Conrad Speece on "The Path to Glory"

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“He was a true son of Virginia — was born, lived, and died in bosom. He was among the greatest of her preachers, — few proclaiming the Gospel more abundantly, or more powerfully.” Thus was Conrad Speece described by William Brown in William B. Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit. James W. Alexander calls him an “ornament” of the Church of Christ in Virginia (The Life of Archibald Alexander, p. 204).

He had a keen mind and a pastor’s heart. Henry Ruffner wrote of him: “Give him his pulpit, his parishioners, his literary friends, and his books; and the world might take all the rest with his hearty consent.” His body was laid to rest in the cemetery of the Old Stone Church in Augusta County, Virginia, where he labored for 22 years.

We have recently added some writings by Speece to Log College Press, including some written under the pseudonym “Philander.” Brown notes that “his other publications number in all one hundred and fifty, both in prose and in verse, and upon a great variety of subjects,” so we hope to continue adding many more. The primary work published by him under his own name is The Mountaineer (1818, 1823). It is from this work that we have extracted the following poem, which describes the life of a Christian. The journey that he describes is that which most Christians, perhaps, experience and to which many of us can relate. Thanks be to God for his grace to sinners in leading them on the path to glory!

The Path to Glory

HAPPY the youth whose heav’n-born choice
Turns him from sin’s destructive way;
Who gives his ear to wisdom’s voice,
And strives her precepts to obey.

Conscious of guilt, his only rest
Is found when Calv’ry meets his view:
He flies to his Redeemer’s breast,
And vows to be his servant too.

By earnest prayer for light and grace,
He gains, each day, a fresh supply;
And thus, unwearied, runs the race
That leads him to the prize on high.

Protected by almighty pow’r
His steadfast soul no terror knows,
Though war awaits him, ev’ry hour,
With armies of surrounding foes.

In vain the world employs her wiles
To check his course, with varied art:
Against her frowns, against her smiles,
Firm faith securely guards his heart.

In works of piety to God,
And love to man, he spends his years;
And when he feels affliction’s rod,
Sweet peace is mingled with his tears.

His life with growing lustre shines
Till all the toils of life are past:
His breath then calmly he resigns,
Trusting his Saviour to the last.

Attendant angels, while they sing
His victory, their friend convey
Up to the presence of their King,
The region of eternal day.

W.A. Scott asks "Do you pray in your family?"

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William Anderson Scott (1813-1885) served as moderator of the Old School General Assembly (PCUSA); ministered to congregations in New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco and other locations; edited several periodicals; and helped to found the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was also a father of nine children.

In the second volume (1861) of The Pacific Expositor, which he edited, Scott included a brief article on family worship, which shows the priority he (obviously a busy man) placed on this particular ordinance of God. It may serve as an encouragement to others today. It comes from the September 1860 issue, p. 140..

DO YOU PRAY IN YOUR FAMILY? If you do not, you are not like the good people of old times. Wherever the patriarchs had a tent, God had an altar. They called upon the name of the Lord in the valleys and upon the hills. Joshua resolved, that, as for him and his family, they would serve the Lord; that is, worship Him.

Job practised family worship. “He sent and sanctified his children, and rose early in the morning and offered burnt-offerings, according to the number of them all. Thus did Job continually.”

David, having spent one day in bringing the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the place he had prepared for it, and in presenting peace-offerings before the Lord, returned at night to bless his household — that is, to pray for blessings upon his family, or to attend upon family devotion. Cornelius, the centurion, it is said, “feared God with his whole house” — meaning worshipped him with his family.

In the Lord’s Prayer we have a command for family devotion. “After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven.” The form of prayer is plural. It must, therefore, mean social prayer, and if social, then family prayer; for a family is the most proper place to engage in this devotion. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, having pointed out the duty of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, adds: “Continue in prayer; watch in the same with thanksgiving.” The subject upon which he was speaking leads us to conclude he meant family prayer. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, he enjoins it as a duty to “pray always with all prayer;” — that is to offer prayer of every kind, and in every form, and at every proper season. Family prayer must, therefore, be included in the injunction.

