The Presbyterians, by Charles Lemuel Thompson

Charles Lemuel Thompson was a 19th-century Presbyterian pastor in Juneau, Wisconsin; Janesville, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Kansas City, Kansas; New York City, New York; and the Secretary of the Board of Home Missions of the PCUSA. He was a poet, a preacher, and an historian. His book The Presbyterians (1903) gives us insight into how a northern Presbyterian who ministered a good deal of his life in the west of his day, and was involved deeply in home missions, viewed the history of his church. 

Log College Press exists to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries, and works from the period that tell the story of the period are particularly interesting to the historian. Browse our site and you'll find many more books like this history by Thompson. 

What did the 19th century American Presbyterians think about the French Huguenots?

It is perhaps not surprising that 19th century American Presbyterians, who followed largely the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564), wrote much in appreciation of the French Huguenots. It was the French Huguenots after all who established the first Protestant colonies in America, and the story of the Huguenots is a story, not unlike that of the Scottish Covenanters or the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, of men, women and children who pursued liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. 

Between the Huguenot and Puritan there was no stream to bridge over. They had in their common Calvinism and love of freedom a bond of sympathy and union that brought them into harmony as soon as their tongues had learned to speak a common language. 
-- Lucian J. Fosdick, The French Blood in America (1911), p. 210

Two brothers, Charles (1828-1887) and Henry M. Baird (1832-1906), in particular, wrote a great deal about the Huguenots. Charles wrote: 1) History of the Huguenot Emigration to America (1885), Vols. 1 & 2; while Henry published: 1) History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France (1879), Vols. 1 & 2; 2) The Huguenots and Henry of Navarre (1886), Vols. 1 & 2; 3) The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1895), Vols. 1 & 2; and 4) Theodore Beza: The Counsellor of the French Reformation, 1519-1605 (1899).

William M. Blackburn (1828-1898) authored a series of well-researched historical biographies, including Young Calvin in Paris (1865); The College Days of Calvin (1865); William Farel, and the Story of the Swiss Reform (1867); and Admiral Coligny, and the Rise of the Huguenots, Vols. 1 & 2 (1869).

William Carlos Martyn (1841-1917) wrote A History of the Huguenots (1866).

William H. Foote (1794-1869) wrote The Huguenots; or, The French Reformed Church (1870).

Thomas C. Johnson (1859-1936) wrote John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation: A Sketch (1900).

These books are available on the Log College Press website, so take some time to browse through them soon.

How much do you know about New School Presbyterianism? Read Samuel Baird.

In 1837-38, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America split in two. Suddenly, there were New School Presbyterians and Old School Presbyterians. Or perhaps it wasn't so sudden. How did this split occur? What was it over? What was New School Presbyterianism? What was Old School Presbyterianism? Samuel Baird, who compiled the first Digest of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, has given us a comprehensive history of this division, going all the way back to the beginnings of Presbyterianism in America in the 1600s. A History of the New School, and of the Questions Involved in the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church in 1838 is certainly not as well known as George Marsden's The Evangelical Mind and the New School Experience, but it is absolutely worth your time if you're wanting to understand 19th-century Presbyterianism better. 

Late 19th century handbooks for busy Presbyterians in the pew

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 AgesThe 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? 

Presbyterians in South Carolina, do you know your church's history?

In 1870 and 1883, George Howe (professor at Columbia Theological Seminary from 1831 until his death in 1883) published his two volume opus magnum: The History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. If you are a Presbyterian living in the Palmetto State, this should at least be a book you peruse (it's over 1500 pages long, so I doubt many will read it in its entirety). Telling the story of God's faithfulness in South Carolina through 1850, Howe performed a great service to the church, and we do well to remember the story, the servant who told it, and the God at the center of it all. 

Two key 19th century histories of the American Presbyterians Churches

In the late 1890s, Phillip Schaff led a team of editors in publishing the American Church History Series, "consisting of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History." Thomas Cary Johnson wrote the history of the Southern Presbyterian Church, and Robert Ellis Thompson wrote the history of the Northern Presbyterian Church. Both are foundational for understanding how the 19th century Presbyterian churches understood themselves and their past, present, and futures. One nice feature of these books is a detailed bibliography of sources used from the 18th and 19th centuries. These volumes are little known, but worth reading.