David's Harp in Song and Story

The Joseph Clokey family associated with the United Presbyterian Church of North America has a long pedigree that is interwoven to various degrees with the Psalms of David. According to the Rev. Joseph Waddell Clokey, Sr. (1839-1919), his parents, the Rev. Joseph D. Clokey (1801-1884) (who served as moderator of the 1860 General Assembly of the UPCNA and was himself the son of another Joseph Clokey) and his wife Eliza (1808-1889), sang only the Psalms in public, family and private worship. Joseph Waddell Clokey, Jr. (1890-1960) would go on to become a noted composer of both sacred and secular music, as well as a professor of music. His [Jr.'s] adopted son, Art Clokey (1921-2010), was a pioneer in the field of claymation, whose characters include Gumby, and Davey and Goliath (Google honored him with a logo doodle on Oct. 12, 2011). (Art's son, Joseph Clokey, who also very involved in his father's work on Gumby, and Davey and Goliath, himself passed away on March 2, 2018.)

Joseph Waddell Clokey, Sr., meanwhile, authored a fascinating little book called David's Harp in Song and Story, which relates the value and history of the Psalms. Beginning with a series of encomiums on the Book of Psalms, Clokey goes on to trace their usage and appreciation through the centuries - among the Hebrews; within the early Christian Church; during the Dark Ages; within the Reformations of Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland and the Netherlands; and among the American colonies, the New England Puritans, and the American Presbyterians.

Clokey, a UPCNA minister writing in 1896, after describing in fascinating detail the introduction and rise of Watts' hymnody within the American Presbyterian churches (he notes the first official recognition of this took place in a report by William Tennent and Aaron Burr, Sr. in 1753 and, although the Directory of Public Worship was amended in 1788 to allow for hymns, Clokey asserts that it was in 1802 that the PCUSA officially embraced Watts' hymns, and offers a heart-felt appeal to return to Biblical Psalmody in Presbyterian churches, albeit, in his preference, revised in more modern language than the 1650 Scottish Psalter: 

"The author of this work—a pastor of more than twenty years in the Presbyterian Church, has witnessed with pain the 'Passing' of the Bible Psalms. Since the beginning of her 'Hymnal' era our Church has been at sea in the matter of her Psalmody. Her authorization of Hymn-Books means nothing to her congregations. For the first time in her history her authority over her Book of Praise is gone, and the people buy their hymn-books where they please.

The Hymnal of 1874 is already worn out, and the Assembly has sent forth a new one, doubtless to meet the fate of the former one.

The people of the Presbyterian Church, who love what is solid and majestic in their sacred songs, miss something in their modern Hymnals. As an old Psalm-singer, the writer would suggest it is the Bible Psalter we miss. Give us back the old Psalms, dressed in the attractive forms of these modern days, as they can be dressed; and winnow away several hundred of the hymns of our present collection, and the Presbyterian Church will do more to settle her churches in the matter of their Psalmody than will all the decrees of her courts.

It may not be out of place here for the author to suggest to the ministry of his own Church that, whilst they are endeavoring so zealously to maintain that form of doctrine which is given in the Old Confession of Faith, their efforts will prove worthless unless they see that the Psalmody of the Church breathes the same evangelical principles.

Few people read the Confession of Faith, but every week the thoughts and doctrines of our Hymns are sung into our ears and hearts; and the faith which will be held in the future will not be that of your Confession and Creed, but of your Hymnology.

At present, when the hymn-writers and hymn-collectors are so thoroughly imbued with the true doctrines of the Bible, nothing but good can result to the members of the Church. But a wave of decadence may sweep over the future Church, as it has often done in the past, when we may bitterly regret that we have lost control over the material of our Psalmody."

Christ Most Precious

It was 170 years ago today that the 8th President of Princeton University, Ashbel Green (July 6, 1762 - May 19, 1848) passed on to glory. He wrote an autobiography of his fascinating life, which was edited and completed by his friend Joseph Huntington Jones (1797-1868)

The closing scenes of this remarkable life are worthy of remembrance on this day:

"The decline of Dr. Green was not attended with any positive disease which accelerated his death. Though every menacing symptom was watched by his most assiduous and skilful medical friend, who did much to retard his downward progress, yet the tendencies of more than four score years and five were not to be resisted by any power in the art of healing; and it was evident to all who saw him, that the time of his departure was at hand. How far the change from day to day was alarming to himself, or even perceptible, or what were his mental exercises, could be inferred only from the usual composure of his manner, and placid countenance, indicative of the movements of a mind engaged in meditations of interest and solemnity. To the questions often addressed to him on coming to his bedside, 'How do you feel?' 'what is the state of your mind?' his most frequent answer was, 'tolerable.' Indeed, this appeared to be almost the only word that he could speak, which was to some extent descriptive of his feelings. So long as he was able to articulate with so much distinctness as to be understood, he requested every clerical friend who entered the room to pray with him. To the remarks and quotations of the Scriptures by his brethren or others, he would usually give his assent by a motion of his lips or head, and sometimes by the utterance of a single word. When in one of these interviews, a brother remarked in the language of the apostle Peter, 'Unto you therefore, who believe, he is precious,' he promptly responded, 'Yes, precious Christ, precious Christ, precious Christ,' repeating it three times with the strongest emphasis. On another occasion, when we recited the well known hymn of Watts,