These direct and indirect examples, and commands, from Scripture show how important family worship was to the people of God of old, and how Christ enjoins his people a duty and a blessing to assemble in families to magnify the Lord. Let us take heart from this Scriptural precept and example, as given by Rev. Scott, to enter into that blessing.

S.J. Wilson on "the truest eloquence earth ever heard"

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For his inaugural address delivered on April 27, 1858 at Western Theological Seminary (now Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), where he was to fill the chair on History and Homiletics, Samuel Jennings Wilson chose to speak on “The History of Preaching.” His address is a fascinating survey of preachers and preaching from Bible times up through the early 19th century. He concludes with a stirring reminder of the importance of faithful seminaries as places where Biblical piety is wedded to thorough training in the Scriptures and other areas of knowledge for those who are called to fill the pulpit.

Shall we have preachers whose hearts are all aglow with love to Christ ? The Church needs them — the world demands them. No amount of natural or acquired ability can compensate for the lack of fervent piety. Intellectual sermons may be as clear and sparkling as icicles, and as cold. The moonlight is beautiful, but it is the heat of the sun that brings the verdure from the soil and ripens the fruit in its clusters. The truest eloquence earth ever heard is the unrestrained utterance of a heart full to overflowing of love to God. Evermore give us that eloquence!

And shall we have preachers mighty in the Scriptures? There was an intimate connection between the eloquence of Apollos and his knowledge of the Bible. In all ages, in proportion as the pulpit has been biblical, it has been powerful. There is no danger that the Bible will be exhausted. Its subjects never wear out. All other subjects do. Christ crucified is a theme that will never grow old.

And we want men who shall not only know the truth, but who shall not be afraid to speak it. He who preaches any doctrine of the Bible in an apologizing, compromising way, is a coward. Those doctrines, when faithfully uttered, never fail to find a response in the hearts and experience of men. Let the Gospel be preached just as it is — and woe to the man who trims or temporizes for the sake of an ephemeral popularity!

Great responsibilities, therefore, devolve upon our theological seminaries. They must necessarily give tone to the pulpit. Most of all, it is expected and desired of them that they send out from their halls and lecture-rooms a re-enforcement of good preachers — men trained more for active service than for abstract speculation and scholastic theorizing — men in communion with their God, and in sympathy with their fellow-men; whose ministrations shall not be cold, perfunctory task-work, but the earnest utterances of living truths, the power of which they have felt upon their own hearts, and are thus enabled to speak that "which they do know."

The full address by Wilson on the history of preaching may be found here (Occasional Addresses and Sermons, beginning at p. 113).

Erskine Clarke's "To Count Our Days"

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At Log College Press, we are pleased to highlight a new publication by respected religious scholar Erskine Clarke released in earlier this month: To Count Our Days: A History of Columbia Theological Seminary (The University of South Carolina Press, 2019, 369 pages).

It is hot off the press and this is by no means an official book review, but having perused this fascinating volume, it is a pleasure to make it our new featured title at the LCP Secondary Sources page.

No easy task is it to tell the story of a nearly two hundred year-old institution devoted to preparation for the gospel ministry, but Clarke carefully, candidly, competently and respectfully navigates a complicated history involving the trajectory of Southern Presbyterian theology, social matters and a move from South Carolina to Georgia. This account is full of rich anecdotes, fascinating photographs and insightful observations.

The great luminaries associated with the seminary are highlighted, including John L. Girardeau, James H. Thornwell, Benjamin M. Palmer, William S. Plumer, Walter Brueggemann, and many more. Lesser-known names are brought to life as well, along with stories of interest, such as the 1856 library acquisition of 11,520 volumes from Thomas Smyth.

Be sure to check out this remarkable work here, and while you are exploring, it’s a great opportunity to browse other volumes of interest concerning church history, biography and more. We have links to over 600 books related to American Presbyterianism.

