The Presbyterian Standards in the Light of God's Word: Daniel Baker

One of the tracts written by Daniel Baker for the Presbyterian Board of Publication was titled “The Standards of the Presbyterian Church, a Faithful Mirror of Bible Truth.” Here he provides a partial harmony of the Westminster Standards with the Word of God, along with commentary discussing some of its controversial doctrines about the sovereignty of God in salvation.

By the Standards of the Presbyterian Church, we mean the Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of our Church. These, we verily believe, are, in every particular, based upon the Scriptures. As a faithful mirror presents, with great exactness, all the features of the object which it reflects, even so, in these Standards, may we all behold, as in a glass, that system of divine truth, which is taught in the Bible. And if the image reflected be the exact counterpart of the original, why should the mirror be blamed for its fidelity ? It creates nothing. It is responsible for nothing, but the accuracy of its reflecting power. This being the case, if there be any thing in the image reflected which we do not like, — in condemning that^ do we not really condemn the original ? And would it not, indeed, be more candid and just, to find fault with the original, and spare the mirror?

And now, in order that the reader may, at one glance, see that the Standards of the Presbyterian Church, are, indeed, a FAITHFUL MIRROR OF BIBLE TRUTH, we will place one immediately over against the other, and it will manifestly appear that the language of our Standards is not a whit stronger than the language of the Bible — but is its very
echo, image, and counterpart:

Baker then compares confessional statements on the sovereignty of God with Scriptural texts. Following this, he addresses a series of common objections to these doctrines of God’s sovereignty.

The ultimate aim of his vindication is that of the Word of God. But as a faithful mirror reflects the light from its source, so the Standards of the Presbyterian Church, in the main, are found to reflect the truth of God’s Word. Read Baker’s tract to find out more.

The Place of Conscience in the Life of a Christian: Samuel J. Cassels

It was Jiminy Cricket who said, "Always let your conscience be your guide." This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous. — R.C. Sproul, Sr., Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, p. 151

Just two months before his death at the age of 47, Samuel Jones Cassels contributed an article to The Southern Presbyterian Review (Vol. 6, no. 4, April 1853) titled “Conscience - Its Nature, Office and Authority.” This is a valuable study of an important topic that Christians continue to struggle with today. By reviewing selections from Archibald Alexander’s Outlines of Moral Science, John Dick’s Lectures on Theology, James McCosh’s The Method of the Divine Government, and Thomas Brown’s Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Cassels lays out an argument concerning what the conscience is and its place of authority with respect to divine revelation.

Cassels affirms that the conscience is “that faculty or power of the human soul by which it perceives the difference between right and wrong, approving the one and condemning the other. In this definition, two things are to be observed: first, conscience is a mental power or faculty, the same as the reason, the will, or the memory.” However, the question arises, when the conscience is misinformed or seared, what is the case of a Christian in such a situation? Cassels responds thus (pp. 465-469):

We come now to what we consider the most difficult part of this discussion; and the more so, because we are compelled to differ from some of those excellent Divines with whom we have heretofore so heartily agreed. When we speak of the authority of conscience, we are apt to be misled by the language. Authority is exercised by kings, magistrates, officers and parents. It supposes an intelligent ruler, a system of laws, and rational subjects. But when we apply this term to a mental faculty, we must certainly exclude from it all these accessory ideas of regular human administration. And yet, even metaphysicians discoursing upon the mere powers or capacities of the human mind, employ a sort of court-language, as if they were describing the administration of some great monarch. This is a great fault, especially with Mr. McCosh, whose vivid imagination seems always ready to give a scenic representation to mental processes.

That the different mental faculties have distinct offices, and that each one either does or ought to predominate in its specific sphere, will be readily admitted. Reason is supreme in all abstract truth; the will on all matters of choice; the emotions in all objects of affection; the imagination in the province of fancy; and the conscience in the domain of morals. Now, each of these mental faculties does and must take the lead in its particular field of operation. Yet, as our consciousness will testify, most of our actions are the results of not one only, but of several of these mental powers. Indeed, the relation between these mental faculties is so intimate, that in most cases the action of the one must take place before the action of another can exist. All then, that we can mean by the authority of a mental power, is simply its precedence over the rest in any one action. And all that we can mean by the obedience, or subjection of one mental faculty to another, is simply the posteriority of its operation. Reason asserts that a certain abstract proposition is true; at once the will and the heart concur in the conclusion. The proposition was addressed to the reason, and its decision must be, of course, that of the entire mind or soul. At another time, an object may be presented to the emotion of love. The point now'to be decided is, shall such an object or person be loved? If the case be a doubtful one, the reason may again be called upon to do its office: that, is, to compare, judge, decide, etc. In other cases, however, the heart overleaps the tardy work of reason, and responds at once to the object, as soon as presented. Shall a mother love her babe? It is not her intellect, but her heart that solves that question. The same is true of the conscience. — Where a question of morality admits of doubt, the reason may be called in, and may be long employed in its investigations before the conscience is prepared to act. But in all obvious cases, this faculty acts instantly, and approves or disapproves of a certain act as soon as perceived. There are obviously then a precedence and a sequence in mental operations. But when we transcend this beautiful order in which the mental faculties operate, and establish, within the soul a sort of spiritual administration, with all the paraphernalia of courts and palaces, we evidently use language very loosely, and are in danger of being misled altogether in reference to the mind and its powers.

