100 Works by Samuel Miller on LCP

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Back in January of this year, we aimed to count who was the most prolific author on LCP. Samuel Miller was the winner of the “contest” at that time, hands down at 74 separate works. A new milestone has now been reached - Samuel Miller now has 100 separate works available to read online at LCP.

We will continue, DV, to add works by Samuel Miller as we are able, but now that he has reached the century mark here, so to speak, permit us to highlight some select Miller works of particular interest. There are many more to peruse at your leisure at his page.

  • A Sermon Preached in New-York, July 4th, 1793. Being the Anniversary of the Independence of America ("Christianity the Grand Source and Surest Basis for Political Liberty") (1793) - This Fourth of July sermon is Miller’s first published work, and it is was an important expression of his early political views from the pulpit.

  • A March 4, 1800 letter from Samuel Miller to US President Thomas Jefferson — this correspondence predates Miller’s 1808 breach with Jefferson over the latter’s refusal to call for a day of fasting and prayer.

  • A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, Vols. 1-2 (1803) - This remarkable work - an intellectual survey of the 18th century - began as a New Year’s Day sermon preached on January 1, 1801 and turned into a mammoth (over 1000 pages) history that resulted in him earning a doctorate in divinity at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • The Guilt, Folly, and Sources of Suicide: Two Discourses (1805) - An important piece that unites Biblical doctrine with pastoral counsel on a sensitive topic.

  • The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing An Able and Faithful Ministry: A Sermon at the Inauguration of Archibald Alexander as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (1812) - An important inaugural discourse that encapsulates the vision that Samuel Miller and Archibald Alexander shared for the work of the seminary at Princeton.

  • Memoirs of the Reverend John Rodgers, D. D. (1813) - One of many biographical sketches that Miller produced in his career, this one tells the life story of his senior colleague and mentor, who was so influential in early American Presbyterianism.

  • The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions (1824) - This is a most valuable statement on why confessionalism is a matter of such great importance to the Church.

  • The Earth Filled With the Glory of the Lord (1835) - If you want to understand Samuel Miller’s eschatology, this is the place to start.

  • Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ (1836) - Of the many valuable sermons, tracts and treatises on ecclesiastical polity which Miller produced, this is perhaps the most significant and comprehensive, touching on matters of church government, doctrine and worship. See also his several works on the office of ruling elder.

  • Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable: and Baptism by Sprinkling or Affusion, the Most Suitable or Edifying Mode (1837) - This treatise is a convincing Scriptural argument for paedo-baptism in the Presbyterian manner of sprinkling.

  • Lives of Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd (1837) - Another great biographical work by Miller which is worth highlighting.

  • Thoughts on Public Prayer (1849) - Ever concerned with decency and order, Miller’s classic on public prayer illustrates his desire for the edification of the saints.

Also, be sure to take note of Miller’s introductory essay on the Synod of Dort. First published in 1841, it has now been re-issued by Log College Press under the title A Place Like Heaven: An Introduction to the Synod of Dort. Miller tells the story of this remarkable church synod, which met left its mark on history 400 years ago.

The Synagogue as Model for the Christian Church: Samuel Miller and T.D. Witherspoon

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Samuel Miller once wrote that the Christian Church was modeled after the Jewish Synagogue rather than the Jewish Temple. This was a Presbyterian position, he argued, which was consistent with not only the historic Continental Divines, but also with leading Anglican Divines.

…I have given you a very brief sketch of the evidence that Christian Churches were organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jewish Synagogues. I have shown that the mode of worship adopted in the Church, the titles of her officers, their powers, duties, and mode of ordination, were all copied from the Synagogue. This evidence might be pursued much further, did the limits which I have prescribed to myself admit of details. It might easily be shown, that in all those respects in which the service of the Synagogue differed from the Temple, the Christian Church followed the former. The Temple service was confined to Jerusalem; the Synagogue worship might exist, and did exist wherever there was a sufficient number of Jews to form a congregation. The temple service was restricted with regard to the vestments of its officers; while in the Synagogue there was little or no regulation on this subject. And, finally, it is remarkable, that the mode in which the Bishops and Elders of each Synagogue were seated during the public service, was exactly copied into the Christian assemblies. With regard to these and many other particulars which might be mentioned, the Christian Churches in primitive times, it is well known, departed from the ceremonial splendour of the Temple, and followed the simplicity of the Synagogue. In fact, there is ample proof, that the similarity between the primitive Christian Churches, and the Jewish Synagogues was so great, that they were often considered and represented by the persecuting Pagans as the same.

In support of the foregoing statements, it would be easy to produce authorities of the highest character. The general fact, that the Christian church was organized by the inspired apostles, not on the plan of the Temple service, but after the Synagogue model, is amply shown, by the celebrated John Selden, in his work, De Synedriis; by Dr. [John] Lightfoot, a learned Episcopal divine, in his Horae Hebraicae; by the very learned [Hugo] Grotius, in several parts of his Commentary; by Dr. (afterwards) [Edward] Stillingfleet, in his Irenicum: and, above all by [Cornelius] Vitringa [Sr.], in his profound and able work, De Synagoga Vetere — to which the author has given given this bold title — “Three books on the ancient Synagogue; in which it is demonstrated, that the form of government, and of the ministry in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church.” If there be any points concerning the history and polity of the Church, which may be considered as indubitably established, this, unquestionably, is among the number (Letters Concerning the Constitution and Order of the Christian Minister, pp. 40-41).

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon concurred, as he has stated in his classic works Children of the Covenant, and The Five Points of Presbyterianism: The Distinctives of Presbyterian Church Government.

"When our Saviour appeared, therefore, He found, in every city of the Jews, a synagogue, with its bench of Elders, its ordinances of worship, and its provisions for the poor, as we have them in our congregations at the present day. When He went from city to city, He entered into their synagogues on the Sabbath day, and taught the people. He instructed his disciples to submit questions of discipline to the Church; that is, to these officers, who were its representatives. It is true that these church-sessions, if I may so call them, did not recognize, in most instances, the authority of our Saviour. ''He came to His own, and His own received Him not." The Elders joined with the Scribes and the Priests in putting him to death. But after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, there were many of these Jewish congregations, in which great numbers were converted to Christianity, so that the congregation was, in faith, no longer Jewish, but Christian. In these cases the synagogue became a church edifice. The Elders of the synagogue became Elders of the Christian Church. The rite of Baptism took the place of the rite of Circumcision. The Lord's Supper came in the room of the Passover. The day of the week took the place of the Jewish Sabbath. Hymns to Christ as God mingled with the old synagogue anthems to Jehovah. The epistles of inspired Apostles were read along with the Old Testament Scriptures; and thus, by a transition as natural as it was impressive, the Jewish church became Christian, with all its essential features unchanged.

