Presbyterians and the 'Revolution' of 1776

Presbyterianism has always been odious to tyrants. It motivated revolts against tyrants by French Huguenots, Scottish Covenanters, Dutch Calvinists, English Puritans, American Presbyterians, and other Reformed Protestants in history. David W. Hall in The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (2003) and Douglas F. Kelly in The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments From the 16th to the 18th Centuries (1992) are two modern works which have studied this phenomenon. 

In the 19th century, on the occasion of the centennial of the American War of Independence, William Pratt Breed (1816-1889) published several works dealing with how the the colonial American conflict with Great Britain was a war largely based on Presbyterian principles of resistance to tyranny. There were those in England who described it as a "Presbyterian Rebellion." Breed quotes Thomas Carlyle thus: "Protestantism was a revolt against spiritual sovereignties, popes and much else. Presbyterians carried out the revolt against earthly sovereignties." Even Robert Burns once wrote about the Scottish Covenanters: "THE SOLEMN League and Covenant / Now brings a smile, now brings a tear; / But sacred Freedom, too, was theirs: / If thou’rt a slave, indulge thy sneer."

Breed published: 1) Jenny Geddes, or, Presbyterianism and Its Great Conflict with Despotism (1869); 2) Presbyterianism, and Its Services in the Revolution of 1776 (1875); 3) Presbyterians and the Revolution (1876); and 4) a tribute to John Witherspoon (1877), who was the Presbyterian pastor who so largely influenced the American War of Independence and signed its Declaration. (See Witherspoon's Works here.)

For an introduction into American Presbyterian history and how our nation became an independent republic, for reasons based on Presbyterian principles of resistance of tyranny, these are works still worth reading today. 

A Word to the Weary

Christian, Are you physically weary from many labors during the day, or due to sickness and troubles in this earthly tabernacle which we bear? Are you vexed in your soul due to unkind words, or at the state of the church today, or for the injustices in this world, or from spiritual warfare or persecution for the name of Christ in your life or in the lives of saints around the world? Remember the words of Christ: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). 

In that vein, then, also consider this little book of encouragement by a 19th century Southern pastor: A Word to the Weary (1874) by William Swan Plumer (1802-1880). It is a balm to the soul filled with words of comfort from the Physician of Souls. Take up and read, and be comforted, Christian. 

A.A. Hodge's Table-Talk - By a "Scottish Princetonian"

Charles Adamson Salmond (1853-1932) came to Princeton from Scotland, and would go back to Scotland to minister there, but as a student of both Charles Hodge and A.A. Hodge, he was well-positioned to record his observations as he heard the younger Hodge speak in his classroom. The first half of Princetoniana: Charles & A.A. Hodge: With Class and Table Talk of Hodge the Younger (1888) consists of biographical sketches of these two great men. The second half -- Brevia Theologica -- reproduces Salmond's notes taken while in the same room with A.A. Hodge. This is a book with a unique insight to offer for those with an interest in Princetoniana

Looking Back From the Sunset Land

In the twilight of his life, Reformed Presbyterian pastor Nathan Robinson Johnston (1820-1904)  [according to our author, the 'n' in Robinson was silent] wrote a fascinating autobiography which touches on a wide variety of people, places and topics. Looking Back From the Sunset Land: Or, People Worth Knowing (1898) was a popular read in its day, and it is worth taking up again today to learn more about the experiences and recollections of this interesting pastor, with a heart for Chinese missionary efforts in California, and those who intersected with his life's journey. 

Lineally descended from a Scottish Covenanter martyr "Sir Archibald Johnston, or Lord Warriston [(1611-1663)], whom the Scotch Covenant-breakers hung in Edinburgh" (p. 569), our Nathan Johnston makes known his interest in the family genealogy (see p. 274). The story of his ancestors (his great-grandparents were killed by Indians, and his grandfather himself killed an Indian), and his own early years and entry into the ministry is told, along with the effect of the Fugitive Slave law of 1850 on his Reformed Presbyterian abolitionist convictions. Also noted are his contributions to the publishing efforts of the leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (an 1860 letter from Nathan to Garrison can be viewed here) and Frederick Douglass. Nathan would go on to serve as the publisher of The Free Press and Our Banner.

