Alexander McLeod Staveley was a Reformed Presbyterian pastor in Canada and America, pastoring for 61 years altogether - 38 at one church, St. John's of New Brunswick. An Irishman of manly stock, one obituary described him beautifully: "Mr. Staveley was in many respects a remarkable man - remarkable for his straightness of figure and character, for a stateliness of bearing and inborn courtesy of disposition which secured the affectionate esteem of all classes with which he came into contact. He was honored everywhere he labored because he was honorable; secured and retained many friends because he was friendly and loved and illustrated the goodness which manifested itself in purity, sincerity, rectitude, and charity." You can find some of his sermons here.
In a previous post, we highlighted Ashbel Green's Commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Today we point out two important commentaries on the Westminster Confession of Faith, one by a Northern Presbyterian (Archibald Alexander Hodge's Commentary on the Confession of Faith) and one by a Southern Presbyterian (Francis Beattie's The Presbyterian Standards). Hodge's book is familiar to most Presbyterian students of theology and church history, but fewer are aware of Beattie's volume - which is a shame, because he interacts with all three of the Westminster Standards together, and thus his work is particularly helpful.
As an example of Beattie's theological sensibilities, I have appreciated his comment on the relationship between the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption in light of WLC #31:
"Sometimes the distinction is made by theologians between what is called the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. According to the former, God enters into covenant with his Son, giving him a people whom he redeems and assuredly saves. According to the latter, God enters into covenant with his people to redeem and save them by his Son, as the Mediator whom he has appointed. In the first case, God and the Son are the parties to the covenant, and the Son is the surety for his people; and in the latter case, God and the elect are the parties, and the Son is the Mediator between them. The Standards do not distinctly recognize this twofold aspect of the covenant. They speak of a second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace, according to which God has been pleased to provide for and secure the salvation of the elect. This distinction may be regarded as a valid one, so long as the idea of two covenants is not entertained. Strictly speaking, there can be only one covenant, but that covenant may be viewed in the twofold aspect, which this distinction implies. The Scripture terms mediator and surety, as applied to Christ, quite justify this twofold view of the covenant of grace, though the covenant itself is always one and the same."
Though not all will agree with this formulation, I believe all will agree that Beattie is a man who has wrestled with the Scriptures and the text of the Standards. Tolle lege!
A student and son-in-law of John Witherspoon, Samuel Stanhope Smith was the founder of Hampden-Sydney College, and the seventh president at the College of Ner Jersey (modern day Princeton University). He was a teacher of Scottish Common Sense Realism.
His two volumes of published sermons contains:
I. Felix trembling before Paul.
II. On the Parable of the Prodigal Son
III. Repentance of the Prodigal
IV. Return of the Prodigal to his Father
V. On swearing in Common Conversation
VI. To a good man the day of death preferable to the day of birth
VII. The recompense of the Saints in Heaven
VIII. On Slander
IX. On Redeeming time
X. The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai
XI. A discourse on the guilt and folly of being ashamed of religion
XII. A discourse on the nature and danger of small Faults
XIII. On Charity, 259 XIV. Paul pleading before Agrippa
XV. Desire of the apostle to depart and be with Christ
XVI. Religion necessary to National Prosperity
XVII. The Original Trial and the Fall of Man, or the first sin and its consequences
XVIII. On the Love of praise
XIX. On Ruling Sin
I. History of the Golden Calf
III. On the Being of God
IV. On Divine Providence
V. On Christian vigilance and preparation for death
VI. The promised seed of the woman: or, the power of evil destroyed by Jesus Christ
VII. Trust in God
VIII. On Devotion
IX. Immortality clearly revealed
X. The progress of Vice
XI. History of Moses
XII. The love of God in giving his son for the redemption of the world
XIII. On the Nativity
XIV. Life of the Patriarch Abraham
XV. On Reading
XVI. On Fashionable amusements
XVII. On Fashionable amusements, No. II
XVIII. The Imperfection of our Knowledge
XIX. The History of Moses
XX. On the fear of Man
XXI. The excuses for not entering at present on a religious life, vain and absurd
XXII. On a wrong Conscience
XXni. Dangers of a wrong Conscience
XXIV. The perfection of christian morals
XXV. The christian passover, or dispositions proper for the Lord's table
John Leighton Wilson was a giant of 19th-century Presbyterian missions, but unfortunately, he is little-known today. Erskine Clark has recently told his story in By the Rivers of Waters, but his story was first told by another Presbyterian missionary, Hampden Coit Dubose. William Childs Robinson, in his book Columbia Theological Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church, tells this wonderful story: "At his vacation Wilson returned home from this memorable decision [to go to African as a missionary] made in prayer with John Bailey Adger at Columbia Theological Seminary. His father still refused to give his consent. "'Father,' said Leighton, 'would you be willing to go into the room and pray with me?' So they began, 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' The father could not go beyond that petition. Brought face to face with the world-embracing affections and purposes of God, he could not hold to any little contrary ambition of his own. Slipping his arm around his son's shoulder, he told him he could go." May the Lord use those who have gone before us in the faith to spur us on the bring the gospel to the nations!