That this is no mere theory, or special pleading on the part of the advocates of Presbyterianism, will be evident to every attentive reader of the following extracts from the works of one of the most learned and eminent prelates of the Episcopal Church. The late Archbishop "[Richard] Whately, of Dublin, as distinguished for his learning as for his integrity and piety, in his work, entitled "The Kingdom of Christ Delineated, in which he traces the origin of the first Christian churches planted by apostolic hands, uses the following language. (See Ed. of Carter & Bros., New York, 1864, p. 29.)

"It appears highly probable — I might say morally certain — that wherever a Jewish synagogue existed, that was brought, the whole or the chief part of it, to embrace the gospel, the Apostles did not there so much form a Christian church (or congregation: Ecclesia,) as make an existing congregation Christian" (the italics are his own,) "by introducing the Christian sacraments and worship, and establishing whatever regulations were requisite for the newly adopted faith, leaving the machinery (if I may so speak,) of government unchanged; the rulers of synagogues, elders and other officers, (whether spiritual or ecclesiastical, or both,) being already provided in the existing institutions." "And," he continues, "it is likely that several of the earliest Christian churches did originate in this way; that is, that they were converted synagogues, which became Christian churches as soon as the members, or the main part of the members, acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. * * * And when they founded a church in any of those cities in which (and such were probably a very large majority,) there was no Jewish synagogue that received the gospel, it is likely that they would conform, in a great measure, to the same model."

Here, then, is a statement from one of the highest functionaries, and most learned writers of the Episcopal Church, that the primitive Church was built upon the model of the Jewish synagogue, the government of which, as we have already seen, was distinctively Presbyterian, A careful study of the Acts and Epistles will lead us also to the conclusion that the Church of the Apostles was essentially Presbyterian. On their missionary voyages they "ordained Elders in every city." As in many of these cities there was only a small congregation of believers, the Elders ordained in them must have been Ruling Elders, as the language implies that there were several in one city. These Elders ruled in councils, or courts, that were distinctly Presbyterian. Timothy was ordained by "the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." The Synod which met at Jerusalem, (Acts, chap. 15.) was a Synod composed of the Apostles and Elders (Children of the Covenant, pp. 156-160; see also The Five Points of Presbyterianism [LCP edition], p. 17).

Thus, in these two writers we see what representative leading 19th century American Presbyterians believed, in agreement with leading historic European Calvinists, that the Christian Church is modeled after the Jewish Synagogue.

Biographical sketches compiled by William B. Sprague

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The Annals of the American Pulpit, a nine-volume series (an additional volume was planned but not completed) edited by William Buell Sprague, is a treasure that we have written about before. Sprague was a prolific writer and compiler of valuable historical information and mementos. His own original research for the biographical sketches which he produced is very significant and valuable. In addition to his biographical writings, he solicited biographical sketches from living writers who knew the deceased ministers he was writing about and, additionally, borrowed from published biographical literature as well.

As one reads the Presbyterian volumes (3, 4 and 9), one begins to take note of the personal connections between the leading ministers of the early American Presbyterianism. So many of Sprague’s subjects and contributors are to be found here at Log College Press. The following is an attempt to map out these particular LCP connections. As the site continues to grow, more connections are likely to be made, but this may serve as a useful reference to see who on LCP was written about within or contributed to the creation of William Sprague’s Annals.

Volume 3 (Presbyterian)

Volume 4 (Presbyterian)

Volume 9 (Associate, Associate Reformed, Reformed Presbyterian)

Pioneer Presbyterian Samuel Doak

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Samuel Doak (1749-1830) is known by many titles — "the Apostle of Learning and Religion in the West"; "the First Apostle of Presbyterianism in Tennessee"; "the Pioneer of Education in Tennessee”; and the “Pioneer Parson” whose prayer at Sycamore Shoals inspired the Patriot Overmountain Men before the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780. He is also known for his stance on immediate abolition of slavery, a position which he took in 1818. But despite his importance as a leading pioneer Presbyterian and educator, we have little in the way of actual sermons or other published writings by him.

We have recently added to Log College Press Samuel Doak’s posthumously-published Lectures on Human Nature. This “Epitome” consists of a series of lectures (study questions were added after each lecture by the publisher) that Doak used to teach his students. Considering the scarcity of published writings from his hand, and considering that these lectures were born from his own studies under William Graham of Liberty Hall Academy and John Witherspoon of Princeton, as well as his teaching days at Hampden-Sydney and Washington College, they represent a valuable source of information as to what this noted educator taught his pupils about such topics as education, first principles, the will, common sense, memory, the state of mankind, etc. Two additional essays by his sons — who were also themselves Presbyterian ministers — were appended to this work (Samuel Witherspoon Doak on the Conscience and John Whitfield Doak on Life).

This interesting work is worthy of notice for the insight it gives us into early 19th century American Presbyterian education, and because it helps us to understand what a famous pioneer parson, who influenced so many around him in his day, believed about the nature of man.

Samuel Miller: No such thing as a solitary religion

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Following up on yesterday’s post, Samuel Miller concurs with T.V. Moore that Christianity is not a lone wolf faith, but a corporate, and social, religion.

The Bible knows nothing of a solitary religion. The spirit and duties of Christianity are, characteristically, social. Man, in his state of primitive rectitude, was made a social creature; and redeemed and restored man, when he shall reach that holy heaven which is in reserve for him hereafter, will find it to be a state of perfect and most blessed society. It is true, the Christian, in the course of the spiritual life, is required, and finds it to be as profitable as it is delightful, to be often alone with his God. But the object of this retirement is, like that of Moses in ascending the mount, — not that he may remain there; but that he may come down with his face shining; his heart expanding with holy love; and all his graces refined and invigorated, and thus prepared the better to act his part in those interesting relations which he sustains to his fellow men. Accordingly, the visible Church, with which we are all bound to be connected, and which is the means of so many blessings to its members and to the world, is a social body. It is called in our text a “flock," under the care of the great "Shepherd and Bishop of souls," and under the immediate superintendence of the under-shepherds, commissioned and sent for this purpose.

Read Miller’s complete 1832 sermon on “Ecclesiastical Polity” from the Spruce Street Lectures here. And consider how Christians are not just born again as “isolated units” (Moore) but are meant to be children of the family of God, that is, his body, the Church.

T.V. Moore on the Corporate Life of the Church

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In the spring of 1868, in Baltimore, Maryland, the opening sermon was delivered before the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) by Moderator Thomas Verner Moore. We have recently added this sermon, titled The Corporate Life of the Church, to Log College Press. It is a noteworthy sermon which, although not well-known today, speaks volumes to the fragmented and individualized state of the church in 21st century America.

In this sermon, Moore sketches out an important concept that is too-little understood today: the new birth of the believer, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, is only the beginning of the story. It is not only the life of the individual soul with which Christ in his saving work is concerned, but the life of his body, that is, the general assembly of believers, or the Church.

…as soon as this personal life begins, the individual Christian finds that there is another life into which he is introduced by the same act of regeneration. Christ is revealed in Scripture, not only as the Saviour of the collective Church, His body, of which individual Christians are members in particular. “For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ;” and this image is elaborated to great length by the Apostle in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians, as well as in other Epistles.