'How can I sink with such a prop
As my eternal God,'

the last two stanzas seemed to present a severe but faithful test of Christian attainment; but, said he, 'I try to say them.' At another time, when we repeated a favourite hymn by the same author, concluding with the stanza,

'A guilty, weak and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall;
Be thou my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all,'

he exclaimed, 'beautiful.' His wakeful hours at night, which were many, were spent in devotion. Several months before his decease, a member of the family was wakened at midnight by a noise in his room, like the sobbings of a person that was weeping. On going to the door and gently opening it, he was found with his eyes closed and lips moving, as if speaking in whispers with the greatest earnestness, while his cheeks and pillow were wet with his tears. When asked in the morning without any allusion to what we have mentioned, how he had slept, he answered, that 'he had had a precious night in communion with his Saviour.' One of the most interesting and impressive scenes of his last days occurred on the Sabbath but one before his death. After the family had returned from the morning service, it was observed on entering his room, that his mind was burdened with meditations, to which he wished to give utterance, and that his emotions were producing a restlessness and agitation that were inexplicable and alarming. To the inquiries of his ever watchful friend, what was the cause of his disquiet, and what she should do to relieve him, he appeared to be unable to give any verbal reply; when it occurred to her that she would suggest the reading of the Scriptures, to which he readily assented. The portion to which she turned was the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and finding that he became tranquil and attentive, she read deliberately to the close. The sixteenth verse, 'And of his fulness have we all received, and grace for grace,' was a passage of peculiar interest to him, and appeared to produce a flood of touching reminiscences. Several years ago, when confined to his chamber by sickness, he had composed three sermons on this text, which he afterwards preached to the edification of his whole congregation, and to the special benefit of several persons who received from them their permanent religious impressions. The reading of this chapter not only allayed that distressing nervous excitement which preceded it, but seemed to impart a sort of inspiration by which his faculties were for the time emancipated: his tongue was loosed, and he burst out into an ecstasy of joy and thanksgiving; 'blessing God for the gift of his Son and the gospel, which contained the record of his coming, life, crucifixion, resurrection, and intercession. That he had been permitted to preach this gospel, and had been honoured with any measure of success in his ministry. For the comforts which the gospel had imparted to him, and the ineffably glorious hopes it had inspired of a state of sinless perfection beyond the grave.' His voice was loud, his enunciation clear and distinct as it had been in the best days of his ministry; and this elevated strain of praise and holy exultation was continued until his strength was exhausted, and he sunk into a sweet and refreshing sleep. The scene was indescribably impressive and solemn. No person that did not see it, can imagine the majesty of the preacher and the power of his utterance, scarcely more unexpected than if he had spoken from the coffin, in which his dust was to be laid before the return of a second Sabbath. It seemed to be a momentary triumph of grace over the infirmities of expiring nature, a taking leave of mortality and the labours of his militant state, like the dying effort of Jacob; after which the Patriarch 'gathered up his feet into the bed and yielded up the ghost.' With this brief eucharistic service, his communion with earthly things ceased. From the time of this affecting occurrence his change was rapid and obvious to all. His difficulty in speaking was so great that he did not make the effort, but remained silent with his eyes closed, except when opened to signify to some inquirer his consciousness and understanding of the question, which he had not the power to answer. The occasional motion of his lips and lifting of his hands and clasping them upon his breast, were indications that his thoughts were absorbed in the exercises of meditation and prayer.

As his strength diminished there were intervals more and more prolonged of sleep, when these tokens of his thoughts were suspended. There seemed to be no bodily suffering nor mental disquiet, but a peaceful waiting for the release of his spirit, which at last was called away so gently, that the moment of its escape was not perceived even by those who were watching to see it. At the hour of six in the morning of the 19th of May, 1848, he was lying in his usual position, his face upward, arms extended, and hands clasped as if engaged in prayer, when one of his hands became detached from the other and fell at his side; the other remained elevated a moment or two longer, when it began to sink gradually until it nearly reached the body, when its muscular strength failed and it suddenly dropped. At the same instant the motion of his lips ceased, and it was discovered that he had ceased to breathe. Such were the closing scenes of his loner and useful life, and some of the circumstances that attended it. Had it been prolonged until the 6th of July, he would have completed his 88th year. Thus he came to his 'grave in a full aire, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season'" (The Life of Ashbel Green, V.D.M., pp. 496-500).

The Works of David Calhoun in the Log College Press Bookstore

Dr. David Calhoun has been one of the most prolific historians of American Presbyterianism over the past several decades, and in the Log College Press Bookstore you can find eight of his books on that topic.

