What would it have been like to sit in Archibald Alexander's class on Systematic Theology in the early days of Princeton Theological Seminary? Fortunately, Princeton has scanned in Charles Hodge's notes from that class - just think, if you had been sitting next to Charles Hodge and snuck a peak at his notes, this is what would you have seen. It's a remarkable thing that we have these, but I'm sure there are many other manuscripts of classroom lecture notes (and professors' lectures!) holed away in archives around the country. If you know of any others that are accessible online, please let us know!
William Swan Plumer was a prolific author, and I could blog a different one of his writings every day for nearly two months. It will take time to get all he has written loaded on the Log College Press website. But don't miss one of his earliest works, a book on parenting: Thoughts on Religious Education and Early Piety (1836).
The table of contents may sound bland, but the book is chock full of rich fare:
I. Importance of the Subject of Education
II. Education - What it is
III. Religious Education
IV. Rules for a Religious Education
V. Early Piety Possible
VI. Motives to Fidelity in Religious Instruction
VII. Cases of Early Piety
One of the great American Presbyterian theologians, B. B. Warfield's article "On the Emotional Life of our Lord" (from Biblical and Theological Studies published by the Princeton Theological Seminary faculty) is among his most important works. His two inaugural addresses are not far behind. The first was given at Western Theological Seminary (modern Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) in 1880, entitled "Is the Church Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the New Testament Endangered by the Assured Results of Modern Biblical Criticism?" The second was given at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1888, entitled "The Idea of Systematic Theology Considered as a Science." You can find them both on the B. B. Warfield page of the Log College Press site.
One of the projects we have in mind for reprinting is an anthology of seminary inaugural addresses from the 19th century. Does anyone else think this would be a worthwhile endeavor?
The PCA Historical Center posted an excerpt of a helpful little volume yesterday, Robert Polluck Kerr's Presbyterianism for the People. This book walks through Presbyterian Church Government and Presbyterian Theology for the ordinary members of the church of Jesus Christ. Kerr writes in his preface, "This little volume is not for theologians. There are many abler and more elaborate works on Presbyterianism written for them. It is for the people —the busy, earnest people, who have neither the time nor the taste for an extensive study of this subject, but who ought to know—at least, in a general way—what Presbyterianism is, what it has been in the past, what it believes and teaches. In his pastoral work the author has often wished for such a book, and he earnestly hopes that this one may help supply what he believes to be a real need of the Church. For it he asks the blessing of God and the favor of the people."
Kerr also wrote The People's History of Presbyterianism in All Ages. The preface of this work is remarkable for its assessment of the state of affairs in 1888, as well as its prescription: "Books are written to be read, not to lie on dusty shelves. But this is a busy age, and most persons will not take time to read extensive treatises. The people call for short sermons, short prayers, and short books. Nor is this demand without reason; for life itself is short, and there is much to do." What would Robert Kerr say about the busyness of today? And what would we say about his evaluation of a cure?
A Manual on the Christian Sabbath, by John Holmes Agnew, will help to answer that question. Originally lectures to students at Washington College (now Washington and Lee College) in Lexington, Virginia, this work covers the perpetual obligation of Christians to observe the Lord's day, the design of the day, the blessings and usefulness of the day, and our duties on the day. Worth the price of the book (or rather, the download!) is a Packer-esque introduction by Samuel Miller.
The 19th century has much to teach us about the Sabbath day; this volume, with Miller's introduction, is a good place to begin.
310 years ago, in 1707, Francis Makemie was arrested for preaching in New York without a license from the government. He fought those charges on several grounds, and won. This trial was a foundation of religious liberty in America. You can read the original source documents here - they include transcripts of the trial and letters written by Makemie and John Hampton, his co-prisoner in the Lord.
In his sermon before the House of Representative, Henry Highland Garnet observed:
"It is often asked when and where will the demands of the reformers of this and coming ages end? It is a fair question, and I will answer.