His older (by 18 years) brother, the Rev. John Black Johnston (1802-1882), who founded Geneva College, is discussed, along with his departure from the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church (RPCNA) to join the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA). Nathan remained in the RPCNA, and the ecclesiastical division within his family took a toll. Nathan also served as president of Geneva College (1865-1867). The lesson he learned from this experience helped him in life to show grace to others with whom he might disagree theologically. (For a a remarkable example of this, see pp. 569-570, in which our exclusively Psalm-singing RP pastor recounts his "pleasant conversation" with Ira D. Sankey, known to some as the "father of modern gospel music.") 

Nathan at various points in his life served as a missionary to the "contrabands" (freed slaves) in Port Royal, South Carolina; served briefly as a professor at Geneva College; and started a mission school among the Chinese in California. His biographical sketch can be pieced together from William Melancthon Glasgow's History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America and The Geneva Book; and Owen Foster Thompson's Sketches of the Ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian of North American From 1888 to 1930. But the tale of his life, his travels, and the ministers, celebrities and ordinary people that he met along the way, fleshes out a remarkable life story told by a humble Covenanter pastor. 

The Gospel of the Incarnation, by William Swan Plumer

“Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate, was made under the law, lived, acted, obeyed, suffered died and rose again for his people.

He came down to earth that they might go up to heaven.

He suffered that they might reign.

He became a servant that they might become kings and priests unto God.

He died that they might live.

He bore the cross that their enmity might be slain, and their sins expiated.

He loved them that they might love God.

He was rich and became poor that they, who were poor, might be made rich.

He descended into the lower parts of the earth that they might sit in heavenly places.

He emptied himself that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.

He took upon him human nature that they might be partakers of the divine nature.

He made flesh his dwelling place that they might be an habitation of God through the Spirit.

He made himself of no reputation, that they might wear his new name, and be counted an eternal excellency.

He became a worm, and no man, that they, who were sinful worms, might be made equal to the angels.

He bore the curse of a broken covenant that they might partake of all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.

Though heir of all things, he was willingly despised of the people, that they, who were justly condemned, might obtain and inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

His death was a satisfaction to divine justice, a ransom for many, a propitiation for sin, a sweet smelling savour to God, that we, who were an offense to God, might become his sons and daughters.

He was made sin for his people that they might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Though Lord of all He took the form of a servant, that they, who were the servants of sin, might prevail like princes with God.

He, who had made swaddling-clothes bands for the sea, was wrapped in swaddling-clothes that they, who were cast out in their blood, might be clothed in linen white and clean, which is the righteousness of the saints.

He had not where to lay His head that they who otherwise must have laid down in eternal sorrow, might read the mansions in His Father’s house.

He was beset with lions and bulls of Bashan, that his chosen might be compassed about with an innumerable company of angels and of the spirits of just men made perfect.

He drank the cup of God’s indignation that they might for ever drink of the river of His pleasures.

He hungered that they might eat the bread of life.

He thirsted that they might drink the water of life.

He was numbered with the transgressors that they might stand among the justified, and be counted among the jewels.

He made His grave with the wicked that they might sleep in Jesus.

Though He was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, yet He became a helpless infant, that creatures of yesterday, sentenced to death, might live for ever.

He wore a crown of thorns that all, who love His appearing, might wear a crown of life.

He wept tears of anguish that His elect might weep tears of repentance not to be repented of.

He bore the yoke of obedience unto death that they might find His yoke easy and His burden light.

He poured out His soul unto death, lay three days in the heart of the earth, then burst the bars of death, and arose to God, that they, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, might obtain the victory over the grave and become partakers of His resurrection.

He exhausted the penalty of the law that His redeemed might have access to the inexhaustible treasures of mercy, wisdom, faithfulness, truth and grace promised by the Lord.

He passed from humiliation to humiliation, till He reached the sepulcher of Joseph, that His people might be changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.

He was matchless in grace that they might be matchless in gratitude.

Though a Son, He became a voluntary exile, that they, who had wickedly wandered afar off, might be brought nigh by His blood.

He was compassed about with all their innocent infirmities that He might perfect His strength in their weakness.

