As far as interesting, and helpful works go, William B. Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit can’t be beat. Volume 9 of this epic work, arguably is the most interesting and diverse of all. It contains in it records of the Lutherans, Reformed Dutch, Associate, Associate Reformed, and Reformed Presbyterian pulpits. If one is interested in the history of the various Reformed Churches in America, this volume gives you a lot of chew on. It contains lots of valuable information on the Dutch Reformed Church, as well as the Scottish-American Dissenting Presbyterians. It has biographies in it of many authors listed on Log College including, John Anderson, William Marshall, Alexander McLeod and James Renwick Willson. This volume is a helpful reference but also a great starting point to get a picture of the American Reformed movement broadly. Perhaps the volume’s most moving part is the devotion and piety which many of the ministers had which is recorded for posterity as an example. May we take up and read!
William Buell Sprague (1795-1876)'s Annals of the American Pulpit (9 vols., 1858-1869) is one of the great classics of biographical church history. If you enjoy reading biographies of early American Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Epsicopalians, Congregationalists and more, you have just discovered a gold mine. Sprague was comprehensive in his scope, thorough in his research, judicious in his selections, and eloquent and edifying in his discourses. Solid Ground Christian Books has republished his volumes on the Baptists and Presbyterians. The whole set, now available online to read at Log College Press, is as follows:
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 1 (Trinitarian Congregational)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 2 (Trinitarian Congregational)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 3 (Presbyterian)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 4 (Presbyterian)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 5 (Episcopalian)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 6 (Baptist)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 7 (Methodist)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 8 (Unitarian Congregational)
- Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. 9 (Lutherans, Reformed Dutch, Associate, Associate Reformed, Reformed Presbyterian)
William Buell Sprague's 1832 work, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, gives us the answer to this question. His lectures cover an array of topics (the nature of revival, obstacles to revival, divine agency in revival, etc.), and he also includes letters from twenty different Presbyterian clergymen concerning revival.
Here is a portion of Archibald Alexander's letter, on the nature of true revival:
But I come now to speak of genuine revivals, where the gospel is preached in its purity, and where the people have been well instructed in the doctrines of Christianity. In a revival, it makes the greatest difference in the world whether the people have been carefully taught by catechising, and where they are ignorant of the truths of the Bible. In some cases revivals are so remarkably pure, that nothing occurs with which any pious man can find fault. There is not only no wildness and extravagance, but very little strong commotion of the animal feelings. The word of God distils upon the mind like the gentle rain, and the Holy Spirit comes down like the dew, diffusing a blessed influence on all around. Such a revival affords the most beautiful sight ever seen upon earth. Its aspect gives us a lively idea of what will be the general state of things in the latter-day glory, and some faint image of the heavenly state.
The impressions on the minds of the people in such a work are the exact counterpart of the truth; just as the impression on the wax corresponds to the seal. In such revivals there is great solemnity and silence. The convictions of sin are deep and humbling: the justice of God in the condemnation of the sinner is felt and acknowledged; every other refuge but Christ is abandoned; the heart at first is made to feel its own impenetrable hardness; but when least expected, it dissolves under a grateful sense of God's goodness, and Christ's love; light breaks in upon the soul either by a gradual da^vning, or by a sudden flash; Christ is revealed through the gospel, and a firm and often a joyful confidence of salvation through Him is produced: a benevolent, forgiving, meek, humble and contrite spirit predominates — the love of God is shed abroad—and with some, joy unspeakable and full of glory, fills the soul. A spirit of devotion is enkindled. The word of God becomes exceedingly precious. Prayer is the exercise in which the soul seems to be in its proper element, because by it, God is approached, and his presence felt, and beauty seen: and the new-born soul lives by breathing after the knowledge of God, after communion with God, and after conformity to his will. Now also springs up in the soul an inextinguishable desire to promote the glory of God, and to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth, and by that means to the possession of eternal life. The sincere language of the heart is, "Lord what wouldst thou have me to do?" That God may send upon his church many such revivals, is my daily prayer; and many such have been experienced in our country, and I trust are still going forward in our churches.
William Buell Sprague was a prolific author and editor, and his two-volume collection of biographies of Presbyterian ministers from the earliest days of American Presbyterianism to 1855 is pure gold. He not only gives you the historical data, but he includes reminisces from friends who knew the subject of each biography. Fascinating, informative, and encouarging. (Sprague also wrote a two-volume set on Congregational ministers - we'll be uploading those at some point as well).
William Buell Sprague, author and editor of wonderful biographies of American pastors (soon to be posted here!), also wrote beautiful and instructive letters to his daughter. Her mother (his wife) had passed away some time previously, and so he desired to set down in writing his hopes and dreams and directions for her as she prepared to go out from his household. These letters are not only of historical significance, but also are of great practical value even to us in the 21st century today. To be sure, times have changed - but with chapters such as "Early Friendships," "Marriage," "Improvement of Time," "Practical Religion," and "Humility," surely our Christian daughters could benefit from Sprague's book. It can be found in its entirety here.