The Ordination Sermon of John Huss

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To set the record straight at the beginning, this post is not about the Bohemian Reformer John Huss (1369-1415). Instead, this story is about a 19th century Native American Presbyterian minister who shares the name.

In 2012, a new addition was made to the Cherokee Trail of Tears Historic Trail - the Fort Payne, Alabama Cabin Historic Site was designated as a landmark. This site marks the spot where a log cabin once stood; the cabin (pictured in the historic marker sign) was destroyed in 1946 and all that remains now is the chimney. Both were built, adjacent to the Wills Town Mission, by a Cherokee Presbyterian leader who, facing federal troops who were present to enforce the 1830 Indian Removal Act, voluntarily led 74 members of the Cherokee Nation westward in November 1837. The following spring that cabin was absorbed into the newly constructed Fort Payne, and the forced march known as the Trail of Tears began in earnest.

The man who built that cabin in 1825 was originally known as We-Cha-Lah-Nae-He, or “the Spirit” (or “Captain Spirit”). After his conversion to Christ that same year — a fruit of the labors of the Brainerd Mission, near Chattanooga, Tennessee — he took the name John Huss in honor of the aforementioned Reformer. It was in July 1833 that he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. We have recently added his ordination sermon to the inventory of Log College Press, as well as additional writings by this remarkable man.

After leaving Alabama in 1837, he settled at Honey Creek, Oklahoma, where he helped to establish a Cherokee Bible Society and served as pastor — at the congregation newly-organized by Cephas Washburn and Samuel Austin Worcester in 1838 — until his death in 1858.

There is much that we wish we knew better about this intriguing man. This writer is grateful for the kindness of author James Barnes, who shared extracts from his forthcoming book Annie Spirit’s Cherokee History, 1826-1910, which marshals a great deal of the biographical facts known about Huss. A full-blooded Cherokee, he never learned English. The writings that we have were all translated by others. His portrait was painted 1844 by John Mix Stanley, the famous painter of Native Americans, but apparently the portrait was destroyed in the great fire at the Smithsonian in 1865.

The sermon prepared by John Huss for his ordination trial was based on Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The translation of this sermon was prepared by Elias Boudinot (who also gave the charge at Huss’ ordination) and by Samuel Austin Worcester (Worcester, Boudinot, Stephen Foreman and Huss all performed a valuable service through their Bible translation labors). It remains today a remarkable example of early 19th century Native American Presbyterian preaching.

In this sermon, Huss exhorts his hearers to avoid the wide path that leads to destruction and to pursue the narrow path which leads to Jesus Christ and salvation. In doing so, he paints a picture of the contrasting works of the devil and those of Christ.

In the first place, I will describe the works of the devil. He teaches men to do only evil continually. He teaches them to sin against God, and to commit all manner of evil in his sight. He is led to teach men thus by his great desire that they may become like him, self-eternally accursed in the fire of hell. Thus he is employed in teaching all manner of wickedness. For wickedness fills the ranks and attends the march of those who do the will of Satan. And on this ac count, perhaps, this way is denominated a broad way —because of the variety of evils committed by those who follow it.

Now I will tell you something of the works of the Lord Jesus Christ. To this also listen attentively.

Great are the benefits he has confer red upon mankind. When he dwelt in his Father's house above, in boundless felicity, he left that felicity, and came to this earth to suffer for the sake of the happiness of sinful men. Of his own accord he endured the sufferings of the cross, to rescue sinful men from suffering. Of his own accord he suffered the nails to be driven through his hands and his feet. Of his own accord he suffered his side to be pierced with the spear. All this he suffered of his own accord; for the shedding of his blood was for the cleansing of mankind from their great transgressions. Of his own accord he died, to deliver sinful men from death, and to give them, in his own kingdom, an everlasting home.

After further description of the two paths that either lead to hell or heaven, Huss concludes his message showing that the question at hand is a matter of life or death.

Thus you have plainly exhibited be fore you the character of the places to which these two ways conduct. The one leads to a place of the greatest misery. The other leads to a place of the greatest glory. And now consider, each one of you, what path you are pursuing. If you are following the broad way, you are now called upon to enter the narrow way leading to eternal life, of which you have this day heard. And the case of every one of you is this; though you are travelling towards the termination of these paths, it is as if you were standing at the entrance of them, and it is now left to your choice into which you will enter. Now then, my friends, I ask you, what will you do? For if you refuse to enter the narrow way, you choose the broad way which leads to death. Will you also, as multitudes do, choose the road to death? Remember that if you die in pursuing this broad way, you will arrive at hell, where you will have no friends; for there all are enemies to each other. If you arrive at that place, you will dwell in great and endless misery. You will suffer extreme torment, and not a friend will be there. While you are yet on earth, whenever, you are in pain, you want friends; and friends come to your aid. But when you suffer pain in hell, not one will come to relieve you — all will be your enemies. Think, therefore, of our Savior, who is your friend indeed. For I have told you that he suffered much to relieve you from the miseries of hell. And I tell you that those who repent of their sins, and submit themselves to him, become his. And consider; if you do not repent of your sins against our God, and submit yourselves to our Savior, can you expect to escape the pains of hell? And who, do you flatter yourselves, is able to deliver you? If you are without this Savior, you are without a Savior indeed.

If then, you would enter this narrow way, you are to repent of your sins; you are to forsake all those actions which are displeasing to our God. None can pass through the gate of that narrow way, unless he repent of his transgressions, and forsake sin; for it is a very narrow gate. You must therefore forsake every thing which is evil in the sight of our God. Then you will pass the narrow way, arriving at the dwelling place of your true friend, our Savior, and dwell there without end.

And now, I exhort you, turn your course from the kingdom of Satan, and set your face toward the kingdom of our Savior. I hope, my friends, that God will enable you to find that kingdom.

This sermon is a simple presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it provides a window into the beliefs of a remarkable man not entirely forgotten to history, but less well-known than he should be: John Huss - an advocate for the Cherokee Nation in troublous times, but above all, a faithful minister of Christ.

The Pastor in the Sick-Room by John D. Wells

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John Dunlap Wells (1815-1903) was licensed to preach the gospel in 1842, and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1844, learning, as he reports, "at the feet of Dr. Archibald Alexander, Dr. Samuel Miller, Dr. Charles Hodge and Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander, all of blessed memory." In his 61-year ministry as a pastor, he attended "hundreds" of sick beds and death beds, and acquired a store of wisdom that is shared both his The Last Week in the Life of Davis Johnson, Jr. (1861), and, most especially, in the three lectures he delivered at Princeton in 1892 and which were published a year later under the title The Pastor in the Sick-Room

In this latter volume, which is permeated with compassion for the suffering and the lost, Wells distinguishes between the sick bed and the death bed, while also emphasizing the connection between body and mind, and the need to deal lovingly and wisely with the whole person in all their circumstances. In the context of his discussion of death-bed conversions, he also recounts famous last words by various Christians (in a fashion similar to Alfred Nevin's How They Died; or, The Last Words of American Presbyterian Ministers). 

For those who minister to the sick and suffering and dying, this book will serve as an encouragement to do so in love and with compassion for the bodies, minds and souls of those in the greatest need. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me: (Matt. 25:34-36).

Note: This was originally posted on March 6, 2018 (slight edits have been made in today’s post).