With these explanations, we proceed to consider the question at issue: Is a man bound to follow his conscience when its judgments are erroneous? That the real point of debate may be understood, we give the following quotations from Drs. Dick and Alexander: — “ An appeal” says the former, “may always be made from its (conscience) decisions to the word of God, and as soon as a difference is discovered between its dictates and those of Scripture, the sentence which it has pronounced is void. Hence it is plain, that the plea of conscience will not be admitted to exempt us from guilt and punishment. And this, we may observe, is the unhappy situation of those whose consciences are not sufficiently enlightened; that they sin, whatever they do; in disregarding the voice of conscience, and in obeying it.” Dr. Alexander maintains the same position: — “It is true, if a man’s conscience dictates a certain action, he is morally bound to obey; but if that action be wrong, he commits sin in performing it nevertheless. He, who is under fundamental error, is in a sad dilemma. Do what he will, he sins. If he disobey conscience, he knowingly sins ; doing what he believes to be wrong; and if he obey conscience, performing an act which is in itself wrong, he sins; because he complies not with the law under which he is placed.” Now, as much as we esteem the sentiments of the authors above quoted, we must think they have both fallen into error on this subject. This will appear from the fact, that they have here introduced two opposite rules of conduct, each of which the subject is bound at the same time to obey. The law of God dictates one course; and the law of conscience another, directly opposite. To each of these laws a man is morally bound to submit. Now, it is evident, that a man can no more obey two such opposite rules at the same time, than that he can occupy two places at the same time, or than he can both love and hate the same object at the same time. The thing is impossible, and therefore cannot be a matter of moral obligation. The same difficulty is also seen when we consider the moral qualities of the action: it is both right and wrong — worthy of reward and also worthy of punishment! Now, a human action cannot possess two qualities so diametrically opposite. As the same object cannot be white and black at the same time, so the same moral act cannot be both virtuous and vicious.

The errors in these statements, as we conceive, are two fold. The one consists in giving conscience a supremacy which does not belong to it; the other in blending two distinct moral acts, and ascribing a common moral character to them, as if they were one. Conscience is neither a moral governor, nor a moral law. It is a faculty of the soul, fitting man for a moral government existing, not within, but without him. God is our only true moral governor, and his will is our only supreme moral law. Our subjection then, is not to be a subjection to conscience, (which, being a part of ourselves, would imply subjection to ourselves,) but a subjection to God, as our moral governor. The very moment we set up conscience as a sort of rival to Jehovah, that moment we become idolaters, and sacrifice our real liberty. The care is very much that of the Papist, who is perfectly satisfied that when he has heard his priest he has heard his God; and that when he stands well with his priest, he also stands well in the court of Heaven. Now, to exalt the conscience into any such high position, and to obey its dictates with the full assurance that they must be right, is but to deify a faculty of the human soul, and to fall down in worship to ourselves. Man is a moral agent, possessed of certain mental faculties, all of which are designed to aid him in the prosecution of a virtuous course of conduct. But he is depraved; and there is not a mental faculty that is not erroneous in its operations. The reason is more or less blind, the will is perverse, the passions are deranged, and the conscience is dull, inefficient and easily perverted. This condition of the human soul is taught us by experience, observation and scripture. For a man, then, to trust himself to the dictates of any one of his faculties, or of all of them combined, is necessarily to hazard the peace and well-being of his soul. The decisions of conscience in many cases are just as much to be held in doubt, as those of the reason. And in attempting to ascertain our duty in such cases, we are not to consult, but to instruct our consciences. We must take the conscience itself to the revealed will of God, and there, and there only, obtain that light which is to guide us in the path of duty. Now, when this course is honestly and faithfully pursued, it is next to impossible that the conscience should be in “fundamental error.” To suppose so, is to suppose either that the Bible does not adequately reveal the will of God, or that man is incapable of understanding that will when so revealed.

But our theologians will tell us, that the case supposed is that of one who has done all this, and is still in error. He has examined the Scriptures prayerfully and honestly, and has conscienciously come to certain conclusions, both as to its doctrines and precepts. Still those conclusions are erroneous. Now, in such a case, we say without hesitation, that such a man is bound to receive, as God’s revealed truth, that which, after such examination, he conceives to be such. But this is not subjection to con science, but to God. Faith is here placed, not in the decisions merely of a mental faculty, but in the infallible teachings of the Holy Ghost. That such a man should err as to the essentials of the Gospel, is improbable in the last degree; that he should mistake on some of its minor points, is very likely. We cannot conceive, however, that such mistakes should vitiate his obedience. Errors in religion, when they arise from carelessness, prejudice, pride of intellect, or any other like cause, are certainly,criminal. But those errors, which even the best men are liable to make on this subject, and which arise from causes beyond their control, can certainly never inculpate them in the sight of God.

The Historical Sketches of Thomas Sproull

Thomas Sproull (1803-1892) was one of the nineteenth-century giants of the American Covenanter Church. As both a pastor and a professor (emeritus) of theology for the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, he spent his life in the service of “Christ’s Crown & Covenant.”

A frequent contributor to The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter magazine, in 1875 he authored a series of 10 articles titled “The Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Historical Sketches.” This is a valuable history of the RPCNA from the first arrival of Covenanters from Scotland in New Jersey around 1685 up to the regrettable disruption of 1833. In 1876 and 1877, he further published a series of 13 articles titled “Reformed Presbyterian Church in America: Sketches of Her Organic History,” which constitutes an effort to extend the history of the RPCNA during this time period through her official judicial records.

Sproull covers much interesting ground his articles, discussing its Testimony and the distinctives of the RPCNA, its internal strife, the establishment of its seminary, its missionary labors, and its many contributions to the kingdom of God on the earth. The two series of articles were relied upon by William Melancthon Glasgow when he compiled his History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America (1888), and as consolidated PDF files here at Log College Press, they will assist the student of early American Covenanter church history greatly.