When all unjust and heavy burdens shall be removed from every man in the land. When all invidious and prescriptive distinctions shall be blotted out from our laws, whether they be constitutional, statute, or municipal laws. When emancipation shall be followed by enfranchisement, and all men holding allegiance to the government shall enjoy every right of American citizenship. When our brave and gallant soldiers shall have justice done unto them. When the men who endure the sufferings and perils of the battle-field in the defence of their country, and in order to keep our rulers in their places, shall enjoy the well-earned privilege of voting for them. When in the army and navy, and in every legitimate and honorable occupation, promotion shall smile upon merit without the slightest regard to the complexion of a man's face. When there shall be no more class-legislation, and no more trouble concerning the black man and his rights, than there is in regard to other American citizens. When, in every respect, he shall be equal before the law, and shall be left to make his own way in the social walks of life.
We ask, and only ask, that when our poor frail barks are launched on life's ocean —
"Bound on a voyage of awful length And dangers little known,"
that, in common with others, we may be furnished with rudder, helm, and sails, and charts, and compass. Give us good pilots to conduct us to the open seas; lift no false lights along the dangerous coasts, and if it shall please God to send us propitious winds, or fearful gales, we shall survive or perish as our energies or neglect shall determine. We ask no special favors, but we plead for justice. While we scorn unmanly dependence; in the name of God, the universal Father, we demand the right to live, and labor, and to enjoy the fruits of our toil. The good work which God has assigned for the ages to come, will be finished, when our national literature shall be so purified as to reflect a faithful and a just light upon the character and social habits of our race, and the brush, and pencil, and chisel, and Lyre of Art, shall refuse to lend their aid to scoff at the afflictions of the poor, or to caricature, or ridicule a long-suffering people. When caste and prejudice in Christian churches shall be utterly destroyed, and shall be regarded as totally unworthy of Christians, and at variance with the principles of the gospel. When the blessings of the Christian religion, and of sound, religious education, shall be freely offered to all, then, and not till then, shall the effectual labors of God's people and God's instruments cease."
-- Memorial Discourse, pages 85-87
Many have read James Chaney's book William the Baptist, published in 1877. I didn't realize until last night (thank you, R. Andrew Myers!) that he wrote a sequel in 1894: Agnes, the Daughter of William the Baptist - or, The Young Theologian. It's written in a similar style to William the Baptist, combining narrative and dialogue, and looks like a great read.
The American Presbyterian tradition is broad and deep, and Log College Press plans on including as much of that tradition as possible. We've already posted some works by Alexander McLeod, and works by John Anderson and James Renwick Willson will be coming soon, in addition to other 18th-19th century Associate Presbyterians and Reformed Presbyterian authors. If there are men in particular whose works you'd like us to find and post, please let us know.
Most students of church history have heard of Gilbert Tennent's sermon "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry" (we still haven't been able to locate a 18th or 19th century PDF of that sermon, unfortunately - at some point we'll give up and post a modern digital copy of it). But you may be unaware of Tennent's other works. In addition to the sermons published in Archibald Alexander's Sermons and Essays by the Tennents and Their Contemporaries, Tennent published Twenty-three Sermons on Man's Chief End, Defensive War Defended, and Irenicum Ecclesiasticum: A Humble Impartial Essay Upon the Peace of Jerusalem (and probably more - if you know of others, let us know). You can find these works on our Gilbert Tennent page. Enjoy!
Thomas Murphy's Pastoral Theology, written in 1877, is a book of which most Presbyterian pastors are utterly unaware. And yet it is chock full of rich spiritual counsel for the labors of pastoral ministry. Chapters 2 and 3 are worth the price of the book, as this summary proves: "There are two places where, unseen by the world, the pastor receives strength and equipment for that momentous work to which he has been ordained; they are the closet and the study. We place them in the order of their relative importance first the closet, then the study. First the cultivation of the heart, then the cultivation of the head, is the rule of life from which the minister of the gospel ought never to depart" (Pastoral Theology, 91). If you have never heard of this book, take time to download it today.
(Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a picture of Thomas Murphy - if anyone knows of one, please let us know!)