Kudos to Dr. Clarke for his valuable contribution to our end-of-the-summer reading. If you appreciate church history, this is a great resource that you won’t want to miss. And in case you are wondering, the title comes from Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”

The closet is where heart-work is carried forward - Thomas Murphy

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A work that begins in the heart must be carried on in the closet. If we speak of the closet as the place where a person engages in private prayer, communion with God, and a place of honest soul-searching with God, then we may say, the closet is where heart-work is carried forward. Thomas Murphy elucidates this thought early in his classic work on Pastoral Theology.

The pastor’s own heart is the place in which the work must begin. His closet is the armory in which he must equip himself for the service that may require great hardness. It is the mount where he may tarry in the presence of God, and thence come down with glory beaming in his face. It is the upper room in which he may commune with Christ and obtain that burning love that will ever sweetly constrain. It is the mercy-seat, made so by the divine presence, where the Holy Spirit may overshadow him and imbue him with a wisdom and a might that will be irresistible. It is the secret place in which he may find his God, and then go out fortified to a work from which he might otherwise well shrink, saying, " Who is sufficient for these things?"

If you have not read Thomas Murphy’s Pastoral Theology, it contains much more wisdom that is often just as applicable to the Christian layman as to the minister of the gospel, both for the heart and the head. David C. Lachman, in his introduction to the 1996 Old Paths Publication (reprinted again in 2001), says:

Any pastor who has a measure of godly wisdom and has the spiritual good of his congregation at heart will profit much from a careful study of this work. Avail yourself of the treasure!

Thomas Murphy’s Pastoral Theology can be read online here.

The Gospel Encapsulated by B.B. Warfield

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Alistair Begg on his radio program Truth For Life recently highlighted a quote by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, which he described as “majestic and wonderful.” He added, “this, loved ones, is the gospel.”

It comes from his extended 1920 article on “Miserable-Sinner Christianity” and it is worth meditating upon today, dear reader, just as it was almost a century ago. We have included here a couple of sentences that go beyond what Begg cited on his show. Here he addresses the heart of the gospel, that is, what is the basis of our acceptance before God?

…there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace.

HT: Carolyn Kelleher

S.J. Fisher on The Starry Heavens

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It has been wondered aloud “How could any astronomer be an atheist?” John Calvin once wrote that “Job's intent here is to teach us to be astronomers” (Commentary on Job 9). He also famously quoted Ovid who said, “While other animals look downwards towards the earth, he gave to man a lofty face, and bade him look at heaven, and lift up his countenance erect towards the stars” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1; Institutes 1.15.3).

The starry sky does indeed declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). A poem by Samuel Jackson Fisher (found in The Romance of Pittsburgh or Under Three Flags, and Other Poems) reminds us of this. So does the ongoing August Perseid meteor shower.

THE STARRY HEAVENS

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
Those wondrous skies where stream afar
The light of countless suns and worlds.
The rays of blazing moon and star,
The sight of all Thy power hath wrought
O'erwhelms my mind and stifles thought.

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
And think how through the ages gone,
While myriad souls have lived and died,
These worlds unchanged have nightly shone;
At such a vision of the skies,
Despair is strong, and fond hope dies.

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
Oh! What is man 'mid scenes so vast!
An insect on the torrent's foam,
A leaf upon the highway cast,
A grain of sand upon the shore,
Forgotten in the ocean's roar.

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
My heart finds there the glorious sign
Of all Thy Wisdom, Power and Love
Which makes the Life Eternal mine.
The stars no longer teach despair,
My Father's hand has placed them there!

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
I see a power naught can resist,
A hand divine. Thy might, O Lord,
Which loves Thy children to assist.
Thou, Who didst set the Pleiades,
Will do for me far more than these.

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
I know that these shall pass away.
For Thou shalt roll them like a scroll.
But Thy true Word shall meet that day;
And in the tempest of that fire
All but Thy promise shall expire.

When I consider Thy Heavens, O Lord!
So radiant in the midnight air,
I hear a whisper: "Fear no more.
Around you is a greater care;
For He Who set those stars aflame
Has called you by His children's name."

J.W. Alexander on Sabbath Evenings in Former Days

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James Waddel Alexander, writing in 1851 under the pen name “C.Q.,” has given us a description of how evenings were spent on the Lord’s Day, after public worship was over. It is valuable to note the place given to family worship, Scripture, the Psalms, the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the reading of classic religious books.