John Calvin's Grave: A poem by Samuel J. Fisher

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Samuel Jackson Fisher (1847-1928) was a leading African-American Presbyterian minister in his day, who served as the pastor of the Swissvale Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 35 years; served as a long-time member of the faculty of Chatham University (then known as the Pennsylvania College for Women; served as President of the Presbyterian Board of Missions to the Freedmen; and who authored many articles, as well as a volume of poetry dedicated to his deceased wife: The Romance of Pittsburgh or Under Three Flags, and Other Poems. We have extracted here one poem which is especially noteworthy; a tribute to the great Reformer who was buried in Geneva, Switzerland, in an unmarked grave.

John Calvin’s Grave

In fair Geneva, near the arrowy Rhone,
John Calvin sleeps,—his grave without a stone.
Unmarked, unknown, yet near the busy street
Which echoed often to his hurrying feet.
While far away he saw those peaks of snow,
The Alps, so radiant in the sunset glow.
And watched Mt. Blanc's upsoaring dome,
Like some huge billow with its crest of foam,
Fit type of him, whose vast majestic mind
In moral grandeur towers o'er mankind.
Around that peak the tempests whirl and lower
And crackling lightnings blaze in hateful power,
Yet pass, and leave it stainless, strong and pure.
So from his foes his fame emerged secure;
And tho' against his work fierce hatred ranged.
Unmoved he stood, in power and aim unchanged.
Frail was his body, and, though racked with pain.
On, on he toiled, ne'er pausing to complain.
Strong were his friendships, pure his love and home;
Christ filled his heart, and not foul passion's foam.
No fear of Pope, — no dread of earthly kings
Turned his calm eyes from truth and heavenly things.
Humbled he spoke of God's wide sovereignty.
Yet taught the lowliest peasant to be free;
And while he bowed before God's boundless plan.
To souls oppressed he taught the rights of man.

Oh, clear-eyed student of the Holy Word,
Thy plea for freedom tyrants trembling heard!
Oh, wide-browed thinker of God's lofty thought,
What growth of nations have thy strong words wrought!
Thine was the task to magnify God's laws.
And trace for each event its first and only cause,
Breaking man's pride by views of God's control,
Yet sure God's child was every human soul.
And he who knelt most humbly to his God,
Secure in faith could walk unblanched abroad.
Thy words made gentle women fear no shame,
They nerved the martyr to await the flame.
From heart to heart they passed around the world,
Till kings were faced, or from their thrones were hurled.
Rest, noble Calvin, take thy well-earned sleep.
Thy fame far time shall undiminished keep.
In that low grave thy fragile body lies,
But God has writ thy name across the skies!

Ebenezer Pemberton on Divine Meditation

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Ebenezer Pemberton, Jr. (1705-1777) was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). His father, Ebenezer Pemberton, Sr., served as pastor of the Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts; the younger Pemberton served as the pastor of the First (Wall Street) Presbyterian Church of New York City for 26 years.

He preached the ordination sermon for David Brainerd, as well as a notable sermon on the death of George Whitefield (published with Phillis Wheatley’s poem on Whitefield). These and other works by Pemberton (Jr.) have been recently added to Log College Press.

Another publication of note by Pemberton is the preface which he authored to Samuel Willard’s Some Brief Sacramental Meditations Preparatory for Communion at the Great Ordinance of the Supper (1743). Before praising the Puritan Willard, whose Sacramental Meditations were published posthumously, Pemberton highlighted the importance of Divine Meditation.

Divine Meditation is a religious exercise of great account in the School of Christ; and will be the employment of serious souls, that value their proficiency in Christianity. The very power and capacity for it argues the dignity of human nature; and the right exercise; and the right exercise of it will advance the soul to a divine and angelic perfection. This duty will afford the most agreeable employment, and pleasing entertainment to our thoughts, in their largest compass, and closest collection: it will exalt the most noble powers of the soul to satisfying converse with God the first Truth, and the supreme Good: And hence must be perspective of the soul in knowledge and holiness.

By meditation the mind comes to take a steady view of divine truths in their reality, excellency, and important aspect upon the soul. It chases away those clouds that veil the face of divine objects, that they may appear in their native beauty. There are indeed any times sudden flashes of light breaking into the soul by transient thoughts; which may afford hints, which, if improved and followed, would lead to many surprising and profitable discoveries of truth: yet this sudden blaze of thought, though never so bright, will not lay open the hidden mysteries of divine things to our view, unless the mind be brought by mediation to a holy praise upon them. These beams of truth may with their superficial touches for a moment lightly gild the mind; but not afford a steady light, or lasting impression; unless by deep and close musing, thoughts be fired and inflamed; which will not barely amuse but better the mind. For hereby the soul will be led to new discoveries of spiritual things, to a more full apprehension of truths already known, and known truths will leave more more of a transforming power upon all the faculties of the soul.

Meditation is there a duty of vast consequence to the Christian, in that it tends to advance his improvement in the graces of the divine nature, and in the duties of the divine life. This gives life and strength to faith: for herein the devout believer takes a view of the fullness and stability of the promises, and the unalterable fidelity of the Promiser; and can triumph in this, that he knows in whom he has believed. Hereby Hope is made more sure and steady; and its purifying and refreshing virtue strengthened. It brings food to gratify and nourish the most raised Hope: for in devout meditation the soul stands with Moses on Mount Pisgah, and surveys the good land of Promise; herein it is taken as the three favorite disciples into the Mount of Transfiguration, where it is encircled with some beams of heavenly glory; herein it receives some fore-tastes of the joys of the coming world, some pledges and earnests of the expected inheritance in light: whereby the Christian comes to know by happy experience, in some good measure, what is the hope of the calling of God, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Hereby divine love in the soul is maintained and cherished: it blows up the heavenly spark into an holy flame; and brings new fuel to preserve, and increase its power and brightness. Hereby the spirit of true devotion is warmed and raised. It disengages the mind from those things below that do dampen the force and heat of the Spirit in its holy aspirations, and ascents to God. It gives both fixation and flame to the soul in its divine musings. While the Psalmist was musing, the fire burned, and his heart was hot within him.

Again, meditation tends to make Providences more instructive in duty, and impressive of the obligations to it on the heart. Hereby divine ordinances will be made more mighty through God, to turn the sinner from the error of his ways to the wisdom of the just; and to make the man of God more perfect in grace, rich in comfort, and ripe for glory.

Sure I am, holy meditation can never be more seasonable, than when we make our solemn approaches to the table of the Lord. Meditation should be our preparation for it, our entertainment at it, and the conclusion of this spiritual banquet. And were this duty more exercised, we should attend this ordinance with greater awe and solemnity of spirit, with keener appetites after those spiritual dainties there set before us; and go away from it more strengthened with the Bread of Life, and more refreshed with the Wine of Consolation. And have the evidence of it by being less slothful in business, and more fervent in Spirit serving the Lord.

In the language of a colonial American (nevertheless, which has been slightly modernized), Ebenezer Pemberton here describes meditation as the spark that fuels a fire in the soul. It is the “musing,” or careful pondering, consideration and deliberation of select edifying thoughts which constitutes the divine meditation here in view. These may be Scripture verses, or themes, or occasional matters which furnish deeper thoughts on divine principles. The employment of this duty is especially of use, Pemberton argues, in preparation for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, wherein we are to examine ourselves and to discern the Lord’s body. Its neglect has a detrimental effect on spiritual life, and that is true whether we are speaking of the 18th century or the 21st.

