George Duffield asks, "Who should be our rulers?"

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When a committee headed by Benjamin Franklin was formed to prepare a Constitution for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1776, Bishop William White was called upon to lead in prayer, while Presbyterian minister (also chaplain to the Continental Congress) George Duffield II (1732-1790) drafted an essay outlining Biblical principles for the selection of civil magistrates to aid in the work. He added brief remarks to the essay in 1787, but it was not published until his grandson, George Duffield V (1818-1888), included it in his The God of Our Fathers: An Historical Sermon (1861).

The title — Who Should Be Our Rulers? — is immediately expanded upon with this question:

Query. — May a community of professing Christians, of right require any profession of the Christian faith of those appointed to bear rule among them, previous to their admission to office, or make a profession of Christianity, a suspending term of their being admitted to any of the principal offices in the state?

Answering in the affirmative, Duffield offers seven reasons to explain.

1. Officers in the State are to be considered as the servants of the public, employed by the Body, to perform certain services for them, and for which service, they receive that reward or hire, which the community agree to give; though officers are the servants of the State, it is yet the highest honor the State can confer on any of its members, to repose confidence in them, to transact for them the public concerns.

2. No man, or set of men, has any natural right to any office in the State, more than he has a natural right to oblige or demand his neighbor to hire him to perform any service he has to do, and consequently none of his natural rights are in fringed — if the community think proper not to employ him, more than the farmer infringes on the natural rights of the laborer, when he chooses to employ another rather than him.

3. Every community has an undoubted right to choose whom they will employ, to perform any service for them, equally as the farmer has, to choose whom he will employ to perform any labor for him. And as they have a right to choose as they please, whom they will employ — So,

4. They have for the same reason, an equal right to make such regulations as they see proper, respecting the persons they will agree to employ in their service, so that these regulations infringe on no man's natural right, nor inflict any penalty on those they may not think proper to employ.

5. For a society of professing Christians, to agree to employ none in any of their principal offices of service in the State, but such as profess Christianity, appears to be no more than a proper mark of respect paid to themselves, as a body, and to the Christian religion they profess, and cannot therefore, in that point of view be condemned. Whereas, on the other hand, to act a contrary part, must appear in the eyes of the far greater part of the community, treating Christianity with a degree of neglect, and has a direct tendency to sink it lower in the public esteem, and induce many through the influence, a connection of ideas has on the mind of man, to hold it on a par with Infidelity, in other respects as well, also, as in that wherein they would thus see it placed by the Constitution of their government.

6. Good morals are essentially necessary to the health and prosperity of the State. Whatever measure therefore, appears best adapted to preserve and promote the morals of the state ought to be embraced. Christianity is much better calculated to preserve and pro mote good morals than infidelity; as much therefore, as Christianity is better calculated for this great essential purpose, so much more advisable and prudent it is, to have Christian magistrates and officers, rather than infidels, especially when we consider,

7. The experience of all ages has confirmed the observation, that the principles and practice of superiors, and especially of rulers, have great influence on those of inferior rank; as in the history of the Jews; the complexion of the people at large, as either moral or profane, may generally be known by adverting to the character of the rulers that were over them, and it is ever to be expected, that every man will endeavour according to his opportunities for that purpose, to promote the sentiments he himself has embraced, and induce others to join him in practice.

These reasons being given, our author surveys some of the Scriptures that have bearing on how rulers should rule and how they should be selected. After highlighting Proverbs 14:34 (“Righteousness exalteth a nation…”), the Scriptural characteristics of a king (chief magistrate) given in Deuteronomy 17 are identified:

1st. He is to be of their Religion, that is a Jew, incorporated in that body and professing the Jewish Religion, no matter of what tribe or order, save only that none of the tribe of Levi, are to be chosen. This is all the exception made, and it is a good exception, still, nor will any of the clerical order desire it, unless they have forgotten the apostolic injunction, "Give thyself wholly to these things," 1 Tim. 4:15.

2d. He is to study the word of God, for though the expression, (Deut. 17:18,) has a special reference to the judicial law of that people, it cannot with propriety be restricted to that. It was the whole law which was with the priests and Levites, but this was the whole of the Divine Revelation, is still of excellent use to form even the highest officers of the State, for a faithful discharge of their trust to the commonwealth as well as to form the individual for usefulness here and glory hereafter.

3d. He was to learn to fear the Lord — but how is this most likely to be obtained to have rulers that are taught to fear God? Is it by choosing Infidels or by choosing Christians?

4th. He was to set an example to the people — and this example was certainly not for nothing, but that it might have influence; it was therefore as much the people's duty to observe and follow the example of their rulers, as it was theirs to set it. But what example shall we expect from Infidels? Are they likely to walk in the law of the Lord? &c, or ought we to choose examples of infidelity to set before us and our children to copy after?

More Scriptures follow:

A second direction from the sacred pages, 2 Samuel 23, "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." This is an express command of God, and delivered in terms so general, as render it impossible to be restricted to the Jews, but equally designed for us as any other portion of Sacred Writ. And will any say that an Infidel answers to this character, or is likely to rule in the fear of God? The 101st Psalm is generally understood as descriptive of those the Psalmist, by divine direction, was determined to employ in the service of the State; and such are characterized, v. 6, by walking in the perfect way. But is it possible to suppose infidelity can be that "perfect way?" Or if the Psalm should be understood of domestic servants, will not the argument hold much stronger with respect to those who are to serve the State?

In Isaiah 49:23, it is promised among the singular blessings that shall attend Christian States in the day of their greatest prosperity, that their rulers shall be "nursing fathers," &c, to the Church of Christ. But are Infidels likely to be these nursing fathers? Or when we know God generally accomplishes ends in the way of means adapted to these ends, shall we use the means that are most directly opposed to it, in order to obtain the so valuable and desirable ends?

He also considers several objections in favor of complete separation of church or state, that is, things civil and things religious. This leads to a discussion of the place of the Sabbath, which is part of the moral law of God.

It is said the Church and State ought to be kept entirely separate, and no connection admitted between things civil and religious, as they have no connection in nature, and many mischiefs have flowed from blending them together. If this be so, then great care must be taken to establish nothing of morality, for this is one grand essential constituent of religion, which consists in loving God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves; doing to all men as we would wish them in like circumstances to do to us. If any say the good of society requires this, I answer this is only giving up the position, and saying that though civil and religious things are to be kept entirely apart, they are yet in many things so inseparably connected that it is impossible to separate them one from the other. If this be so, we can then have no Sabbath established in any State, however composed entirely of professing Christians, unless it be somewhat of a political Sabbath, and entirely dissimilar to the word of God, for as the observation of a Sabbath is a part, and that a very material and foundation part of true Religion — for any State, therefore, to establish the observation of a Sabbath, is so far to blend Religion with their civil constitution; which, according to the above position, ought by no means to be done, but the two be kept entirely separate from each other. Nay, further, as the observation of a Sabbath is a part of revealed religion, and depends entirely on the divine authority of that revelation which enjoins it, we cannot establish the observation of a Sabbath without previously admitting, and equally establishing the divine authority of that revelation on which the Sabbath depends. We must, therefore, inevitably either admit and establish in our civil constitution the divine authority of the Scriptures, or we must utterly reject the Sabbath from amongst us, save as any one may choose of his own accord to observe the day. There is no alternative in the case. Admit, then, the Sabbath rejected, as on the above position it absolutely must be, and no one obliged to observe it, I leave it to any man who has observed how difficult it is with all the care that can be taken to have a Sabbath observed, I leave it to him to judge what our situation in a few years will be. Whether we shall be likely to have a Sabbath among us at all, but in this respect be purely heathen, and the Sabbath entirely gone, though the wisest and best of men in every age have esteemed the observation of the Sabbath of essential use to promote not only piety towards God, but morality toward men, and the great good of society; and God himself laid it down as a first grand foundation principle in the Jewish constitution, instantly after bringing them forth out of Egypt. The truth of the case is, it is impossible to run a line of distinction between things civil and religious, so as to separate the one from the other, in any civilized State. They are in many respects what God and nature have joined together, and man may not put asunder.

Duffield concludes with this thought:

I shall close my remarks on this subject at present with observing, old customs and institutions with which we have long been acquainted are like old friends, whom we shall not hastily cast off, without weighty reasons urging thereto. We have tried now for near a century an institution, the same in sub stance with that above pleaded for, formed by the celebrated founder of this State. No inconvenience has ever arisen from it. It has obtained universal esteem, is interwoven into our earliest thought of the matter, and grown up with our judgment; under this the people will feel themselves contented and happy; whether the case will be the same with the proposed alteration is greatly to be questioned, or rather the negative is certain, and the experiment, if made, will but too probably in its consequences verify in the State of Pennsylvania the Prophet Hosea's remark, (8:3-4) — "Israel hath cast off the thing which is good, they have set up rulers but not by Me."