Among our Presbyterian forefathers it was not customary to have public service on Sabbath evenings. That time was usually devoted, in England, and especially in Scotland, to the instruction of the household. In addition to the family worship, which at these seasons was more solemn and more extended, the domestic ordinance of catechizing was observed with great punctuality and zeal….

After the evening meal of the Sabbath, the whole family was gathered, not excepting the domestics, some of whom were grey headed servants of Christ, who had grown up under the roof. In our day of restlessness it is thought enough to despatch a few questions and answers; but the Scottish method was to go through the whole Shorter Catechism, without omission or abridgment. The presiding person, in this exercise, was the master of the house; and we know families, in which, even now, this service is constantly performed without book. We were lately told by a lady, that, after her father's death, the catechetical examination was faithfully carried on by the mother; and no doubt, this has happened in thousands of instances. Though the Larger Catechism was extensively taught, as was the case in a family from which the writer is descended, it was the Shorter Catechism which every youth, without exception, was expected to know. Any one who chooses to try the experiment, may easily satisfy himself how deeply this form of sound words is impressed on the memory of all who have enjoyed a regular Presbyterian training. After attaining a perfect knowledge of the text, children were made to learn a sufficient number of Scripture proofs. This was in itself a theological education. By weekly repetition, it was not merely taught, but inculcated, in the proper sense of that term; so that scarcely any lapse of years could entirely eradicate it from the mind. Whatever may be said about the tediousness of such a discipline, we believe all who have passed through it agree in looking back to those evening exercises as serenely delightful; and in regretting the seeming necessity of denying the same to their own children.

In the Presbyterian houses to which reference is now had, Holy Scripture had its place, in the looking out of passages quoted by the preacher, and in repeating psalms and paraphrases. Expositions of a familiar kind were not unfrequently given, which left their impression on the youthful mind. In days when books were scarcer than at present, many an hour was spent in reading aloud from such works as Rutherford's Letters, Boston's Fourfold State and Crook in the Lot, Erskine's Gospel Sonnets, Guthrie's Interest, and the Sermons of Binning and Andrew Gray. Does not the heart of some reader bless God for these golden opportunities?

There are many congregations among ourselves, in which the evenings of the Lord's days are vacant. It is a very serious question for parents and householders, how far they may employ this sacred season, statedly, for the benefit of their families. Thorough and effectual catechising demands at least a weekly exercise; and where there is no other engagement, the best time for these is the Sabbath evening. Religious instruction, at such a season, is sanctified by the hallowed day, and sweetened by the flow of home- feelings. The service need be neither tedious nor burdensome. A little management may render it delightful. Next to the house of God, there is no place so favourable for the conversion of children as the happy fireside. Let not the subject be laid aside, without some careful recurrence to the past, some candid self-examination, some deliberate planning, some resolved purpose, some self-denying and courageous endeavour, and some prayer to God for his blessing.

Alexander’s snapshot of Sabbath evenings past was meant to encourage readers of his own day to redeem those hours with family exercises of worship, catechetical instruction, and devotional reading. How much more do we need — “in our day of restlessness” — such encouragement in the early part of the 21st century?

Read History at Log College Press

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As Robert Pollock Kerr once wrote in the September / October 1892 issue of The Union Seminary Magazine:

Read history; but read it in the light of God; and ever feel that the story as it is told is penned on the pages of time by the overruling hand of the Infinite.

Kerr himself was the author of a history of Presbyterianism, a history of the Scottish Covenanters, and The Voice of God in History. He was deeply concerned that people in his own day developed an understanding not only of that which had gone before, but also that they see the hand of God in His Story. In the latter work, he writes:

Next to the knowledge of God, the best study for mankind is men. History, from one standpoint, is a record of the doings of men, and one learns the philosophy of humanity from the story of the race. From another standpoint, history is the study of God; for the Divine Ruler has not left the world to itself, but is continually acting in it, bringing to pass his great designs. God is sovereign, and man free; and history records the divine and human as they move together in the world. In history, then, man learns God and himself. If this be true, there can be no more profitable study. The Bible itself, the Book of books, is history; yes, history; not naked annals, but lines of events as they stand related to certain great fundamental truths, glowing with the interest which attaches to the joys and sorrows of humanity, over shadowed by an infinite love. Real history is the annals, the truths, and pathos of human existence combined; in other words, it is the world's life lived over again.