His visage was so marred more than any man, that His ransomed might be presented before God without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

For a time He was forsaken of His Father that they, whom He bought with His blood, might behold the light of God’s countenance forever.

He came and dwelt with them that they might be forever with the Lord.

He was hung up naked before His insulting foes that all, who believe on His name, might wear a glorious wedding garment, a spotless righteousness.

Though He was dead, He is the firstborn among many brethren.

Through His sorrow His people obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away.

Though He endured the worst things, they do and shall forever enjoy the best things

Wonderful mystery! God was manifested in the flesh! Here is no absurdity, no contradiction, no fiction, and yet a mystery that baffles all attempts to solve it, and dazzles all human and angelic vision. Blessed is he, who is not offended in Jesus. Blessed is he, who loves the incarnate mystery, and rests upon it. It is a mystery of love, of power, of salvation. It is the mystery of Godliness. It is the great study of the inhabitants of heaven, and shall be while immortality endures.”

-- From The Grace of Christ, chapter 21

How Shall I Live?

Leo Tolstoy once asked, "What then must we do?" (based on the question asked on Luke 3:10). The Westminster Assembly asks us: "What is the chief end of man?" (Shorter Catechism Q. 1) Today's highlighted writer at Log College Press is James Beverlin Ramsey (1814-1871), who asked a similar question: "How Shall I Live?" He answers on the basis of the Apostle Paul's statement in Phil. 1:17: "To me to live in Christ." 

It is a question of eternal importance: How should we live? What is the most important reason for living, and what should we be doing about it? Read this short tract by Pastor Ramsey to see what he had to say about this most important question which every man should both ask and answer. 

19th Century Counsel for Businessmen

Everyone is engaged in buying and selling in some way, shape, or form. Yet businessmen have been called by God to labor in these skills in a peculiar way for His glory and the good of their fellow men. With this calling comes great responsibilities, privileges, perplexities, and temptations. The 1856 book The Man of Business: Considered in His Various Relations, with contributions from a variety of men (including James Waddel Alexander), focused entirely on this calling and its particular spiritual needs.

Here is the introduction: "The following Essays have been written expressly for this work. They are intended to bear upon a very important class of the community—a class which in this
country is constantly increasing. The walks of business become more ramified and extended as the luxuries of civlization and the skill of human inventions become more multiplied and more widely displayed. Every description of commercial, mechanical, and executive business, excited and created by the new wants and new imaginations of advancing society, will call for the creation and extension of new agencies to accomplish the labors which they must demand. Thus the variety and number of business agencies of every kind must spread out in a constant increase. The earnestness of competition and the fertility of invention which characterize the walks of trade will also encroach more and more upon the previous comparative tranquillity of professional life. And men of all descriptions will, to a great degree, be transformed into business men. Their temptations, their principles of action, their rules of enterprise, their responsibilities,  and their peculiar aspects of influence, will become, to a great degree, the common, aspects of the community of which, in earlier times, they have formed only a part. Such a work as the one now prepared for the publisher, who has assumed the responsibility of issuing this, will be one of general interest and usefulness. It will form an appropriate guide for the young man in his start in life. It will be an useful gift to a business friend in any period of his life of experiment. It will exercise an influence for the benefit of men, only limited by its own adaptation to usefulness; for the field upon which it enters is boundless, and the persons for whom it is calculated to be a guide and a friend, are innumerable. The
value of this particular book must be tested by the experiment of its character. It is fully believed by the publisher to be in an eminent degree adapted to be useful. He thinks that no reflecting person can read the table of contents, and remark the subjects proposed, and the  character of the gentlemen who have severally written upon them at his request, without a thorough conviction of the value of the work, and the likelihood of its usefulness to those for whom it is designed. It is, therefore, with great confidence that he sends it forth, sincerely believing he is doing a public good in the provision of such a work for sale, which is far beyond the value of any personal advantage in the particular line of his own BUSINESS, or his private profit in honorable trade."