McFetridge on the religious nature of history

When Loraine Boetter wrote his 1932 classic The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, he included a chapter titled “Calvinism in History.” The chapter title and many quotes therein are borrowed from Calvinism in History (1882) by Nathaniel Smyth McFetridge, a book which Boettner describes as “splendid” and “illuminating.”

In McFetridge’s classic work, before giving an historical tour showing the influence and legacy of Calvinism as a moral, political and evangelical force in the world, he takes a moment to remind his readers that all history is essentially religious is nature. “Predestination and an overruling Providence are one and the same thing,” he says elsewhere, emphasizing the hand of God in history as well as salvation.

And here let it be remarked that events follow principles; that mind rules the world; that thought is more powerful than cannon; that “all history is in its inmost nature religious” [The United States as a Nation, p. 30, by Rev. Joseph Thompson, D.D., LL.D.]; and that, as John von Muller says, “Christ is the key to the history of the world,” and, as Carlyle says, “the spiritual will always body itself forth in the temporal history of men.” In the formation of the modern nations religion performed a principal part. The great movements out of which the present civilized nations sprung were religious through and through.

What part, then, had Calvinism in begetting and shaping and controlling those movements? What has it show as the result of its labors? A rich possession indeed. A glorious record belongs to it in the history of modern civilization.

That a New Generation May Read the Old Stories

Mary A. Tennent (1890-1971) was a descendant of William Tennent, Sr., founder of the original Log College in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania. In the introduction to her valuable work Light in Darkness: The Story of William Tennent, Sr. and the Log College (1971), she speaks of reading Elias Boudinot IV’s biography of William Tennent, Jr., and how his words impacted her.

Boudinot began his memoir with these words: “Among the duties every generation owes to those whose example deserves and may invite imitation…and when such men have been remarkably favored of God with an unusual degree of light and knowledge…it becomes the duty of more than ordinary obligation to hand down to posterity the principal events of their lives which if known might edify and benefit the world.” While his words referred to William Tennent, Jr., they were even more applicable to his father William Tennent, Sr., for he not only possessed an unusual degree of light and knowledge but faithfully handed it on to his sons and students in the small but significant school he founded and presided over for nineteen years.

On re-reading Boudinot’s memoir of William Tennent, Jr., I was struck with these words: “A neglect of this duty (that of handing down to posterity the events of the lives of those deserving commemoration) even by persons who may be conscious of the want of abilities necessary for the complete biographer, is greatly culpable and no excuse for burying in oblivion that conduct which if known might edify and benefit the world.” Thus encouraged, this work was begun not with any idea of edifying the world, but with the small hope that one or more of his descendants may be inspired to emulate him.

The story of America’s first Log College involves remarkable people who did remarkable things. Many writers at our site and elsewhere have undertaken to tell that story. One such writer was Archibald Alexander, who authored Biographical Sketches of the Founder, and Principal Alumni of the Log College (1845), in which he stated:

If I were fond of projects, I would propose that a monument be erected to the founder of the Log College on the very site where the building stood, if the land could be purchased; but at any rate a stone with an inscription might be permanently fixed on or near the ground. The tradition respecting this humble institution of learning exists, not only in the neighbourhood, but has been extended far to the south and west.

A bicentennial stone monument was indeed established at the appropriate site in Warminster, Pennsylvania in 1927, which tells of the legacy of the Log College. The Log College story is not just about the Tennent family, or even the College of New Jersey (Princeton) - the original Log College is the birthplace of something and represents, in the words of Thomas Murphy, “the cradle of the Presbyterian Church in America.” Now here in 2019, by republishing early American Presbyterian literature, and by making known the stories of early America’s Presbyterian leaders in the digital age, Log College Press is working to ensure that a new generation can learn about the hand of God at work in the history of his church. The Log College story has extended far and wide, beyond boundaries imagined by Archibald Alexander, and we are pleased to be a part of those who make it known today.

Read our authors and our biographies and autobigraphies, study church history, and peruse our other topical pages, as well as the new Log College Review. And be sure to explore our bookstore and secondary sources page for many more resources. The story of the cradle of the American Presbyterian Church is a story for the ages, including our own.

A golden maxim from R.L. Dabney

Counsel from Robert Lewis Dabney on the need for preaching to be both doctrinal and practical:

It is the duty of the preacher so to establish the dogmas of the faith in the understandings of the people, that they shall not remain abstract dogmas, but shall reveal their close bearing upon the life. It was a golden maxim of the Protestant fathers, that “doctrines must be preached practically and duties doctrinally.”

The reasons for doctrinal preaching thus defined, may be all traced to the principle that truth is in order to godliness. Sanctification is by the truth. Man is a reasoning creature, and the word and Spirit of God deal with him in conformity with this rational nature. All those emotions and volitions, which have right moral character, are prompted in man by intelligent motives. To say that one has no reason for his volitions, is to describe them as either criminal or merely animal. In the things of God man only feels as he sees, and because he sees with his mind. A moment’s consideration of these obvious facts will convince you that there cannot be, in the nature of the case, any other instrumentality to be used by creatures for inculcating religion and procuring right feeling and action, than that which begins by informing the understanding. The truth, as seen in the light of evidence, is the only possible object of rational emotions. From this point of view, we easily understand how unreasonable are the notions and demands of those good people who decry didactic preaching. “Such discourses,” they say, “are dry and repulsive. They give us merely theology in its bare bones. They inflate the head with conceit without warming the heart. The aim of Christianity is but to make men feel and act right. Let the preacher then aim directly at the heart, producing right feeling, all will be accomplished.” Now, I might assent to the latter statements, and yet raise the question, How shall the heart be reached, except through the head? How can a rational creature be made to feel intelligently, unless we cause his reason to apprehend that which may be the object of rational feeling? If any affection is produced otherwise, it must be merely animal or else evil. Heat without light is blind, as light without heat is cold. The Sun of Righteousness, like the natural luminary, becomes the fountain of life in his appropriate realm by given heat through light. (Sacred Rhetoric, pp. 52-53)