The extract above from Pemberton’s Preface, along with Willard’s Sacramental Meditations, may be of use to stir us up in this often-neglected duty. Take time to consider the value of divine meditation, and then, with this encouragement, put it into practice, and it will be a blessing to you, dear reader.

New Presbyterian Women Writers Added to LCP

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Two new female Presbyterian authors have recently been added to Log College Press.

The first is Susan Mary Brown Alexander (1828-1910). She was the daughter-in-law of Archibald Alexander - married to Henry Martyn Alexander (1822-1899). Among the works she wrote, at LCP we have:

  • How to Study the Old Testament: In a Series of Questions - First Series: From Genesis to First Samuel (1873)

  • Questions on the Acts of the Apostles, 1882-1883 (1883)

The second is Julia McNair Wright (1840-1903). She was the wife of mathematician William James Wright. An extremely prolific author, she published dozens of books over the latter half of the 19th century, which were all extremely popular. These include both fiction and non-fiction, such as her volumes on astronomy, botany, and nature; a Ladies’ Home Cook Book; an encyclopedia of domestic life; a work on church history; a number of stories critical of Roman Catholicism; adventure stories, travelogues and historical fiction; several works relating to the temperance movement; a translation of a novel from the original French; and a series (the True Story Library, published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication) of Reformation-era biographical sketches for younger readers on the lives of the Scottish Reformers George Wishart and John Knox; German Reformer Martin Luther; Bohemian Reformer John Huss; French Huguenot Reformers John Calvin, Queen Margaret of Valois, Duchess Renée of Ferrara, and Admiral Gaspard de Cologny; English Reformer William Tyndale; and English Puritan Richard Baxter. Always active, always writing, the words found on the cover of one particular volume reflect her ethos: “For day by day we should be instant in doing God’s errands as we move across the world.”

In her biographical sketch of Martin Luther, she wrote these words:

The world and the Church need a good shaking just now to wake them up to the work of the Lord, and where is the Luther strong in Jesus to do it? He may be some boy reading this book. God knows.

Take time to peruse these newly-added authors and their writings now available at LCP. You and your family will be richly rewarded.

"A nation is but a congeries of families" - Moses D. Hoge

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It was at the Sixth General Council of the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland in 1896, that the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge delivered an address on “The Educative Influence of Presbyterianism on National Life.” He spoke of the importance of the family in relation to the health of the commonwealth, and took note especially of the role of mothers for the good that they do on behalf of their families which in turn is a service to the nation at large.

A nation is but a congeries of families, and what the family is, the nation will be….Under the great dome of the sky I do not believe there are any surpassing our Presbyterian mothers in the faithful training of their children to walk in the right ways of the Lord, nor do I believe that there are any who have influences transcending those of Presbyterian households in preparing children to become good citizens of the country and of the kingdom of Christ.

The death of our old Calvinistic mother has been frequently announced, and her funeral oration pronounced. Well, the death of a mother is a great event in the lives of her children. A minister in my own country says, “When we came to lay our mother in the grave, one of us said to a friend at his side, ‘We will remember the works that will follow her.’ ‘What works?’ asked the friend to whom he spoke. He replied, ‘She bore ten sons and trained them all for Christ. We are all standing around her grave to bless God that she ever lived.’”

Mr. President, fathers and brethren, we, too, bless God for our dear old Presbyterian mother, who has borne ten thousand times ten thousand children and trained them all for Christ; but we are not standing around her grave! We rejoice that she is still a living mother — her eye not dim, nor her spiritual force abated, and when our descendants are as near the close of the twentieth century as we are to the end of the nineteenth, another council will meet to celebrate her virtues and her works in strains of adoring gratitude compared with which our utterances tonight are cold and poor. — Source: Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, pp. 370-371

A debate over capital punishment in the early American republic - Robert Annan's view

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In July 1788, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a noted physician, Presbyterian, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, published an essay in The American Museum in which he argued for the abolition of the death penalty: “An Enquiry into the Justice & Policy of Punishing Murder by Death.” This was a radical position at the time, and it was met with a vigorous rebuttal by Associate Presbytery pastor Robert Annan, then serving at what was known as the Old Scots Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (now known as Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church) - who himself published replies in the Philadelphia Mercury, and Universal Advertiser (Sept. 25; Oct. 2, 4, 7 and 23, 1788) under the pen name “Philochoras,” and then a two-part article in November and December issues of The American Museum. Rush responded further in the Oct. 21, 1788 Philadelphia Mercury and in the January and February 1789 American Museum. In 1792, Rush published an additional pamphlet titled “Considerations on the Injustice and Impolicy of Punishing Murder by Death.”

To his friend the Rev. Jeremy Belknap of Boston, Dr. Rush wrote on Oct. 7, 1788:

My essay upon the punishment of murder by death has been attacked in our newspapers by the Reverend Mr. Annan. He rants in a most furious manner, so far from treating me with the meekness of a Christian, he has not even treated me as a gentleman….His arguments are flimsy and such as would apply better to the 15th than the 18th century….They all appear to flow from his severe Calvanistical [sic] principles.

Annan’s rebuttal to Rush has been criticized for “ad hominem attacks, slippery slope fallacies, prolepsis, and other rhetorical strategies that make him seem like like a calm man of the cloth and more like an anxious debater arguing the losing side of a case,” while the same historian acknowledged that Annan “speaks authoritatively about the Bible” (Stephen John Hartnett, Executing America: Capital Punishment & the Making of America, 1683-1807, Vol. 1). But both Rush and Annan acknowledged that Rush’s condemnation of the death penalty was also linked to a condemnation of the legitimacy of war as well. In one of Rush’s rejoinders, “he sought 'to refute what Rush called an attempt ‘to justify public and capital punishments, as well as war, by the precepts of the gospel’” (John D. Bessler, Cruel & Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders’ Eighth Amendment, p. 77).

Dr. Rush’s arguments against capital punishment may be found elsewhere online, but Rev. Annan’s arguments in its favor have been more difficult for many to find as a primary source. An extract from his closing remarks will permit him to speak for himself:

Humanity is become the popular cry! Weak men join in the cry, to gain the applause of the unthinking; but, as understood, it degenerates into nonsense. Liberality, in religious sentiments, is become as popular and common a cry! But what is this liberality of sentiment? It is, with too many, a total indifference about religion; with many more, a high contempt of it. We are become so wise, as to see, that even the tolerant zeal of our forefathers, for the support of religion, was absurd bigotry and folly. We can do without it – But, if we once ſhould arrive at such a state, as to lose all reverence for God, and all dread of civil government too, all regard both to divine and human laws, we will soon feel the consequences, and they must be tremendous!

In fine, I cannot help expressing my wishes, that our author, who is truly amiable on many accounts, and (I believe) a sincere friend to humanity and society, would, for the future, abstain from hazarding such sentiments. I wish it for his own sake. They cannot honour him. – To treat the word of God, as if it gave an uncertain sound, or were obscure, where it is altogether explicit; to treat the wisdom of the wisest men, as if it were follv and savage cruelty, cannot honour him.