A Pioneer Preacher Who Preached to Himself

John Craig (1709-1774) was the first Presbyterian minister settled in Virginia west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was born in County Antrim, Ireland, but chose to immigrate to America by way of Delaware in 1734. He studied for the ministry in Pennsylvania, and affiliated with Old School Presbyterianism. He was ordained to the ministry at the Triple Forks of the Shenandoah in Augusta Country, Virginia, in 1740, taking on a dual pastorate at Augusta Stone Presbyterian Church in Fort Defiance, Virginia, and at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia (this writer visited both sites recently). Augusta Stone is Virginia's oldest Presbyterian church, and is where John Craig was buried. His autobiography, titled A Preacher Preaching to Himself From a Long Text of No Less Than Sixty Years: On Review of Past Life (1769), is not easy to locate, but an extract can be read within William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia, Historical and Biographical (Second Series), pp. 28–33. It is worth a read to get a glimpse of the experimental piety of a pioneer Presbyterian minister of the 18th century. 

December 11, 1947: A Presbyterian Pastor-Teacher-Writer Entered Glory

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, John McNaugher (December 30, 1857 - December 11, 1947) was born, and seventy years ago today he entered into glory. Nicknamed "Mister United Presbyterian," he served the United Presbyterian Church of North America as a pastor, professor of New Testament literature, seminary president and as a writer and teacher. At the seminary he served -- Allegheny Theological Seminary, and its successors, Pittsburgh Seminary, and Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary -- in his dual capacity of President and Professor, he led and shaped the theological education of over 1000 men in the UPC. Theological education was very much his primary mission in life, and he was to write an interesting book titled The History of Theological Education in the United Presbyterian Church and Its Ancestories. He was President and Professor Emeritus after his retirement in 1943 until his death. A hall at the seminary (now called Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) still bears his name: John McNaugher Memorial Hall.

He is known both for editing a remarkable compilation of papers presented at two 1905 conferences held in Pittsburgh and Chicago on the subject of exclusive psalmody -- The Psalms in Worship (1907) -- in which he personally wrote an exegesis of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 that led to the conclusion that Paul's use of the terms "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" applied uniformly to the Psalter and not to the compositions of David and the imitations of Isaac Watts; and for serving as the principal drafter of the 1925 UPC Confessional Statement which, by omission of exclusive psalmody, allowed for the introduction of uninspired hymns into the worship of the UPC. He would go on to supervise the production of Psalter-Hymnals and Bible Song Books for the denomination. 

A prolific writer, his biographer (and former student of his), Paul R. Coleman, notes that his "finest" work was published shortly before his death of throat cancer in 1947: Jesus Christ: The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever. Its chapters cover the deity, humanity, virgin birth, miracles, atonement, resurrection, ascension and witnessing spirit of Christ. This writer has read this volume and concurs that it is an excellent summary of who Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished and continues to accomplish in the earth. It won a 1947 denominational book award as well. Another work by him, published in 1940, Quit You Like Men, is a rather interesting volume made up of valedictories to theological graduates which address various topics of interest, including aspects of the ministry and concerning worship. Other titles he wrote include The Virgin Birth, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews; the complete list of his writings, published and unpublished, is too long for purposes of this blog post, however. 

His life very much tracked in many ways that of the denomination he was affiliated with for essentially all of his 90 years. While McNaugher was born in 1857, the UPC was born in 1858; he served in the ministry from 1887 to 1943 (56 years); and while he died in 1947, his denomination would merge in 1958 with the PCUSA to become the UPCUSA. As of yet, Log College Press only has The Psalms in Worship available to read on our site. But we hope to add more works in the future by this most interesting theological educator ("Mr. United Presbyterian"), who is worthy of remembrance. 

Happy Birthday to James Henley Thornwell!

It was 205 years ago today that James Henley Thornwell (Dec. 9, 1812 - Aug. 1, 1862) was born in Marlboro County, South Carolina. He would go on to become one of the giants of the 19th century Southern Presbyterian church. A leading apologist for the Southern cause at the time of the War Between the States, it is less well-known that he studied for a season at Harvard University. Later, he served as moderator of the PCUSA (1847), and would take a prominent role in the establishment of the Confederate Presbyterian Church. A man who was born during the War of 1812 and who died during the War that split North and South politically and ecclesiastically, Thornwell's career marked by controversy and conflict. His positions on slavery, the validity of Roman baptism, and the ruling elder are among the topics that generated the most heat during his ecclesiastical conflicts. He served a pastor, professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, as a president of South Carolina College. He founded the Southern Presbyterian Review, and edited the Southern Quarterly Review. His collected writings span four volumes. Benjamin Morgan Palmer published his biography: The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell, which reveal its subject to be a man in whom great intellect and great piety were wedded, with many other facts of a remarkable personality (see also John Bailey Adger's Memorial of Thornwell too). Thornwell's "Relation of the State to Christ," which appears in Vol. 4 of his Collected Writings, is, in this writer's opinion, an outstanding example of what constitutes godly civil government. His writings remain worthy of study whether or not one agrees with him on all points (have you read Thornwell on missions? it is worth a look!), and so today, we remember the birth of a Southern Presbyterian giant. 