John Rodgers on "a life of usefulness"

In November of 1808, John Rodgers preached a sermon at the opening of a new Presbyterian church in New York City, at the conclusion of which he left us with profound words to meditate and act upon even today:

As ever therefore sinners would wish to be reconciled to God — to escape eternal misery, and be prepared for unwasting blessedness — and as ever the people of God would wish to enjoy the comforts, the consolations of the religion of Jesus, as they pass through life — as they would wish to grow into a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light, after a life of usefulness on earth — We most affectionately beseech both the one and the other, to be steady, uniform, and conscientious, in their attendance upon the house of God. Amen. (John Rodgers, The Presence of Christ the Glory of a Church: A Sermon Delivered November 6th, 1808, at the Opening of the Presbyterian Church in Cedar Street, New York)

Shedd on the love of God towards all men as men

In the context of an effort to revise the Westminster Confession of Faith, William Greenough Thayer Shedd argued in 1893 that the Confession already addressed some of the concerns that had been raised. One had to do with the question of the general love of God towards all men.

It is strenuously contended that the Standards contain no declaration of the love of God towards all men, but limit it to the elect; that they make no universal offer of salvation, but confine it to a part of mankind.

The following declaration is found in Confession ii. 1. "There is but one only living and true God, who is most loving, gracious, merciful, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Of whom speaketh the Confession this? of the God of the elect only? or of the God of every man? Is he the God of the elect only? Is he not also of the non-elect? Is this description of the gracious nature and attributes of God intended to be restricted to a part of mankind? Is not God as thus delineated the Creator and Father of every man without exception? Can it be supposed that the authors of this statement meant to be understood to say that God is not such a being for all men, but only for some? If this section does not teach the unlimited love and compassion of God towards all men as men, as his creatures, it teaches nothing.
(Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed - A Defence of the Westminster Standards, pp. 24-25)

Samuel Bayard on the Lord's Supper

Samuel Bayard (1767-1840) was the son of Col. John Bubenheim Bayard (1738-1808), a Continental soldier and a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania, of French Huguenot descent. Samuel was noted as a lawyer and a judge, and served as a clerk at the United States Supreme Court. He also served the College of New Jersey (Princeton) as a librarian, trustee and treasurer; and he was a founder and trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary. Additionally, he was a ruling elder at the Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey.

In 1822, Samuel Bayard published a collection of thirty letters and fifty-two sacramental hymns (some were written by Bayard himself, at least one by Samuel Davies, and other writers, such as William Cowper, are included) on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, addressing the scruples of some believers to coming to the table, and other matters common to all believers who come to the table. The introduction was written by Samuel Miller. James W. Alexander wrote a review of the book in 1840, in which he wrote.

Apart from the intrinsic importance of the subject, the volume derives peculiar interest from the fact that it comes from the pen of a layman, of a son of the Huguenots, and of “ an old disciple;” for the venerable author is now in his seventy-third year….

These Letters do not undertake to discuss the vexed questions concerning the Lord’s Supper which have occupied controvertists. They are eminently practical, being intended chiefly to remove from the minds of timid and desponding converts, particularly young believers, those undue scruples, and that unscriptural trepidation, which have kept thousands from the Lord’s Table. This is a good work, and has been performed in a manner altogether agreeable to what we suppose is the mind of the Spirit in the Scriptures. In connexion with this, the young communicant is in a perspicuous and interesting manner led into the knowledge of what this blessed ordinance signifies and communicates. There is in every page a character of gentleness and Christian benevolence, which renders it as fit to soothe the mind of the hesitating, as any similar manual with which we are acquainted. The author has gleaned from many rich fields, and spread before us the testimonies of a great number of the best theological writers, especially of French divines, whose works are not accessible to most readers.

Take time to peruse these letters, and see what a Presbyterian “son of the Huguenots” had to say about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. There is much here to edify the 21st century believer.

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday!

We wish to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year! We have grown much in the past year, and we couldn’t have done it without your interest and support. We are excited to see what 2019 holds for Log College Press and its readers.

Meanwhile, January 1st marks the birthday of four of our LCP authors:

  • Leonard Woolsey Bacon (Jan. 1, 1830 - May 12, 1907) was a pastor of both Presbyterian and Congregational churches, and a prolific writer;

  • William Imbrie (Jan. 1, 1845 - Aug. 4, 1928) was both a Princeton graduate and a longtime missionary to Japan;

  • James Calvin McFeeters (Jan. 1, 1848 - Dec. 24, 1928) served as a minister of the gospel for 54 years; he was moderator of Synod (RPCNA) in 1894; he served as President of the Board of Trustees at Geneva College; and he authored several books about the Covenanters; and

  • Philip Schaff (Jan. 1, 1819 - Oct. 20, 1893) was a Swiss-born Reformed minister who joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1870, and wrote extensively on church history and other matters.