Calhoun wrote the 50th Anniversary history of his own Covenant Theological Seminary (By His Grace, For His Glory). Three titles explore the history of the most famous 19th-century seminaries: Princeton Seminary (a two-volume set) and Our Southern Zion (about Columbia Theological Seminary). Three titles are histories of individual churches: The Glory of the Lord Risen Upon It (First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC), Cloud of Witnesses (First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA), and Splendor of Grace (Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA). Finally, he wrote on the life and works of William Childs Robinson, a 20th-century seminary professor who upheld the evangelical and Reformed faith in the face of the rising tide of liberalism (Pleading for a Reformation Vision).

Surely our readers own some, if not most, of these volumes - complete your collection by visiting our Bookstore today!

Sabbath Afternoon Conferences

In keeping with the Puritan practice of "godly conference," grounded on 1 Cor. 14.29-31 and 1 Thess. 5.20, there were Sabbath afternoon conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, "in which [those involved] talk[ed] over together the blessed promises of our God, and seek[ed] to learn better his will for the ordering of our lives" (Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, quoted in David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, Vol. 2, p. 126). 

After Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, the tradition was continued by Charles Hodge. We have his Conference Papers (1879), which, according to Francis Patton, "are simply the theology of the lecture room thrown into homiletic form, with rich and precious application to Christian experience" (Francis Landey Patton, "Charles Hodge," The Princeton Review Vol. 1, No. 6 (1886), quoted in James M. Garrettson, ed., Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton: Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921, p. 303). 

Hodge's "favorite pupil," William Irvin, had this to say about the Sabbath afternoon conferences led by Hodge:

"No triumph of his with tongue or pen ever so thrilled and moved human hearts as did his utterances at the Sabbath afternoon conferences in the Seminary Oratory, which will live in the immortal memory of every Princeton student. A subject would be given out on the Sunday before, generally some one which involved practical, experimental, spiritual religion—such as Christian fidelity, love of God's word, prayer, the Lord's Supper, the great commission. After brief opening services by the students, the Professors spoke in turn; but Dr. Hodge's was the voice which all waited to hear. Sitting quietly in his chair, with a simple ease which seemed born of the moment, but was really the fruit of careful preparation, even with the pen, he would pour out a tide of thought and feeling which moved and melted all—solemn, searching, touching, tender—his eye sometimes kindling and his voice swelling or trembling with the force of sacred emotion, while thought and language at times rose to a grandeur which held us spellbound. Few went away from those consecrated meetings without feeling in their hearts that there was nothing good and pure and noble in Christian character which he who would be a worthy minister of Christ ought not to covet for his own" (A.A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, p. 459).

These conference papers are a spiritual treasure indeed. Download them now for future Sabbath afternoon reading and meditation. 

American History as Written by American Presbyterians

Besides ecclesiastical histories, some American Presbyterian clergymen, as students of history in general, have written notable volumes on the civil history of America, from the time of its discovery by Europeans forward, tracing God's providential hand in it. 

Consider the following examples:

To which can be added, Alexander McLeod (1774-1833)'s discourses on the War of 1812; William Carlos Martyn (1841-1917)'s history of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England; and William Pratt Breed (1816-1889)'s volumes of the War of 1776; among other contributions to American history studies. 

These volumes and more can be found at Log College Press, and make for valuable reading on the history of the United States of America from its earliest foundations onward. There are fascinating insights to be found within -- such as chapters on the aboriginal people living on the continent when Europeans arrived, the pre-Columbian discovery of America by Leif Erikson, and the first Protestant colonies planted in America by the French Huguenots (half a century before Jamestown and Plimoth Plantation). If you are in search of histories of America written by godly ministers from the past, take note of the volumes listed above, and start reading about the past today. 

Old School-New School Explained

Previously, we have highlighted several books which endeavor to explain and differentiate the 1837-1838 Old / New School divide within mainline American Presbyterianism:

And now we have another resource to offer for study on this subject: Lewis Cheeseman (1803-1861), Differences Between Old and New School Presbyterians (1848)

Take time to look over these works and familiarize yourself with the issues and persons involved. The year 1837 was momentous in American Presbyterian church history (as was 1936, almost a century later). The authors above lived through this tumultuous time and, without claiming to be impartial, have left a record of the distinctions between these two schools which characterized the divide in American Presbyterianism. Add these volumes to your reading list, and learn what happened 180 years ago to split the old and new schools of American Presbyterianism. 

 

The Dissertations and Theses Page of Log College Press

Log College Press exists to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries. That "about" aspect is found in our Bookstore (perhaps the largest curated list of books about Presbyterian history on the internet), and now on the newest page of the Log College Press website, the Dissertations and Theses page. On this page you will find an ever-increasing collection of the writings of PhD and ThM students who focused their studies on American Presbyterianism. As many of these dissertations and theses as we can get access to, we will make them available for you. We want to become the one-stop shop for all things American Presbyterianism, and this new page is a definite step in that direction. 

