined, there were ten times as many whose earthly destinies seemed to be in libration. If we were to look no further than to the wear and tear of mind and brain, caused by pecuniary apprehensions and troubles in business, such as drove some to despair and madness, the evil could not be reckoned at the rate of millions of gold and silver. The writer returned to his native country after a short absence, to find as it were a pall of mourning over every house. Visitations of this kind—the remark is common concerning pestilence—often produce a hardening effect. In the present instance, it pleased God, in his marvellous loving-kindness, by the ploughshare of his judgments to furrow the ground for precious seed of salvation, and to make distresses touching worldly estate to awaken desire for durable riches and righteousness. Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness. From the very heart of these trials emerged spiritual yearnings, thirstings, and supplications after the fountain of living waters. We can not always trace the sequence of events, but it is certain that the meetings for prayer, which noted the dawn of this great Revival, had their beginning while we were still amidst the throes of our commercial distress....
It has been said that the mark of a good teacher is that he can explain deep truth to little children. William Swan Plumer was a good teacher. His book The Ribbon Room is written for children, and speaks at such a simple level that even a 3 or 4 year old could listen attentively to what he has to say. Here is his introduction, "To My Little Friends," to whet your appetite:
Stuart Robinson's book The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel is a rich treasure that needs to be more well known. Dr. Craig Troxel has edited a recent edition, but you can find a free PDF from the 19th century here.
This quote shows what awaits you when you read Robinson:
It is set forth as a distinguishing feature of the purpose of redemption, that it is to save not merely myriads of men as individual men, but myriads of sinners, as composing a Mediatorial body, of which the Mediator shall be the head; a Mediatorial Kingdom, whose government shall be upon His shoulders forever; a Church, the Lamb's Bride, of which He shall be the Husband; a bride whose beautiful portrait was graven upon the palms of his hands, and whose walls were continually before him, when in the counsels of eternity he undertook her redemption.
The mission of Messiah, undertaken in the covenant of eternity, was not merely that of a
teaching Prophet and an atoning Priest, but of a ruling King as well. His work was not to enunciate simply a doctrine concerning God and man's relations to God, as some Socrates, for the founding of a school; nor even merely to atone for sinners as a ministering priest at the altar: it was, as the result of all, and the reward of all, to found a community, to organize a government, and administer therein as a perpetual king.
May the Lord grant His people to see the glories of the church as an essential element of the gospel plan of salvation!
In his book The Promises of God, William Swan Plumer gives this Biblical counsel and exhortation to the middle-aged:
The middle-aged also have trials peculiar to themselves. The burdens of life come upon them with great weight. As riches increase they are increased also that consume them. They hardly provide for one class of wants before others clamor for their attention.
Their duty is clear: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." Ps. 55:22. What such need is not less toil, or less care, but more resolution and greater confidence in God, who says: "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord;" "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense;" "I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord." Ps. 21:34; Isa. 35:4; Zech. 10:12.
Strong men ought not to behave like little children, or like the aged and infirm. "Quit you like men, be strong." 1 Cor. 16:13. It is a shame to be chicken-hearted when you ought to be intrepid.
Strong words, but we need to hear them!
And therefore, Log College Press aims to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries. We are motivated by the conviction that as Christians in the present take root backward toward the past, we will bear fruit forward in the future for the glory of God and the kingdom of Jesus.
From its humble beginnings in the early 18th century, Presbyterianism in America has been committed to an educated ministry that would be able to teach God's truth to God's people. Presbyterian pastors and teachers not only preached from pulpits and taught in classrooms, they also wrote books, pamphlets, newspaper and journal articles, and letters. Many of these writings have been reprinted in the modern era, but more have been forgotten or are hidden away in libraries. With the advent of digital archiving, a great amount of the teaching of our spiritual forefathers is easily accessible. The Log College Press website seeks to bring together in one place as much of the extant digital Presbyterian literature as possible. Lord willing, we hope to publish edited reprints, topical anthologies, and perhaps even secondary literature about 18th-19th century American Presbyterianism, with the prayer that it will benefit the 21st century church.
In the book An Interesting History of the life of Titus Basfield: A Colored Minister in the Associate Presbyterian Church, one catches a rare glimpse of the ministry of an African American Presbyterian pastor before the Civil War. Born into slavery, Titus Basfield would become a successful minister of the Gospel, though not without great troubles in this life. He would have to overcome and survive far greater difficulties than most today, but ultimately Basfield proved a profitable servant of the Lord Jesus.
Basfield was born in Virginia in 1806, and as a young boy his father died. Titus was one of six children. He along with his mother and youngest sister would eventually be taken by a slave trader down to Tennessee where his sleeping sister at a very young age would be sold out of her crying mother’s arms. This event would leave a mark upon young Titus. Titus would wind up near Knoxville, Tennessee, then through successive travels with various masters he would move around from place to place. One master, James Reid, allowed Titus to read the Bible, and eventually allowed Titus to begin to sit under the ordinances of the Associate Church. The Associate Church became something Titus was attached to, on account of the pure gospel preached among them. James Reid was disposed to leave Tennessee, however, and move to Alabama – leaving Titus without his beloved Church. Seeing this to be an issue, Rev. David Carson of the Associate Church stepped in. He knew the young slave had been faithfully attending gospel ordinances and was apt to keep him. He visited Mr. Reid and was determined to buy Titus and emancipate him. Though Reid stood in the way, Rev. Carson threatened him by making it clear that if he removed his slave from gospel ordinances he would not profit him. Eventually it was worked out, and Titus was purchased and freed.