James Waddel Alexander on the Christian's Duty to the Poor

James Waddel Alexander, the son of Archibald Alexander, was fond of telling stories to make theological and pastoral points. Much like the Lord Jesus, Alexander sought to drive home his point in compelling ways - particularly to young people in his churches. His 1844 book Good - Better - Best is a wonderful example of this practice. It is even more wonderful in its subject matter: how may Christians do good to those in need around us?

In the preface, the purpose of Alexander's work is explained: "In a world, burdened as ours is, with manifold sufferings, one of the first questions suggested to a renewed soul is, How may these sufferings be lessened or removed? To do good and to communicate, is the grand aim of every sincere believer in that blessed Redeemer, who left us his example, in regard to body as well as soul. It is to answer this inquiry, that the following pages are made public." And this was in 1844! How much more do we need to think about this question in 2017. 

I won't spoil the mystery of the title for you: to what does "Good - Better - Best" refer? You'll have to read to find out.

The Covenanters in America

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America is descended ecclesiastically from the Church of Scotland. The first pastor affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian of Scotland in America was Alexander Craighead (1707-1766). This writer recently visited the site of his pastorate in Virginia - Windy Cove Presbyterian Church in Millboro, Virginia. For an introduction into the history of the Covenanters in Scotland, see Robert Pollock Kerr (1850-1923)'s The Blue Flag, or, The Covenanters Who Contended For 'Christ's Crown and Covenant' (1905). To better understand the Covenanter Church's position on issues in 19th century America, see William Sommerville (1800-1876)'s The Social Position of the Reformed Presbyterians, or Cameronians (1869), and James Calvin McFeeters (1848-1928)'s The Covenanter Vision in America (1892). The issues that were important to 19th century American Covenanters are highlighted in these volumes. If you wish to understand their perspective on slavery, secret societies, worship, covenanting, the mediatorial kingship of Christ over all things, and many more topics of interest, these works will be of great interest. To understand the meaning of the motto "For Christ's Crown & Covenant" and the Blue Banner flag, see Kerr's most helpful book. 

Benjamin Morgan Palmer on Family Worship

Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818-1902) published an essay on The Family in two parts, concluding with a section on the importance of family worship. Lloyd Sprinkle of Sprinkle Publications, who published a modern reprint of this work, conjoined with J.W. Alexander's Thoughts on Family Worship, wrote this about Palmer's study: "To this pastor's mind, this work, 'The Family,' presents the best teaching on the family that I have had the pleasure to read." 

Palmer reminds us that God will pour out his fury on families that do not call upon his name, and that Scripture emphasizes that "the household [is] an altar upon which the fire of pure religious worship should ever burn." Although the time spent on family worship specifically in his treatise is limited, it beautifully highlights not only the necessity and value of morning and evening worship, but also the devotions of a family as expressed by giving thanks at meals, at anniversaries of births and deaths, at family reunions, when families are in mourning, and at all such occasions in the life of family. Palmer has already established that marriage and the family are instituted by God, and his conclusion that daily family worship is to be rendered to God flows of necessity. According to Palmer, the family is of God and all of its acts, relations and expressions of devotions are necessarily regulated and required of God. Family Bible study and family worship are simply the oxygen that families need to breathe and by which they live to God's glory. Having laid the groundwork that families are instituted and regulated by God, Palmer's conclusion that family worship is necessary and needed caps a beautiful treatise by a 19th century pastor that is needed very much today.

What Does a 19th Century Presbyterian Pastor Have to Say About the Relationship Between Pastors and Their Flocks?