Currently, we have five papers posted:

1. A History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, by Nancy Elizabeth Clark;
2. Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Southern Presbyterian Divine, by Christopher Duncan;
3. Gilbert Tennent: An Analysis of His Evangelistic Ministry, Methods, and Message During the Great Awakening, by Cheryl Ann Rickards;
4. The History of a Confessional Sentence, by Barry Waugh; and
5. Direct and Immediate? The 19th Century Southern Presbyterian Controversy Regarding God's Call to the Ministry, my just-completed ThM thesis.

A special request: if you have written a dissertation or thesis on American Presbyterianism, please contact us if you would like us to post it for all to read. We hope this page becomes a frequently accessed stop on the LCP website. Happy reading!

Caryl's Gems

Joseph Caryl (1602-1673) was a renowned English Independent Puritan and Westminster Divine whose exposition of the Book of Job is legendary for both its spiritual piety and exhaustive size (12 vols.), drawn from his sermons. Of this invaluable work, Charles Spurgeon once wrote: 

Caryl must have inherited the patience of Job to have completed his stupendous task. It would be a mistake to suppose that he is at all prolix or redundant; he is only full. In the course of his expounding he has illustrated a very large portion of the whole Bible with great clearness and power. He is deeply devotional and spiritual. He gives us much, but none too much.

Caryl's exposition was reprinted in full (facsimile) by Dust & Ashes Publications in 2001, and it remains the fullest exposition of Job ever produced. But it's very size can be daunting to the Bible students of any century. 

In the mid-19th century, the English Independent divine Ingram Cobbin (1777-1851) combed through Caryl's exposition and selected gems arranged in the order of the books of the Bible. His one-volume work was titled Caryl's Bible Thoughts, and this work was republished in 1995 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications under the title Bible Thoughts

On the other side of the pond, the American Presbyterian clergyman Joel Edson Rockwell (1816-1882) also produced a one-volume collection of gems from Caryl's exposition, along with a fine personal and biographical introduction. These quote-gems are arranged topically (not unlike I.D.E. Thomas' The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations), which is very helpful for the reader. The title of Rockwell's volume is Seed Thoughts, or, Selections From Caryl's Exposition of Job (1869). 

This work by Rockwell is little-known today, but very much worth the read. Caryl's gems provide seeds for further thoughts. Download this book and cultivate these seed thoughts that spiritual flowers may grow.  

Nothing Less Than Inspiring

In his senior year at Princeton, a student once wrote about a sermon by Geerhardus Vos

"We had this morning one of the finest expository sermons I ever heard. It was preached by Dr. Vos, professor of Biblical Theology in the Seminary and brother of the Hopkins Dr. Vos [Bert John Vos, 1867-1945], and rather surprised me. He is usually too severely theological for Sunday morning. Today he was nothing less than inspiring. His subject was Christ's appearance to Mary after the resurrection. Dr. Vos differs from some theological professors in having a better-developed bump of reverence." Source: Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Memoir, p. 52.

The sermon in question is found in Vos' Grace and Glory, "Rabboni," pp. 89-104. Vos concluded his sermon with these words: 

"Let us then not linger at the tomb, but turn our faces and stretch our hands upwards into heaven, where our life is hid with Him in God, and whence He shall also come again to show Himself to us as He did to Mary, to make us speak the last great 'Rabboni,' which will spring to the lips of all the redeemed, when they meet their Savior in the early dawn of that eternal Sabbath that awaits the people of God." 

Take up, and read Vos' sermon. It will be a blessing to you, dear reader. 

William Henry Foote's Sketches of North Carolina and Virginia

You don't have to live in North Carolina or Virginia to be curious about the founding and progress of the Presbyterian churches in these states. To read accounts of God's work from the perspective of a pre-Civil War minister of the gospel, check out the writings of William Henry Foote (1794-1869). He was a native of Connecticut who pastored in North Carolina and Virginia. In the 1840s and 1850s he wrote historical sketches of the most significant events and personalities from those two states, and toward the end of his life he wrote a volume on the French Huguenots. Without his books, there is much we would not remember about early Presbyterian history.

[This post was originally published on July 5, 2017.]

Directions for Observance of the Lord's Day

In his Brief Compend of Bible Truth (1846), pp. 191-193, Archibald Alexander gives five directions to guide the Christian in the proper observance of the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath, which merit repeating today. 

"1. Let the whole day be consecrated to the service of God, especially in acts of worship, public and private. This weekly recess from worldly cares and avocations, affords a precious opportunity for the study of God's word, and for the examination of our own hearts. Rise early, and let your first thoughts and aspirations be directed to heaven. Meditate much and profoundly on divine things, and endeavour to acquire a degree of spirituality on this day which will abide with you through the whole week.