January 1, 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Swiss Reformation in Zurich. Ulrich Zwingli’s (who also was born on January 1, 1484) biographer, William Maxwell Blackburn, in Ulrich Zwingli, The Patriotic Reformer: A History , tells us how it began on January 1, 1519:

On New Year s day, 1519, the thirty-fifth birthday of the preacher, Zwingli went into the cathedral pulpit. A great crowd, eager to hear the celebrated man, was before him. "It is to Christ that I desire to lead you," said he "to Christ the true source of salvation. His divine word is the only food that I wish to set before your souls." This was the theme of his inaugural on Saturday. He then announced that on the following day he would begin to expound Matthew s gospel. The next morning the preacher and a still larger audience were at their posts. He opened the long-sealed book and read the first page. He caused his hearers to marvel at that chapter of names. But it was the human genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ patriarchs, prophets, kings were mentioned in it Jewish history was summed up therein and how forcibly did it teach that all the preceding ages had existed for the sake of him who was born of Mary, and named Immanuel! And there was the name Jesus " He shall save his people from their sins." The enraptured auditors went home saying, "We never heard the like of this before!"

Be sure to check out all of these authors, and more as we commence the New Year! “The deeper you root yourself backward in God’s work in the past, the more abundant will be the fruit you bear forward into the future.” — Caleb Cangelosi

Log College Press is growing!

Log College Press has grown a lot in 2018. We now count over 500 authors and over 2500 free PDF volumes available to read on our site. We have also slowly but steadily been adding author photos, biographical links, and information about where our authors are buried.

Also, our topical pages have been growing. By way of contrast, here is a list showing the number of works for each topical category as of July 31, 2018 and as of December 31, 2018:

Apologetics – 4 / 6
Autobiographies – 16 / 26
Biographies – 109 / 152
Christian Life – 26 / 30
Christology – 20 / 24
Church and State – 66 / 117
Church History – 117 / 165
Commentaries – 36 / 48
Compilations – 16 / 21
Correspondence – 8 / 14
Devotional – 22 / 25
Ecclesiology - 79 / 95
Eschatology – 13 / 26
Ethics – 4 / 4
Family – 20 / 23
Fiction – 14 / 20
Funeral Discourses – 34 / 46
Inaugural Addresses – 25 / 35
Missions – 41 / 84
Pastoral Theology – 6 / 6
Poetry – 24 / 42
Preaching – 9 / 13
Sacraments – 28 / 38
Sermons – 110 / 174
Systematic Theology – 13 / 17
Travelogues – 22 / 32
Westminster Standards – 39 / 45
Worship – 70 / 90

Please check out these expanding resources and check in often for more. We appreciate your support and interest, and we hope to continue growing in 2019, with the Lord’s blessing.

The ED scholarship at Princeton Theological Seminary

The story is told by David B. Calhoun, “Old Princeton Seminary and the Westminster Standards,” in Ligon Duncan, ed., The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, Vol. 2, pp. 41-42 and by Cortlandt Van Rensselear in The Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 7 (August 1857), pp. 369-370, of a brother and sister, Robert and Marian Hall, originally of Scotland and raised under the minister of the esteemed John Brown of Haddington, who came to America in 1785.

In 1831, they gave $2500 to endow a scholarship at (what is now known as) Princeton Theological Seminary. In doing so, they said:

Whereas, after a life of nearly fourscore years, much of which has been spent in examining the Word of God, we are fully satisfied of the correctness of the doctrines of religion as laid down in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, drawn up by the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and as held by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, we desire that the scholarship which is endowed by this our bequest of two thousand five hundred dollars, be called the ED Scholarship, as a witness between us and the Theological Seminary, that the Lord he is God, agreeable to the said Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Farther, it is our will, that the Professors in said Seminary be careful, that no person holding sentiments inconsistent with the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, be ever admitted to the benefit of said Scholarship.

It was their wish, furthermore, that this scholarship be given to “such as are poor and needy.” When Marian was asked why it should not be called the “Hall Scholarship,” a memorable exchange followed:

“As your brother and self have now founded a Scholarship, it can be called the Hall Scholarship.”

”I dinna wish my worthless name to be remembered after I am dead and gone, but I do wish to do something for the cause of true religion, which shall maintain the truth, as long as the Kirk shall lead, and, therefore, I wish the Scholarship to be named ED.”

Being asked the meaning of the name, she replied, “And dinna ye ken, young mon? E’en go and read your Bible.”

“Well, I have read it, and still I do not recollect the meaning of use of ED.”

“Do you not recollect that when the two tribes and a half, who had their inheritance on the east side of Jordan, had assisted the other tribes to subdue their enemies, and were about to return to their possessions, before they crossed the river, they built an altar? And do you not know that the other tribes were about to make war upon them for the erection of this altar, supposing it to have been intended for an altar of worship distinct from that appointed by Jehovah? The two and a half tribes gave the others to understand that they were entirely mistaken in their conjectures. The altar was not an altar of worship, but an altar of witness, that Jehovah alone was the true God, and that it had been created in token of their views and desires. (‘And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar ED; for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God.’ Joshua 22:34)

She continued, “I dinna like your Hopkinsian. I believe in the doctrines of the Bible, as expressed in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Presbyterian Church, and I wish that the Scholarship be called ED, as a witness between us and the Theological Seminary, that the Lord is God, agreeably to said Confession and Catechisms: and I dinna wish that any person holding sentiments inconsistent therewith, be ever admitted to the benefit of said scholarship.”

And that is the story of how the ED scholarship began at Princeton Theological Seminary.

An American Jeremiad by David Caldwell

Although his main aim in life was to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel, by necessity, David Stewart Caldwell, Sr. (1725-1824) often found himself bound to serve his community in other capacities. He established a “Log College” in his home in 1767 in order to teach young people; he studied medicine and worked as a physician to attend to the medical needs of those around him where doctors were lacking; and he served (unsuccessfully) as a mediator at the 1771 Battle of Alamance between Governor Tryon and the Regulators who were resisting unjust British taxes.