I wish ever to be a friend to humanity — but let it be a rational and judicious humanity. Humanity of this kind is the image of God on man. May it increase more and more! But that humanity, which would overturn the pillars of justice, order, and good government, the laws of God and man, I deprecate as the worst of evils! Humanity, that would spare murderers, would be the most shocking inhumanity and cruelty to the religious, sober, and virtuous part of the community. For, if the wicked may destroy the life of the innoçent, while no power on earth can lawfully touch the life of the wicked, injuſtice is more powerful than justice; lawless outrage more mighty than legal government; Satan stronger than the Almighty; the war, between the kingdom of justice and the kingdom of injustice, quite unequal; and the advantage entirely on the side of iniquity, which would soon establish it’s throne.

The full text of Annan’s 1788 2-part article in The American Museum is now available to read online here.

An LCP milestone for B.B. Warfield

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The 1974 Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921 by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole identifies 1,574 works - with caveats - by the most prolific of authors - and that is after excluding another 1,070 titles which were deemed too brief to include in their list.

At Log College Press, Samuel Miller was the first of our authors to reach 100 titles available to read online here, but now B.B. Warfield is the second to reach that milestone. Although it is only a fraction of the total works written or published by Warfield, it is a substantial assembly of material for the student of his body of literature, and it continues to grow.

Among the 100+ Warfield works available to read at LCP thus far, one may find:

  • at least 15 separate published compositions, including hymns and poems (for purposes of this count, his 1910 Four Hymns and Some Religious Verses is reckoned as one publication);

  • at least 14 separate published works on aspects of the Scriptures;

  • at least 12 separate published works pertaining to the Westminster Assembly and its Standards;

  • at least 11 sermons (found in his 1893 The Gospel of the Incarnation; and his 1913 The Saviour of the World);

  • at least 8 separate published works on aspects of Christology;

  • at least 5 separate published works relating directly to John Calvin;

  • at least 4 separate published works on systematic theology; and

  • 2 inaugural addresses.

Not included in this list are published writings by Warfield found elsewhere on LCP, such as our Compilations page, such as his “Incarnate Truth” and “The Christian’s Attitude Toward Death” in Princeton Sermons (1893); and “Present Day Attitude to Calvinism in Calvin Memorial Addresses (1909).

Also, take note of the (at least) 9 separate works (including the Meeter/Nicole bibliography referenced above) specifically focused on Warfield available at our Secondary Sources bookstore page (which does not include many other works about Princeton which also contain valuable material by and about him).

There is a rich treasury of Warfield literature to be explored at LCP and it is only growing. Begin by perusing his author page here.

A.A. Hodge on the essence, duration and change of the Sabbath

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Charles A, Salmond, “the Scottish Princetonian,” recorded the “Table Talks” of Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge in Princetoniana (1888). Some of his thoughts on the Christian Sabbath from these Table Talks are extracted below for meditation on this Lord’s Day. For a longer read by Hodge on this subject, be sure to read The Day Changed and the Sabbath Preserved (highlighted previously here and available to read here).

The Essence of the Sabbath.

That a regular portion of time, appointed by God, to be observed by all men, should be set apart for rest and the worship of God, — this is the essence of the Sabbath; that one-seventh of time should be so set apart is, relatively to this, the accident. It is, however, the case that one-seventh of time has been positively set apart by God for a Sabbath, and a particular one-seventh of time. The choice has not been left to us.

Duration and Extent of the Sabbath Law.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," is as much a moral law as "Thou shalt not steal" — the law founded on the relations of property. Its duration and extent are determined by the character of the institution and the abiding reason for it; and also by Scripture, in the New Testament portion of which its permanence is incidentally recognised, though there is no specific re-establishment of it, any more than of infant church membership.

The Lord's Day and the Sabbath the same.

Our "Lord's Day" and the Jewish "Sabbath" are not different in essence. Both are days of rest and festival, not of gloom. The essence of the Sabbath could not be changed without changing the nature of man. But the accidents of it may be changed by competent authority, and were actually changed by the college of Apostles, for a sufficient reason.

The Change of Day.

The stream of Sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week came right down to the time of the Apostles; it took a bend at that point; and it has come right on ever after. Only they could have altered it; the authority of no other would have wrought such an universal change in the Christian world. The adequate reason for the change was, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and the new creation it secured. The competent authority was that of the Apostles, and no other. (The trouble with the hierarchical bishops now is, that they are all Apostles, though they have not seen the Lord — not a soul of them!)

Samuel E. McCorkle on the duty and practice of catechizing

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In a 1792 sermon titled A Sermon, on the Doctrine and Duty of Sacrificing, which was preached more than once and published in 1794, Samuel Eusebius McCorkle highlighted the duty of catechizing and explained the particular method that he used in his own congregation (Thyatira Presbyterian Church in Rowan County, North Carolina).

The next [duty] I shall mention is, the ancient and important duty of Catechising.* Many things might be said on this subject, but I forbear with only Qbserving that it may have its influence on both sermons and sacraments, by preparing the mind to be profited by them.

* Here I beg leave briefly to suggest to my brethren the plan of catechising from the Scriptures, as the platform or ground of a catechism. I have proceeded from Genesis to Job, and through part of the four evangelists; and I design, if God permit, to proceed on to the end, asking questions that lead to reading and reflection. I have found it profitable to myself and my people, and can venture to say that as far as I have proceeded there is not a congregation on the continent better acquainted with the Scriptures.

The Congregation I have divided into a number of divisions, of fifteen or sixteen families each, assigned to each division a set of written questions, and from one part of one or two books, as they may be long or short, in each Testament; catechising in the morning from the Old, in the afternoon from the New Testament, and closing by calling on the youth to repeat the shorter catechism.

This set of scriptural questions thus examined on, pass to the next division of the Congregation, who often attend as spectators, knowing that they are next to be examined on the same questions. Thus in rotation, every individual will be examined on every part of the Bible.

William Henry Foote, in his Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical (pp. 360-361), add this:

His daughter says, the divisions were eight in number; and that an elder was attached to each division; to this elder, he gave the copy of questions, and the elder supplied the division. In the examination he never publicly questioned the elders, they met him at his own house. The children were early brought to say their catechism; and the parents were reproved or commended according to the proficiency manifested in the examination.

Thus we have here an historical snapshot showing the importance placed on catechizing a congregation, young and old, as it was implemented by a leading North Carolina Presbyterian minister at the close of the 18th century.

It may be asked, separately from an analysis of the particular methods used here, whether the church today places the same high premium on catechizing. McCorkle set the bar high to the end that his congregation would know the Scriptures thoroughly. This, no doubt, ought to be our goal as well.

What Samuel Stanhope Smith had to say about Phillis Wheatley

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While most famous for authoring the 1776 Declaration of Independence and its eloquent articulation of the principles of freedom for all, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson is also well known for his public position that African Americans were intellectually inferior to White Americans. He made his views known in Notes on Virginia (1785).

One example of this is his critique of the famous African American poet Phillis Wheatley. She composed a tribute to George Whitefield, thoughts on the Providence of God, and a poem about being brought to America from Africa, among other notable verses. But Thomas Jefferson only gave her credit for her sincere religious beliefs.