We have highlighted Thomas Murphy (1823-1900)'s important work on Pastoral Theology (1877) previously, but additionally, he has written separately on Duties of Church Members to the Church (1878) and People and Pastor: Duties Involved in the Important Relation (1887). Both of these works are filled with practical wisdom and eminently relevant today within the life of any congregation. For a sampling of the topics considered, here is a list of the duties of church members discussed, followed by a list of the relationship aspects between pastors and their flock. 

Duties of Church Members: 

  • To pray for the Church;
  • To attend Church;
  • To support the Church; 
  • To draw others to the Church;
  • To study the peace of the Church;
  • To guard the good name of the Church;
  • To stand by the Pastor of the Church;
  • To contribute to the benevolent objects of the Church;
  • To adopt some branch of Christian work; and
  • To help in the Sabbath-school of the Church.

Topics involved in the important relationship between Pastor and the People include: 

  • "Electing a Pastor"
  • "Love Your Own Church"
  • "Hearing and Criticising the Sermon"
  • "Receiving the Pastor's Visits"
  • "Bearing Evil Reports to the Pastor"
  • "Guarding the Pastor's TIme"
  • "Working With the Pastor"
  • "Aiding the Pastor by Attending Church"
  • "Drawing Non-Attendants to Church"
  • "Minor Duties"
  • "Spoiling a Pastor"
  • "Guarding the Pastor's Good Name"
  • "Pastor's Salary" 
  • "Prayer for the Pastor"

    From an experienced 19th century Presbyterian pastor, there are many practical lessons here that are worth considering today. Consider downloading these books for further study. 

The Ten Commandments - A 19th Century Pastor's Guide for Children

Before Jonathan Cross (1802-1876) wrote his widely beloved Illustrations of the Shorter Catechism for Children and Youth (1864), he wrote Stories and Illustrations of the Ten Commandments for the Young (1862). In similar fashion as former, the latter, though not as well-known today, is a helpful guide to explaining the intent of the Decalogue in anecdotal form that young ones can understand. He helps young readers to understand that God sees all and is everywhere, and helps them to understand why the second commandment forbids pictures of God, or why coveting and enviousness is wrong. He concludes with an explanation of the Golden Rule, and a gospel message (emphasizing that we have all broken God's law, but Jesus Christ kept it perfectly and how we thus ought to look to Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of our sins). This is a wonderful little 19th century guide for parents and children about how young ones may better understand and, by the grace of God, to keep the Ten Commandments. 

He Being Dead Yet Speaketh

The last words of select faithful American Presbyterian ministers, including many of those highlighted here on Log College Press, were compiled into an interesting volume by Alfred Nevin (1816-1890), written just seven years before his own death: How They Died; or, The Last Words of American Presbyterian Ministers

As Nevin writes, "The following instances, in which some of God's dear ministering servants, as representatives of many of 'like precious faith,' when they reached the borders of the river between them and Immanuel's land, glanced at the hills and heard something of the harmony and inhaled the fragrance blown across, are replete with interest, and should not fail to be read with profit." 

One striking aspect of this compilation is to note how many times the very words of Scripture were (having been memorized long before) on the lips of those about to meet their Lord. May this volume be an encouragement to readers to keep their eyes fixed upon Him who is the Author and Finisher of their faith and to whom we say, "Amen, come Lord Jesus!" 

James Waddel Alexander's Directions for Reading the Bible

James Waddel Alexander, the oldest son of Archibald Alexander, cared deeply that God's people - even children - read the Bible. But he knew that they needed help to learn how to read it with greater skill and insight. To that end, he wrote an amazing little book: Uncle Austin and His Nephews, or, The Scripture Guide: Being a Familiar Introduction to the Study of the Bible (1838). Written in dialogue form, this book introduces the Bible to those who know little about it - but even those who have studied it for some time will benefit from Alexander's wisdom. As just one example, consider these 31 directions for reading the Bible (from pages 204ff.):