This being so, there is a great treasury of historical resources to be found at Log College Press. Our topical pages on Church History, Biographies and Autobiographies contain numerous volumes written by a range of authors.

Most recently, we have added to the site (among other works):

If you are in search of weekend reading material, these and many more works are available to bookmark, download and peruse at Log College Press. To see the hand of God at work in history and in the lives of his saints is a blessing which makes the reading that much sweeter to the Christian who knows that same hand at work in his or her own life. There is so much to read out there, but we have tried to dust off old worthies for the modern reader so that these gems will not remain buried in obscurity. Take advantage of this resource, and see what there is for the student of history to read at Log College Press.

Charles Hodge: Nothing but truth can really do good

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Charles Hodge, in his commentary on Romans 14, makes a point that Christians do well to consider in apologetics and other forms of conversation and discussion, especially in the age of social media.

It is, therefore, of great importance to keep the conscience free; under no subjection but to truth and God. This is necessary, not only on account of its influence on our own moral feelings, but also because nothing but truth can really do good. To advocate even a good cause with bad arguments does great harm, by exciting unnecessary opposition; by making good men, who oppose the arguments, appear to oppose the truth; by introducing a false standard of duty; by failing to enlist the support of an enlightened conscience, and by the necessary forfeiture of the confidence of the intelligent and well informed. The cause of benevolence, therefore, instead of being promoted, is injured by all exaggerations, erroneous statements, and false principles, on the part of its advocates.

According to Hodge, therefore, it matters not just what we say, but how we say it. The Lord, of course, can bring good out of evil, but as the Scripture teaches elsewhere, we are not just called to “speak the truth,” but to do so “in love” (Eph. 4:15). Hodge makes note of this in his commentary on Ephesians:

…the apostle, while condemning all instability with regard to faith, and while denouncing the craft of false teachers, immediately adds the injunction to adhere to the truth in love. It is not mere stability in sound doctrine, but faith as combined with love that he requires.

To truth, then, must be added that which is good. The presentation of truth must be done in love. In this way, Christians glorify God after the most excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31). Love “rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). Love, therefore, is the motive for “speaking the truth,” and as such, we must remember not only how to declare to others that which is true, but also to do in a manner consistent with the gospel of God’s grace. As Hodge also notes (again, in his commentary on Ephesians):

It is possible "to hold the truth in unrighteousness;" to have speculative faith without love. The character most offensive to God and man is that of a malignant zealot for the truth.

Hodge, then, emphasizes in these commentaries the unity of purpose in speaking truth in the right manner, and so glorifying God both in what we say, and in how we say it. May such a unity of purpose be the aim of all Christians who desire to exemplify that “more excellent way.”

Louis Meyer: A heart for Jewish missions

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Born on August 30, 1862, in Crivitz, Germany, to Jewish parents, Louis Meyer would eventually become a minister of the gospel in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). Before his conversion to Christ, he studied medicine and became a surgeon, but an infection lead him to put that profession on hiatus while he spent four years traveling on the seas in the interests of his own health.

After his recovery, he immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where, in the providence of God, though he intended to resume his medical practice, he was deeply affected by a sermon series on “Christ in the Book of Leviticus” given by the Rev. J.C. Smith of the RPCNA. Not only was Meyer enabled to behold Christ in the Old Testament, and by faith, Meyer also came to be married to J.C. Smith’s daughter.

As Franz Delitzsch has aptly stated, “We are all Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem” (a reference to Gen. 9:27). J.G. Vos has expounded upon the Jewish roots of Christian worship in his tract “Ashamed of the Tents of Shem? The Semitic Roots of Christian Worship.” The Psalms sung in the worship of J.C. Smith’s congregation were influential in the conversion of Louis Meyer. He would go on to study theology at the RPCNA seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and then minister to predominately Gentile RPCNA congregations in Minnesota and Iowa, but he always had a heart — like the Apostle Paul (Rom. 10:1) — for the salvation of the Jews.