Religion indeed has produced a Phillis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem….I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.

The reader will note Jefferson’s equivocal credit of authorship to her volume of poems (Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773). It was actually necessary for local civil and religious authorities to investigate whether she, as an African American slave, had the ability to write the poems ascribed to her. They concluded that she indeed the poet that she claimed to be, and their written testimony was included by the publisher in the preface to her book. But questions about her ability to skillfully write poetry lingered in the minds of some - precisely because she was an African American.

In 1787, the first to refute this argument by Jefferson about the supposed intellectual inferiority of African Americans in general, and Phillis Wheatley specifically, was Samuel Stanhope Smith in his Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species (2nd ed. 1810).

In 2019, it seems anachronistic to acknowledge not only Phillis Wheatley’s ability as a poet, but also the equality of African Americans with White Americans on an intellectual basis. But in 1787, it was noteworthy for Smith to publicly challenge Jefferson’s views.

These remarks upon the genius of the African negro appear to me to have so little foundation in true philosophy that few observations will be necessary to refute them…. The poems of Phillis Whately, a poor African slave, taught to read by the indulgent piety of her master, are spoken of with infinite contempt. But I will demand of Mr. Jefferson, or any other man who is acquainted with American planters, how many of those masters could have written poems equal to those of Phillis Whately?

Smith argued in his Essay for the doctrine of “[t]he unity of the human race, notwithstanding the diversity of colour, and form under which it appears in different portions of the globe.” In his view, differences between the peoples of different parts of the world should be understood as reflecting the conditions in which they lived. It should be understood by the modern reader of his Essay that Smith’s defense of the unity of all mankind regardless of skin color, though remarkable for its day, contains expressions which were dismissive of African culture.

Like Jefferson, Smith was a slaveholder. He was more moderate in his aim of gradual emancipation for slaves than his friend “Father” David Rice, who strived to ban slavery at the beginning of Kentucky’s statehood in 1792 — although Rice too was a slaveholder. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia also advocated the colonization of Africa by freed slaves; Smith’s own ideas on the subject helped lead to the creation of the African Colonization Society in 1816 - a project that was controversial among white and black American Presbyterians and others.

Few American Presbyterians of that era were consistent in their principles and practices regarding opposition to slavery — George Bourne, and Alexander McLeod and the RPCNA were notable exceptions. Bourne, in his 1816 volume The Book and Slavery Irreconcilable, notes the contradiction represented by Samuel Stanhope Smith:

Dr. Smith exemplifies the difficulties, which a man must surmount, who endeavors to combine truth with error, and rectitude of principle with corruption of practice.

Yet, Smith’s defense of Phillis Wheatley was an important public statement of his position that African Americans are not “inferior” to whites. Wheatley, who was emancipated the same year that her poems were first published, once wrote a letter to Native American Presbyterian minister Samson Occom, in which she spoke of the universal love of freedom.

…in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert, that the same Principle lives in us. God grant Deliverance in his own Way and Time, and get him honour upon all those whose Avarice impels them to countenance and help forward tile Calamities of their fellow Creatures. (Published in The Connecticut Gazette, March 11, 1774)

We may credit Samuel Stanhope Smith with defending the unity of mankind against the charge that African Americans were “inferior,” and using the example of Phillis Wheatley to demonstrate this, while yet decrying that this defense was ever needed, and also decrying Smith’s own inconsistencies regarding slavery.

The principles for which they contended: David McAllister

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Reformed Presbyterian minister David McAllister’s Poets and Poetry of the Covenant is a worthy homage to the heroic faith of the Scottish Covenanters in verse, which we have highlighted on this blog previously, but its prose introduction should not be overlooked. It is a helpful overview of what the Covenanters stood for, and what inspired so many powerful poetic tributes.

Let us briefly sketch the leading principles for which the heroes and martyrs of these songs of the Covenant contended:

1. The supreme authority of God's Word in all the relations of human life. In the church, as one of their own number said, "they took their pattern, not from Rome, not even from Geneva, but from the blessed Word of God." They held that the state was bound to regulate all its affairs by the same law of ultimate authority. The Bible was to them a national as well as an ecclesiastical law-book. Kings and noblemen and lowlier citizens were all under its obligations in the sphere of political and civil life. And the family, too, needed God's Word, as the daily guide of the domestic circle. The place of the Bible in Covenanter families; the singing of a portion of Bible Psalmody and the reading of a chapter of the Scriptures every morning and evening at the household altar, with the entire membership of the family gathered about, brought all domestic affairs under the acknowledged authority and educative influence of the divine law. Even when the father and the older sons were driven by the blood-hounds of persecution to hidings in dens and caves of the earth, or amid the solitudes of the mountains and moors, the mother or an elder daughter would keep the fire of the household altar brightly burning in the sorrowing yet not darkened home.

At the very basis of all this was the recognized right and responsibility of every individual to interpret the divine law for himself. Social bodies had to reach their interpretations for themselves; but no interpretation of God's Word by either church or state could overturn the Protestant principle, or rather the principle of the true Christian religion, that every man must give account of himself to God. But with the authority of God himself acknowledged as supreme for all, in every relation of life, a firm foundation was laid for the balance of liberty and law. Rights of conscience on the one hand, and a just and righteous authority in both church and state, on the other hand, here find their full security. Not the will of any man, pope, or king, or president; not the will of any body of men, presbytery, general assembly, house of commons, house of representatives, or senate; not the will of the millions that make up the sovereign people of the mightiest nation on earth, can be, according to this old Covenanter and Scriptural principle, of supreme and ultimate authority in any of the relations of human life. Church courts and civil legislatures may help wisely and opportunely to interpret and apply the law which God himself has given, and secure its beneficent effects; but over all human legislators is the Divine Lawgiver whose authoritative will is revealed for man's every need in the Holy Scriptures. Only by such a Law and such a Lawgiver can individual and family and church and state be regulated in harmony with each other and for the good of all.

2. The kingship of Jesus Christ. This followed of necessity from the acceptance of the former principle. Taking the Bible as of ultimate and supreme authority, the Covenanters learned that Jesus Christ has been made Head over all things; that he is King of nations as well as King of Zion, and this in truth and reality, and not in some figurative and shadowy and unreal way. The Bible they accepted as the law-book of this King. And they sought to have Christ himself practically acknowledged and honored as King in both church and state. And no principle could be such a safeguard for the independence of the church. Both the popish idea, which would enslave the church to a frail human pontiff, blasphemously claiming for himself the infallibility which alone could justify the submission of men's consciences to his sovereign will; and the Erastian idea, which would subject the church to the civil ruler or the civil power, the sphere of which is entirely separate and distinct from that of the church, are cut up by the very roots by the application of this principle of the kingship of Jesus Christ. And in like manner the truth of his kingship over the state is the most effective means of saving the political being from the tyranny of popish claims of supremacy over nations and their rulers, and of securing for all citizens and subjects of civil government the most free and just and enlightened system of legislation possible — that which is based upon Christ's own "perfect law of liberty." Whatever views the old Covenanters held in favor of the union of the church under Christ her King with the state under the same divine Ruler, they would never surrender the independence of the former to the latter, nor justify any assumption of tyrannical power by either the one or the other. The essential principle which they maintained, and which holds in every land to-day, is the subjection of both church and state, each as a moral agent, with moral character and accountability, and each in its own distinct and independent and yet interrelated sphere of moral conduct, under the moral law of God himself, administered by Christ as at once Head of Zion and Governor among the nations.