1. In all your reading of the Bible, bear in mind that it is the word of God.
2. Pray for divine aid and illumination.
3. Read with patience and self-denial.
4. Read with unbroken attention.
5. Endeavour to learn something new from every verse, before you leave it.
6. Exercise faith on all that you read.
7. Read with a willing and obedient mind.
8. Let all that you read be applied to yourselves, in the way of self-examination.
9. Seek to have your affections stirred up while you read.
10. Set apart a special time for devotional reading.
11. Keep the Lord Jesus in view, in all that you read.
12. Read the Bible more than anything else.
13. Read the Bible daily.
14. Read in regular course.
15. Neglect no part of Scripture.
16. Let your daily portion be of proper length; neither too much nor too little.
17. Read for yourself; impartially, and without prejudice.
18. In every passage, try to have before your mind the whole scene, and all the circumstances.
19. Compare passage with passage.
20. Pay special attention to the connexion and scope of every passage.
21. Make a judicious use of commentaries.
22. Read the text abundantly.
23. Remember that this book is to be the study of your life.
24. Cherish ardent love for the Scriptures.
25. Charge your memory with all that you read.
26. Commit to memory some portion of Scripture every day.
27. Examine yourself on what you have read.
28. Make what you have read the subject of meditation.
29. Frequently converse about what you have been reading.
30. Turn what you read into prayer.
31. In all your reading, remember that it is for the salvation of your soul.

May the Lord enable us to read in these ways, for His glory and our good!

Annals of the American Pulpit Volume 9

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!

Joseph Addison Alexander on the jealousy/zeal of the Lord of hosts

"The word [translated "zeal"] expresses the complex idea of strong affection, comprehending or attended by a jealous preference of one above another. It is used in the Old Testament to signify not only God's intense love for his people but his jealousy in their behalf, that is to say, his disposition to protect and favor them at the expense of others. Sometimes, moreover, it included the idea of a jealous care of his own honor, or a readiness to take offence at anything opposed to it, and a determination to avenge it when insulted. There is nothing in this idea of the divine jealousy incongruous or unworthy. The expressions are derived from the dialect of human passion, but describe something absolutely right on God's part for the very reasons which demonstrate its absurdity and wickedness on man's. These two ideas of God's jealous partiality for his own people, and his jealous sensibility respecting his own honor, are promiscuously blended in the usage of the word, and are perhaps both included in the case before us. Both for his own sake and his people's, he would bring these events to pass. Or rather the two motives are identical, that is to say, the one includes the other. The welfare of the church is only to be sought so far as it promotes God's glory, and a zeal which makes the glory of the church an object to be aimed at for its own sake, cannot be a zeal for God, or is at best a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. The mention of God's jealousy or zeal as the procuring cause of this result affords a sure foundation for the hopes of all believers. His zeal is not a passion, but a principle of powerful and certain operation. The astonishing effects produced by feeble means in the promotion, preservation, and extension of Christ's kingdom, can only be explained upon the principle that the zeal of the Lord of hosts has effected it."
-- Joseph Addison Alexander on Isaiah 9:7

Rev. William White D.D. His Memoir and a Glimpse into Virginia Presbyterianism

William Spotswood White (1800-1873) was a little known Presbyterian Pastor in Virginia, born in Hanover County, Virginia and through his long ministry he lived all over the commonwealth. White was born in Virginia, and would as a pastor feel it to be his duty to remain in Virginia. White provided in his autobiography, a glimpse into Virginia Presbyterianism and its warmest characters. Perhaps the characters that made the greatest impressions on him were the Rice brothers, Benjamin and John. Both of these brothers greatly encouraged William White and provided him some wonderful anecdotes! White would serve basically as a church planter, university chaplain and large congregation pastor. Dr. White in his autobiography leaves something for everyone to enjoy. 

Here is one of the enjoyable anecdotes he records:

Dr. John H. Rice and his brother Rev. Benjamin Rice were two very different types of people.

When Dr. White was being examined by Presbytery in Church Government, Dr. John Rice said:

“Mr. White, tell us, in the fewest words possible, what is the chief use of ruling elders in our church?”

To which his brother replied, answering  for Dr. White, “Tell him, to watch the Preachers”. The whole crowd laughed and Dr. John H. Rice apologized for asking such a poor question, White recorded.

This book is truly a lovely little read if you want a glimpse into Virginia Presbyterianism, by a Virginia pastor, that loved and labored only in Virginia.