Moore shows us that the Scripture emphasize the corporate nature of the Christian community in a variety of ways: the church is described as a city, a kingdom, a building, a temple, and a body or a family with many members.

This great idea of corporate life is an essential element of New Testament Christianity. Men are not converted and saved merely as isolated units, but as members of Christ’s family, into which they are born by the new birth, and from which they cannot rightfully segregate themselves.

Moore acknowledges the danger of hierarchical corporate power which can lead to tyrannical abuse, but is focused here on addressing what we might today know as “lone wolf Christianity,” with its low regard for organized, connected religion.

It is true that this element of corporate power may be developed in a corrupt Church to a spiritual despotism, in which the individual life shall be smothered, but it may also be kept so much in abeyance as to lose its legitimate force and give an exaggerated development of the principle of individualism, tending to schism, contention, and paralysis of this power of corporate action. And it is probably true, that this is the real danger in much of our modern Protestantism, and the cause of much of our unsuccessful activity. “the eye saith to the hand, I have no need of thee, and the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” And the very evils which existed among the Corinthian Christians exist among us, and need to be corrected to restore our efficiency. If then we can revive this corporate life, without weakening the individual life, and bring it to bear on our daily work and warfare, as parts of the Sacramental host, citizens of the city that hath foundations, members of the household of faith, portions of the body of Christ, we shall remedy an undoubted defect in our modern piety, and give an added energy to every operation of our beloved Church.

As Moore continues, he examines how the early Church in most cases demonstrated this corporate vitality by the concern showed by disciples in striving to assist those with financial aids, those suffering under persecution, and doing such things, not only locally, but for the saints separated by great distances, wherever there was a need, and all motivated by the principle of love. It was this corporate vitality, in fact, that enabled the early Church to grow and flourish under difficult circumstances. The love of the saints for one another made them a sum that was strong than its individual parts.

And so Moore reminds us that the labor of Christianity is not merely assigned to church officers, but to all members of Christ’s body. And the love that characterized the early Church must also be reflected in our modern day.

Love, the life blood of this body corporate, must flow rich and warm, love to Jesus, love to souls, love to one another. This will give us in such a Church, one large, loving family, clinging to one another, caring for each other’s welfare, good name and general interests, just as members of the same household do; each seeking, not his own, but the things of another; in honour preferring one another; and so fulfilling the traditional words of the last, loving apostle, whose aged lips were wont to say, when he could utter no other exhortation, “Little children, love one another.”

Moore says that this principle of love, exemplified in our day, makes the work of the Church easy, its worship services and catechetical activities a delight, and causes the flame which attracts others to burn the brighter.

Having demonstrated the importance of recognizing the corporate life of the Church, Moore surveys the post-War landscape around him and reminds his hearers that just as when days were dark during the Killing Times for Scotland’s Covenanters, yet God did great things for them, so may we look for God to do a great work in the present day, most especially when we fix our eyes upon Christ, and when we love his Body, the Church. This sermon has great application to our day, and the reader is encouraged to download it for thoughtful consideration. We need this message from T.V. Moore today, just as it was needed in 1868.

A critique of the U.S. Constitution by two 19th century PCUSA ministers

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While the U.S. Constitution was largely approved of by the Presbyterian Church of the 18th and 19th centuries (it is perhaps not a coincidence that the Synod of Philadelphia and New York, meeting in Philadelphia at the same time the Constitution Convention was meeting in the same city in May 1787, proposed amendments to the Westminster Confession of Faith, including to the chapter on the Civil Magistrate, which were approved of in 1788), there were some notable Presbyterian critics of our national charter.

Most famous was RPCNA pastor James Renwick Willson, who was burned in effigy in Albany, New York for the preaching and publication of his sermon “Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments; and the Disregard of His Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution” (1832). Many objected to his argument that Christ and His law should be recognized in the U.S. Constitution, and others objected to his questioning whether George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were in fact Christian.

But Willson and the RPCNA generally were not alone in their concerns about the most fundamental principles embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

George Duffield IV (1794-1868) was a PCUSA pastor who preached an 1820 sermon titled "Judgment and Mercy: A Sermon, Delivered...On the Day of 'Humiliation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer.'" In this sermon he identified mercies granted by God to the United States, as well as particular national sins which incurred God's judgments. His grandfather, by the way, was a chaplain for the Continental Congress.

There is one [sin] strictly national, that commenced in the adoption of the federal constitution, which is the want of an acknowledgement in it of a Supreme Being, and of a divine revelation. Although an eminent Judge of a neighbouring state, one of the guardians of that constitution, has happily decided, that it is assumed in it, that the United States are a christian nation, and Christianity the religion of the country, yet, that all important engine of our national prosperity, is, in form at least entirely atheistical. Undoubtedly it were a great sin, to have forgotten God in such an important national instrument, and not to have acknowledged Him in that which forms the very nerves and sinews of the political body. He had led through all the perils of the revolutionary struggle, and had established us in peaceful and plentiful security, and then, to have been forgotten, in the period of prosperity, certainly demerited his rebuke. Therefore hath the voice of his providence proclaimed, and even still it sounds in our ears, I did know thee in the wilderness in the land of great drought. According to their pasture so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore I will be unto them as a Lion: as a Leopard by the way will I observe them. Hosea, 13, 5–7.

Another sin for which we suffer, is a want of due respect, to the moral and religious qualifications, of those that are elevated to offices of trust and power. The question is too seldom asked, 'have such the fear of God before their eyes?' while on the other hand the sole inquiry instituted is 'will they suit and seek the interest of my party.' By the fear of the Lord, saith Solomon are riches and honour, Prov. 22, 4, as He himself had found it, and the fear of the Lord is not only the treasure of an individual, but forms in rulers, the chief permanent security of national wealth.

His proof texts for the second proposition were 2 Sam. 23.2-3 and 2 Chron. 19. Here he is addressing Art. VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

Another prominent critic of the U.S. Constitution, who nevertheless famously sided with the Union during the War which split both the nation and the mainline American Presbyterian church, was George Junkin, Sr. (1790-1868), father-in-law to Stonewall Jackson (and also a character in the 2003 movie Gods and Generals), published The Little Stone and the Great Image; or, Lectures on the Prophecies Symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of the Golden Headed Monster (1844), in which he wrote (pp. 280-281):

The grand defect in the bond of our national union is the absence of the recognition of God as the Governor of this world. We have omitted — may it not be said refused? — to own him whose head wears many crowns, as having any right of dominion over us. The constitution of these United States contains no express recognition of the being of a God: much less an acknowledgment, that The Word of God, sways the sceptre of universal dominion. This is our grand national sin of omission. This gives the infidel occasion to glory, and has no small influence in fostering infidelity in affairs of state and among political men. That the nation will be blessed with peace and prosperity continuously, until this defect be remedied, no Christian philosopher expects. For this national insult, the Governor of the universe will lift again and again his rod of iron over our heads, until we be affrighted and give this glory to his name.