It is unfortunate that this 1802 discourse by Alexander McLeod, a Reformed Presbyterian Church minister in New York, did not have a greater impact upon Presbyterians across the nation. How different would our nation's history, and present, be if his arguments had pricked the hearts and changed the minds of his contemporaries, particularly if they had been able to reach into the South.
What would it have been like to sit in Archibald Alexander's class on Systematic Theology in the early days of Princeton Theological Seminary? Fortunately, Princeton has scanned in Charles Hodge's notes from that class - just think, if you had been sitting next to Charles Hodge and snuck a peak at his notes, this is what would you have seen. It's a remarkable thing that we have these, but I'm sure there are many other manuscripts of classroom lecture notes (and professors' lectures!) holed away in archives around the country. If you know of any others that are accessible online, please let us know!
William Swan Plumer was a prolific author, and I could blog a different one of his writings every day for nearly two months. It will take time to get all he has written loaded on the Log College Press website. But don't miss one of his earliest works, a book on parenting: Thoughts on Religious Education and Early Piety (1836).
The table of contents may sound bland, but the book is chock full of rich fare:
I. Importance of the Subject of Education
II. Education - What it is
III. Religious Education
IV. Rules for a Religious Education
V. Early Piety Possible
VI. Motives to Fidelity in Religious Instruction
VII. Cases of Early Piety
One of the great American Presbyterian theologians, B. B. Warfield's article "On the Emotional Life of our Lord" (from Biblical and Theological Studies published by the Princeton Theological Seminary faculty) is among his most important works. His two inaugural addresses are not far behind. The first was given at Western Theological Seminary (modern Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) in 1880, entitled "Is the Church Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the New Testament Endangered by the Assured Results of Modern Biblical Criticism?" The second was given at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1888, entitled "The Idea of Systematic Theology Considered as a Science." You can find them both on the B. B. Warfield page of the Log College Press site.
One of the projects we have in mind for reprinting is an anthology of seminary inaugural addresses from the 19th century. Does anyone else think this would be a worthwhile endeavor?
The PCA Historical Center posted an excerpt of a helpful little volume yesterday, Robert Polluck Kerr's Presbyterianism for the People. This book walks through Presbyterian Church Government and Presbyterian Theology for the ordinary members of the church of Jesus Christ. Kerr writes in his preface, "This little volume is not for theologians. There are many abler and more elaborate works on Presbyterianism written for them. It is for the people —the busy, earnest people, who have neither the time nor the taste for an extensive study of this subject, but who ought to know—at least, in a general way—what Presbyterianism is, what it has been in the past, what it believes and teaches. In his pastoral work the author has often wished for such a book, and he earnestly hopes that this one may help supply what he believes to be a real need of the Church. For it he asks the blessing of God and the favor of the people."
Kerr also wrote The People's History of Presbyterianism in All Ages. The preface of this work is remarkable for its assessment of the state of affairs in 1888, as well as its prescription: "Books are written to be read, not to lie on dusty shelves. But this is a busy age, and most persons will not take time to read extensive treatises. The people call for short sermons, short prayers, and short books. Nor is this demand without reason; for life itself is short, and there is much to do." What would Robert Kerr say about the busyness of today? And what would we say about his evaluation of a cure?
A Manual on the Christian Sabbath, by John Holmes Agnew, will help to answer that question. Originally lectures to students at Washington College (now Washington and Lee College) in Lexington, Virginia, this work covers the perpetual obligation of Christians to observe the Lord's day, the design of the day, the blessings and usefulness of the day, and our duties on the day. Worth the price of the book (or rather, the download!) is a Packer-esque introduction by Samuel Miller.
The 19th century has much to teach us about the Sabbath day; this volume, with Miller's introduction, is a good place to begin.
