What did 19th century Presbyterians think about the canon of Scripture? Here are two sources.

The topic of the canon of Scripture is always interesting and difficult for Christians. We must remember, however, that we are not the first to ask questions about the canon. In the 19th century, Archibald Alexander and Francis Smith Sampson each wrote on the topic of canon. Alexander wrote a book entitled The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, or The Bible Complete without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions (1851), and Sampson gave two lectures on "The Authority of the Sacred Canon and the Integrity of the Sacred Text."  Undoubtedly, the way we approach this question has changed since the mid-1800s. But there is bound to be wisdom and insight we can glean from these fathers in the faith.

Who can take the sinner's stead? Francis Smith Sampson on the necessity of the work of Jesus Christ

Francis Smith Sampson (1814-1854) was a pastor and professor at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. He died young, but left us with several gems, including a commentary on Hebrews and a lecture on the canon. The following is an excerpt from a sermon included in his Memoirs, written by Robert Lewis Dabney. It beautifully expresses the sole sufficiency of Jesus Christ to save sinners. 

"It behooved another, far above every creature and every name that is named, whether in Heaven or on Earth, to undertake and execute for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coequal with the Father, in all respects divine, stoops to take our nature upon himself. It is not man, nor angel, but God-man, or God manifest in the flesh, that is our Saviour. It is he, whose are the worlds and all the inhabitants thereof: who holds in his hands the government and the law: dependent on no being, and bound to none beyond his own righteous ordination. Of his own account, therefore, he comes; and, moved by no obligation but his own merciful and sovereign purpose, he assumes our nature complete, saving sin; thus freely subjecting himself to the law, that he may meet all its demands upon the sinner, and not only deliver him from eternal death, but secure for him everlasting life. To purchase Heaven, he obeys the law: to save from Hell, he suffers death. Infinite justice accepts the substitute. No mere creature could ever so magnify the law and make it honorable. No obedience was ever so worthy, no suffering was ever so satisfactory. The law can ask nothing more: its claims are fully met. Our iniquities were laid upon him: his righteousness is reckoned to us. Hell was our desert; Heaven is our reward! It only remains that this Saviour be able to take us, all deformed as we are, and fashion us after his own glorious image: that he be able to deliver us from the bondage of Satan, whose captives we are, and from sin, whose pollutions we love; and thus, while he gives us freedom, enable us to preserve and enjoy it: and he is all the Saviour, and the very Saviour that we need.

All this he can do, and will, for all who call upon him in truth. A new heart he will give them: new desires he will create within them, and new objects of pursuit he will set before them. He will never leave nor forsake them. In all the wilderness he will be their companion and guardian and guide: no enemy shall triumph over them, no weapon formed against them shall prosper. All the trials and difficulties of the way he will convert into blessings: all things, by his care, shall work together for their good. And when, their course being finished and their work done, they come to leave all that is dear on earth, he will take them to himself: Heaven will be their home, and in his presence they shall dwell: sorrow and sin shall have seen their end; and the high and holy joys of angels and saints shall be theirs forever and ever.