3. The duty of social public covenanting on the part of both the church and the nation. This principle of a religious covenant was derived also from the Scriptures, and this was the principle and practice which gave the Covenanters their name. Chief among the points to be carefully noted in the duty of covenanting are the following:

(1.) The covenant engagements are public. The oath of the compact or covenant is openly sworn. The engagements and oaths of a secret society are at the farthest possible remove from those of a true covenant. The former are deeds of darkness. They are a travesty upon all that is sacred and holy. They dread the light, by which their sacrilegious and even blasphemous character would be exposed. But a church's or a nation's covenant is an open and a public document, and the men and women who take upon themselves its comprehensive engagements with the solemnity of an appeal to God can challenge in broad daylight the investigation of the world.

(2.) Such a covenant as the National Covenants of Scotland of 1580, 1590, and again of 1638, is virtually a written compact or constitution of civil government. This document prepared the way for the formulated fundamental laws of political organizations, of which the written constitutions of the American colonies and commonwealths and of the government of the United States itself are the most illustrious examples. A national covenant is a bond of loyalty between citizens among themselves, and between them and the rulers who exercise authority over them. It is framed in view of enemies and dangers to the nation's welfare and life. And in the days of the old Covenanters, the arch enemy of civil and religious liberty was Popery, of which Prelacy was in many respects an imitator. The covenant was a mutual bond, therefore, of loyal and zealous vigilance against the wiles and assaults of the common enemy. Such an open and avowed bond of patriotism and loyalty is what true Americans need to-day, rather than the secret combinations of the lodges, against the same old enemy of all free institutions in both church and state.

(3.) It is pre-eminently a religious engagement. It accepts God's revealed will as the standard of duty, keeps the glory of God and the honor of Christ as King continually in view, and makes the Omniscient Jehovah, the Searcher of Hearts, a witness and party to the entire transaction. The engagement is entered into in the Lord's name, and with an avowed determination on the part of the covenanters, in the words of the deed of 1638, "to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man."

This principle of public covenanting by nations and by churches is the most practical and far-reaching of social principles, and will, when accepted and carried into effect by Christians generally, do much toward settling all the great problems of church and state.

Archibald Alexander on "an indissoluble connexion"

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We all have need of nourishment from the Word of God, and edification and encouragement from godly books. Some points to consider today from Archibald Alexander’s Thoughts on Religious Experience, p. 44 (1850 ed.):

It is a lamentable fact that in this land of churches and of Bibles, there are many who know little more of the doctrines of Christianity, than the pagans themselves. The proper inference from the fact stated is, that they are egregiously in error, who think that the religious education of children, is useless, or even injurious; and their opinion is also condemned who maintain that it matters little what men believe provided their lives are upright. All good conduct must proceed from good principles; but good principles cannot exist without a knowledge of the truth. "Truth is in order to holiness;" and between truth and holiness there is an indissoluble connexion. It would be as reasonable to expect a child born into an atmosphere corrupted with pestilential vapour, to grow and be healthy, as that spiritual life should flourish without the nutriment of the pure milk of the word, and without breathing in the wholesome atmosphere of truth. The new man often remains in a dwarfish state, because he is fed upon husks; or, he grows into a distorted shape by means of the errors which are inculcated upon him. It is of unspeakable importance that the young disciple have sound, instructive, and practical preaching to attend on. It is also of consequence that the religious people, with whom he converses, should be discreet, evangelical, and intelligent Christians; and that the books put into his hands should be of the right kind.

A poem by William H. Sheppard: The Cross

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William Henry Sheppard (1865-1927) was among the earliest African American Presbyterian missionaries. His work in the Congo - in terms of his missionary labors, his exposé (the joint work of his co-laborer William McCutchan Morrison) of the cruel atrocities practiced by the Belgian government in Congo, and his collection of African art and artifacts - is legendary. And, it should be noted, he was also a poet.

For your Sabbath reading here is a poem of his worthy of meditation.

The Cross

God laid upon my back a grievous load,
A heavy cross to bear along the road;
I staggered on, till, lo! one weary day,
An angry lion leaped across my way.
I prayed to God, and swift at His command
The cross became a weapon in my hand;
It slew my raging enemy, and then
It leaped upon my back a cross again!
I faltered many a league, until at length,
Groaning, I fell and found no further strength.
I cried: “O God! I am so weak and lame,”
And swift the cross a winged staff became,
It swept me on until I retrieved my loss,
Then leaped upon my back again a cross.
I reached a desert; on its burning track
I still perceived the cross upon my back.
No shad was there, and in the burning sun
I sank me down and thought my day was done;
But God’s grace works many a sweet surprise,
The cross became a tree before mine eyes.
I slept, awoke, and had the strength of ten,
Then felt the cross upon my back again.
And thus through all my days, from that to this,
The cross, my burden, has become my bliss;
Nor shall I ever lay my burden down,
For God shall one day make my cross a crown.

The poignant cry of a 19th century African American minister: J.W.C. Pennington

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James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) was perhaps the first African American minister to receive a doctorate of divinity - by the University of Heidelberg, Germany (1849). And he was so honored while still legally a fugitive slave. He also attempted to desegregate streetcars in New York City (1855), one hundred years before Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted the same with public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama (1955-1956). His sermon on Covenants Involving Moral Wrong Are Not Obligatory Upon Man (1842) in which he affirmed that unjust laws have no moral force at all predates King’s same argument (citing Augustine) in the Letter From a Birmingham Jail by over 120 years.

The fact that this escaped slave became a Presbyterian minister is remarkable. But in 1843 he gave a speech in which he shared his experience of racism within the church. It is painful to read, but reading it serves as a reminder that the church is not immune to prejudice. And there are many different types of prejudice - the Apostle James spoke of one kind involving favoritism to the rich to the detriment of the poor, James 2:3. But those who are so judged based on the color of their skin or other factors can be deeply hurt, as Pennington here testifies.

For the last ten years, since I have been a Christian − seven or eight years of which I have been a minister, I have thought much on this subject, and have come to the conclusion that I am an excommunicated man. I have tried to avoid the conclusion, to think it was not so, but, like other people, find I cannot believe without evidence. I have tried to command my mind from this subject, but could not. To say that our condition is not an enviable one − that it is not a pleasant one, does not express the whole truth. I have labored hard to inform myself − I have tried to make myself useful and agreeable as a Christian − have tried to avoid everything wrong. A great question of orthodoxy is concerned here. Though we have felt ourselves abused, we have not dared to indulge unkind feelings toward our brethren. You have helped us to build small school-houses and churches, or rather helped us to shoulder a debt, many times − but I forbear − and yet I may as well speak out my convictions − it is done in the spirit of colonization, to get us out of the way. How often, in coming into a congregation like this, have I been treated with indignity. A man accidentally takes his seat by my side − he discovers that I have a dark face − he rises in contempt and leaves the slip. It is said colored people are fond of sitting together. It is such treatment as this which drives them together. They take the Jim Crow seat to escape ill treatment and abuse. And here let me say, the necessity for separate schools and churches has not grown out of the wishes of the colored people, but from the spirit of caste in the church. We do not desire separate churches. They have not bettered our condition, but only made it WORSE. Many of our churches have not competent religious teachers − they have had to hasten through their course so fast, in order to supply the destitute fields, that they have come into the ministry illy prepared. The treatment of the colored people has put back Africa’s redemption fifty years.