Eleven years later, in 1787, also in Philadelphia while the national Constitutional Convention performing its work, Duffield remained of the same opinion:

The above piece was written at the time of forming the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, and though I wish to exercise all the charity I can for all mankind, and abhor the idea of subjecting any person to any, even the least injury on account of his religious sentiments or tenets in things pertaining to another world, so that he behave himself as a good citizen, yet, on a calm review of the case, at this distance of time, I cannot but think the arguments here adduced have weight, and that, on the whole, it is the safest line of conduct. - Philadelphia, Sept. 5th, 1787

We note that the 1776 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contains but one religious test for public office. Elected state representatives were required to swear to the public before they could be seated in the general assembly:

I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.

A similar provision has been retained in each of the following (1790, 1838, 1874 and 1968) governing constitutions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

Perhaps Duffield’s essay — authored for the benefit of the original Pennsylvania constitutional drafting committee and essentially affirming that religion is a necessary component of a good civil magistrate — provides us with a better understanding for the retention of this religious test for public office that Pennsylvania has kept even until the present day (although disannulled by a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court decision). Read the rest of this remarkable essay here to see what, if anything, Duffield has to say to the 21st century Christian citizen and civil ruler.

The Lantern that John Rodgers Broke

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Samuel Miller tells a story of his mentor and senior colleague, John Rodgers, and a lantern that he once broke as a boy.

It is generally known, that Mr. [George] Whitefield often preached in the open air; sometimes, because houses of worship were shut against him; and at others, because his audiences were too large to be accommodated in any ordinary building. In Philadelphia, he often stood on the outside steps of the Court-house, in Market-street, and from that station addressed admiring thousands who crowded the street below. On one of these occasions [c. 1739], young Rodgers was not only present, but pressed as near to the person of his favourite preacher as possible; and to testify his respect, held a lantern for his accommodation. Soon after the sermon began, he became so absorbed in the subject, and, at length, so deeply impressed, and strongly agitated, that he was scarcely able to stand; the lantern fell from his hand, and was dashed in pieces; and that part of the audience in the immediate vicinity of the speaker’s station, were not a little interested, and, for a few moments, discomposed, by the occurrence.

The impressions thus begun, were confirmed and deepened, and resulted, in a short time afterwards, as he hoped, when he was but little more than twelve years of age, in a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only refuge and hope of his soul; and in a cordial devotedness to his service.

From this period he resolved, if God should enable him, to devote himself to the service of Christ, in the work of the Gospel ministry.

Miller adds that there is more to the story.

A subsequent circumstance, connected with this event, and not less remarkable, is worthy of being recorded. Mr. Whitefield, in the course of his fifth visit to America, about the year 1754, on a journey from the southward, called at St. George’s, in Delaware, where Mr. Rodgers was then settled int he Gospel ministry, and spent some time with him. In the course of this visit, Mr. Rodgers, being one day riding with his visitant, in the close carriage in which the latter usually travelled, asked him, whether he recollected the occurrence of the little boy, who was so much affected with his preaching, as to let his lantern fall? Mr. Whitefield answered, “Oh yes! I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost anything in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Mr. Rodgers replied with a smile, “I am that little boy!” Mr. Whitefield, with tears of joy, started from his seat, took him in his arms, and with strong emotion remarked, that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

This fascinating account is derived from Miller’s Memoirs of the Reverend John Rodgers, D. D. (1813). Rodgers was such an important figure in colonial American Presbyterianism that this biography is a valuable window into the period as well as a portrait of the man. Take time to peruse its pages, and learn more about the boy who broke a lantern in his excitement at hearing the gospel preached, and later became a leading minister of the gospel in the early American Presbyterian Church.

Geerhardus Vos on the need for faithful creeds and confessions

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During the run-up to the 1903 PCUSA revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith, B.B. Warfield wasn’t the only prominent Princetonian expressing concerns about the potential risks to the church. Geerhardus Vos, in an exchange with Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian, during the 1890’s, reveals his opposition to the planned revision.

This exchange — detailed in Danny E. Olinger’s recent biography, Geerhardus Vos: Reformed Biblical Theologican, Confessional Presbyterian (2018), and in James T. Dennison, Jr.’s The Letters of Geerhardus Vos (2006) [both available at our Secondary Sources Bookstore page] — was private, but he also addressed the matter publicly on a few occasions. One was his article on “The Biblical Idea of Preterition” (The Presbyterian, 70, 36 (September 5, 1900): pp. 9-10); another was "The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God” (The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, 13, 49 (January 1902): pp. 1-37). In the former article, Vos noted,

One of the gravest symptoms of the revision movement in the Presbyterian Church today consists in the absence of serious appeal to scriptural authority for the changes of confessional statement that are advocated….Consequently there is reason to fear that the spirit in which revision is sought forebodes greater evil to the church than any material modifications of the creed to which revision may lead. Even if the Calvinistic system of doctrine embodied in our standards were seriously mutilated in result of the present movement, so long as the great body of believers feel themselves in conscience bound to yield unquestioning faith to the Bible, there is always hope for a rehabilitation of the principles temporarily abandoned. But when once the sense of allegiance to the Word of God as the only authoritative rule of faith has become weakened, or while still recognized in theory has ceased to be a living force in the minds of believers, then the hope of a return to the truth once forsaken is reduced to a minimum.

See Olinger’s discussion of these articles, ibid., pp. 107-116, for a helpful analysis of the concerns that Vos had.

Furthermore, in 1896, Vos published his handwritten 5-volume Reformed Dogmatics in Dutch. As these volumes have been recently translated (they are not currently on this site), readers will find interesting his remarks from Volume 5, p. 41, on the value of faithful creeds and confessions.

There are many who deny to the church the power and right of making creeds, and think that to do so is in conflict with the sufficiency of Holy Scripture. Hence, too, there are many communions that hold to no confession, such as the Quakers, Darbyists, etc. One should grant that creeds are not absolutely necessary. A church, if one wishes to reason in the abstract, can exist without confessional documents, and has existed without such. These, however, were exceptional situations. It is impossible to guide someone through Scripture in its entirety or to ask him his opinions concerning the whole of Scripture. The essential things must be gathered together in order that the church may show how it understands Scripture in the light of the Spirit. The authority of these creeds is always bound to Scripture; they are susceptible to improvement, but may not be lightly revised, inasmuch as they are not a compendium of theology but the ripe fruits of the spiritual development of the church, sometimes obtained through a long struggle. A true revision does not tear down the old but explains and confirms it and further illumines it in connection with new times and circumstances. But it remains true that the Scripture is the norma normans [norming norm], the confession the norma normata [normed norm].

From these sources we learn both how Vos opposed the movement to amend the Westminster Confession of Faith, which succeeded in its goal in 1903, and why Vos valued sound confessionalism, viewing faithful creeds as a means to aid the church in its affirmation of what Scripture teaches on a systematic basis. It was precisely because of his view that Scripture is the only rule of faith and practice that Vos taught the necessity of creeds as subordinate to Scripture — to guard the exposition of those Scriptures by the church from error — and the danger of revisions when they sprang from preference as opposed to scriptural mandate.

John McDowell on Experimental Religion

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The Psalmist says, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Ps. 66:16). This verse is the basis for a sermon on “Experimental Religion” by the Rev. John McDowell (1780-1863) which is worth your time to read. It is Sermon No. 2 in The New-Jersey Preacher (1813), edited by George S. Woodhull and Isaac Van Arsdale Brown, and can be found on our site on the Compilations page.

J.C. Ryle once said, “Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all strive so to walk together in this evil world; that Jesus may often draw near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus!”

In like manner, John McDowell takes what the Psalmist has said and paints a picture of what “astonishing love” brings forth in the heart and by the tongue of the Christian who cannot help but speak of that which God has done in him and for him.

The Christian may say, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare he hath" called "my soul." — He saw me lying in the same mass of ruin with the rest of mankind. My mind was carnal, and it was enmity against him. I loved sin. I was walking with the multitude the broad way, which leadeth to destruction. God called after me. He gave me pious parents, who early dedicated me to him, and put upon me the seal of his gracious covenant; and who endeavoured by their prayers, their instruction, their example, and their affectionate reproofs and corrections, to bring me to a saving acquaintance with God, and divine things. But, although my conscience under these means frequently rendered me uneasy, still I continued a stranger to God; I wandered from him and loved to wander. — He cast my lot in a Christian land. He brought me within the hearing of a preached gospel. By this he called after me, day after day and year after year, instructing, inviting, warning, reasoning and expostulating with me, threatening me, and lamenting over me. But when he called, I refused ! when he stretched out his hand I disregarded. He poured out his spirit — many of my companions became serious I paused and became thoughtful. But still I loved sin, and soon said to my convictions, "go your way for this time, when I have a more convenient season, I will send for you." — He visited me with alarming providences; death snatched my friends from me, and disease threatened his approach to me. I trembled, I wished to die the death of the righteous; but I refused to give God my heart. I besought him to remove his hand from me, and promised amendment. He heard me, and granted my request; but I forgot his goodness and my promises, and returned to carelessness and sin. My heart became harder, my mind blinder, and my conscience less tender. O wonder of patience! that I was born with and not cut down in my sins!