Some refer to this battle as the first battle of the American War of Independence. In any case, the behavior of Tryon, who personally and impulsively executed one of the Regulators on the spot without trial, and later executed several captured prisoners, shocked and disturbed Caldwell. Also, in 1766, he had married Rachel Craighead, daughter of the first American Covenanter minister in America, Alexander Craighead, who had preached against British tyranny as early as 1743 and who had inspired the famous 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. So when Alexander MacWhorter and Elihu Spencer came to North Carolina in 1775 seeking a someone to rouse colonial resistance to British tyranny from the pulpit, they found David Caldwell willing to rise to the occasion. Sometime in early 1776, Caldwell preached a sermon based on Proverbs 12:24 (“the slothful shall be under tribute”) titled “The Character and Doom of the Sluggard.” This sermon, known to history (perhaps regrettably) as “the Sluggard Sermon,” preached shortly before John Witherspoon’s famous “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” has been called “a seven-thousand word Jeremiad detailing the sinfulness of political indifference and the wickedness of cowering before a tyrant” (Robert McCluer Calhoon, Political Moderation in America’s First Two Centuries, p. 123).

Caldwell here aimed to stir up his parishioners, many of whom had previously served as Regulators, to support the early resolutions of the Continental Congress on behalf of independence:

We have therefore come to that trying period in our history in which it is manifest that the Americans must either stoop under a load of the vilest slavery, or resist their imperious and haughty oppressors; but what will follow must be of the utmost importance to every individual of these United Colonies; and should be the hearty concern of every honest American. — What will be recorded on the following page of our history must depend very much on our conduct; for if we act like the sluggard, refuse, from the mere love of ease and self indulgence, to make the sacrifices and efforts which the circumstances require, or, from cowardice and pusillanimity, shrink from dangers and hardships, we must continue in our present state of bondage and oppression, while that bondage and oppression may be increased until life itself will become a burden; but if we stand up manfully and unitedly in defence of our rights, appalled by no dangers and shrinking from no toils or privations, we shall do valiantly. Our foes are powerful and determined on conquest; but our cause is good; and in the strength of the Lord, who is mightier than all, we shall prevail.

This sermon had the rousing effect that was intended (on April 12, 1776, the Halifax Convention authorized North Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence), and North Carolina did much to embrace and support the Patriots’ cause during the War. Caldwell and his family suffered greatly for their adherence to the cause of freedom: British General Cornwallis placed a £200 bounty on Caldwell’s head, and his house was plundered, his library and livestock destroyed, and his family was mistreated by British soldiers. Before and during the 1781 Battle of Guilford, Caldwell was forced to hide in a nearby swamp. But Caldwell and his wife Rachel outlived this war and the War of 1812.

The two of them, meanwhile, resumed their Log College labors with tremendous success. “Caldwell Academy, which Reverend Caldwell began in 1767, became the most well known and longest lasting of any of the thirty-three Presbyterian log colleges that were established before the Revolutionary War. At the time the academy closed, almost all of the Presbyterian ministers in the South were either graduates of or had taught at the college, about 135 ministers in all. Five governors, fifty U.S. senators and congressmen and numerous doctors had attended Caldwell Academy. Rachel got to know all the students at the academy, was extremely kind to them and instructed them in every way possible on their salvation. It was said that ‘David Caldwell made them scholars, but Mrs. Caldwell made them preachers’” (Richard P. Plumer, Charlotte and the American Revolution: Reverend Alexander Craighead, the Mecklenburg Declaration & the Foothills Fight for Independence, p. 67).

Consecrate Our Children: G.B. Strickler

Among the addresses given to commemorate the 1888 centennial of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (which is available to read in its entirety on our Compilations page) is one by Givens Brown Strickler titled “The Children of the Covenant.” It is a brief address emphasizing the Presbyterian doctrine of covenant theology, based on the promises of God, and its outworking in the place of children within the Church. He concludes his address with an important point about the need for parents, as stewards of God’s good gift, to consecrate their children to the Lord.

Another reason for our interest in children is our belief that the Scriptures teach the duty of consecrating them to God in a covenant well ordered and sure. As we consecrate our time, and possessions, and ourselves to God, so should we consecrate our children. God never asks for the consecration of anything that He will not accept. As God accepts parents He accepts their children, and as He accepts the parents promising to be their God and Saviour, so He accepts the children as their God and Saviour. He is obliged to do so, unless we assume that God requires a consecration and then refuses to receive it. The seal of the covenant guarantees that the consecrated shall be accepted, as the rainbow that stretched across the heavens guaranteed that the world should not again be destroyed by water. So the sprinkling of the water of baptism assures parents that their consecration of their children shall not be in vain. By means like these the Presbyterian Church in every age of the world has shown its interest in its youth, and the result has been that Presbyterian children growing to manhood and womanhood have, as a rule, been characterized by clearer, stronger, and more settled views of truth than the children of any other people in the history of the world, and have been as useful, as earnest and as persevering propagators of the truth of God's Word as the world has ever seen.

A 19th century American Covenanter on the blessings of the Christian Sabbath

Writing in 1892, Reformed Presbyterian minister James Calvin McFeeters had this to say about the sweet blessings of the Christian Sabbath:

The Sabbath was ordained also for worship. It conveys two great blessings to man, — the privilege of rest and of praise. These are the "silvery wings" of this dove of peace, that hovers over our earth with a benediction for every one who will look up and receive. The Sabbath comes to anoint the soul with new strength, and lead it into the presence of God, to worship the Creator of heaven and earth. It comes as the shadow of Jesus, whose memorial it is, and his people can sit in the pleasant shade, to be regaled with the cool and balmy winds, which subdue the fever arising from protracted toil. The day is well spent, only when it is given back to God in holy services. This is rest. We worship that we may rest. The holy use of the Sabbath, by the active employment of our spiritual powers, is the best rest for both body and soul. Change of employment brings the perfect rest. To lift up the mind in contemplation of the divine, the heavenly, the eternal, and to assume the attitude of devotion — this is for most people the greatest possible change, and therefore, the greatest possible rest. Hence Covenanters have written in their Testimony, (and try to practice what they write): "The whole day is to be employed exclusively in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much of it as may be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy" (The Covenanters in America, pp. 167-168).