He was also appointed, in 1900, to serve the Board of Home Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He lectured nationally and internationally on Jewish missions, and contributed often to periodicals, such as The Jewish Era, The Chicago Hebrew Mission, Christian Nation, Glory of Israel, Zion’s Freund, and The Missionary Review of the World (he became an associate editor of the latter).

Meyer once gave a series of lectures at McCosh Hall, Princeton in February 1911. A portion of his account of that event is given here to offer the reader a sense of the man and his mission.

None of us had any idea whether any of the students would attend. We counted upon a number of those from the Theological Seminary, who know me, and upon some of the people of Princeton, but all of us agreed that McCosh Hall, which seats 600 people, would prove rather large for the occasion. Thus the hour for the meeting came, and lo, there were less than fifty chairs vacant in the hall, and a large crowd of students had appeared. Our harpist and our singer, two good Christian ladies, proved a success, and their earnest music was well received. Then I was introduced. I commenced with a broad history of the Jews, past and present, speaking about twenty minutes without revealing my real purpose, and the audience followed me with interest. Suddenly I closed my narrative, and I went on somewhat like this: ‘Jewish History is true. It is recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was closed at least 2,500 years ago. Whence did its writers get the knowledge of such history which is peculiar and extraordinary? By divine inspiration. Then the Old Testament is the Voice of God. ’ While I was developing these thoughts, some of the students who had been lolling in their seats, sat up and leaning forward, began to show signs of special interest.

Then once more I turned to Jewish history and asked the question, ‘What does it teach us?’ My answer was, ‘It teaches us that the master sin of men is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It began to grow very still as I was thus appealing to every one present. Just as I closed the appeal and was ready to finish, the great bell of the university struck nine, and every one of the strokes was clearly heard amid the stillness. It was like the call of the Lord. It was of His ordering, for I had not known of the existence of the clock. Deeply stirred myself, I was silent while the clock was striking. When it had ceased, I simply said, Amen. For a little all was silence. Then two students arose, and, as their fashion is, showed their approval by applause, and in a moment the hall resounded with the clapping of hands, the Christian men and women, the professors and the preachers present joining in it. But I sat down, not even acknowledging the applause, because the praise belonged unto the Lord.

His contributions to the causes of educating Gentiles and calling the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament were many. At the time of his death in 1913 at the age of 50, he was working on a project to highlight the lives of notable Jewish Christians during the previous century. Twenty-one such biographical sketches by him were published in 1983 under the title Louis Meyer's Eminent Hebrew Christians of the Nineteenth Century: Brief Biographical Sketches. A German-born Jewish Covenanter minister of the gospel is not a juxtaposition of words that one sees every day, but such is the Christian gentleman highlighted at Log College Press today. Check out his page to explore a sample of his published writings.

The Sitting-Room by J.W. Alexander

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In most eloquent fashion, James Waddel Alexander reminds us why families need a place to come together, as well as a routine where the heart of family life is nourished. This piece was originally published in The Presbyterian Magazine (Jan. 1851) under the pseudonym “C.Q.” (for “Charles Quill,” a favorite nom de plume of Alexander), and later republished posthumously with the author’s true name. Though he wrote in the 19th century, the need expressed here is no less greater, perhaps much more so, in the 21st.

The Sitting-Room

There is, or there ought to be, in every house, a room where all the household come together every day; a dear, well-remembered chamber, hung round by memory with the portraits of father, mother, brothers, sisters, servants, kinsfolk, friends, neighbours, guests, strangers, and Christ's poor. O, my reader, do you not remember such a room? In your wanderings, in your voyages, in the group of your own family, and among your own children, does not your thought go back to the days when you gathered around that ruddy, crackling fire, and when the heads, which are now laid low, were as a crown of glory to their offspring?