2. Consider the Lord's day an honour and delight. Let your heart be elevated in holy joy, and your lips be employed in the high praises of God. This day more resembles heaven, than any other portion of our time; and we should endeavour to imitate the worship of heaven, according to that petition of the Lord's prayer — 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' Never permit the idea to enter your mind, that the sabbath is a burden. It is a sad case, when professing Christians are weary of this sacred rest, and say, like some of old,  'When will the sabbath be gone, that we may sell corn, and set forth wheat?' As you improve this day, so probably will you be prospered all the week.

3. Avoid undue rigour, and Pharisaic scrupulosity; for nothing renders the Lord's day more odious. Still keep in view the great end of its institution; and remember that the sabbath was instituted for the benefit of man, and not to be a galling yoke. The cessation from worldly business and labour is not for its own sake, as if there was any thing morally good in inaction, but we are called off from secular pursuits on this day, that we may have a portion of our time to devote uninterruptedly to the worship of God. Let every thing then be so arranged in your household, beforehand, that there may be no interruption to religious duties, and to attendance on the means of grace. There was undoubtedly a rigour in the law of the sabbath, as given to the Jews, which did not exist before; and which does not apply to Christians. They were forbidden to kindle a fire, or to go out of their place on the sabbath; and for gathering a few sticks, a presumptuous transgressor was stoned to death. These regulations are not now in force.

As divine knowledge is the richest acquisition within our reach, and as this knowledge is to be found in the word of God, let us value this day, as affording all persons an opportunity of hearing and reading the word. And as the fourth commandment requires the heads of families to cause the sabbath to be observed by all under their control, or within their gates, it is very important that domestic and culinary arrangements should be so ordered, that servants and domestics should not be deprived of the opportunity of attending on the word and worship of God which this day affords, by being employed in preparing superfluous feasts, as is often the case. The sabbath is more valuable to the poor and unlearned than to others, because it is almost the only leisure which they have, and because means of public instruction are on that day afforded them by the preaching of the gospel. If we possess any measure of the true spirit of devotion, this sacred day will be most welcome to our hearts; and we will rejoice when they say, 'Let us go unto the house of the Lord.' To such a soul, the opportunity of enjoying spiritual communion with God will be valued above all price, and be esteemed as the richest privilege which creatures can enjoy upon earth.

4. Whilst you conscientiously follow your own sense of duty in the observance of the rest of the sabbath, be not ready to censure all who may differ from you in regard to minute particulars, which are not prescribed or commanded in the word of God. The Jews accused our Lord as a sabbath-breaker, on many occasions, and would have put him to death for a supposed violation of this law, had he not escaped out of their hands. Beware of indulging yourself in any practice which may have the effect of leading others to disregard the rest and sanctity of the sabbath. Let not your liberty in regard to what you think may be done, be a stumblingblock to cause weaker brethren to offend, or unnecessarily to give them pain, or to lead them to entertain an unfavourable opinion of your piety.

5. As, undoubtedly, the celebration of public worship and gaining divine instruction from the divine oracles, is the main object of the institution of the Christian sabbath, let all be careful to attend on the services of the sanctuary on this day. And let the heart be prepared by previous prayer and meditation for a participation in public worship, and while in the more immediate presence of the Divine Majesty, let all the people fear before him, and with reverence adore and praise his holy name. Let all vanity, and curious gazing, and slothfulness, be banished from the house of God. Let every heart be lifted up on entering the sanctuary, and let the thoughts be carefully restrained from wandering on foolish or worldly objects, and resolutely recalled when they have begun to go astray. Let brotherly love be cherished, when joining with others in the worship of God."

A Morning Prayer for a Busy Day

In 1895, J.R. Miller (1840-1912), author of numerous devotional writings, published a short but sweet encouragement to begin the day with prayer, titled For a Busy Day: A Morning Prayer for a Busy or Troubled Week-Day.

He reminds us of the need to begin each day with prayer, especially week-days, which are sometimes a spiritual letdown, as when Christians may be facing the trials of a work-day, or a particular burden, without the sweet fellowship of the saints that one experiences on the Sabbath. It was Martin Luther to whom is often attributed the famous saying, "I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." (This writer has written elsewhere about the origin of that quote.) When we have much to do, our need to commence with prayer is greater, not less.

Using Psalm 143 as the basis for his guide, Miller outlines six principles of such a morning prayer: 

  • Seek to hear God's voice first;
  • Seek God's guidance to know the way wherein to walk;
  • Seek to be kept from evil;
  • Seek to be taught to do God's will;
  • Seek God as the giver of life; and
  • Seek God for deliverance from trouble. 

It is in the same chapter in which our Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray using the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6) that he adds: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Every day we have need to pray, and to seek grace and help from above, especially on the hard days. 

Is this a hard day for you, dear reader? Might it become so unexpectedly? We hope not, but if so, this little book may be a helpful encouragement to you to begin your day with prayer unto Him who "is able to exceeding[ly] abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).

What Distinguishes Christians From the World?