These comments by prominent 19th century American Presbyterians who were outside of the RPCNA reveal a remarkable inter-denominational alignment in their understanding of the relationship between church and state, one that is not well-remembered in the 21st century, an age which does not give much consideration to the concept of “national sins,” but which is nevertheless worthy of notice.

Happy Birthday to J.W. Alexander!

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James Waddel Alexander, the son of Archibald Alexander, was born on March 13, 1804 in Louisa County, Virginia. After graduating from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and studying at the Theological Seminary, he was licensed to preach in 1825 by the Presbytery of New Brunswick. After a period of time under the care of his uncle and mentor Dr. John Holt Rice, he was soon sent to take up a pastorate at Charlotte County, Virginia, beginning in May 1826. He was finally ordained on March 3, 1827 and installed as the pastor of Charlotte Court-House Church. It was during this period of his life that a brief notice appears in his letters to his friend John Hall that stood out to this writer.

On July 3, 1827, in response to a query from Hall, Alexander had this to say:

Ques. 2. What have you written?

  1. Letters.

  2. A few pieces for Rice’s Magazine, signed Atlanticus, Quis, M. R—n, and one anonymous intituled “The Minister of Christ.”

The magazine in question is The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine, which was edited by John Holt Rice. It is a magazine for which many of the contributors assumed pseudonyms, including Rice himself (“Rusticus”). Also, because of his youth and relative inexperience in the ministry, it is not surprising that the contributions Alexander alludes to were published without his name attached. In any case, they are not referenced in Samuel Davies Alexander’s Catalogue of the Writings of the Alexander Family, nor are they mentioned in the more recent study of Alexander’s life and ministry by James M. Garretson (although Garretson mentions J.W. Alexander’s later use of the pseudonym “Charles Quill”).

Some of these anonymous contributions were identified by this writer recently after review of the 1827 volume of the magazine, and they have now been added to Log College Press here.

  • “Importance of Hebrew Literature” - “Atlanticus”

  • “Plan for Collecting Historical Records” - “Quis?”

  • “The Minister of Christ Addressed to a Young Preacher of the Gospel” - Anonymous (in three parts)

Each of these writings reveals interesting insights into the man who would later become the experienced minister whose posthumously-published Thoughts on Preaching (edited by S.D. Alexander) would mark a major contribution to the study of homiletics. They are short reads, but represent perhaps the earliest published writings by J.W. Alexander. Take time to look them over (pardoning the less-than ideal quality of the photos) today as we remember Alexander on his birthday.

The Kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ

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And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 11:15).

This verse has always stood out in the Book of Revelation. Most notably, historically speaking, it has been said that when this verse was sung as part of the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah, King George II stood to honor the King of kings and Lord of lords. Elizabeth Carson, in a dissertation about the life of Reformed Presbyterian minister James Renwick Willson, wrote: “For the Covenanters, the central statement of that book was in the eleventh chapter: The kingdoms of this world [shall] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.’ This was their desire and goal in the realm of politics, but was simultaneously the definition of the coming millenium [sic]. The two were virtually inseparable parts of the same picture…”

Carson also tells that Alexander McLeod’s Lectures Upon the Principal Prophecies of the Revelation was “well-known beyond Covenanter circles.” According to Fred Hood, Alexander McLeod was one of “the two comentators [sic, on the millennium] read most widely by Americans in the middle and southern states" (Fred J. Hood, Reformed America: The Middle and Southern States, 1783-1837, p. 69). McLeod’s Lectures were reviewed very favorably by James Renwick Willson in his Evangelical Witness (April-June 1823). John Black’s review of the same appears in Samuel B. Wylie’s Memoir of Alexander McLeod.

McLeod had this to say about this very special verse:

The existing sovereignties of nations constitute the subject of this prediction. The kingdoms of this world, are the political constitutions which are on earth, and which have derived their form and character from the men of the world: and particularly the several kingdoms which are found within the precincts of the old Roman empire. The reformation which they undergo changes effectually their character. They become the kingdoms of our Lord. They were, heretofore, of this world, of the earth, earthy: but now, they are of the Lord. They were always in fact, though unknowingly and unwillingly, under the power of Jehovah, and made subservient to Jesus Christ: but they are now professedly and with understanding subject to the law of God, and the revelation of Jesus Christ. True religion now comes to be formally avowed by them in their political capacity. There were Christians residing in these nations before this time: the nations were actually called Christian nations: some really supposed that they were Christian states: many pretended that they were so: during all this time, they have been in the estimation of our Lord Jesus Christ, only "kingdoms of this world." Now however they understand, they profess, and they support, not a state religion, nor a worldly sanctuary, but the pure religion of the Bible, in a consistent manner.

J.R. Willson adds in his review:

Heretofore, they [the nations of the earth] have been devouring beasts of prey — "thrones of iniquity having no fellowship with God;" but when the seventh trumpet shall have done its work, they shall all become voluntarily subject to our Lord and his Christ. The nations then shall avow the true religion in their national capacity; and for the first time since the commencement of the gospel dispensation, the religion of the Bible really, and its true spirit shall influence the policy of the nations, and they publicly proclaim their subjection to Messiah and their obedience to his law.

According to these two leading 19th century American Covenanters, there is a promise from God that the Lord Jesus Christ, as mediatorial King, who is given power and authority over all creation, will, in his own time, accomplish by the power of His Spirit, a mighty work of reformation throughout the whole earth, which will encompass all nations.

Two More American Covenanter Catechisms

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Last year we announced the addition of two Reformed Presbyterian catechisms to this site, one by William Louis Roberts (1853), and one by George Alexander Edgar (1912). This week we have added two more by ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America (RPCNA).

The first is a 1923 pamphlet by Owen Foster Thompson titled Scotland Through Her Character Windows: A Catechetical Exposition of Covenanter History (1923). It is a remarkable work which covers in 54 pages the history of the Covenanters from the time of the Reformation to their establishment in America. It concludes with James Hislop’s famous poem “The Cameronian’s Dream.”

The next is an undated pamphlet, produced by the joint collaboration of James Melville Coleman, David Raymond Taggart and Owen F. Thompson, titled A Catechism for Covenanter Children. With the note that this is intended to serve as preparation, not a substitute, for the Westminster Shorter Catechism, these men authored a catechism for the young which covers both doctrine and church history.

Presbyterians have long held that there is great value both in the use of catechetical teaching and in the knowledge of church history. These Covenanter catechisms employ the question-and-answer format to install a knowledge of their own particular historical background and distinctive doctrines for the young and old. The three co-authors of the latter work, borrowing from Hebrews 12:11, tell us that:

"Training always seems for the time to be a thing of pain, not of joy; but those who are trained reap the fruit of it afterwards in the peace of an upright life."

A Centenarian Presbyterian: William Rankin

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Imagine what it would be like to live from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. William Rankin, Jr., who served as both a ruling elder and the treasurer of the PCUSA Board of Foreign Missions (for 37 years), did just that.