The Lord would not give me up; but continued to call me, and sent his Spirit to accompany the call with his Almighty, and irresistible influences. Then, like the prodigal, I came to myself, and saw my wretchedness. I saw myself walking the broad way to destruction. I heard the law of God pronouncing its curses against me; and felt a load of guilt pressing down my soul into woe. Then my anxiety was excited in earnest; and I cried, "what shall I do to be saved." — I then feared that the day of grace might possibly be past — I read, and heard, and prayed, and reformed; but could find no comfort. I heard the law rigorously demanding satisfaction for the past, and perfect obedience in future. I heard of the gospel plan of salvation; but my mind was blind, I could not understand it. My heart was proud, and unwilling to submit — it was filled with unbelief, and I could not by faith lay hold of an offered Saviour. Ignorant of the deceitfulness of my own heart, I thought I was willing to give myself away to God; but that he was unwilling to assist me to make the surrender, or to accept the dedication. But he led me by a way that I knew not — he humbled my proud heart — he made me willing in the day of his power — he put his spirit within me — he took away my stony heart and gave me a heart of flesh — he enlightened my mind — he renewed my heart — he discovered to me the suitableness of the Saviour, and his ability and willingness to save. My heart approved of his character, and I was enabled to believe in him, and to receive and rest upon him for salvation as he is offered in the gospel.

Then was my soul comforted. "Old things passed away, and all things became new." The character of God appeared to me glorious and worthy of my highest love — his law appeared holy, just and good, and I loved it, and heartily desired to render obedience to it. — Sin appeared to me odious and I detested it, and loathed myself on account of it, and wondered how I could live in sin with delight, as I had done. Jesus appeared precious to me, "the chiefest among ten thousand," and "altogether lovely." He appeared a suitable, an able, willing, and compassionate Saviour; and I felt as though I could and did venture my soul upon him, and commit my everlasting interests into his hands; and I heard him in his word speaking peace to my troubled conscience, and promising to me everlasting life. O fellow-christian! what a season was this! after the gall and wormwood which I had been compelled to drink! It was a day of espousals — a season of love. "Then was my mouth filled with laughter and my tongue with singing,” Psalm 126:2. O the riches of divine grace! that such a wretch was arrested in his career to destruction, while he was stopping his ears against the voice of mercy! and hath been brought to a saving knowledge of himself, and of Christ!

Fellow-christian, you have experienced this same grace, though there may be shades of difference in the manner and circumstances of your call, and the exercises through which you have passed. Like me, you were once blind, but you now see — you were once dead, but you are now alive — you were once lost, but you are now found. Let us unite in admiring, adoring and loving God. Why were we guests? Why were we made to enter while there was room, while so many have perished, and are perishing in their sins ? We must ascribe it to the free grace of God. To grace we will give the glory — "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory," Psalms 115:1.

Consider then the gracious work that God does in a sinner, which ought to well up in the heart of every believer as a fountain of gratitude. Our experiences will differ, but who can refrain from declaring the works of God in their life when God has done such great and wonderful things? God is exalted and praised, and our brethren edified and encouraged, when we thus speak.

In the conclusion of this discourse, we may observe from what has been said, that Christians need never be at a loss for conversation on experimental religion when they meet. The subject is inexhaustible. Even eternity will not exhaust it. And considering what great things the Lord hath done for his people, how can we belong to that number, if we seldom, or never w hen we meet, speak of these things to his praise and glory. Even the real people of God engage too seldom, and with too much indifference on this subject. Let them be humbled and excited by this subject more frequently to engage, when they meet, in conversation on experimental religion. Thus they will shew forth the praise and glory of God, and mutually edify and animate each other.

Read John McDowell’s sermon on “Experimental Religion” in The New-Jersey Preacher here in full, and be encouraged, be stirred up, then, dear believer, to speak of the things that God has done for you.

The Ordination Sermon of John Huss

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To set the record straight at the beginning, this post is not about the Bohemian Reformer John Huss (1369-1415). Instead, this story is about a 19th century Native American Presbyterian minister who shares the name.

In 2012, a new addition was made to the Cherokee Trail of Tears Historic Trail - the Fort Payne, Alabama Cabin Historic Site was designated as a landmark. This site marks the spot where a log cabin once stood; the cabin (pictured in the historic marker sign) was destroyed in 1946 and all that remains now is the chimney. Both were built, adjacent to the Wills Town Mission, by a Cherokee Presbyterian leader who, facing federal troops who were present to enforce the 1830 Indian Removal Act, voluntarily led 74 members of the Cherokee Nation westward in November 1837. The following spring that cabin was absorbed into the newly constructed Fort Payne, and the forced march known as the Trail of Tears began in earnest.

The man who built that cabin in 1825 was originally known as We-Cha-Lah-Nae-He, or “the Spirit” (or “Captain Spirit”). After his conversion to Christ that same year — a fruit of the labors of the Brainerd Mission, near Chattanooga, Tennessee — he took the name John Huss in honor of the aforementioned Reformer. It was in July 1833 that he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. We have recently added his ordination sermon to the inventory of Log College Press, as well as additional writings by this remarkable man.

After leaving Alabama in 1837, he settled at Honey Creek, Oklahoma, where he helped to establish a Cherokee Bible Society and served as pastor — at the congregation newly-organized by Cephas Washburn and Samuel Austin Worcester in 1838 — until his death in 1858.

There is much that we wish we knew better about this intriguing man. This writer is grateful for the kindness of author James Barnes, who shared extracts from his forthcoming book Annie Spirit’s Cherokee History, 1826-1910, which marshals a great deal of the biographical facts known about Huss. A full-blooded Cherokee, he never learned English. The writings that we have were all translated by others. His portrait was painted 1844 by John Mix Stanley, the famous painter of Native Americans, but apparently the portrait was destroyed in the great fire at the Smithsonian in 1865.

The sermon prepared by John Huss for his ordination trial was based on Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The translation of this sermon was prepared by Elias Boudinot (who also gave the charge at Huss’ ordination) and by Samuel Austin Worcester (Worcester, Boudinot, Stephen Foreman and Huss all performed a valuable service through their Bible translation labors). It remains today a remarkable example of early 19th century Native American Presbyterian preaching.

In this sermon, Huss exhorts his hearers to avoid the wide path that leads to destruction and to pursue the narrow path which leads to Jesus Christ and salvation. In doing so, he paints a picture of the contrasting works of the devil and those of Christ.

In the first place, I will describe the works of the devil. He teaches men to do only evil continually. He teaches them to sin against God, and to commit all manner of evil in his sight. He is led to teach men thus by his great desire that they may become like him, self-eternally accursed in the fire of hell. Thus he is employed in teaching all manner of wickedness. For wickedness fills the ranks and attends the march of those who do the will of Satan. And on this ac count, perhaps, this way is denominated a broad way —because of the variety of evils committed by those who follow it.

Now I will tell you something of the works of the Lord Jesus Christ. To this also listen attentively.

Great are the benefits he has confer red upon mankind. When he dwelt in his Father's house above, in boundless felicity, he left that felicity, and came to this earth to suffer for the sake of the happiness of sinful men. Of his own accord he endured the sufferings of the cross, to rescue sinful men from suffering. Of his own accord he suffered the nails to be driven through his hands and his feet. Of his own accord he suffered his side to be pierced with the spear. All this he suffered of his own accord; for the shedding of his blood was for the cleansing of mankind from their great transgressions. Of his own accord he died, to deliver sinful men from death, and to give them, in his own kingdom, an everlasting home.

After further description of the two paths that either lead to hell or heaven, Huss concludes his message showing that the question at hand is a matter of life or death.