In 1861, the Committee on Foreign Missions at the 1st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Assembly, at that time known as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America), gave their report to the delegates present. The Committee's members included John Leighton Wilson (a former missionary to Gabon, Africa, and from 1861 till 1884 the Executive Secretary of the PCUS Committee on Foreign Missions) and James Beverlin Ramsey (a former missionary to the Indian tribes in America and author of a commentary on the first 11 chapters of Revelation). As a part of their report, the Committee composed one of the most stirring statements on the power and necessity of global missions ever written:
"[T]he General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church’s banner, as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the headship of our Lord, his last command: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;’ regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord’s promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object, a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which, in connection with the love of Christ, can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources so as to cause her to carry on, with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of the people and pressed upon their consciences. The ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath-school teachers, and especially the parents, ought, and are enjoined by the Assembly, to give particular attention to all those for whose religious teaching they are responsible, in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, to form habits of systematic benevolence, and to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field." (Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederates States of America (1861), page 17 - one day, Lord willing, we'll have these Minutes uploaded to this site!)
Most pastors and seminary students are aware of Charles Hodge's three volume Systematic Theology. It is one of the most recognized works of the 19th century, and can be purchased here. But this set certainly was not the only systematic theology published by Presbyterians in the 19th century. Sometimes remembered are William Greenough Thayer Shedd's Dogmatic Theology (you can purchase the modern edition of this book here) and Robert Lewis Dabney's Systematic Theology (you can purchase the Banner of Truth reprint of this volume here). Very few people know that Robert Jefferson Breckinridge published a two volume systematic theology, entitled The Knowledge of God Objective Considered and The Knowledge of God Subjectively Considered.
Older systematic theologies weren't asking all the same questions we ask today, of course - but that's a big reason why they are so helpful to use. They ask questions we don't even know we need to be asking. So the next time you're wrestling with a theological question, dip into one of these volumes and see what riches you might find.
Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) had been the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., for less than a year, when in 1865 the Chaplain of the US House of Representatives, William H. Channing, requested him to preach a memorial discourse on the occasion of the approval of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery in the country. In so doing he became the first African-American man to speak in the US Capitol building. Garnet had been educated classically in New York, having escaped Southern slavery with his family when he was nine years old. He came into contact with the Presbyterian church through the ministry of Theodore Sedgwick Wright, and eventually became a Presbyterian pastor in New York, and then Washington, D.C.
His life story and memorial discourse is found here, and is important reading for Presbyterians today.
James Henley Thornwell's sermon "The Sacrifice of Christ the Type and Model of Missionary Effort" in Volume 2 of his Collected Writings is something every missionary, every pastor, every Christian should read. In it, he reflects upon John 10:17-18, and Jesus' voluntary sacrifice for His people, and draws application from it for the church of Jesus in every age. What motivated and marked Jesus must motivate and mark His disciples: reverence for God's glory, pity for the misery of man, a willingness to suffer, and a hope of reward. There are so many quotes I could highlight, but I'll give you these two. Read the entire sermon this afternoon!
“Is there nothing in this spectacle of a world in ruins to stir the compassion of the Christian heart? Can we look upon our fellows, members of the same family, pregnant with the same instincts and destined to the same immortality, and feel no concern for the awful prospect before them? They are perishing, and we have the bread of life; they are famished with thirst, and we have the water of which if a man drink he shall never thirst; they are dead, and we have the Spirit of life. We have but to announce our Savior’s name, to spread the story of the Cross, and we open the door of hope to the multitudes that are perishing for lack of knowledge.” (432)
“When I consider the magnitude and grandeur of the motives which press upon the Church to undertake the evangelization of the world; when I see that the glory of God, the love of the Savior and pity for the lost all conspire in one great conclusion; when I contemplate our own character and relations as spiritual priests, and comprehend the dignity, the honor, the tenderness and self-denial of the office; and then reflect upon the indifference, apathy and languor which have seized upon the people of God; when I look to the heavens above me and the world around me, and hear the call which the wail of perishing millions sends up to the skies thundered back upon the Church with all the solemnity of a Divine commission; when a world says, Come, and pleads its miseries; when God says, Go, and pleads His glory, and Christ repeats the command, and points to His hands and His feet and His side – it is enough to make the stone cry out of the wall and the beam out of the timber to answer it.” (448)
William Henry Green, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 19th century, answered these questions in a brief sermon on Luke 4:18-19 at the installation service of Rev. Heman Timlow in 1856. This sermon (along with the charge by Daniel Dana) can be found here, where we plan to upload more of Green's works in the future!