Titus, having a sharp mind, excelled in studies, and after attending Synod one year with Carson was interested in studying for the ministry. Titus left Tennessee for Ohio, and after studying Theology in Canonsburg was licensed the 27th of June, 1842. From there he would go to London, Ontario, to be a missionary to freedmen and runaway slaves. It was here that all the love Titus had for the Associate Church would be most severely tested. As a missionary he was not properly provided for, and struggled to make ends meet. This put him at constant odds with Presbytery and the Synod. In fact both Presbytery and Synodical courts declined to hear his case. He felt all alone and got a bad name with the Canada Mission. Yet he remained faithful and did what he could.
Perhaps most interesting, Titus Basfield seems to have written this work mostly to guard against the bad name he got on the mission field in London, Ontario. He would contribute one last thing of note: he refused to enter the union between the Associate Reformed Church and the Associate Church, and though he was a small minority, he helpfully wrote down his reasons why he refused to join. These reasons are of great historical significance in understanding the United Presbyterian merger.
John Holt Rice was the first professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary. On what was his theology founded? In his inaugural address he lays out his presuppositions:
1. The sacred Scriptures are the source from which the preacher of the gospel is to derive all that doctrine, which has authority to bind the consciences, and regulate the conduct of men.
2. That the Scriptures afford the only information on which we can rely, in answer to the all-important question, "What must we do to be saved?”
3. That the Scriptures contain the most perfect system of morals, that has ever been presented to the understanding, or urged on the conscience of man.
May the Lord continue to grant seminary professors, and the pastors they train, these convictions about the word of God.
The Presbyterian church has always been a missionary church, desiring to bring the gospel to the tribes, tongues, people and nations around the world. And over the past two hundred years, our leading scholars have thought hard and written well on this topic. Ashbel Green wrote Presbyterian Missions in 1838, and Thomas Cary Johnson wrote Introduction to Christian Missions in 1909. Even though you probably won't agree with everything you read in these books, I have no doubt that reading them will give you a fresh perspective on your own ministry. The discussion of first principles and missionary motivations, and the stories of God's work in America and around the globe, will strengthen your faith and spur you on to love and good deeds.
William Buell Sprague was a prolific author and editor, and his two-volume collection of biographies of Presbyterian ministers from the earliest days of American Presbyterianism to 1855 is pure gold. He not only gives you the historical data, but he includes reminisces from friends who knew the subject of each biography. Fascinating, informative, and encouarging. (Sprague also wrote a two-volume set on Congregational ministers - we'll be uploading those at some point as well).
1. Do you sincerely desire to know and to do your duty, and how do you evince your sincerity?
2. Do you endeavor to keep the Sabbath? Do you regularly and seasonably attend on the public worship of the congregation? Do you endeavor to BE STILL; to be attentive; frequently to lift up your heart to God during the service; to sing with the spirit, and the understanding, making melody in your heart?
3. Are you always in your place at the Lord’s table? Have all your children been baptized? How are you fulfilling your covenant engagements?
4. Do you daily worship God in your family?
5. Have you a Bible of your own? Do you daily read it? How often have you read it through? Do you assent to every part that it is good?
6. Do you statedly pray in private? Why do you pray? For what? What is the general character of your prayers?
7. What good book are you reading? What is your object? Have you thought of the influence of the press upon public morals? Do you support the religious press?
8. What are you doing to support and spread the Gospel? What is the state of religion in different parts of the world?
9. Do you speak evil of none? Do you suppress evil reports? Do you promote peace and friendly feelings in your neighborhood? Do you speak the truth? Do you keep your word? Do you pay your debts? Are you strictly honest? Do you relieve the poor? In all companies and places do you give and get all the benefit you can?
10. Do you pray for your brethren in the church? Do you rejoice in their spiritual and temporal welfare? Do you give and accept Christian reproof? Do you wish to correct your faults?
11. What station do you hold in the family? How do you discharge the duties of your station?
12. Do you guard against pride, selfishness, covetousness, anger, moroseness, levity, discouragements? Against a contentious, censorious, unforgiving, discontented temper?Against improper companions, books, songs, sights, amusements? Against intemperance, idleness, impurity? Would fasting assist you in mortifying the flesh? How have you profited by afflictions? How do you bear prosperity?
13. What value do you put upon time? What is the great end of life? What is the great end of yours? For what will any fellow-creature have reason to bless you in eternity? How would you, a hundred years hence, wish you had spent your present life?
14. Are you doing anything, of the lawfulness of which you are not satisfied?
15. In conclusion, what evidence have you that you are a Christian? Do you love all Christians? Do you desire to requite evil with good? When you see others transgressing the divine law, does it give you pain? Are you more afraid of displeasing God than man? Would you rather suffer than sin? Does your sorrow for sin continue even after you hope you have been forgiven? Are you willing to have your sanctification promoted by any means?
16. How do you know that you are growing in grace? Do you feel more deeply your need of Christ? Do you confide in him? Have you more of a child-like spirit? Do you live near to God? Do you feel an increasing interest in the prosperity of his church? Do you find a growing thirst for divine truth? Have you a greater longing after holiness? Do you groan more painfully under the burden of indwelling sin? Is your devotion to God more fixed and entire? Are you conscious of an increasing willingness to sacrifice even the dearest things to his will?