Thus you have plainly exhibited be fore you the character of the places to which these two ways conduct. The one leads to a place of the greatest misery. The other leads to a place of the greatest glory. And now consider, each one of you, what path you are pursuing. If you are following the broad way, you are now called upon to enter the narrow way leading to eternal life, of which you have this day heard. And the case of every one of you is this; though you are travelling towards the termination of these paths, it is as if you were standing at the entrance of them, and it is now left to your choice into which you will enter. Now then, my friends, I ask you, what will you do? For if you refuse to enter the narrow way, you choose the broad way which leads to death. Will you also, as multitudes do, choose the road to death? Remember that if you die in pursuing this broad way, you will arrive at hell, where you will have no friends; for there all are enemies to each other. If you arrive at that place, you will dwell in great and endless misery. You will suffer extreme torment, and not a friend will be there. While you are yet on earth, whenever, you are in pain, you want friends; and friends come to your aid. But when you suffer pain in hell, not one will come to relieve you — all will be your enemies. Think, therefore, of our Savior, who is your friend indeed. For I have told you that he suffered much to relieve you from the miseries of hell. And I tell you that those who repent of their sins, and submit themselves to him, become his. And consider; if you do not repent of your sins against our God, and submit yourselves to our Savior, can you expect to escape the pains of hell? And who, do you flatter yourselves, is able to deliver you? If you are without this Savior, you are without a Savior indeed.

If then, you would enter this narrow way, you are to repent of your sins; you are to forsake all those actions which are displeasing to our God. None can pass through the gate of that narrow way, unless he repent of his transgressions, and forsake sin; for it is a very narrow gate. You must therefore forsake every thing which is evil in the sight of our God. Then you will pass the narrow way, arriving at the dwelling place of your true friend, our Savior, and dwell there without end.

And now, I exhort you, turn your course from the kingdom of Satan, and set your face toward the kingdom of our Savior. I hope, my friends, that God will enable you to find that kingdom.

This sermon is a simple presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it provides a window into the beliefs of a remarkable man not entirely forgotten to history, but less well-known than he should be: John Huss - an advocate for the Cherokee Nation in troublous times, but above all, a faithful minister of Christ.

19th Century Bible Study Questions from A-Z

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The right question makes all the difference in the world - and not just in Jeopardy. The best interviewers, whether on TV or on podcasts, ask the best questions - the most insightful, the most difficult, the ones that make their subject squirm, or laugh, or angry, or transparent. Knowing the right questions to ask of a person, or a text, usually means the difference between understanding and ignorance.

In 1884, the Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was published by Alfred Nevin. The following questions were included in it, as a guide for reading the New Testament in particular, but can be applied to the whole Bible. Helpfully, they are listed in alphabetical form. Keep these handy wherever you read and study God’s word.

In the study of the New Testament, and of the gospels especially, we need to inquire and compare. The inspired writings are infinitely rich in truth, and each verse is so connected with the rest that an intelligent inquirer may easily extend its investigations from one passage over the whole of Scripture. Without attempting to exhaust topics of inquiry, we mention the following :

A. What analogies between sensible and spiritual things may be here traced ?

A1. What prophecy is here accomplished? where found? when written? what rule of interpretation is illustrated?

B. What blessing is here sought or acknowledged, or promised, and why?

C. What custom is here referred to ?

C1. What trait of character is here given? good or bad? belonging to our natural or our renewed state? what advantages are connected with it?

D. What doctrine is here taught? how illustrated? what its practical influence ?

D1. What duty is here enforced, and how? from what motives ?

D2. What difficulty is here found in history or doctrine? how explained?

E. What evangelical or other experience is here recorded?

E1. What example is here placed before us? of sin or of holiness? lessons?

F. What facts are here related? what doctrine or duty do they illustrate? do you commend or blame them, and why ?

G. What is the geographical position of this country, or place? and what its history ?

H. What facts of natural history or of general history are here referred to or illustrated?

I. What institution or ordinance is here mentioned? On whom bindling? what its design? what its connection with other institutions?

I1. What instructions may be gathered from this fact, or parable, or miracle?

K. What knowledge of human nature, or want of knowledge, is here displayed?

L. What lofty expressions of devotional fervor?

L1. What Levitical institute is here mentioned? why appointed?

M. What miracle is here recorded? by whom wrought? in whose name? what were its results? what taught?

N. What is worthy of notice in this name?

P. What prohibition is here given? is it word, or thought, or deed it condemns?

P1. What is the meaning of the parable here given? what truth as to God, Christ, man, "the kingdom," is taught?

P2. What promise is here given? to whom?

R. What prophecy is here recorded? is it fulfilled? how? when?

S. What sin is here exposed?

S1. What sect is here introduced? mention its tenets.

T. What type is here traced?

T. What threatening? when inflicted?

U. What unjustifiable action of a good man? what unusual excellence in one not pious?

W. What woe is here denounced? what warning given? against whom, and why?

X. What is here taught of the work, character, person of Christ?

X1. What sublimity of thought or of language is here? what inference follows ?

The Pastor in the Sick-Room by John D. Wells

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John Dunlap Wells (1815-1903) was licensed to preach the gospel in 1842, and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1844, learning, as he reports, "at the feet of Dr. Archibald Alexander, Dr. Samuel Miller, Dr. Charles Hodge and Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander, all of blessed memory." In his 61-year ministry as a pastor, he attended "hundreds" of sick beds and death beds, and acquired a store of wisdom that is shared both his The Last Week in the Life of Davis Johnson, Jr. (1861), and, most especially, in the three lectures he delivered at Princeton in 1892 and which were published a year later under the title The Pastor in the Sick-Room

In this latter volume, which is permeated with compassion for the suffering and the lost, Wells distinguishes between the sick bed and the death bed, while also emphasizing the connection between body and mind, and the need to deal lovingly and wisely with the whole person in all their circumstances. In the context of his discussion of death-bed conversions, he also recounts famous last words by various Christians (in a fashion similar to Alfred Nevin's How They Died; or, The Last Words of American Presbyterian Ministers). 

For those who minister to the sick and suffering and dying, this book will serve as an encouragement to do so in love and with compassion for the bodies, minds and souls of those in the greatest need. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me: (Matt. 25:34-36).

Note: This was originally posted on March 6, 2018 (slight edits have been made in today’s post).

John Calvin's Grave: A poem by Samuel J. Fisher

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Samuel Jackson Fisher (1847-1928) was a leading African-American Presbyterian minister in his day, who served as the pastor of the Swissvale Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 35 years; served as a long-time member of the faculty of Chatham University (then known as the Pennsylvania College for Women; served as President of the Presbyterian Board of Missions to the Freedmen; and who authored many articles, as well as a volume of poetry dedicated to his deceased wife: The Romance of Pittsburgh or Under Three Flags, and Other Poems. We have extracted here one poem which is especially noteworthy; a tribute to the great Reformer who was buried in Geneva, Switzerland, in an unmarked grave.

John Calvin’s Grave

In fair Geneva, near the arrowy Rhone,
John Calvin sleeps,—his grave without a stone.
Unmarked, unknown, yet near the busy street
Which echoed often to his hurrying feet.
While far away he saw those peaks of snow,
The Alps, so radiant in the sunset glow.
And watched Mt. Blanc's upsoaring dome,
Like some huge billow with its crest of foam,
Fit type of him, whose vast majestic mind
In moral grandeur towers o'er mankind.
Around that peak the tempests whirl and lower
And crackling lightnings blaze in hateful power,
Yet pass, and leave it stainless, strong and pure.
So from his foes his fame emerged secure;
And tho' against his work fierce hatred ranged.
Unmoved he stood, in power and aim unchanged.
Frail was his body, and, though racked with pain.
On, on he toiled, ne'er pausing to complain.
Strong were his friendships, pure his love and home;
Christ filled his heart, and not foul passion's foam.
No fear of Pope, — no dread of earthly kings
Turned his calm eyes from truth and heavenly things.
Humbled he spoke of God's wide sovereignty.
Yet taught the lowliest peasant to be free;
And while he bowed before God's boundless plan.
To souls oppressed he taught the rights of man.

Oh, clear-eyed student of the Holy Word,
Thy plea for freedom tyrants trembling heard!
Oh, wide-browed thinker of God's lofty thought,
What growth of nations have thy strong words wrought!
Thine was the task to magnify God's laws.
And trace for each event its first and only cause,
Breaking man's pride by views of God's control,
Yet sure God's child was every human soul.
And he who knelt most humbly to his God,
Secure in faith could walk unblanched abroad.
Thy words made gentle women fear no shame,
They nerved the martyr to await the flame.
From heart to heart they passed around the world,
Till kings were faced, or from their thrones were hurled.
Rest, noble Calvin, take thy well-earned sleep.
Thy fame far time shall undiminished keep.
In that low grave thy fragile body lies,
But God has writ thy name across the skies!

Ebenezer Pemberton on Divine Meditation

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Ebenezer Pemberton, Jr. (1705-1777) was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). His father, Ebenezer Pemberton, Sr., served as pastor of the Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts; the younger Pemberton served as the pastor of the First (Wall Street) Presbyterian Church of New York City for 26 years.

He preached the ordination sermon for David Brainerd, as well as a notable sermon on the death of George Whitefield (published with Phillis Wheatley’s poem on Whitefield). These and other works by Pemberton (Jr.) have been recently added to Log College Press.