Born on September 15, 1810, on a farm near Elizabeth, New Jersey, his longevity was such that at the time of his death on October 20, 1912, he was 102 years old, and was then the oldest college graduate in the United States. He took up the study of law, graduating from the Cincinnati Law School, and served as a law partner to Salmon P. Chase, who later became Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. He was married to wife Ellen (née Smith) for 62 years. Ecclesiastically, he served as ruling elder for the Third Presbyterian Church of Newark, NJ for 15 years and in the same capacity at the Wicliff Church for 11 years. Sixteen times he attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church as Commissioner from Newark. He was a trustee for the Bloomfield Theological Seminary; President of the Essex County Bible Society; President of the Newark Library Association; President of the Board of Trustees for the High Street Church; and a member of the Presbyterian Church Extension Committee. He was also a member of the New Jersey Historical Society from 1848 until the time of his death.

His 1857 address to the Synod of New Jersey on the subject of the Board of Missions was published by request of the Synod. He also authored Handbook and Incidents of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (1893) and Memorials of Foreign Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (1895). These latter two works are valuable resources which cover the history of Presbyterian foreign missions in the 19th century, written by a man who devoted much of his life to aiding the cause of missions worldwide. We have previously alluded to his account of American Presbyterian missionary to India Joseph Owen (1814-1870), and this is but one of many fascinating biographical sketches to be found in his books.

If the history of world missions is of interest to you, take time to visit the William Rankin, Jr. page and read his remarkable books on foreign missions, written by a centenarian Presbyterian who spent his life in the service of God and the church.

"Not One Forgotten" - A sermon by T.D. Witherspoon

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The doctrine of Providence has its sceptics, and all too often even believers do not heartily embrace this doctrine as they should, despite the fact that it is as the comfort to them of a warm blanket in a cold, wide world. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon reminds us of these realities in a sermon titled “Not One Forgotten” (taken from Luke 7:6: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”), which is to found in that remarkable volume of sermons, The Southern Presbyterian Pulpit (1896).

Two things in particular mitigate against such an embrace, according to Witherspoon: 1) the apparent insignificance of this world, and especially the seemingly trivial and minor things of this world, in the great scheme of things. Why, after all, should the great God of the universe condescend himself to be concerned with the little things of our mortal life? and 2) The apparent unevenness and irregularity of the events and operations of this world., and the fact that all mortal life ends in death, whether for the righteous or the wicked (Eccl. 9:2).

Witherspoon examines each of these apparent obstacles to embracing the doctrine of Providence and, while granting there is some truth to them, as modern science has shown how big the universe is and how small the globe we inhabit is, and how seemingly disordered and chaotic, yet Witherspoon, with the eye of faith, tells us that they are, ultimately, untenable. And what a comfort that is to the believer!

But, amidst all the confusion and disorder incident to a state of things like this, it is the great joy of the Christian heart to rest in the doctrine of the overruling providence of God, which is so clearly taught in his holy word; to think of the little sparrows, five of which brought less than a cent in the markets of the world in our Lord's day, and to remember that "not one of them is forgotten before God.'

The vast expanse of the universe serves to magnify, not diminish, the power of God and the beauty of his magnificent providence. Out of disorder, he gives meaning and purpose to life. In the midst of great distances of time and space, he shows care and concern for the most minute aspects of his creation.

Many persons are willing to admit that the hand of God is in the great events of nature and of human history. When the pestilence is on the air and thousands are falling victims, when some great earthquake has engulphed cities, or some furious tempest at sea has carried down strong ships with their hardy seamen and their terror-stricken passengers, there are few who believe in a God at all who do not recognize his hand, and say, “Surely God is here.” But that the God who kindled the blaze of the sun supplies also the glow-worm's lamp; that he who ”rides upon the stormy wind” fans also the cheek of the invalid with the gentle zephyr's breath; that he who upholds the stars in their courses guides also the sparrow in its flight; these are the things reckoned incapable of belief. And yet the Scriptures do not more clearly teach the one than the other.

The minuteness of the Providence of God can be described thus:

As the whole machinery of a watch will come to a standstill if one of the almost-invisible jewels be dislodged, or if a grain of dust adhere to one of the thousand tiny cogs in its various attachments, so, if one of these minute events should go awry, the whole order and course of providence would be arrested or disturbed. I stood, not a great while ago, looking at a splendid locomotive about to be put upon its trial-trip. The engineer, proud of his beautiful engine, at a signal from the conductor, placed his hand upon the lever and applied the steam. But, though there was a quiver, as if every nerve of the iron horse w^ere strung to its utmost tension, there was no motion of the great wheels. A second time the lever was applied, but with the same result. Then the quick eye of the engineer detected the cause. A single thumb-screw had been insufficiently turned. There was but the light touch of the fingers upon it, and again the steam was applied, and the train moved gracefully away. These little things which men think beneath our heavenly Father's notice, what are they but the valve-screws of the great engine ? What but the cogs and jewels of that secret mechanism which causes the hands of all human destiny to move upon the dial-plate of time?

Witherspoon concludes with some practical observations and applications that will benefit readers in our day as much as they did in his.

…let me remind you what a sanctity it gives to the little things of life that God's eye is upon them, and that we can have fellowship with him in them. So much of our life is taken up with little things — things that do not seem to tell upon the great issues and interests of Christ's kingdom in the world — that we are likely to feel as if the time spent in them is lost from the service of God. The mother with her little brood about her, the housewife with her busy cares, the merchant with all the inventory of his active brain, the teacher with the tedious routine of the class-room — one and all with the daily throng of little duties, little vexations, little cares — let us remember that not one of all these is forgotten before God. There is a sanctity and a blessedness given to life when we can see God's hand in everything — in leaf and flower, in pebble and stone — and the dull monotony of the most humdrum life may be relieved by this thought of the ever-presence and sympathy of our heavenly Father.

Again, let me remind you that if not one of the least of these dumb creatures is forgotten before God, they should not fail of all due consideration and kindness from us. How much wanton cruelty, how much thoughtless neglect would be avoided, did we always keep before us the consideration that "not one of them is forgot- ten before God." How this thought of our heavenly Father's watchful oversight and tender care binds us, as with a band of gold, not only to the humblest and poorest of our kind, but to all that vaster family whom his loving arms enfold, and who rest upon the bosom of his care.

Thirdly, and lastly, while we know not what the changes or trials of coming life may be, there is one thing we do know, and that is, that not one of us in any of them shall be forgotten. However dark the pathway, God's eye will be upon us as we walk it; his infinite arm will be about us to protect us; his wing of love will overshadow us, and he will make good to us his precious promise, that "as our days so shall our strength be." And if at this hour there be in the sanctuary some child of adversity or bereavement, whose cup seems to be full to overflowing with sorrow, let me say there is comfort for you here. Thou, O child of affliction, art not forgotten. Forgotten before man thou mayest be, forsaken of kindred, deserted of friends, but not forgotten before God. His eye of love is upon thee. His pitying arms enfold thee. He will be with thee in all the way thou goest. “Fear not,” is his message, “I will help thee.” Say, O timid one, "I will trust and not be afraid"; for “the eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

Sweet comfort indeed from a 19th century sermon, and worthy of meditation upon this Lord’s Day afternoon.