This testimony is nearly 200 years old, but it is to be feared that today’s church also is not color blind or free from all forms of prejudice, Elsewhere (in an 1844 letter appended to his autobiography), Pennington explains what is needed to combat this prejudice - something that is, it should be noted, to be found within the church.

Let me urge upon you the fundamental truths of the Gospel of the Son of God. Let repentance to- wards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ have their perfect work in you, I beseech you. Do not be prejudiced against the gospel because it may be seemingly twisted into a support of slavery. The gospel rightly understood, taught, received, felt and practised, is anti-slavery as it is anti-sin. Just so far and so fast as the true spirit of the gospel obtains in the land, and especially in the lives of the oppressed, will the spirit of slavery sicken and become powerless like the serpent with his head pressed beneath the fresh leaves of the prickly ash of the forest.

The troubles and sorrows of those who have been hurt are real, but Pennington urged his hearers to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. In another speech given in England in 1843 he reminded his hearers that the whole human race is laboring under sin, but redemption is found only in Jesus Christ, in whom all are one:

Though I have a country that has never done me justice, yet I must return to it, and I shall not therefore recriminate. It has pleased God to make me black and you white, but let us remember, that whatever be our complexion, we are all by nature labouring under the degradation of sin, and without the grace of God are black at heart. I know of no difference between the depraved heart of a Briton, an American, or an African. There is no difference between its colour, its disposition, and its self-will. There is only one mode of emancipation from the slavery of sin, from the blackness of heart, and that is by the blood of the Son of God. Whatever be our complexion, whatever our kindred and people, we need to be emancipated from sin, and to be cleansed from our pollution by the all-prevailing grace of God. I bless his name, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but all are one.

The sermons, speeches and writings of James W.C. Pennington reflect the heart of a man who was deeply wounded and hurt by prejudice but who found redemption in Jesus Christ and preached the healing and uniting gospel of grace to others. And that is a message that is timeless.

E.H. Gillett on building for eternity

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“Am I building for eternity?” This is the question that arises after reading a chapter titled “The First Aim of Life” in Ezra Hall Gillett’s eminently practical volume, Life Lessons in the School of Christian Duty (1864). Based on Matthew 6:33 (“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"), this particular lesson is a reminder that we should remember our chief end - that is, to live a religious life to the glory of God.

Some of the gravest mistakes of human life grow out of one fundamental error putting first something that should be put second, or putting second what should be first. There can properly be only one thing put first, and that is, religion the fear of God. It is the foundation of character, and effort, and happiness. Nothing else will endure and sustain the superstructure of a true life.

Gillett continues:

No one can build, no one has a right to build, till he can build on the Rock of Ages. We are all building, whether we know it or not, for eternity. We may put up wigwams or hospitals, tents or temples, but our aims and deeds, whatever they are, are the soul's palace, under the shelter or shadow of which it will dwell forever.

How important it is to build well, and to build on the right foundation. Many would agree, as Gillett notes, but many do not live as if they do. Too often, we live in the moment, seeking “trifles,” not thinking of consequences, or the great prize of faithfulness. If only men would seek God early, and aim to live life with the eternal in view.

Begin life aright then. If you would not have weeds for your harvest or bricks for your toil, give God your heart, and think of the life that never ends. Put yourself in thought far away beyond these shifting, cheating scenes; soar aloft above this fire-doomed earth, and its shows and pomps; see the great globe with all its cities and palaces shrinking to an atom; leave time behind you; take your place among the angel choir that sweep their golden harps before the throne; and ask yourself then what this life should be, fitting for an angel's childhood, for the service which the redeemed shall be glad to render forevermore.

If that sphere is ever to be yours, you should begin to live for it now. You should be robing yourself every day for that great Assembly that are draped in the spotless white of heaven's purity. You should put off sin and put on righteousness. You should learn the lesson of prayer and praise. You should seek to know Him whom to know aright is life eternal, and with whom you hope to dwell forever. You should allow no toys of sense to allure your eye, or divert your purpose. You should say, "with one life only to live on earth, I will not squander it on trifles; I will not turn it into an episode of folly; I will not crowd it with bitter memories of sin; I will not build any immortal hope on shadows ; but I will so live that my farewell of earth shall be my welcome to heaven."

Make your present life then the title page of your immortality. Let there be no word or letter in it which shall belie the contents of a volume that shall record an angel's career. The soul's identity demands, if you aspire to heavenly blessedness, that you shall not burden memory with the everlasting incongruities of a life of sin on earth. If there is anything which in the light of the throne you would not like to recall, shun it now. If there is anything which can fit you for the high sphere of angelic service, now is the time for preparation. If existence has any sphere in which wisdom can be called into service, in which your highest interests demand a thoughtful anticipation of future destiny, that sphere is the one in which you are moving now. In view of a final judgment, by the light of a blazing world, under the eye of the great Judge, face to face with eternity, the soul must yet sit in judgment on itself. Why not act to-day with reference to what you know will be its final sentence?

Consider this counsel from Ezra H. Gillett. How often do we need to be reminded of first principles. Let us, therefore, as he says, build for a blessed eternity with our God, and our King.

A Reformed Presbyterian Brotherly Covenant

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Thomas Sproull, in a September 1879 issue of The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter, recounted the circumstances of a joint fast and “Brotherly Covenant” subscribed to by James Renwick Willson and himself, both serving as professors at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, located then at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, some three decades previously.

I have in my possession a document written by him [James Renwick Willson], of which I briefly give the history. During the session of the seminary, in the winter of 1842 and 1843, the condition of affairs seemed not to be as prosperous as we wished. On an occasion when he and I were together, this was spoken of and the inquiry was, what can be done to secure the divine blessing, which we realized as the great need. It was his suggestion that we observe a day of fasting, to confess our sins, and seek the favor of God, and unite in an act of covenanting. The suggestion met my cordial approval, and at my request he prepared the confession of sins, as causes of fasting, and the bond which we used in our act of covenanting. On January 5, 1843, we met, spent the forenoon of the day in fasting and prayer, and fervently confessed our sins, and engaged in covenanting, using the following formularies that he had prepared…

In their “Causes of Fasting Prepafatory to an Act of Covenanting,” Willson and Sproull identified seven particular sins for which they confessed and mourned:

  1. Unbelief and mistrust of God’s promises;

  2. Lack of love toward God and the brethren;

  3. Unworthy and carnal ambition;

  4. Backwardsness in the study of God’s Word and in the means of grace;

  5. Relying on their own strength;

  6. Lack of holy and enlightened zeal in carrying forward the attainments of their spiritual fathers; and

  7. Not wisely applying gospel truth, precepts and rebukes to ourselves before we teach, preach and apply them to others.

Following this time of fasting and prayer, the two men together entered into a “Brotherly Covenant” which we give here in full:

Brotherly Covenant Made and Ratified Before the God of our Covenant Fathers, for our Mutual Strengthening in the Faith, by Jas. R. Willson and Thos. Sproull, January 5, 1843

We hereby renounce all reliance on the deeds of the law for our justification; all the errors against which the church has borne testimony; all worldly maxims and practices as contrary to the word of God; and cast off forever all allegiance to the corrupt civil institutions of these United States; and renounce all ecclesiastical fellowship with such churches as own allegiance to these governments; as also everything, both in church and state, that is either against or beside the Holy Scriptures, and not in accordance with the church's past covenanted attainments.