Another publication of note by Pemberton is the preface which he authored to Samuel Willard’s Some Brief Sacramental Meditations Preparatory for Communion at the Great Ordinance of the Supper (1743). Before praising the Puritan Willard, whose Sacramental Meditations were published posthumously, Pemberton highlighted the importance of Divine Meditation.

Divine Meditation is a religious exercise of great account in the School of Christ; and will be the employment of serious souls, that value their proficiency in Christianity. The very power and capacity for it argues the dignity of human nature; and the right exercise; and the right exercise of it will advance the soul to a divine and angelic perfection. This duty will afford the most agreeable employment, and pleasing entertainment to our thoughts, in their largest compass, and closest collection: it will exalt the most noble powers of the soul to satisfying converse with God the first Truth, and the supreme Good: And hence must be perspective of the soul in knowledge and holiness.

By meditation the mind comes to take a steady view of divine truths in their reality, excellency, and important aspect upon the soul. It chases away those clouds that veil the face of divine objects, that they may appear in their native beauty. There are indeed any times sudden flashes of light breaking into the soul by transient thoughts; which may afford hints, which, if improved and followed, would lead to many surprising and profitable discoveries of truth: yet this sudden blaze of thought, though never so bright, will not lay open the hidden mysteries of divine things to our view, unless the mind be brought by mediation to a holy praise upon them. These beams of truth may with their superficial touches for a moment lightly gild the mind; but not afford a steady light, or lasting impression; unless by deep and close musing, thoughts be fired and inflamed; which will not barely amuse but better the mind. For hereby the soul will be led to new discoveries of spiritual things, to a more full apprehension of truths already known, and known truths will leave more more of a transforming power upon all the faculties of the soul.

Meditation is there a duty of vast consequence to the Christian, in that it tends to advance his improvement in the graces of the divine nature, and in the duties of the divine life. This gives life and strength to faith: for herein the devout believer takes a view of the fullness and stability of the promises, and the unalterable fidelity of the Promiser; and can triumph in this, that he knows in whom he has believed. Hereby Hope is made more sure and steady; and its purifying and refreshing virtue strengthened. It brings food to gratify and nourish the most raised Hope: for in devout meditation the soul stands with Moses on Mount Pisgah, and surveys the good land of Promise; herein it is taken as the three favorite disciples into the Mount of Transfiguration, where it is encircled with some beams of heavenly glory; herein it receives some fore-tastes of the joys of the coming world, some pledges and earnests of the expected inheritance in light: whereby the Christian comes to know by happy experience, in some good measure, what is the hope of the calling of God, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Hereby divine love in the soul is maintained and cherished: it blows up the heavenly spark into an holy flame; and brings new fuel to preserve, and increase its power and brightness. Hereby the spirit of true devotion is warmed and raised. It disengages the mind from those things below that do dampen the force and heat of the Spirit in its holy aspirations, and ascents to God. It gives both fixation and flame to the soul in its divine musings. While the Psalmist was musing, the fire burned, and his heart was hot within him.

Again, meditation tends to make Providences more instructive in duty, and impressive of the obligations to it on the heart. Hereby divine ordinances will be made more mighty through God, to turn the sinner from the error of his ways to the wisdom of the just; and to make the man of God more perfect in grace, rich in comfort, and ripe for glory.

Sure I am, holy meditation can never be more seasonable, than when we make our solemn approaches to the table of the Lord. Meditation should be our preparation for it, our entertainment at it, and the conclusion of this spiritual banquet. And were this duty more exercised, we should attend this ordinance with greater awe and solemnity of spirit, with keener appetites after those spiritual dainties there set before us; and go away from it more strengthened with the Bread of Life, and more refreshed with the Wine of Consolation. And have the evidence of it by being less slothful in business, and more fervent in Spirit serving the Lord.

In the language of a colonial American (nevertheless, which has been slightly modernized), Ebenezer Pemberton here describes meditation as the spark that fuels a fire in the soul. It is the “musing,” or careful pondering, consideration and deliberation of select edifying thoughts which constitutes the divine meditation here in view. These may be Scripture verses, or themes, or occasional matters which furnish deeper thoughts on divine principles. The employment of this duty is especially of use, Pemberton argues, in preparation for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, wherein we are to examine ourselves and to discern the Lord’s body. Its neglect has a detrimental effect on spiritual life, and that is true whether we are speaking of the 18th century or the 21st.

The extract above from Pemberton’s Preface, along with Willard’s Sacramental Meditations, may be of use to stir us up in this often-neglected duty. Take time to consider the value of divine meditation, and then, with this encouragement, put it into practice, and it will be a blessing to you, dear reader.

New Presbyterian Women Writers Added to LCP

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Two new female Presbyterian authors have recently been added to Log College Press.

The first is Susan Mary Brown Alexander (1828-1910). She was the daughter-in-law of Archibald Alexander - married to Henry Martyn Alexander (1822-1899). Among the works she wrote, at LCP we have:

  • How to Study the Old Testament: In a Series of Questions - First Series: From Genesis to First Samuel (1873)

  • Questions on the Acts of the Apostles, 1882-1883 (1883)

The second is Julia McNair Wright (1840-1903). She was the wife of mathematician William James Wright. An extremely prolific author, she published dozens of books over the latter half of the 19th century, which were all extremely popular. These include both fiction and non-fiction, such as her volumes on astronomy, botany, and nature; a Ladies’ Home Cook Book; an encyclopedia of domestic life; a work on church history; a number of stories critical of Roman Catholicism; adventure stories, travelogues and historical fiction; several works relating to the temperance movement; a translation of a novel from the original French; and a series (the True Story Library, published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication) of Reformation-era biographical sketches for younger readers on the lives of the Scottish Reformers George Wishart and John Knox; German Reformer Martin Luther; Bohemian Reformer John Huss; French Huguenot Reformers John Calvin, Queen Margaret of Valois, Duchess Renée of Ferrara, and Admiral Gaspard de Cologny; English Reformer William Tyndale; and English Puritan Richard Baxter. Always active, always writing, the words found on the cover of one particular volume reflect her ethos: “For day by day we should be instant in doing God’s errands as we move across the world.”

In her biographical sketch of Martin Luther, she wrote these words:

The world and the Church need a good shaking just now to wake them up to the work of the Lord, and where is the Luther strong in Jesus to do it? He may be some boy reading this book. God knows.

Take time to peruse these newly-added authors and their writings now available at LCP. You and your family will be richly rewarded.

"A nation is but a congeries of families" - Moses D. Hoge

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It was at the Sixth General Council of the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland in 1896, that the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge delivered an address on “The Educative Influence of Presbyterianism on National Life.” He spoke of the importance of the family in relation to the health of the commonwealth, and took note especially of the role of mothers for the good that they do on behalf of their families which in turn is a service to the nation at large.

A nation is but a congeries of families, and what the family is, the nation will be….Under the great dome of the sky I do not believe there are any surpassing our Presbyterian mothers in the faithful training of their children to walk in the right ways of the Lord, nor do I believe that there are any who have influences transcending those of Presbyterian households in preparing children to become good citizens of the country and of the kingdom of Christ.

The death of our old Calvinistic mother has been frequently announced, and her funeral oration pronounced. Well, the death of a mother is a great event in the lives of her children. A minister in my own country says, “When we came to lay our mother in the grave, one of us said to a friend at his side, ‘We will remember the works that will follow her.’ ‘What works?’ asked the friend to whom he spoke. He replied, ‘She bore ten sons and trained them all for Christ. We are all standing around her grave to bless God that she ever lived.’”

Mr. President, fathers and brethren, we, too, bless God for our dear old Presbyterian mother, who has borne ten thousand times ten thousand children and trained them all for Christ; but we are not standing around her grave! We rejoice that she is still a living mother — her eye not dim, nor her spiritual force abated, and when our descendants are as near the close of the twentieth century as we are to the end of the nineteenth, another council will meet to celebrate her virtues and her works in strains of adoring gratitude compared with which our utterances tonight are cold and poor. — Source: Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, pp. 370-371

A debate over capital punishment in the early American republic - Robert Annan's view

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In July 1788, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a noted physician, Presbyterian, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, published an essay in The American Museum in which he argued for the abolition of the death penalty: “An Enquiry into the Justice & Policy of Punishing Murder by Death.” This was a radical position at the time, and it was met with a vigorous rebuttal by Associate Presbytery pastor Robert Annan, then serving at what was known as the Old Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (now known as Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church) - who himself published replies in the Philadelphia Mercury, and Universal Advertiser (Sept. 25; Oct. 2, 4, 7 and 23, 1788) under the pen name “Philochoras,” and then a two-part article in November and December issues of The American Museum. Rush responded further in the Oct. 21, 1788 Philadelphia Mercury and in the January and February 1789 American Museum. In 1792, Rush published an additional pamphlet titled “Considerations on the Injustice and Impolicy of Punishing Murder by Death.”