Samuel Miller on seeking "young Samuels"

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the scarcity of Presbyterian ministers in America was alarming. Elwyn Allen Smith, writing in The Presbyterian Ministry in American Culture: A Study in Changing Concepts, 1700-1900, p. 117, notes that in 1802 the PCUSA had 334 ministers throughout the country. The 1800 US census shows a population of 5,308,000 living in the country at that time; therefore, the number of ministers was quite small proportional to the overall population. Keenly conscious of this pastoral deficit, Samuel Miller wrote to Edward Dorr Griffin, a Congregational minister who served as a delegate to the PCUSA General Assembly of 1805, encouraging him to speak to Ashbel Green about specific subjects, including the need to provide for the education of future ministers. The situation as Miller saw it was dire.

The great scarcity of ministers, and the indispensable necessity of adopting speedy and vigorous measures for increasing their number. I consider our prospect on this score melancholy and alarming.

The same day (May 13, 1805), Miller wrote in a letter to Dr. Green that “I cannot help mentioning again my anxiety about the scarcity of ministers in our connexion.” It was at Miller’s urging that Dr. Green put forth a resolution adopted by the General Assembly to promote the recruitment and training of candidates for the ministry.

Following this action taken by the General Assembly, the Presbytery of New York (of which Samuel Miller was a member), meeting in October 1805, responded to the call by issuing their own address to the churches within their bounds, as well as to “young men” and “pious parents,” to promote the education of candidates for the ministry by prayer, focused evaluation of the gifts of possible candidates and financial and other support for their training.

This 1805 address was the product of a newly-formed standing committee subsisting of five ministers and five ruling elders. Samuel Miller was one of the ministers, and was the co-author, along with delegate Griffin, of this work. Each of the three audiences (churches, youth and parents) was appealed to with a call to consider what they could do to help the church increase its number of faithful ministers.

After explaining to churches the need and seeking prayer and tangible support for the education of minsters; and after asking young men to consider searchingly whether they might indeed be called to serve the kingdom of God by means of the ministry of the Word; “pious parents” are asked

Who among you have any sons to devote to Christ for the service of his sanctuary? Who among you have any young Samuels, the children of prayer, whom you have lent unto the Lord with ardent desires, that as long as they live they may be the Lord’s? Can you better dispose of them than by training them up for the gospel ministry, to bear the vessels of Him to whose service you have solemnly consecrated them in baptism? Would it not fill you with sublime joy to know that you had brought children into the world to be the instruments of large accessions to the assembly of the redeemed, to the everlasting kingdom of Messiah?…If you love your pious sons, give them to the church, and increase their everlasting happiness. If you love your Saviour, whose bowels yearned and bled for you, from your own bowels give him ministers; give to his service those whom he died to redeem, to sooth and comfort your parental hearts.

It is certain, from what we know of Samuel Miller’s parents, the Rev. John and Mrs. Margaret Miller, that he himself was a son of prayer. It is certain too that Samuel Miller had a son who followed him into the ministry, Samuel Miller, Jr. It is also certain that these labors of men like Samuel Miller, Ashbel Green and Edward Griffin helped to plant seeds that led to the founding in 1812 of what became known later as the Princeton Theological Seminary. By 1820, according to Elwyn A. Smith, there were 849 ministers and candidates.

We have here in this extract from church history a model for the building of God’s kingdom. Faithful ministers are an essential component of the extension of the church, and there is always a need for more of such to labor for Christ. It was Miller’s vision that the candidates needed to be “able” and “learned" as well as “pious.” There is both work to be done and prayers to be offered for this aspect of kingdom-building. Remember the words of our Savior:

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest (Matt. 9:37-38).

A Day in the Life of a Young Rural 19th Century Pastor - J.W. Alexander

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In 1827, James Waddel Alexander was a young Presbyterian minister in the midst of his first pastorate at the Village Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia. In a July 3, 1827 letter in which he answered John Hall’s question about how he spent his time, we are given a wonderful snapshot into his life at this time:

He is my plan for days which I spend at home, not always adhered to. Rise at 4; shower-bath; dress; shave; a walk or exercise in the garden; family prayers at 6; breakfast 1/4 before 7; read Scriptures; a lesson in Hebrew; Greek Testament in course with commentaries; cursory reading of Greek Testament; English Bible; preparation for sermons; theology; German; I have luncheon at 11, dinner at 2 1/2; after dinner I expatiate, read every thing,* ride, walk, lie on the grass, &c.; tea at 7; family worship at 8; bed at 9.

* Earlier in the letter he describes reading “the works of Rapin, Pascal, De la Houssaye, in French; Mastricht, Mark, Witsius, in modern Latin; and Calvin, Dwight, and McDowell, in modern English.”

There are so many spiritual and other insights to be gleaned from reading the Forty Years’ Familiar Letters of James Waddel Alexander, D.D., edited by his correspondent, John Hall. We not only learn about the man but we see snapshots of life in his day that reveal glimpses of an America that has changed immensely in two centuries. The time period covered by these letters is 1819 (200 years ago exactly) to 1859. Alexander went on to other pastorates and other more urban settings. But this sample of the time he spent in rural central Virginia is a special window into a time in his life and a time in America’s past that is perhaps not to be repeated, making his letters even more of a treasure.

The Very Foretaste of Heaven - James McGready

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Pioneer Presbyterian minister James McGready (1763-1817) is well-known as a frontier revivalist, one who is closely associated with the Great Revival of 1800. However, scholars Leigh Eric Schmidt (Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period, 1989) and Kimberly Bracken Long (The Eucharistic Theology of the American Holy Fairs, 2011) have identified a sacramental theme in much of his preaching.

McGready himself wrote that sacramental seasons were especially meaningful for him. Describing one memorable such occasion, he writes:

Three of these great days of the Son of Man I have witnessed. One, on the Monongahela [western Pennsylvania], where I first felt the all-conquering power of the love of Jesus, which to all eternity I shall never forget, was at a Sacrament on the morning of a Sabbath in 1786. The second in North Carolina, in 1789. The third in Kentucky, from 1797 to 1802. And may I ever lie the lowest, humblest creature in the dust, when I reflect that the Lord made use of me, mean and unworthy, to begin the glorious work in both these blessed seasons. I rejoice at the prospect. I expect to meet with many souls in heaven, who were my spiritual children in both these revivals.

Schmidt writes that “McGready’s participation in these early sacramental revivals in western Pennsylvania set the tone for his later career” (p. 61).

When reading McGready’s sermons one is struck with his “sacramental homiletic” (Long, p. 66). An example of this appears in a sermon that he preached “On the Divine Authority of the Christian Religion”:

How precious, then, is Jesus to them that believe. When a pardoned sinner beholds the glory, beauty and preciousness of Jesus, does not this sight communicate the very foretastes of heaven?