May these words be an encouragement to you, dear reader, as the Sabbath day approaches this week.

New Schaff resources at LCP

Although Philip Schaff was from Germany and originally a minister in the German Reformed Church, he later came to America joined the Presbyterian Church in the USA and served on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York.

And although he was an exponent of Mercersburg Theology, he was also a very able and judicious church historian. A prolific writer, he published the first volume of his History of the Christian Church in 1858. Volumes 2-4, 6 and 7 were also published during his lifetime, and vols. 5, part 1 and 2 were edited and published by his son, David Schley Schaff, posthumously. Three volumes of The Creeds of Christendom were published in 1877. These two sets, in particular, have been republished to the present day, and remain standard works in church history and historical theology.

These, along with other volumes by these two noted church historians, are now available to read at Log College Press.

19th Century Devotionals for 21st Century Readers at Log College Press

Are you in search of a classic devotional reading for 2019? We have some to offer at Log College Press. Some are intended to provide daily meditations for prayerful consideration on each day of the year; others are general guides to studying the Bible and to Christian living; and still others are full of inspirational thoughts and poetry for the Christian reader. Consider the following:

Daily Devotional Readings for the Whole Year

  • James Russell Miller has at least two such compilations of devotional readings for each day of the year: Dr. Miller's Year Book: A Year's Daily Readings (1895) and Morning Thoughts For Every Day in the Year (1906);

  • William Rogers Richards published The Truth in Love: From the Sermons of William R. Richards (1912);

  • Charles Adamson Salmond wrote For Days of Youth: A Bible Text and Talk For Every Day of the Year (1896) aimed at young people;

  • Thomas De Dwitt Talmage authored Choice Readings for Every Day in the Year (1875); and

  • Henry Jackson Van Dyke, Jr. wrote The Friendly Year (1900, 1903).

Guides to Bible Study and Christian Living

  • James Waddel Alexander wrote Uncle Austin and His Nephews, or, The Scripture Guide - Being a Familiar Introduction to the Study of the Bible (1838);

  • James Robert Boyd wrote Daily Communion With God on the Plan Recommended by the Rev. Matthew Henry, V.D.M., For Beginning, Spending, Concluding Each Day With God (1873);

  • Charles Hodge authored The Way of Life (1841);

  • James Russell Miller published a series of devotional studies covering the whole Bible, of which we have seven out of the eight volumes;

  • Alfred Nevin wrote two guides to the study of the Scriptures: Guide to the Oracles; or, The Bible Student's Vade-Mecum (1858) and The Book Opened; or, An Analysis of the Bible (1873); and

  • Robert Craig Reed authored Helps to Christian Devotion, Consisting of Dissertations on the Psalms (1833).

Inspirational Thoughts, Sermons and Poems

  • Maltbie Davenport Babcock’s Thoughts for Every-Day Living from the Spoken and Written Words of Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1901) was posthumously published and filled with meditations, poems and inspirational thoughts;

  • Henry Augustus Boardman’s Mottoes For the New Year, as Given in Texts of Sermons (1882) contains sermons given to encourage believers in the New Year; and

  • William Henry Fentress, the blind Presbyterian minister who died so young, authored Love Truths From the Bible (1879), which contains sweet sermons that point to Christ on every page.

There are valuable devotional resources here that may be a help to your spiritual walk in 2019. Consider adding one or more of these volumes to your reading list in the morning or evening, and may these 19th century writers be a blessing to you in the New Year ahead.

Christian, do you experience depression? You are not alone - read this from the journal of David Brainerd

It was a Sabbath evening nearly 300 years ago when young David Brainerd wrote this in his journal:

Lord’s day, Dec, 16. [1744]

Was so overwhelmed with dejection, that I knew not how to live. I longed for death exceedingly: my soul was sunk into deep waters, and floods were ready to drown me. I was so much oppressed, that my soul was in a kind of horror; could not keep my thoughts fixed in prayer, for the space of one minute, without fluttering and distraction; and was exceedingly ashamed, that I did not live to God. I had no distressing doubt about my own state; but would have cheerfully ventured (as far as I could possibly know) into eternity.

While I was going to preach to the Indians, my soul was in anguish; I was so overborne with discouragement that I despaired of doing any good, and was driven to my wit’s-end; I knew nothing what to say, nor what course to take. But at last I insisted on the evidence we have of the truth of Christianity form the miracles of Christ; many of which I set before them: and God helped me to make a close application to those who refused to believe the truth of what I taught them. Indeed I was enabled to speak to the consciences of all, in some measure, and was somewhat encouraged to find that God enabled me to be faithful once more.

Them came and preached to another company of them; but was very weary and faint. In the evening, I was refreshed and enabled to pray and praise God with composure and affection; had some enlargement and courage with respect to my work; was willing to live, and longed to do more for God than my weak state of body would admit of.

I can do all things through Christ that strengtheth me; and by his grace, I am willing to spend and be spent in his Service, when l am not thus sunk in dejection and a kind of despair.

