Helps to Private and Family Prayer

Two works by 19th century American Presbyterians newly added to Log College Press are designed to aid individuals and families in their devotions to God. 

The first, by James Robert Boyd (1804-1890), is Daily Communion with God on the Plan Recommended by Rev. Matthew Henry, V.D.M., for Beginning, Spending, and Concluding Each Day with God (1873). This revision of Henry's Directions for Daily Communion with God (a work that has also been republished under the title of The Secret of Communion with God, is different than his Method of Prayer), is edited with helpful introductory matter concerning the life of Henry, Henry's own practice of piety, and poetic verse inserted by Boyd for meditation and contemplation. This work shows the value placed by one 19th century Presbyterian minister on spending each day for and with God, much as his Puritan forebears did. 

The second is a course of daily family prayers for morning and evening over a month's time by John Hall (1829-1898), called Family Prayers, For Four Weeks (1868). These written prayers should be seen as guides for those in need of assistance in leading their family worship, that is, head of households, including households with absent fathers. They are meant to be adapted or modified to suit circumstances, but mainly to encourage regular family worship twice a day. They are partly Hall's own writings, and partly borrowed, he says, from an earlier anonymous author. One will note the prayers for Sabbath preparation and sanctification, as well as for all the daily needs of individuals, families, and civil and ecclesiastical society. This is a good guide for families who need a bit of assistance in this most precious family duty. 

If you need help with your private or family prayers, or know someone who does (and who doesn't?), please download these works and make use today of these valuable aids from two centuries gone by. 

Westminster Shorter Catechism for Today's Youth

When the Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646-1648, it was designed, according to the Church of Scotland which adopted it, "to be a directory for catechising such as are of weaker capacity," in contrast the the Westminster Larger Catechism, which was, according to the same, designed to be a "a directory for those who have made some proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion." 

Yet, in the 19th century -- not to mention the 21st -- some catechizers found it useful to revise the Shorter Catechism for the benefit of young persons. First, is Joseph Patterson Engles (1793-1861), a ruling elder at the Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and publishing agent for the Presbyterian Board of Publication. He designed a version of the Shorter Catechism titled Catechism for Young Children: Being an Introduction to the Shorter Catechism (1840). This work has been widely republished in modern times (and a very helpful study guide was produced about it by Jeff Kingswood, From the Lips of Little Ones: A Study in the in the Catechism for Very Little People, 2008), but it is believed that the PDF which appears on Log College Press (courtesy of Wayne Sparkman at the PCA Historical Center) is the only such scanned copy of the original work available on the internet today. The introduction is a precious word of encouragement to parents and teachers: "Emulate the spirit of the pious mother who, when asked by a witness of her patience and successful perseverance in the instruction of one of her children, 'How could you repeat that sentence to the child twenty times?' answered, 'If I had repeated it only nineteen times I should have lost my labor.'" The beginning of Engles' Catechism is also beloved by many: 

Q. 1. Who made you?
A. God.
Q. 2. What else did God make?
A. God made all things.
Q. 3. Why did God make you and all things?
A. For his own glory.
Q. 4. How can you glorify God?
A. By loving him and doing what he commands.

Second, James Robert Boyd (1804-1890), a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, pastor, educator, author of text-books, and other works, including an exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. He also wrote The Child's Book on the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1855, since republished as A Child's Guide to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, 2015). Boyd designed this work for children 12 and under, and recommends that study and memorization of this version of the catechism be undertaken for an half hour each Sabbath afternoon. 

For parents who might feel that their young ones are not quite ready for the Westminster Shorter Catechism, these 19th century Presbyterian abbreviated versions may provide a suitable alternative, and while they are available in modern reprints, the introductions particularly to both works are not always included, and they are worth downloading for thoughtful consideration.