Turning to his “A Sacramental Meditation,” we read in closing a remarkable echo of that thought:

…when Christians are seated at a communion table, and are near Christ, they are at the gate of heaven, for Christ is that gate. Time and eternity, heaven and earth, meet in him, and he is the medium of communication between the eternal I AM and worthless sinners. In his face they behold the glory of God, and through him they obtain a Pisgah’s view of the promised land, and are blessed with foretastes of heaven.

In “The Believer Embracing Christ” we read that:

The believer sometimes meets with Christ and embraces him in the arms of faith when he is seated at a communion table, then by faith, he sees a mangled, bleeding, dying, rising, triumphant Jesus, heading his own table, and feasting his blood-bought children with the bread of life and the milk and honey of Canaan.

How similar is that thought to this from his “Sacramental Meditation”:

A sacramental table is a dreadful place; for here heaven is brought down to earth. The richest branches of the tree of life, that grows in the midst of the paradise of God, overhang this table, and believers may stretch forth the hand of faith and pluck the sweet fruits of the heavenly Canaan. The table of God is spread with the dainties of Paradise; the bread of life, the hidden manna, and the grapes of Eschol, with all the rich blessings purchased by the death of Jesus Christ.

Examples of such eloquent use of sacramental language could be multiplied in his sermons. It seems that he was most in heaven while on earth at the communion table. Read his sermons to discover for yourself the rich experimental and eucharistic theology of James McGready.

Farewell to a notable Presbyterian historian - James H. Smylie

It is with sadness that we note the recent passing of the great 20th century Presbyterian historian James Hutchinson Smylie (October 25, 1925 - January 5, 2019).

Executive Director Emeritus of the Presbyterian Historical Society Frederick Heuser writes:

Jim Smylie was the dean of American Presbyterian history for a very long time. And he will remain as such, joining others whose scholarly contributions helped us understand  why these ‘few of the folks of faith’ had such an impact on the global community.

Jim believed strongly that our history had to be usable. He consistently displayed a deep concern for making the lessons of history available to grassroots congregations.This vision was the driving force behind his long tenure as the Editor of The Journal of Presbyterian History. While highly regarded and respected by the academic community, he never lost sight of the fact that Presbyterian history had to be understood by the church at large.

We refer you to the memorial written by the Presbyterian Historical Society for more information about the man, as well as this obituary. He served as “[t]he editor of the Journal of Presbyterian History and the secretary of the American Society of Church History for nearly three decades.” Perhaps most well-known for this 1996 A Brief History of the Presbyterians, he has authored quite a few works on Presbyterian church history. Several of his books are available for purchase at our Secondary Sources page. For this writer, two works by Smylie stand out:

  • A Cloud of Witnesses: A History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965) - Among the “witnesses” highlighted are: Francis Makemie, Samuel Davies,John Witherspoon, James H. Thornwell, Daniel Baker, Woodrow Wilson, “Stonewall” Jackson, Moses D. Hoge, George Washington Cable, James A. Bryan, William H. Sheppard, William M. Morrison, and John J. Eagan.

  • American Presbyterians: A Pictorial History (1985) - This volume provides a visual and textual record of the notables and highlights of American Presbyterian history, including a chart of the denominational divisions. This tour through our national church history is, in this writer’s opinion, not equaled elsewhere, and is an excellent starting point for further research.

As one who loved and taught the history of the Presbyterian Church to many, we remember Jim Smylie and continue to cherish his historical scholarship here at Log College Press.

A heavenly art to learn - William S. Plumer

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A practical gem and a word of encouragement from a classic work on Providence:

How entirely do just views of God's word and providence change the aspects of every thing. He, who has any right views, would rather be with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace, or with Daniel in the lions' den than with Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. Paul bound with a chain was far more to be envied than Nero wearing the imperial purple. Paul and Silas were far from being the most unhappy men in Philippi the night their feet were in the stocks. There are two sides to every providence, as there were to the pillar of cloud and of fire. The bright side is towards the children of God. It ever will be so. God has ordained it. He will make good all his promises. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright." Therefore, ye heroes of the cross, gird on your armor. Fight the good fight of faith. Never yield to fear. Endure hardness. Live to please him who has called you to be soldiers. Jesus reigns. Hear him proclaiming: "All power in heaven and earth is given unto me." He is King of kings. He rules in the kingdoms of men. He is God in Zion. He loves the church more than you do. He died for it. He loves his people as the apple of his eye. Nothing shall harm those who are the followers of that which is good. O shout and give thanks. Robert Southwell, awaiting martyrdom in prison, wrote to his friend: "We have sung the canticles of the Lord in a strange land, and in this desert we have sucked honey from the rock, and oil from the hard flint." Learn this heavenly art. — William S. Plumer, Jehoveh-Jireh: A Treatise on Providence, pp. 164-165

Where to find some sermons by Gilbert Tennent via Log College Press

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According to Hughes Oliphant Old, who has written notably about Gilbert Tennent in Volume 5 of The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church and elsewhere,* more than 80 sermons by Tennent were published in his lifetime. The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a collection of 160 sermons by him, many of which exist in manuscript form. It was only in the late 20th century that thirteen additional manuscript sermons were located in the library of Princeton Theological Seminary. Miles Douglas Harper, Jr. says that “Tennent preached a total of 588 times from the more than two hundred sermons extant.”** Log College Press has some of his published sermons available at Tennent’s author page. Four more by Tennent are found in Archibald Alexander’s posthumously-published (1855) Sermons of the Log College:

  • The Justice of God (no date) - text: Deut. 32:4

  • The Divine Mercy (no date) - text: Ex. 34:6

  • The Grace of God (no date) - text: Ex. 34:6

  • The Wisdom of God in Redemption (no date) - 1 Cor. 1:23-24

But some of his manuscript sermons are also available to read or obtain elsewhere via our site. For example, at our Dissertations and Theses page, one may read Cheryl Ann Rickards, “Gilbert Tennent: An Analysis of His Evangelistic Ministry, Methods and Message During the Great Awakening” (2003), which includes discussion and analysis, as well as the full sermon transcriptions, of:

  • The Solemn Scene of the Last Judgment (1737) - text: 2 Thess. 1:6-9

  • The Necessity of Religious Violence in Order to Obtain Durable Happiness (1735) - text: Matt. 11:12

  • The Righteousness of Scribes and Pharisees Considered (1741) - text: Matt. 5:20

On our Secondary Sources page, a book worth highlighting in this regard is Kimberly Bracken Long, The Eucharistic Theology of the American Holy Fair (2011), which contains (as appendices) transcriptions of three of the thirteen recently-discovered manuscript sermons at Princeton:

  • De nuptiis cum Christo (February 1753) - texts: Rev. 3:20, Matt. 22:2

  • “Sermon Manuscript 4” (no title, no date) - text: Song of Solomon 4:16

  • “Sermon Manuscript 12” (no title, no date) - texts: Ps. 122:1-2; Ps. 27:4

Also available at the Secondary Sources page is Milton J. Coalter, Jr., Gilbert Tennent, Son of Thunder (1986), which is the only full-length biography of Gilbert Tennent, and contains a valuable bibliography of his works (one may also consult Leonard J. Trinterud, A Bibliography of American Presbyterianism During the Colonial Period (1968), available at the Secondary Sources page; the bibliography by Miles Douglas Harper, Jr. is, however, more complete than either of the above).**

Tennent’s most famous (or infamous) sermon, The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry (1743), is still not available at our site, although it can be found elsewhere in modern form online or, for example, in the 1993 Soli Deo Gloria edition of Archibald Alexander’s Sermons of the Log College. We continue to add Tennent’s public domain works to the site as we are able. This post is a reminder to our readers that some of his manuscript sermons are available or accessible here as well.