Gardiner Spring (1785-1873) wrote a valuable treatise in 1813 titled Essays on the Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character that has stood the test of time (it was republished by Northampton Press in 2010). 

In this collection of essays, Spring examines in the light of God's Word certain crucial aspects of the life of a Christian: conviction of sin, repentance, assurance, love to God and the brethren, faith, humility, self-denial, non-conformity to the world, practical obedience, growth in grace, and prayer. These fruits of the Spirit are indeed the distinguishing characteristics of Christians in a world which runs in the opposite direction, and they are to be sought after and cultivated in every Christian's life.

May this little book be a blessing and an encouragement to your Christian walk. 

American Presbyterian Church History

The history of the American Presbyterian Churches has been told by many, and we have highlighted certain notable volumes previously at Log College Press. 

Some classic readings in this area include Charles Hodge's Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church; Richard Webster's History of the Presbyterian Church in America; Ezra Hall Gillett's history of the PCUSA; Charles Augustus Brigg's history of colonial American Presbyterianism; Thomas Cary Johnson's history of the Southern Presbyterian Church; and Robert Ellis Thompson's history of the Northern Presbyterian Church. 

All of these and more were consulted by one of the newest historians of matters ecclesiastical and civil added to LCP - an minister and writer that you may have not have heard of before: Jacob Harris Patton (1812-1903), author of A Popular History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1903) and The Triumph of the Presbytery of Hanover; or, Separation of Church and State in Virginia. With a Concise History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States from 1705 to 1888 (1887). 

Patton's histories are worthy of consultation. Also, be sure to check out our expanding Church History page for these and many other volumes for your reference. 

Duelling in America Comes to An End

On July 12, 1804, Alexander Hamilton, former U.S. Secretary of Treasury, died after a duel of honor with Aaron Burr, Jr. (the son of a President of the College of New Jersey), the sitting Vice-President of the United States. These were two notables, one of whom was reckoned among the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.  

Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866) preached a sermon occasioned by the death of Alexander Hamilton that is widely credited with bringing disrepute to the traditional practice of duelling to avenge one's honor. 

It is true that the last duel in the United States officially took place in 1859. But it is also true that the sermons of Nott, and Lyman Beecher, two highly respected Presbyterian ministers, significantly eroded support for the practice of duelling. 

Take a look at these sermons, as well as the articles written by Thomas Smyth (Works, Vol. 7), and consider how American Presbyterians opposed the practice, and how it came to an ignominious end. 

John Lafayette Girardeau's Short Address to the Inquirer

In the 1860 Catechism he wrote for the African-Americans seeking admission to the church he pastored in Charleston, South Carolina, John Lafayette Girardeau included a short address to the inquirer, "in the hope that the truths contained in the Catechism may be enforced in the form of direct exhortation." The beauty and power of these gospel words depict the heart of this evangelistic pastor, and challenge the modern church's lack of evangelistic zeal and its truncated gospel. Use these words in your preaching; include them in your personal evangelism; share them with the lost in as many forms as you can come up with.  

My Friend, are you inquiring about the salvation of your never-dying soul? You are right. You cannot live here very long. You must soon die, and pass into eternity; and if that one soul, which God has given you, be lost, your all is lost. Will you listen to some affectionate advice on this all-important subject?

First, then, consider how great a sinner you are in God’s sight. You have broken His Law, that holy, just and righteous Law which angels and all good beings reverence and obey. You have wickedly trampled under foot all the commands of God’s Law, and you know full well that you have not had the shadow of an excuse for so doing. That Law says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” You have sinned, and you, therefore, deserve to die. Consider, too, how you have abused God’s great goodness and mercy to you. Ever since you were born God has been blessing you. He has given you clothing, food and shelter, and has mercifully provided for all your wants. Above all, He so loved sinners that He gave His only-begotten Son to die for them; and you have also despised this His amazing mercy, and refused to take God’s crucified Son as your Savior and your Lord. Think, too, how far short you have come of God’s glory in all things. You have not loved Him nor obeyed Him in any degree as He requires. You are a great sinner in God’s sight. Your sins are exceedingly offensive and abominable to Him, your Maker and your Judge. If He should cut you down and send you to hell, there to suffer forever and ever, He would treat you just as you deserve. O my friend, pray earnestly to God that He would convince you of your sins, by His Holy Spirit. Pray to Him to open your eyes that you may see your awful danger. Pray to Him to show you your great and manifold sins. Pray to Him to make you deeply feel your need of Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and hell.

You cannot save yourself. You have no goodness to recommend you to God’s favor. You are vile and wicked in the sight of a holy God. You have no righteousness. “All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” They cannot cover you in the day of God’s wrath. You cannot obey the Law in your own strength, for you have broken it already and its awful curse is now resting on your soul. Nothing that you can do can lift that curse from your soul. It threatens to sink you down into the bottomless pit. No works that you can do can save you. “By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.” If you pray in your own strength, that will not save you. If you try to serve God, in your own strength, that will not save you. Pray that God would show you that you are “miserable and poor and blind and naked;” that you are “dead in trespasses and sins;” and that unless He have mercy upon you, and save you, you must be lost and undone forever and ever.