Franklin Pierce Ramsay evidently was both a BCO nerd and a storyteller. He wrote A Exposition of The Form of Government and the Rules of Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and a novel: The Question. No, I haven't read the novel, so I have no idea if it's any good. But the mere fact that a 19th-20th century Presbyterian pastor and teacher wrote a novel is a bit startling. Check it out and let us know what you think.
In 1834, 24-year-old John Bailey Adger of South Carolina prepared to sail across the world to minister the gospel to the Armenians in Asia Minor, sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. But why would he go to a foreign nation, when the need was so great in his own country? To the Executive Committee of the Southern Board of Foreign Missions, he penned this Farewell Letter. It is a beautiful apologetic for the work of missions to every people, tribe, tongue and nation.
A snippet: "Great as are our domestic necessities, I have been unable to convince myself, that it is my duty to remain in America! Why? Simply because I hear a louder call from Asia. Our Savior's ascending command, bids us evangelize the whole world. But his ministers are chiefly confined to a small portion of the earth. Very few Americans (hardly any from the South) have left their country to go to more destitute lands. All seem occupied in looking down at the contracted space around their own feet. Instead of the telescope, we are using the microscope. Instead of all mankind, we think only of our own countrymen. Instead of the whole harvest, we are anxious about reaping only the produce of a little corner. Instead of the whole glory of THE SAVIOR OF MANKIND, we are striving to win for Jesus, only a dim and lustreless diadem. I desire not that such views and feelings should be mine. It is the duty of the Church of Christ, and it should be my endeavour, 'to lift up the eyes and look round about.' Our Master has instructed us to teach all nations. He has allotted us our work upon a great scale. We must, therefore, 'attempt great things, and expect great things.' (the motto of William Carey, D.D., Baptist Missionary to India)."
Thanks to Banner of Truth, William Swan Plumer's commentary on the Psalms has been a blessing to the church not only in the 19th century, but in the 20th and 21st centuries as well. Unfortunately, his commentaries on Hebrews and Romans have not remained in print. Yet they contain the same exegetical, theological, practical, and pastoral gems that are found in his work on the Psalms. Here is a beautiful example, from his note on Hebrews 12:1-2:
Hebrews 12:1-12 largely introduces to us the subject of afflictions. To pious people this matter possesses special interest. They and all their friends are liable to suffer. For some kinds of grief custom allows us to hang out signals of distress, and to call on friends for lively sympathy. But many sorrows must be borne in silence and retirement. The dove lays her wing over the arrow that pierced her. The wounded hart seeks the silent dell there to die, and the child of sorrow often goes to his chamber to weep alone. The widow in her weeds may be truly sad, but her neighbor without a yard of black crape may be suffering ten times more. It is often a relief when we can say: “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me,” Job 19:21. But often we are compelled like the sad prophet to “weep in secret places,” Jer. 13:17.
Sometimes tears come to the relief of the sorrowing. Then again their moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Dry sorrow drinks up their blood and spirits. Some afflictions are brief; others are lasting. Sadness sends some to their closets: others, to their graves. It covers some with wrinkles; others, with the clods of the valley. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”
Very good men have bad punishments sent on them for particular sins. What sufferings came on Jacob for supplanting his brother? Leah is deceitfully given him for Rachel. And all his worldly goods are imperiled, yea and his life also by Esau. The rebellion of Absalom was a punishment on David for a particular sin, 2 Sam. 12:9-12. The father of John the Baptist, though he and his wife habitually walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, was yet by the judgment of God made dumb for nearly a year as a punishment for his unbelief, Luke 1:20. So that all temporal punishments are not confined to the reprobate. Yet we should guard against censoriousness and uncharitableness, when we see others suffering. It is seldom proper for us to say that a given calamity befalling one of our neighbors is a punishment for a particular sin. This was the great error of Job’s friends. Our Saviour warned us against this offence when he spoke of the fall of the tower in Siloam, etc., Luke 13:1-5.
We are less apt to err in regarding particular afflictions sent on ourselves as punishments for particular transgressions. Thus even a heathen said: “As I have done, so God hath requited me,” Jud. 1:6. The pious Jews confessed that the Babylonish captivity was in punishment for their great sins, Ezra 9:13. To Israel God said: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2. Yet even pious men may misinterpret God’s dealings with them, and without a cause write bitter things against themselves. We may reverently pray, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest me;” but we may not always decide that our afflictions are judgments sent on us for particular sins.