This great saint, the minister and missionary who spent himself in service to God and Native Americans, also struggled with bouts of depression, which is evident in reading his journal. If you are reading this, dear Christian, and you can relate, be encouraged, as Brainered was, by the promises of God for the support of his precious saints. And know that you are not alone. (HT: Victor McKinnon)

Who was the finest exegete in the history of the Church? - T.V. Moore answers

Thomas Verner Moore was a Biblical commentator of very high rank. In the introduction to his commentary on the books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi discussed his opinion of who constitutes the best expositor of the Bible in church history.

The first expositor of real value was Calvin. His commentaries on the Minor Prophets were delivered in the form of expository lectures in a daily exercise, and extend through one hundred and eighty-two lectures, which were delivered extempore, and taken down as they were spoken. There is probably nothing that he has left behind him which gives a more distinct notion of the man and the times than these lectures. That a congregation could be formed who would take so deep an interest in such expositions admits us to the heart of the Reformation, and lays bare to us the secret of its life, which was, a living grasp of the Word of God. The style of these lectures, the allusions to passing events, and the ocassional abrupt ending of a lecture with the remarks, "we stop here until to-morrow," gives a life-like vividness, and actual presence to these daily exercises, that invest them with unusual interest. Each lecture also ends with a prayer, and these prayers for condensed energy and fervor, grasp of thought, and concentration of the whole spirit of the preceding lecture into devotional forms, are even more remarkable than the lectures themselves. The prodigous intellect of that remarkable man is felt in these prayers more intensely by a careful reader than in almost anything else he has left behind him. But the lectures are very remarkable productions. Calvin had probably one of the finest exegetical minds that God has ever granted to his Church in modern times. He had a direct looking into the heart of the passage, a fine sympathy with the mind of the writer, a freedom from all that is fanciful and foolish, and a justness of thinking that leads him almost instinctively to the correct view of the passage. To some, this may seem to be extravagant laudation, but not to those who have carefully studied his commentaries. Their merits have extorted tributes of the highest character from those whom nothing could move to give such tributes but the most unquestioned excellence. One of the most remarkable of these is from the pen of the man whose name has been embalmed in theological antagonism to his, the celebrated, acute, and learned Arminius. He says, "Next to the reading of Scripture, which I strongly recommend, I advise you to read the commentaries of Calvin, on whom I bestow higher eulogies than Helmichius did, for I consider that he is incomparable in interpreting Scripture, and that his Commentaries are of more value than all that the library of the Fathers transmits to us; so that I concede to him a spirit of prophecy superior to that of most, yea, of all others." (Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, pp. 35-36) - HT: Rocky A. Simbaion

Charles Hodge on Meditation as a Means of Grace

In the context of discussing a recurring theme in sermons by Charles Hodge dealing with the importance of meditation in the life of the Christian believer, Andrew Hoffecker writes:

In a conference sermon on the subject “Meditation as a Means of Grace,” Hodge pointed out the main distinction between meditation and mere intellectual consideration of an idea. The object of the latter is merely to understand intellectually while the object of meditation is to experience the power of God’s Word. He outlines suggestions to aid in this exercise. Believers ought to purpose to do this faithfully, setting aside times when it might be regularly performed. It should be done concomitantly with prayer, i.e., “not only in the formal sense of the word, but also as meaning converse with God.” (W. Andrew Hoffecker, Piety and the Princeton Theologians, pp. 82-83)

Here is the text briefly and directly from Hodge:

Meditation as a Means of Grace

I. What is meditation?
It is the serious, prolonged, devout contemplation of divine things. 1. This is distinguished from mere intellectual examination or consideration. It has a different object. The object of the one is to understand, of the other to experience the power. 2. It is distinguished from casual devout thought and aspiration.

II. It is a means of grace. By means of grace is meant a divinely appointed instrumentality for promoting holiness in the soul. That meditation is such a means is proved, 1. From its being frequently enjoined in Scripture for this end. 2. From the example of the saint as recorded in Scripture. 3. From the experience of the people of God in all ages.

III. Why is it thus salutary? 1. Because God has appointed his truth as the great means of sanctification. 2. Because the truth, to produce its effect, must be present to the mind. "God is not in all his thoughts," it is said of the wicked. "Estranged from God," is the description of the ungodly. 3. The intimate relation between knowledge and feeling, between the cognition and recognition, the … (knowing), and the … (acknowledgment) of divine truth. 4. Because all unholy feelings are subdued in the presence of God, unsound principles are corrected in the light of divine truth. We become conformed to the things with which we are familiar.

IV. Subjects on which we should meditate, are, God, — his law, — his Son, — the plan of salvation, — our own state as sinners, — heaven, etc.

V. Difficulties in the way of this duty. 1. The difficulty of continuous thought. 2. Preoccupation with other things. 3. Indisposition to holding communion with God. 4. Want of method and purpose.

VI. Directions for the performance of the duty. 1. Form the purpose to be faithful in its discharge, from a sense of duty and conviction of its importance. 2. Have a time and place sacred to the duty. 3. Connect it with prayer, not only in the formal sense of the word, but also as meaning converse with God. 4. Connect it with the reading of the Scriptures. Meditate on the word. Read it slowly, with self-application, and pondering its import. 5. Cultivate the habit application, and pondering its import. 5. Cultivate the habit of controlling your thoughts. Do not let them be governed by accident or fortuitous association. Keep the rudder always in your hand. 6. Do not be discouraged by frequent failure; and do not suppose that the excitement of feeling is the measure of advantage. There may be much learned, and much strength gained when there is little emotion. 7. Consecrate the hours especially of social and public worship to this work. Let the mind be filled with God while in his house. (Charles Hodge, sermon preached on Oct. 28, 1855 in Princeton Sermons, pp. 298-299 and Conference Papers, pp. 298-299)