310 years ago, in 1707, Francis Makemie was arrested for preaching in New York without a license from the government. He fought those charges on several grounds, and won. This trial was a foundation of religious liberty in America. You can read the original source documents here - they include transcripts of the trial and letters written by Makemie and John Hampton, his co-prisoner in the Lord.
In his sermon before the House of Representative, Henry Highland Garnet observed:
"It is often asked when and where will the demands of the reformers of this and coming ages end? It is a fair question, and I will answer.
When all unjust and heavy burdens shall be removed from every man in the land. When all invidious and prescriptive distinctions shall be blotted out from our laws, whether they be constitutional, statute, or municipal laws. When emancipation shall be followed by enfranchisement, and all men holding allegiance to the government shall enjoy every right of American citizenship. When our brave and gallant soldiers shall have justice done unto them. When the men who endure the sufferings and perils of the battle-field in the defence of their country, and in order to keep our rulers in their places, shall enjoy the well-earned privilege of voting for them. When in the army and navy, and in every legitimate and honorable occupation, promotion shall smile upon merit without the slightest regard to the complexion of a man's face. When there shall be no more class-legislation, and no more trouble concerning the black man and his rights, than there is in regard to other American citizens. When, in every respect, he shall be equal before the law, and shall be left to make his own way in the social walks of life.
We ask, and only ask, that when our poor frail barks are launched on life's ocean —
"Bound on a voyage of awful length And dangers little known,"
that, in common with others, we may be furnished with rudder, helm, and sails, and charts, and compass. Give us good pilots to conduct us to the open seas; lift no false lights along the dangerous coasts, and if it shall please God to send us propitious winds, or fearful gales, we shall survive or perish as our energies or neglect shall determine. We ask no special favors, but we plead for justice. While we scorn unmanly dependence; in the name of God, the universal Father, we demand the right to live, and labor, and to enjoy the fruits of our toil. The good work which God has assigned for the ages to come, will be finished, when our national literature shall be so purified as to reflect a faithful and a just light upon the character and social habits of our race, and the brush, and pencil, and chisel, and Lyre of Art, shall refuse to lend their aid to scoff at the afflictions of the poor, or to caricature, or ridicule a long-suffering people. When caste and prejudice in Christian churches shall be utterly destroyed, and shall be regarded as totally unworthy of Christians, and at variance with the principles of the gospel. When the blessings of the Christian religion, and of sound, religious education, shall be freely offered to all, then, and not till then, shall the effectual labors of God's people and God's instruments cease."
-- Memorial Discourse, pages 85-87
Many have read James Chaney's book William the Baptist, published in 1877. I didn't realize until last night (thank you, R. Andrew Myers!) that he wrote a sequel in 1894: Agnes, the Daughter of William the Baptist - or, The Young Theologian. It's written in a similar style to William the Baptist, combining narrative and dialogue, and looks like a great read.
The American Presbyterian tradition is broad and deep, and Log College Press plans on including as much of that tradition as possible. We've already posted some works by Alexander McLeod, and works by John Anderson and James Renwick Willson will be coming soon, in addition to other 18th-19th century Associate Presbyterians and Reformed Presbyterian authors. If there are men in particular whose works you'd like us to find and post, please let us know.
Most students of church history have heard of Gilbert Tennent's sermon "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry" (we still haven't been able to locate a 18th or 19th century PDF of that sermon, unfortunately - at some point we'll give up and post a modern digital copy of it). But you may be unaware of Tennent's other works. In addition to the sermons published in Archibald Alexander's Sermons and Essays by the Tennents and Their Contemporaries, Tennent published Twenty-three Sermons on Man's Chief End, Defensive War Defended, and Irenicum Ecclesiasticum: A Humble Impartial Essay Upon the Peace of Jerusalem (and probably more - if you know of others, let us know). You can find these works on our Gilbert Tennent page. Enjoy!
Thomas Murphy's Pastoral Theology, written in 1877, is a book of which most Presbyterian pastors are utterly unaware. And yet it is chock full of rich spiritual counsel for the labors of pastoral ministry. Chapters 2 and 3 are worth the price of the book, as this summary proves: "There are two places where, unseen by the world, the pastor receives strength and equipment for that momentous work to which he has been ordained; they are the closet and the study. We place them in the order of their relative importance first the closet, then the study. First the cultivation of the heart, then the cultivation of the head, is the rule of life from which the minister of the gospel ought never to depart" (Pastoral Theology, 91). If you have never heard of this book, take time to download it today.
(Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a picture of Thomas Murphy - if anyone knows of one, please let us know!)
In 1861, the Committee on Foreign Missions at the 1st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Assembly, at that time known as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America), gave their report to the delegates present. The Committee's members included John Leighton Wilson (a former missionary to Gabon, Africa, and from 1861 till 1884 the Executive Secretary of the PCUS Committee on Foreign Missions) and James Beverlin Ramsey (a former missionary to the Indian tribes in America and author of a commentary on the first 11 chapters of Revelation). As a part of their report, the Committee composed one of the most stirring statements on the power and necessity of global missions ever written:
"[T]he General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church’s banner, as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the headship of our Lord, his last command: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;’ regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord’s promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object, a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which, in connection with the love of Christ, can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources so as to cause her to carry on, with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of the people and pressed upon their consciences. The ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath-school teachers, and especially the parents, ought, and are enjoined by the Assembly, to give particular attention to all those for whose religious teaching they are responsible, in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, to form habits of systematic benevolence, and to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field." (Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederates States of America (1861), page 17 - one day, Lord willing, we'll have these Minutes uploaded to this site!)
Most pastors and seminary students are aware of Charles Hodge's three volume Systematic Theology. It is one of the most recognized works of the 19th century, and can be purchased here. But this set certainly was not the only systematic theology published by Presbyterians in the 19th century. Sometimes remembered are William Greenough Thayer Shedd's Dogmatic Theology (you can purchase the modern edition of this book here) and Robert Lewis Dabney's Systematic Theology (you can purchase the Banner of Truth reprint of this volume here). Very few people know that Robert Jefferson Breckinridge published a two volume systematic theology, entitled The Knowledge of God Objective Considered and The Knowledge of God Subjectively Considered.
Older systematic theologies weren't asking all the same questions we ask today, of course - but that's a big reason why they are so helpful to use. They ask questions we don't even know we need to be asking. So the next time you're wrestling with a theological question, dip into one of these volumes and see what riches you might find.
Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) had been the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., for less than a year, when in 1865 the Chaplain of the US House of Representatives, William H. Channing, requested him to preach a memorial discourse on the occasion of the approval of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery in the country. In so doing he became the first African-American man to speak in the US Capitol building. Garnet had been educated classically in New York, having escaped Southern slavery with his family when he was nine years old. He came into contact with the Presbyterian church through the ministry of Theodore Sedgwick Wright, and eventually became a Presbyterian pastor in New York, and then Washington, D.C.
His life story and memorial discourse is found here, and is important reading for Presbyterians today.
James Henley Thornwell's sermon "The Sacrifice of Christ the Type and Model of Missionary Effort" in Volume 2 of his Collected Writings is something every missionary, every pastor, every Christian should read. In it, he reflects upon John 10:17-18, and Jesus' voluntary sacrifice for His people, and draws application from it for the church of Jesus in every age. What motivated and marked Jesus must motivate and mark His disciples: reverence for God's glory, pity for the misery of man, a willingness to suffer, and a hope of reward. There are so many quotes I could highlight, but I'll give you these two. Read the entire sermon this afternoon!
“Is there nothing in this spectacle of a world in ruins to stir the compassion of the Christian heart? Can we look upon our fellows, members of the same family, pregnant with the same instincts and destined to the same immortality, and feel no concern for the awful prospect before them? They are perishing, and we have the bread of life; they are famished with thirst, and we have the water of which if a man drink he shall never thirst; they are dead, and we have the Spirit of life. We have but to announce our Savior’s name, to spread the story of the Cross, and we open the door of hope to the multitudes that are perishing for lack of knowledge.” (432)
“When I consider the magnitude and grandeur of the motives which press upon the Church to undertake the evangelization of the world; when I see that the glory of God, the love of the Savior and pity for the lost all conspire in one great conclusion; when I contemplate our own character and relations as spiritual priests, and comprehend the dignity, the honor, the tenderness and self-denial of the office; and then reflect upon the indifference, apathy and languor which have seized upon the people of God; when I look to the heavens above me and the world around me, and hear the call which the wail of perishing millions sends up to the skies thundered back upon the Church with all the solemnity of a Divine commission; when a world says, Come, and pleads its miseries; when God says, Go, and pleads His glory, and Christ repeats the command, and points to His hands and His feet and His side – it is enough to make the stone cry out of the wall and the beam out of the timber to answer it.” (448)