Some afflictions are exemplary. God often makes his people a spectacle to angels and to men. He commonly keeps the path to heaven moist with tears, and often with the blood of his saints. To this end in part the worthies of old suffered. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” Jas. 5:10. Rich treasures have been laid up for the church in the illustrious heroism of her suffering members. In the days of legal persecution the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. Mohammedanism triumphed by the blood of its foes; Christianity, by the blood of its friends. To this day the history of the martyrs ministers strength to the faith and fortitude of God’s suffering people. The Lord’s people are never sent a warfare at their own charges. Perhaps they are never more sustained than when outward things look dark. So thought Paul: “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Cor. 1:5. Nor could the people of God from age to age do well without such examples. They stir them up to do and suffer all God’s will. To the plain and obscure they often give vast opportunities for usefulness. To a heathen tyrant, who was posing her with hard questions, a poor woman said: “I cannot dispute for Christ, but I can burn for him.” I have seen a whole community turn aside to admire the grace of God in one of his people, rustic in manners, poor in worldly goods, and weak in intellect, yet remarkable for severity of sufferings, and patience of spirit.
Some afflictions are designed to prevent worse evils. Sin is more to be dreaded than any earthly sorrow. God often makes men sick to teach them their weakness. Many things are permitted deeply to mortify us, that pride may not be our ruin. The cruel deceit of some gay worldling drives us from the giddy circle, which jeopards our salvation. In this life good men are often sorely chastened that they may not be condemned with the world. 1 Cor. 11:32. When God undertakes a man’s salvation, he will not permit any of his sins to have dominion over him. To do this, he sees best to spoil their pleasant things, write “vanity of vanities” on the glories of earth, and bring down their hearts with labor and sorrow. Low as are the attainments of God’s people, they would have been far less but for divine chastenings.
God’s people are also afflicted in the way of discipline. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law.” It is well for the Lord to correct us, if we may thereby be made partakers of his holiness. In his last sickness Dr. Archibald Alexander said: “My pains are intended for my purification.” The good husbandman prunes every fruitful vine that he may make it more productive. Christ often calls the languishing graces of his people into lively exercise by methods as strange as they are salutary. We wish to walk by sight, God would have us to walk by faith. Like Job in distress we cry out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him. Behold I go forward; but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him,” Job 23:8, 9. Yet one thus tried may soon be able to say: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” All the graces of the Spirit, not excepting joy, thrive best when the waters of affliction somewhat moisten their roots. Let us not object to the treatment God gave to the prophets, martyrs and confessors, who reached the kingdom of heaven through great tribulation Yea the Captain of our salvation himself was made perfect through sufferings.
In all our afflictions, whatever their design, let us in patience possess our souls. “He, who composes his own mind, is greater than he, who composes a book.” “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.” “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. He sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.” To be as a weaned child is a great attainment.
Plumer continues this train of thought for several more pages, discussing the truths that God has told us in order that we might behave wisely and quietly under trials, and the several things that we learn by way of application from Hebrews 12:1-2 in particular. If you are teaching or preaching through Hebrews or Romans, take advantage of Plumer!
We highlighted Stuart Robinson's book Discourses on Redemption recently, but that is not the only work of Biblical theology to come from the 19th century. Charles Colcock Jones, the subject of a chapter in Iain Murray's book Heroes, wrote The History of the Church of God in the Period of Revelation. Published posthumously, it was intended to be the Old Testament volume in a two volume set, but poor health and then death prevented Jones from writing/publishing his work on the New Testament. Jones walks through the Old Testament story of grace, showing in detail the unfolding plan of God's covenant with His people. As the title indicates, he believes that the people of God before Jesus' coming were, in fact, the church of God. Would that Christians today held such a view of the unity of God's people!
As with other books on this site, you will find that Jones argues that the institution of slavery as practiced in the American South was sanctioned by the Bible. Log College Press does not advocate this view, but includes these writings in an attempt to collect on our site all the 18th-19th century American Presbyterian writings that are available digitally, for historical reference, and to remember that even heroes have feet of clay. In this particular case, there is a large baby in the bathwater, and from our chronological distance we declaim the latter while proclaiming the former.