* Hughes Oliphant Old, “Gilbert Tennent and the Preaching of Piety in Colonial America: Newly Discovered Tennent Manuscripts in Speer Library,” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, Vol. X, No. 2 (1989), p. 134.

** Miles Douglas Harper, Jr., “Gilbert Tennent: Theologian of the ‘New Light’” (1958), pp. iii, 436-454.

New Addition to Log College Press: Machen's Christianity and Liberalism

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January 1, 2019 marked the lapse of copyright restrictions for many books published in the United States in the year 1923. It also marked the 82nd anniversary of the passing of J.G. Machen into glory (which occurred on Jan. 1, 1937). It so happens that one of his most famous books — Christianity and Liberalism — was published in 1923 and is now in the public domain. A faithful friend and reader of our site, Pastor Phil Pockras, was kind enough to alert us to the availability of this particular book, which is now accessible at Machen’s author page.

To whet your appetite for this classic work, here are a few notable quotes that have stood out to this reader:

In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” - pp. 1-2

A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.’ – p. 14

Christ died" -- that is history; "Christ died for our sins" -- that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity. – p. 27

The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried" -- that is history. "He loved me and gave Himself for me" -- that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church. – p. 29

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart. – p. 65

If you have read this book already, what are some gems that you can share with our readers? If you have not read this book, please consider downloading it for your reading pleasure. And if you have other suggestions for books that we should add to the site, please contact us directly to let us know. Thanks Phil, and thanks to all our readers, for your support and encouragement!

Whatever happened to William Tennent, Jr.?

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Few figures in Reformed and Presbyterian history have had a greater cloud of mystery shrouding them than William Tennent, Jr. His first biographer, Elias Boudinot IV, wrote of him: We have never known a man in modern times concerning whom so many extraordinary things are related.” Frank R. Symmes adds: “His biography is of surpassing interest, a fascinating story of the unusual and extraordinary in spiritual life.” The son of the founder of the original Log College of Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, which was the seed that grew into the College of New Jersey (Princeton), he was trained for the ministry and then sent to New Brunswick, New Jersey for further training and theological exams under his brother Gilbert, who was already serving as a minister of the gospel.

While there, the toll of his intense studies affected his physical and emotional health greatly, so much so that his body wasted away and doubts of his salvation assailed him. In that condition, and he fainted. To all appearances he was in fact dead, and Gilbert with great sadness began the process of arranging for his funeral. A doctor arrived and thought he detected a slight tremor in one arm, but even a day later, no further sign of life was detected. Yet the doctor continued with efforts to revive him, delaying the scheduled funeral, until while Gilbert and the assembly who had gathered had grown impatient thinking the doctor’s efforts were useless, suddenly, William with a groan opened his eyes, and then relapsed into unconsciousness. This happened again and again until after a time he revived fully, though was bedridden for a year following. He experienced almost complete amnesia, which was discovered when his sister Eleanor found that he did not know what the Bible was. He had to be re-taught everything, although after more time, as he regained strength, the memory of his past life eventually returned to him.

Something else was learned of his experience. As he related it to both Elias Boudinot and separately to Dr. John Woodhull, while he was unconscious, he experienced a trance.

This was the substance of his recital: suddenly he found himself in another state of existence, with an innumerable throng of heavenly beings surrounding him, singing hallelujahs with unspeakable rapture. He was unable to define any shapes to these celestial beings, aware only of their adoration and the aura of glory enfolding them. His entire being was so pervaded with their rapture that he longed to join them, comforted by the thought that he had been redeemed and permitted to enter heaven. But at this point the guide who had led him thither told him that he must return to earth. The thought pierced his soul like a sword and at that instant he awoke to hear the doctor and Gilbert arguing above him. The three days had seemed but a few moments in length, but for three years afterward the echoes of that celestial music rang ceaselessly in his ears (Mary A. Tennent, Light in Darkness: The Life of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, pp. 104-105).

So William thus narrowly escaped being buried alive, and eventually was ordained to the ministry, and lived a full life until sickness and death overtook him in 1777. The story of his trance was widely discussed, with some understanding it in natural and others in supernatural terms.

Boudinot wrote: “The pious and candid reader is left to his own reflection on the very extraordinary occurrence. The facts have been stated and they are unquestionable. The writer will only ask whether it is contrary to the revealed truth or to reason to believe that in every age of the world, instances like that here recorded have occurred to furnish living testimony to the reality of the invisible world, and the infinite importance of eternal concerns” (Life of the Rev. William Tennent, p. 24).

Archibald Alexander did not view the trance as anything more than what could be “accounted for on natural principles.” Although there was other event in William’s life that led Alexander to conclude that God does still interpose in human affairs by means of dreams - a man and his wife who came from Maryland to Trenton, New Jersey after having both experienced the same dream whereby they were called to come to the aid of a Mr. Tennent who was in great distress. In fact, at the time they found him in Trenton he was facing a false charge of perjury for having served as a witness for the defense of a fellow minister accused of robbery under a case of mistaken identity. The arrival of the man and his wife from Maryland, who had previous contact with him, was helpful in establishing an alibi for William during his trial, and led to a verdict on “not guilty” on William’s behalf. It was a remarkable end to a troublesome situation (Biographical Sketches of the Founder, and Principal Alumni of the Log College, pp. 192-200, 222-231).

Back to William’s trace, Mary Tennent, writing in 1971, says: “Of course the simple explanation is that after a long and devastating illness, in a state of exhaustion and weakness, he sank into a coma from which he was at length aroused by the continuous efforts of his friend, the doctor. The vivid dream occurring during the few moments of returning consciousness was the natural result of his last conscious anxiety concerning his soul, while the tremendous surge of happiness at seeing and hearing the angelic choir was but a subconscious wish fulfillment” (Light in the Darkness: The Story of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, p. 105).

Many other fascinating anecdotes are recorded about William by Boudinot and Alexander. One that is mentioned by the latter, but not the former. One night he awoke from his sleep with intense pain in one foot. It seems that several of his toes had been cleanly amputated, although the toes were not to be found, nor was there any bloody trail or blade was found. There was simply no explanation for the event, which left him minus several toes. Whether he was a sleepwalker who had an accident or whether something else natural or supernatural occurred, we have no way of knowing.

This is just one of many extraordinary events in the life of an extraordinary man. The biographies consulted above are worth perusing to learn more about this remarkable figure and his place in church history.

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