To his friend the Rev. Jeremy Belknap of Boston, Dr. Rush wrote on Oct. 7, 1788:

My essay upon the punishment of murder by death has been attacked in our newspapers by the Reverend Mr. Annan. He rants in a most furious manner, so far from treating me with the meekness of a Christian, he has not even treated me as a gentleman….His arguments are flimsy and such as would apply better to the 15th than the 18th century….They all appear to flow from his severe Calvanistical [sic] principles.

Annan’s rebuttal to Rush has been criticized for “ad hominem attacks, slippery slope fallacies, prolepsis, and other rhetorical strategies that make him seem like like a calm man of the cloth and more like an anxious debater arguing the losing side of a case,” while the same historian acknowledged that Annan “speaks authoritatively about the Bible” (Stephen John Hartnett, Executing America: Capital Punishment & the Making of America, 1683-1807, Vol. 1). But both Rush and Annan acknowledged that Rush’s condemnation of the death penalty was also linked to a condemnation of the legitimacy of war as well. In one of Rush’s rejoinders, “he sought 'to refute what Rush called an attempt ‘to justify public and capital punishments, as well as war, by the precepts of the gospel’” (John D. Bessler, Cruel & Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders’ Eighth Amendment, p. 77).

Dr. Rush’s arguments against capital punishment may be found elsewhere online, but Rev. Annan’s arguments in its favor have been more difficult for many to find as a primary source. An extract from his closing remarks will permit him to speak for himself:

Humanity is become the popular cry! Weak men join in the cry, to gain the applause of the unthinking; but, as understood, it degenerates into nonsense. Liberality, in religious sentiments, is become as popular and common a cry! But what is this liberality of sentiment? It is, with too many, a total indifference about religion; with many more, a high contempt of it. We are become so wise, as to see, that even the tolerant zeal of our forefathers, for the support of religion, was absurd bigotry and folly. We can do without it – But, if we once ſhould arrive at such a state, as to lose all reverence for God, and all dread of civil government too, all regard both to divine and human laws, we will soon feel the consequences, and they must be tremendous!

In fine, I cannot help expressing my wishes, that our author, who is truly amiable on many accounts, and (I believe) a sincere friend to humanity and society, would, for the future, abstain from hazarding such sentiments. I wish it for his own sake. They cannot honour him. – To treat the word of God, as if it gave an uncertain sound, or were obscure, where it is altogether explicit; to treat the wisdom of the wisest men, as if it were follv and savage cruelty, cannot honour him.

I wish ever to be a friend to humanity — but let it be a rational and judicious humanity. Humanity of this kind is the image of God on man. May it increase more and more! But that humanity, which would overturn the pillars of justice, order, and good government, the laws of God and man, I deprecate as the worst of evils! Humanity, that would spare murderers, would be the most shocking inhumanity and cruelty to the religious, sober, and virtuous part of the community. For, if the wicked may destroy the life of the innoçent, while no power on earth can lawfully touch the life of the wicked, injuſtice is more powerful than justice; lawless outrage more mighty than legal government; Satan stronger than the Almighty; the war, between the kingdom of justice and the kingdom of injustice, quite unequal; and the advantage entirely on the side of iniquity, which would soon establish it’s throne.

The full text of Annan’s 1788 2-part article in The American Museum is now available to read online here.

An LCP milestone for B.B. Warfield

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The 1974 Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921 by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole identifies 1,574 works - with caveats - by the most prolific of authors - and that is after excluding another 1,070 titles which were deemed too brief to include in their list.

At Log College Press, Samuel Miller was the first of our authors to reach 100 titles available to read online here, but now B.B. Warfield is the second to reach that milestone. Although it is only a fraction of the total works written or published by Warfield, it is a substantial assembly of material for the student of his body of literature, and it continues to grow.

Among the 100+ Warfield works available to read at LCP thus far, one may find:

  • at least 15 separate published compositions, including hymns and poems (for purposes of this count, his 1910 Four Hymns and Some Religious Verses is reckoned as one publication);

  • at least 14 separate published works on aspects of the Scriptures;

  • at least 12 separate published works pertaining to the Westminster Assembly and its Standards;

  • at least 11 sermons (found in his 1893 The Gospel of the Incarnation; and his 1913 The Saviour of the World);

  • at least 8 separate published works on aspects of Christology;

  • at least 5 separate published works relating directly to John Calvin;

  • at least 4 separate published works on systematic theology; and

  • 2 inaugural addresses.

Not included in this list are published writings by Warfield found elsewhere on LCP, such as our Compilations page, such as his “Incarnate Truth” and “The Christian’s Attitude Toward Death” in Princeton Sermons (1893); and “Present Day Attitude to Calvinism in Calvin Memorial Addresses (1909).

Also, take note of the (at least) 9 separate works (including the Meeter/Nicole bibliography referenced above) specifically focused on Warfield available at our Secondary Sources bookstore page (which does not include many other works about Princeton which also contain valuable material by and about him).

There is a rich treasury of Warfield literature to be explored at LCP and it is only growing. Begin by perusing his author page here.

A.A. Hodge on the essence, duration and change of the Sabbath

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Charles A, Salmond, “the Scottish Princetonian,” recorded the “Table Talks” of Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge in Princetoniana (1888). Some of his thoughts on the Christian Sabbath from these Table Talks are extracted below for meditation on this Lord’s Day. For a longer read by Hodge on this subject, be sure to read The Day Changed and the Sabbath Preserved (highlighted previously here and available to read here).

The Essence of the Sabbath.

That a regular portion of time, appointed by God, to be observed by all men, should be set apart for rest and the worship of God, — this is the essence of the Sabbath; that one-seventh of time should be so set apart is, relatively to this, the accident. It is, however, the case that one-seventh of time has been positively set apart by God for a Sabbath, and a particular one-seventh of time. The choice has not been left to us.

Duration and Extent of the Sabbath Law.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," is as much a moral law as "Thou shalt not steal" — the law founded on the relations of property. Its duration and extent are determined by the character of the institution and the abiding reason for it; and also by Scripture, in the New Testament portion of which its permanence is incidentally recognised, though there is no specific re-establishment of it, any more than of infant church membership.

The Lord's Day and the Sabbath the same.

Our "Lord's Day" and the Jewish "Sabbath" are not different in essence. Both are days of rest and festival, not of gloom. The essence of the Sabbath could not be changed without changing the nature of man. But the accidents of it may be changed by competent authority, and were actually changed by the college of Apostles, for a sufficient reason.

The Change of Day.

The stream of Sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week came right down to the time of the Apostles; it took a bend at that point; and it has come right on ever after. Only they could have altered it; the authority of no other would have wrought such an universal change in the Christian world. The adequate reason for the change was, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and the new creation it secured. The competent authority was that of the Apostles, and no other. (The trouble with the hierarchical bishops now is, that they are all Apostles, though they have not seen the Lord — not a soul of them!)

Samuel E. McCorkle on the duty and practice of catechizing

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In a 1792 sermon titled A Sermon, on the Doctrine and Duty of Sacrificing, which was preached more than once and published in 1794, Samuel Eusebius McCorkle highlighted the duty of catechizing and explained the particular method that he used in his own congregation (Thyatira Presbyterian Church in Rowan County, North Carolina).

The next [duty] I shall mention is, the ancient and important duty of Catechising.* Many things might be said on this subject, but I forbear with only Qbserving that it may have its influence on both sermons and sacraments, by preparing the mind to be profited by them.

* Here I beg leave briefly to suggest to my brethren the plan of catechising from the Scriptures, as the platform or ground of a catechism. I have proceeded from Genesis to Job, and through part of the four evangelists; and I design, if God permit, to proceed on to the end, asking questions that lead to reading and reflection. I have found it profitable to myself and my people, and can venture to say that as far as I have proceeded there is not a congregation on the continent better acquainted with the Scriptures.

The Congregation I have divided into a number of divisions, of fifteen or sixteen families each, assigned to each division a set of written questions, and from one part of one or two books, as they may be long or short, in each Testament; catechising in the morning from the Old, in the afternoon from the New Testament, and closing by calling on the youth to repeat the shorter catechism.

This set of scriptural questions thus examined on, pass to the next division of the Congregation, who often attend as spectators, knowing that they are next to be examined on the same questions. Thus in rotation, every individual will be examined on every part of the Bible.

William Henry Foote, in his Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical (pp. 360-361), add this:

His daughter says, the divisions were eight in number; and that an elder was attached to each division; to this elder, he gave the copy of questions, and the elder supplied the division. In the examination he never publicly questioned the elders, they met him at his own house. The children were early brought to say their catechism; and the parents were reproved or commended according to the proficiency manifested in the examination.