Are you, then, shut up to final despair? Is there no hope for you? Hear, O sinner, what God has done to save us. He is full of pity, love and mercy, to poor, guilty, wretched sinners. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Yes, Jesus Christ, God’s well-beloved Son, saw us in our sinfulness and misery, and touched with heavenly pity for us, He came down to this world to save us. Jesus took the place of sinners. Jesus suffered, and bled, and died for sinners, that He might deliver them from the dreadful curse of the Law. He died and rose again from the dead, and now ever liveth in heaven to intercede for sinners.

Do you ask, now, what you must do to be saved? This blessed Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for sinners, graciously invites you to come to Him, that you may have everlasting life. Listen to His sweet invitation to sinners! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Do you want rest from the burden of your sins? Go to Jesus and He will give you rest. Do you want to be happy? Hear what He says: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Be not afraid to venture your soul upon Him. “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Think not, because you are a great sinner, that He will not receive you. Hear what Jesus says: “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” The first thing, then, for you to do, is to go to the Lord Jesus, and believe in Him. When the Jews asked Christ what they must do, He answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.” When the jailor asked Paul and Silas when he must do to be saved, the Apostle told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

Go, then, O sinner, to Jesus Christ the Savior, and go just as you are. Stay not in the vain hope that you can make yourself any better than you now are. You cannot prepare yourself to go to Christ. The greater your sins are, the greater is your need of Christ. He “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Carry all your sins to Him. Lay them all on Him. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” You have nothing but sins to give to Him, and He is willing to take them, and, in exchange, to give you His finished righteousness. What you want is mercy. Plead with God, for Christ’s sake, to have mercy upon you, to wash you in the atoning blood of Jesus, and to pardon all your sins. Trust alone in the righteousness of Christ. You have none of your own. Beseech God to accept you as righteous in His sight for the sake of His dear Son Jesus Christ. Do this, and being justified by faith, you shall have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And, sinner, go to Jesus at once. Do not suppose that it is your duty to spend a long time in seeking pardoning mercy, before you ought to expect to find it. God has made it your duty to believe in Christ now. And suppose you die before you find Christ as your Savior, of what good will your seeking be to you? Your life is uncertain. Tomorrow you may die; and if you die out of Christ, you will be lost forever. Be in earnest. Press your case in prayer before God. Plead as for your life that He would not enable you to believe in Christ, and to lay hold upon Him as He is freely offered in the Gospel. If God should please to keep you waiting some time before He gives you an answer of peace, be not discouraged. Draw nearer to Christ, and cry, “Lord, help me;” and never cease to cry for mercy, until God, for Jesus’ sake, pardons your sins and converts your soul.

And should God in infinite mercy be pleased to hear your prayer, and speak pardon to your soul, oh think of your crucified Savior, and think of your sins that nailed Him to the tree, until your heart melts into penitence at His feet. Plead with Him for strength to enable you to give up all your sins, and to do all His commands. And as you went to Jesus, at first, a poor, worthless, helpless sinner, so continue to go to Him every day and hour of your life. Trust in Christ, love Christ, live for Christ; and when you come to die, Christ will be with you, and give you the victory over death. Your body will sleep in Jesus till the glorious resurrection morning; and your happy, ransomed soul will go at once to be with Jesus, and to sing His praise forever and ever. Thus, to you, to live will be Christ, and to die will be gain.

The World Was His Audience

Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832-1902), the son of a missionary to China, began his pastoral career in (what is currently) the Reformed Church of America before joining the Presbyterian Church. He went on to become world-famous as a preacher, with newspapers reprinting his sermons and numerous volumes published all of which were read by an estimated 30 million readers in his day. His sermons were commended by Charles Spurgeon, and his ministry was compared to that of both Spurgeon and George Whitefield. 

But his first sermon almost didn't happen after the manuscript he had written for it slipped under a sofa just at the appointed time for him to deliver it. He recounts the story in his autobiography T. De Witt Talmage As I Knew Him (this volume was edited with concluding chapters and published posthumously by his third wife), pp. 19-21:

"But the first sermon with any considerable responsibility resting upon it was the sermon preached as a candidate for a pastoral call in the Reformed Church at Belleville, N.J. I was about to graduate from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and wanted a Gospel field in which to work. I had already written to my brother John, a missionary at Amoy, China, telling him that I expected to come out there.

I was met by Dr. Ward at Newark, New Jersey, and taken to his house. Sabbath morning came. With one of my two sermons, which made up my entire stock of pulpit resources, I tremblingly entered the pulpit of that brown stone village church, which stands in my memory as one of the most sacred places of all the earth, where I formed associations which I expect to resume in Heaven.