Again, we avouch the Lord Jehovah to be our God, taking God the Father, for our Father ; Christ His eternal Son for our Mediator, as a prophet to instruct us in personal and official duty, as our great High Priest for our justification by his imputed righteousness, and as our King whose mediatorial power extends over all creation, for the sake of his body which is the church, to whom we promise to render obedience in all his commands, and to whom we do look for protection against all our foes; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit that proceedeth from the Father and the Son, we take for our sanctifier and comforter.

As also, we renew in this our covenant, our engagements to God in baptism, the Lord's supper, our ordination vows, and our solemn self-dedication to God on entering on the professorship.

We likewise promise and vow, that we will constantly and without deviation in one jot or tittle adhere to all the terms of communion adopted by the Reformed Presbyterian church in relation to her doctrines, worship, government and testimony, and that in ministerial and professional duty w e will never teach anything contrary to them, and that we will never withhold any truth, form of worship, government, point of discipline, or item of testimony through fear of man or to avoid trouble.

Moreover, we will cover one another's infirmities with the mantle of charity; we will never listen to tales of detraction; we will protect each other's reputation; promote one another's usefulness, while continuing in life; pray for each other and in all things "strive together for the faith of the gospel."

Likewise; we will discountenance with all our might, all causes calculated to divide the body of Christ, and to cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which we have learned, and we will avoid all such as pursue these divisive courses.

Finally; we rely on the aid of the Holy Ghost, in the Spirit of our most blessed and precious Redeemer, to impart strength for the faithful performance of this vow and covenant, and call on a three-one God in Christ to bear witness to our integrity of heart in making this most solemn engagement.

This “Brotherly Covenant” was a means of strengthening the faith of these two men and the work of the seminary. “Reformed Presbyterians hold that social religious Covenanting is an ordinance of God to be entered into by the individual, the church, and the nation” (William M. Glasgow, History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, p. 56). Here we have a 19th century American example on the individual level.

An early 18th century joint statement on religious liberty by a Presbyterian and a Reformed Baptist

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The case of Edward Marston, an Anglican minister in Charleston, South Carolina was remarkable for its time, because at the time he delivered his controversial sermon on the Fifth Commandment (October 15, 1704) the colony of South Carolina was governed by the Anglican establishment — but it was some notable Dissenters who came to his defense. Marston argued in his sermon that ministers of the gospel were superior (not accountable) to civil authorities (in spiritual matters), while at the same time claiming that ministers were due monetary maintenance “by Divine Right.”

We (Ministers of the Gospel do not arrogate too much to our selves, nor take too much upon us, when we affirm, That we are superior to the People, and have an Authority over them in Things Spiritual, and appertaining to God.

These claims angered the legislature, which had recently passed the Establishment Act and the Preservation Act, intended to assert more government control over the pulpit, and, it was said, led to his public whipping.

Daniel Defoe, the noted novelist and Presbyterian Dissenter, published two tracts about the church and state conflicts that took place in in early colonial South Carolina, the second of which is titled The Case of Protestant Dissenters in Carolina, Shewing How a Law to Prevent Occasional Conformity There, Has Ended in the Total Subversion of the Constitution in Church and State (1706). Within this fascinating volume, Defoe included an 1704 affidavit by the Reformed Baptist minister William Screven (c. 1629-1713) and the Scottish-American Presbyterian minister Archibald Stobo (about whom we have written before here). These two ministers jointly affirmed that they had reviewed Marston’s sermon and agreed with him that he should be free from civil review of his sermon, and also that it was proper from him to receive government maintenance. Moreover, they noted that the quote about ministerial superiority was derived from the 1692 Exposition of the Ten Commandments by Bishop Ezekiel Hopkins, a clearly approved Anglican source.

Ultimately, the case of Edward Marston was decided by the British Parliament, which ruled that the aforementioned Acts were in violation of the religious freedom guaranteed under the South Carolina Constitution. Queen Anne then nullified those two Acts, which restored the earlier 1697 Act for Granting Liberty of Conscience. Thus it was that two ministers - a Reformed Baptist and a Presbyterian - with help from Daniel Defoe, came to the aid of the Anglican Edward Marston, for the benefit of South Carolina Dissenters. The affidavit by Screven and Stobo can be read here.

B.B. Warfield on 'Trusting in the Dark'

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That flower that follows the sun, doth so even in cloudy days; when it doth not shine forth, yet it follows the hidden course and motion of it: so the soul that moves after God, keeps that course when he hides his face, is content, yea, is glad at his will in all estates, or conditions, or events. — Robert Leighton, Sermon XXII: The Confidence of Faith, in Whole Works, Vol. 3, p. 347

B.B. Warfield, in Four Hymns, and Some Religious Verses (1910), adapted this famous saying by Archbishop Leighton into a poem of his own.


Said Robert Leighton, holy man,
Intent a flickering faith to fan
Into a steady blaze: —
"Behold yon floweret to the sun,
As he his daily course doth run,
Turn undeclining gaze.

"E'en when the clouds obscure his face,
And only faith discerns the place
Where in the heavens he soars,
This floweret still, with constant eye,
The secret places of the sky
Untiringly explores.

"Look up, my soul! What can this be
But Nature's parable to thee?
Look up, with courage bright!
The clouds press on thee, dense and black,
Thy Sun shines ever at their back —
Look up and see His light

The College Writings of B.B. Warfield

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B.B. Warfield studied at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) from 1868 to 1871. It was while he was a student that the man who would become so prolific a writer published his first material in The Nassau Literary Magazine.

In 1870 a poem appeared written by Warfield, based on 1 Maccabees 9:1-21, titled “The Jewish Thermopylae.”

During his senior year, various works by Warfield were published, both in The Nassau Literary Magazine and The Nassau Herald. In February 1871, in the former publication, he published a poem, “The Taking of the Suburbs,” as well as an essay titled “Milton’s Satan.”

In April 1871, he published 1) an essay on “Woman’s Mission,” 2) another essay about the “Poetic Genius of Poe” (this was signed N.E.D. - representing the last letter of the name Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield), 3) a brief poem beginning with the first line “Despise not the wrinkles of age,” and 4) an “Olla-podrida,” a “miscellany” or “literary bouquet,” which includes a poem called “A Serenade.”

An issue of The Nassau Herald, published on Class Day, June 26, 1871 by the graduating senior class of Princeton, includes an editorial by Warfield.

Each of these publications is identified as Warfield’s by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole in A Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921, p. 9. Together, it is believed that they constitute his earliest published writings, five of which are poems. As you read them remember that they are the works of a 19 or 20 year-old young man who would go on to become one of America’s greatest theologians. It noteworthy to ponder also that approximately four decades later, he published Four Hymns, and Some Religious Verse (1910). From his youth to his old age, Warfield was not only a student and then teacher of theology, but also a poet.