Thus we have here an historical snapshot showing the importance placed on catechizing a congregation, young and old, as it was implemented by a leading North Carolina Presbyterian minister at the close of the 18th century.

It may be asked, separately from an analysis of the particular methods used here, whether the church today places the same high premium on catechizing. McCorkle set the bar high to the end that his congregation would know the Scriptures thoroughly. This, no doubt, ought to be our goal as well.

What Samuel Stanhope Smith had to say about Phillis Wheatley

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While most famous for authoring the 1776 Declaration of Independence and its eloquent articulation of the principles of freedom for all, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson is also well known for his public position that African Americans were intellectually inferior to White Americans. He made his views known in Notes on Virginia (1785).

One example of this is his critique of the famous African American poet Phillis Wheatley. She composed a tribute to George Whitefield, thoughts on the Providence of God, and a poem about being brought to America from Africa, among other notable verses. But Thomas Jefferson only gave her credit for her sincere religious beliefs.

Religion indeed has produced a Phillis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem….I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.

The reader will note Jefferson’s equivocal credit of authorship to her volume of poems (Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773). It was actually necessary for local civil and religious authorities to investigate whether she, as an African American slave, had the ability to write the poems ascribed to her. They concluded that she indeed the poet that she claimed to be, and their written testimony was included by the publisher in the preface to her book. But questions about her ability to skillfully write poetry lingered in the minds of some - precisely because she was an African American.

In 1787, the first to refute this argument by Jefferson about the supposed intellectual inferiority of African Americans in general, and Phillis Wheatley specifically, was Samuel Stanhope Smith in his Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species (2nd ed. 1810).

In 2019, it seems anachronistic to acknowledge not only Phillis Wheatley’s ability as a poet, but also the equality of African Americans with White Americans on an intellectual basis. But in 1787, it was noteworthy for Smith to publicly challenge Jefferson’s views.

These remarks upon the genius of the African negro appear to me to have so little foundation in true philosophy that few observations will be necessary to refute them…. The poems of Phillis Whately, a poor African slave, taught to read by the indulgent piety of her master, are spoken of with infinite contempt. But I will demand of Mr. Jefferson, or any other man who is acquainted with American planters, how many of those masters could have written poems equal to those of Phillis Whately?

Smith argued in his Essay for the doctrine of “[t]he unity of the human race, notwithstanding the diversity of colour, and form under which it appears in different portions of the globe.” In his view, differences between the peoples of different parts of the world should be understood as reflecting the conditions in which they lived. It should be understood by the modern reader of his Essay that Smith’s defense of the unity of all mankind regardless of skin color, though remarkable for its day, contains expressions which were dismissive of African culture.

Like Jefferson, Smith was a slaveholder. He was more moderate in his aim of gradual emancipation for slaves than his friend “Father” David Rice, who strived to ban slavery at the beginning of Kentucky’s statehood in 1792 — although Rice too was a slaveholder. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia also advocated the colonization of Africa by freed slaves; Smith’s own ideas on the subject helped lead to the creation of the African Colonization Society in 1816 - a project that was controversial among white and black American Presbyterians and others.

Few American Presbyterians of that era were consistent in their principles and practices regarding opposition to slavery — George Bourne, and Alexander McLeod and the RPCNA were notable exceptions. Bourne, in his 1816 volume The Book and Slavery Irreconcilable, notes the contradiction represented by Samuel Stanhope Smith:

Dr. Smith exemplifies the difficulties, which a man must surmount, who endeavors to combine truth with error, and rectitude of principle with corruption of practice.

Yet, Smith’s defense of Phillis Wheatley was an important public statement of his position that African Americans are not “inferior” to whites. Wheatley, who was emancipated the same year that her poems were first published, once wrote a letter to Native American Presbyterian minister Samson Occom, in which she spoke of the universal love of freedom.

…in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert, that the same Principle lives in us. God grant Deliverance in his own Way and Time, and get him honour upon all those whose Avarice impels them to countenance and help forward tile Calamities of their fellow Creatures. (Published in The Connecticut Gazette, March 11, 1774)

We may credit Samuel Stanhope Smith with defending the unity of mankind against the charge that African Americans were “inferior,” and using the example of Phillis Wheatley to demonstrate this, while yet decrying that this defense was ever needed, and also decrying Smith’s own inconsistencies regarding slavery.

The principles for which they contended: David McAllister

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Reformed Presbyterian minister David McAllister’s Poets and Poetry of the Covenant is a worthy homage to the heroic faith of the Scottish Covenanters in verse, which we have highlighted on this blog previously, but its prose introduction should not be overlooked. It is a helpful overview of what the Covenanters stood for, and what inspired so many powerful poetic tributes.

Let us briefly sketch the leading principles for which the heroes and martyrs of these songs of the Covenant contended:

1. The supreme authority of God's Word in all the relations of human life. In the church, as one of their own number said, "they took their pattern, not from Rome, not even from Geneva, but from the blessed Word of God." They held that the state was bound to regulate all its affairs by the same law of ultimate authority. The Bible was to them a national as well as an ecclesiastical law-book. Kings and noblemen and lowlier citizens were all under its obligations in the sphere of political and civil life. And the family, too, needed God's Word, as the daily guide of the domestic circle. The place of the Bible in Covenanter families; the singing of a portion of Bible Psalmody and the reading of a chapter of the Scriptures every morning and evening at the household altar, with the entire membership of the family gathered about, brought all domestic affairs under the acknowledged authority and educative influence of the divine law. Even when the father and the older sons were driven by the blood-hounds of persecution to hidings in dens and caves of the earth, or amid the solitudes of the mountains and moors, the mother or an elder daughter would keep the fire of the household altar brightly burning in the sorrowing yet not darkened home.

At the very basis of all this was the recognized right and responsibility of every individual to interpret the divine law for himself. Social bodies had to reach their interpretations for themselves; but no interpretation of God's Word by either church or state could overturn the Protestant principle, or rather the principle of the true Christian religion, that every man must give account of himself to God. But with the authority of God himself acknowledged as supreme for all, in every relation of life, a firm foundation was laid for the balance of liberty and law. Rights of conscience on the one hand, and a just and righteous authority in both church and state, on the other hand, here find their full security. Not the will of any man, pope, or king, or president; not the will of any body of men, presbytery, general assembly, house of commons, house of representatives, or senate; not the will of the millions that make up the sovereign people of the mightiest nation on earth, can be, according to this old Covenanter and Scriptural principle, of supreme and ultimate authority in any of the relations of human life. Church courts and civil legislatures may help wisely and opportunely to interpret and apply the law which God himself has given, and secure its beneficent effects; but over all human legislators is the Divine Lawgiver whose authoritative will is revealed for man's every need in the Holy Scriptures. Only by such a Law and such a Lawgiver can individual and family and church and state be regulated in harmony with each other and for the good of all.

2. The kingship of Jesus Christ. This followed of necessity from the acceptance of the former principle. Taking the Bible as of ultimate and supreme authority, the Covenanters learned that Jesus Christ has been made Head over all things; that he is King of nations as well as King of Zion, and this in truth and reality, and not in some figurative and shadowy and unreal way. The Bible they accepted as the law-book of this King. And they sought to have Christ himself practically acknowledged and honored as King in both church and state. And no principle could be such a safeguard for the independence of the church. Both the popish idea, which would enslave the church to a frail human pontiff, blasphemously claiming for himself the infallibility which alone could justify the submission of men's consciences to his sovereign will; and the Erastian idea, which would subject the church to the civil ruler or the civil power, the sphere of which is entirely separate and distinct from that of the church, are cut up by the very roots by the application of this principle of the kingship of Jesus Christ. And in like manner the truth of his kingship over the state is the most effective means of saving the political being from the tyranny of popish claims of supremacy over nations and their rulers, and of securing for all citizens and subjects of civil government the most free and just and enlightened system of legislation possible — that which is based upon Christ's own "perfect law of liberty." Whatever views the old Covenanters held in favor of the union of the church under Christ her King with the state under the same divine Ruler, they would never surrender the independence of the former to the latter, nor justify any assumption of tyrannical power by either the one or the other. The essential principle which they maintained, and which holds in every land to-day, is the subjection of both church and state, each as a moral agent, with moral character and accountability, and each in its own distinct and independent and yet interrelated sphere of moral conduct, under the moral law of God himself, administered by Christ as at once Head of Zion and Governor among the nations.

3. The duty of social public covenanting on the part of both the church and the nation. This principle of a religious covenant was derived also from the Scriptures, and this was the principle and practice which gave the Covenanters their name. Chief among the points to be carefully noted in the duty of covenanting are the following:

(1.) The covenant engagements are public. The oath of the compact or covenant is openly sworn. The engagements and oaths of a secret society are at the farthest possible remove from those of a true covenant. The former are deeds of darkness. They are a travesty upon all that is sacred and holy. They dread the light, by which their sacrilegious and even blasphemous character would be exposed. But a church's or a nation's covenant is an open and a public document, and the men and women who take upon themselves its comprehensive engagements with the solemnity of an appeal to God can challenge in broad daylight the investigation of the world.

