In 1861, the Rev. Joel Parker (1799-1873) collaborated with the Rev. Thomas Ralston Smith (1830-1903) to publish The Presbyterian's Hand-Book of the Church: For the Use of Members, Deacons, Elders, and Ministers. It is a valuable contribution to the church, useful even today.
Overall, it is a guide to explain what Presbyterianism is, how Presbyterian congregations are planted, what duties are expected of church members, how families should strive to live, what are the duties and responsibilities of church officers, and what might be expected in church worship services.
In particular, there are specific features of this handbook or manual that stand out:
- The guidance given on how churches planted is basic, but nevertheless, rare and appreciated;
- There is encouragement to build a congregational library, for the benefit of all;
- Specific recommendations are made for the building of a pastoral library;
- Recommended prayers for the use of families and ministers are provided;
- Encouragement is given to parents and pastors to catechize children, using both the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and Joel Parker's three-part Initiatory Catechism;
- Much practical application is offered for church officers to perform their duties efficiently and wisely, with an emphasis on the importance of pastoral visitation, congregational harmony, and a spirit of prayerfulness, and;
- There is an overarching theme that the business of the church and the household is primarily aimed at the glory of God, the service and expansion of his kingdom, the saving of souls, and the love of the saints.
The practical wisdom brought to bear upon 19th-century readers is equally of value to 21st-century readers, whether you are a church member or a church officer. Download this work today, and take time to work through it. It will be a benefit to your soul.