The sermon was fully written, and was on the weird battle between the Gideonites and Midianites, my text being in Judges vii. 20, 21: 'The three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal; and they cried. The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.' A brave text, but a very timid man to handle it. I did not feel at all that hour either like blowing Gideon's trumpet, or holding up the Gospel lamp; but if I had, like any of the Gideonites, held a pitcher, I think I would have dropped it and broken that lamp. I felt as the moment approached for delivering my sermon more like the Midianites, who, according to my text, 'ran, and cried, and fled.' I had placed the manuscript of my sermon on the pulpit sofa beside where I sat. Looking around to put my hand on the manuscript, lo! it was gone. But where had it gone? My excitement knew no bound. Within three minutes of the greatest ordeal of my life, and the sermon on which so much depended mysteriously vanished! How much disquietude and catastrophe were crowded into those three minutes it would be impossible to depict. Then I noticed for the first time that between the upper and lower parts of the sofa there was an opening about the width of three finger-breadths, and I immediately suspected that through that opening the manuscript of my sermon had disappeared. But how could I recover it, and in so short a time? I bent over and reached under as far as I could. But the sofa was low, and I could not touch the lost discourse. The congregation were singing the last verse of the hymn, and I was reduced to a desperate effort. I got down on my hands and knees, and then down flat, and crawled under the sofa and clutched the prize. Fortunately, the pulpit front was wide, and hid the sprawling attitude I was compelled to take. When I arose to preach a moment after, the fugitive manuscript before me on the Bible, it is easy to understand why I felt more like the Midianites than I did like Gideon."

Besides an exercise in humility, what lesson did Talmage learn? 

"This and other mishaps with manuscripts helped me after a while to strike for entire  emancipation from such bondage, and for about a quarter of a century I have preached without notes—only a sketch of the sermon pinned in my Bible, and that sketch seldom referred to." 

A taste of his eloquence is found in the story above. Among his numerous published sermons, many can now be found on his author page and our Preaching page at Log College Press. Of Talmage, Spurgeon said: "His sermons take hold of my inmost soul. The Lord is with the mighty man. I am astonished when God blesses me but not surprised when He blesses him."

McGill's Church Government and Peck's Notes on Ecclesiology

Log College Press exists in part to preserve a digital archive of American Presbyterian works from the 18th and 19th century, and to propagate the knowledge of these works to the general public. These works have generally been forgotten by 21st century Presbyterians, and it is our hope that just as Puritan literature has enjoyed a revival over the past sixty years through Banner of Truth and other publishers, so Log College Press might serve to restore knowledge of the Presbyterian fathers from America.

To that end, if you are interested in studying the topic of Ecclesiology, I commend to you two works written toward the end of the 19th century, one by a Northerner, and one by a Southerner. A book we have highlighted previously, Alexander Taggert McGill's Church Government (written in 1888), compiled the lectures on the topic he gave at Princeton Theological Seminary. McGill had been called in 1854 to become the Professor of Pastoral Theology, Church Government, and Homiletics, and held this position for over forty years. Soon after McGill's book was published, Thomas Ephraim Peck wrote Notes on Ecclesiology (1892). McGill's book is much longer than Peck's (560 pages as compared to 212), and while both traverse similar terrain in the topic, Peck includes sections on church power and the relationship between the church and the state (specifically, church power as contrasted with civil power) that make his volume unique in its presentation. Both books are worth the time and effort spent to work through them. 

The Masters Painted for Joy

After the death of William Rogers Richards, in 1910, a volume of extracts from his sermons was compiled by Abraham Van Doren Honeyman, with the assistance of Mrs. Richards, titled The Truth in Love: From the Sermons of William R. Richards (1912). It is a daily devotional that spans a whole year. 

The devotional reading for today (April 27) includes a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

"That which costs is also that which well repays the cost. So it is doubtless true, as a distinguished writer of our day has said, that 'the old masters painted for joy and knew not that joy had gone out of them;' while, on the other hand, the first great master of Christian song also said truly of his greatest poem, that it had 'made him lean for many years' [Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Canto XXV].

The Christian rule for us all in our daily occupation is to do every piece of work not merely so that it will look well done, but so that it will be well done. For we are God's servants, and God sees things, not as they seem to be, but as they are."

A Daughter of the Covenant

If you have read James McDonald Chaney's William the Baptist and its sequel, Agnes, the Daughter of William the Baptist, consider in a similar vein a novel by Littleton Purnell Bowen: A Daughter of the Covenant: A Tale of Louisiana (1901). This is a story that is largely about the covenant blessings of baptism. Though like Chaney's works, it is a didactic narrative that instructs, Bowen's novel is told as a tale that stands on its own merits. Set in bayou country, the reader will follow the La Fontaine and D'Arbonne families as their Huguenot history sets the stage for all that follows in the life of Mary La Fontaine, daughter of the covenant. There is romance, adventure, and poetry in this tale as the blessings of the covenant are unfolded. 

Take time to look over our Fiction page as well to find other novels written by American Presbyterian ministers.