(2.) Such a covenant as the National Covenants of Scotland of 1580, 1590, and again of 1638, is virtually a written compact or constitution of civil government. This document prepared the way for the formulated fundamental laws of political organizations, of which the written constitutions of the American colonies and commonwealths and of the government of the United States itself are the most illustrious examples. A national covenant is a bond of loyalty between citizens among themselves, and between them and the rulers who exercise authority over them. It is framed in view of enemies and dangers to the nation's welfare and life. And in the days of the old Covenanters, the arch enemy of civil and religious liberty was Popery, of which Prelacy was in many respects an imitator. The covenant was a mutual bond, therefore, of loyal and zealous vigilance against the wiles and assaults of the common enemy. Such an open and avowed bond of patriotism and loyalty is what true Americans need to-day, rather than the secret combinations of the lodges, against the same old enemy of all free institutions in both church and state.

(3.) It is pre-eminently a religious engagement. It accepts God's revealed will as the standard of duty, keeps the glory of God and the honor of Christ as King continually in view, and makes the Omniscient Jehovah, the Searcher of Hearts, a witness and party to the entire transaction. The engagement is entered into in the Lord's name, and with an avowed determination on the part of the covenanters, in the words of the deed of 1638, "to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man."

This principle of public covenanting by nations and by churches is the most practical and far-reaching of social principles, and will, when accepted and carried into effect by Christians generally, do much toward settling all the great problems of church and state.

Archibald Alexander on "an indissoluble connexion"

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We all have need of nourishment from the Word of God, and edification and encouragement from godly books. Some points to consider today from Archibald Alexander’s Thoughts on Religious Experience, p. 44 (1850 ed.):

It is a lamentable fact that in this land of churches and of Bibles, there are many who know little more of the doctrines of Christianity, than the pagans themselves. The proper inference from the fact stated is, that they are egregiously in error, who think that the religious education of children, is useless, or even injurious; and their opinion is also condemned who maintain that it matters little what men believe provided their lives are upright. All good conduct must proceed from good principles; but good principles cannot exist without a knowledge of the truth. "Truth is in order to holiness;" and between truth and holiness there is an indissoluble connexion. It would be as reasonable to expect a child born into an atmosphere corrupted with pestilential vapour, to grow and be healthy, as that spiritual life should flourish without the nutriment of the pure milk of the word, and without breathing in the wholesome atmosphere of truth. The new man often remains in a dwarfish state, because he is fed upon husks; or, he grows into a distorted shape by means of the errors which are inculcated upon him. It is of unspeakable importance that the young disciple have sound, instructive, and practical preaching to attend on. It is also of consequence that the religious people, with whom he converses, should be discreet, evangelical, and intelligent Christians; and that the books put into his hands should be of the right kind.

A poem by William H. Sheppard: The Cross

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William Henry Sheppard (1865-1927) was among the earliest African American Presbyterian missionaries. His work in the Congo - in terms of his missionary labors, his exposé (the joint work of his co-laborer William McCutchan Morrison) of the cruel atrocities practiced by the Belgian government in Congo, and his collection of African art and artifacts - is legendary. And, it should be noted, he was also a poet.

For your Sabbath reading here is a poem of his worthy of meditation.

The Cross

God laid upon my back a grievous load,
A heavy cross to bear along the road;
I staggered on, till, lo! one weary day,
An angry lion leaped across my way.
I prayed to God, and swift at His command
The cross became a weapon in my hand;
It slew my raging enemy, and then
It leaped upon my back a cross again!
I faltered many a league, until at length,
Groaning, I fell and found no further strength.
I cried: “O God! I am so weak and lame,”
And swift the cross a winged staff became,
It swept me on until I retrieved my loss,
Then leaped upon my back again a cross.
I reached a desert; on its burning track
I still perceived the cross upon my back.
No shad was there, and in the burning sun
I sank me down and thought my day was done;
But God’s grace works many a sweet surprise,
The cross became a tree before mine eyes.
I slept, awoke, and had the strength of ten,
Then felt the cross upon my back again.
And thus through all my days, from that to this,
The cross, my burden, has become my bliss;
Nor shall I ever lay my burden down,
For God shall one day make my cross a crown.

The poignant cry of a 19th century African American minister: J.W.C. Pennington

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James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) was perhaps the first African American minister to receive a doctorate of divinity - by the University of Heidelberg, Germany (1849). And he was so honored while still legally a fugitive slave. He also attempted to desegregate streetcars in New York City (1855), one hundred years before Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted the same with public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama (1955-1956). His sermon on Covenants Involving Moral Wrong Are Not Obligatory Upon Man (1842) in which he affirmed that unjust laws have no moral force at all predates King’s same argument (citing Augustine) in the Letter From a Birmingham Jail by over 120 years.

The fact that this escaped slave became a Presbyterian minister is remarkable. But in 1843 he gave a speech in which he shared his experience of racism within the church. It is painful to read, but reading it serves as a reminder that the church is not immune to prejudice. And there are many different types of prejudice - the Apostle James spoke of one kind involving favoritism to the rich to the detriment of the poor, James 2:3. But those who are so judged based on the color of their skin or other factors can be deeply hurt, as Pennington here testifies.

For the last ten years, since I have been a Christian − seven or eight years of which I have been a minister, I have thought much on this subject, and have come to the conclusion that I am an excommunicated man. I have tried to avoid the conclusion, to think it was not so, but, like other people, find I cannot believe without evidence. I have tried to command my mind from this subject, but could not. To say that our condition is not an enviable one − that it is not a pleasant one, does not express the whole truth. I have labored hard to inform myself − I have tried to make myself useful and agreeable as a Christian − have tried to avoid everything wrong. A great question of orthodoxy is concerned here. Though we have felt ourselves abused, we have not dared to indulge unkind feelings toward our brethren. You have helped us to build small school-houses and churches, or rather helped us to shoulder a debt, many times − but I forbear − and yet I may as well speak out my convictions − it is done in the spirit of colonization, to get us out of the way. How often, in coming into a congregation like this, have I been treated with indignity. A man accidentally takes his seat by my side − he discovers that I have a dark face − he rises in contempt and leaves the slip. It is said colored people are fond of sitting together. It is such treatment as this which drives them together. They take the Jim Crow seat to escape ill treatment and abuse. And here let me say, the necessity for separate schools and churches has not grown out of the wishes of the colored people, but from the spirit of caste in the church. We do not desire separate churches. They have not bettered our condition, but only made it WORSE. Many of our churches have not competent religious teachers − they have had to hasten through their course so fast, in order to supply the destitute fields, that they have come into the ministry illy prepared. The treatment of the colored people has put back Africa’s redemption fifty years.

This testimony is nearly 200 years old, but it is to be feared that today’s church also is not color blind or free from all forms of prejudice, Elsewhere (in an 1844 letter appended to his autobiography), Pennington explains what is needed to combat this prejudice - something that is, it should be noted, to be found within the church.

Let me urge upon you the fundamental truths of the Gospel of the Son of God. Let repentance to- wards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ have their perfect work in you, I beseech you. Do not be prejudiced against the gospel because it may be seemingly twisted into a support of slavery. The gospel rightly understood, taught, received, felt and practised, is anti-slavery as it is anti-sin. Just so far and so fast as the true spirit of the gospel obtains in the land, and especially in the lives of the oppressed, will the spirit of slavery sicken and become powerless like the serpent with his head pressed beneath the fresh leaves of the prickly ash of the forest.

The troubles and sorrows of those who have been hurt are real, but Pennington urged his hearers to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. In another speech given in England in 1843 he reminded his hearers that the whole human race is laboring under sin, but redemption is found only in Jesus Christ, in whom all are one:

Though I have a country that has never done me justice, yet I must return to it, and I shall not therefore recriminate. It has pleased God to make me black and you white, but let us remember, that whatever be our complexion, we are all by nature labouring under the degradation of sin, and without the grace of God are black at heart. I know of no difference between the depraved heart of a Briton, an American, or an African. There is no difference between its colour, its disposition, and its self-will. There is only one mode of emancipation from the slavery of sin, from the blackness of heart, and that is by the blood of the Son of God. Whatever be our complexion, whatever our kindred and people, we need to be emancipated from sin, and to be cleansed from our pollution by the all-prevailing grace of God. I bless his name, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all are one.

The sermons, speeches and writings of James W.C. Pennington reflect the heart of a man who was deeply wounded and hurt by prejudice but who found redemption in Jesus Christ and preached the healing and uniting gospel of grace to others. And that is a message that is timeless.