In some houses, this common-room, or “living-room,” as our Puritan neighbours call it, is the only room in the house; it is parlour, bed-room, kitchen, all in one. Blessed compensation of Providence to the poor man and his offspring; they can be always together. Wealth multiplies apartments and separates families. Go to the western clearing, and before you reach the cabin, you descry through the chinks the glow of a fire, which would serve a city mechanic for a week; entering, you behold the illumination of a whole circle sitting around the blaze, perhaps singing their evening hymn. Are they less happy than the dwellers in ceiled houses? Change the scene to the uptown seats of wealth, where the merchant prince abides in greater conveniences than Nebuchadnezzar or Charlemagne; for he has baths, hot and cold water on every floor, furnace-heat, and gas-lights. You can scarcely number the apartments. You think it a paradise. Hold! reconsider the social, the domestic part. It is three o'clock. What a solitude: The father is slaving at his counting-house. The mother is dropping cards at fifty doors, or stiffly receiving fifty visits. The boys are sparring or walking Broadway or Chestnut-street. The girls are with masters in Italian, dancing, and philosophy. The babies are airing with French nurses. Do these ever come together? Not in the true family sense. Some Christian merchants have few home joys, and are content to pray with their families once a day. The very name of a sitting-room, living-room, or common-room sounds plebeian, and savours of “the country.” Yet I know men, rich believers, who make conscience of gathering their family, all their family; and to effect this requires a place. God's blessing is on the room, whether covered with Axminster carpets or unplaned plank, whether hung with damask or with hunting-shirts and bear-skins, where that little kingdom, a Christian household, daily meets for prayer, for praise, for kind words, for joint labours, for loving looks, for rational entertainment, for reading aloud, for music, for neighbourly exchanges, for entertaining angels unawares. Thanks be to God for our Presbyterian sitting-rooms!

An Address to President Lincoln

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In the autumn of 1862 (after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, and before it took effect on January 1, 1863), two Covenanter (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) ministers met privately with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss some particular priority goals that they wished the Lincoln administration to achieve. The Oval Office has rarely heard such a speech reminiscent of Psalm 2.

The address below to President Lincoln was authored and presented by James Renwick Wilson Sloane and Alexander McLeod Milligan (brothers-in-law as well as brothers in the Lord).

TO HIS EXCELLENCY ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
PRESIDENT OP THE UNITED STATES

We visit you, Mr. President, as the representatives of the Reformed Presbyterian, or, as it is frequently termed, "Scotch Covenanter," Church, — a Church whose sacrifices and sufferings in the cause of civil and religious liberty are a part of the world's history, and to which we are indebted, no less than to the Puritans, for those inestimable privileges so largely enjoyed in the free States of this Union, and which, true to its high lineage and ancient spirit, does not hold within its pale a single Secessionist, or sympathizer with rebellion, in these United States.

Our Church has unanimously declared, by the voice of her highest court, that the world has never seen a conflict in which right was more clearly wholly upon the one side, and wrong upon the other, than in the present struggle of this Government with this slaveholders' rebellion. She has also unanimously declared her determination to assist the Government by all lawful means in her power in its conflict with this atrocious conspiracy, until it be utterly overthrown and annihilated.

Profoundly impressed with the immense importance of the issues involved in this contest, and with the solemn responsibilities which rest upon the Chief Magistrate in this time of the nation's peril, our brethren have commissioned us to come and address you words of sympathy and encouragement, also to express to you views which, in their judgment, have an important bearing upon the present condition of affairs in our beloved country; to congratulate you on what has already been accomplished in crushing rebellion, and to exhort you to persevere in the work, until it has been finally completed.

Entertaining no shadow of doubt as to the entire justice of the cause in which the nation is embarked, we nevertheless consider the war a just judgment of Almighty God for the sin of rejecting his authority, and enslaving our fellow-men, and are firmly persuaded that his wrath will not be appeased, and that no permanent peace will be attained, until his authority be recognized, and the abomination that maketh desolate utterly extirpated.

As an anti-slavery church of the most radical school, believing slavery to be a heinous and aggravated sin both against God and man, and to be placed in the same category with piracy, murder, adultery, and theft, it is our solemn conviction that God by his Word and Providence is calling the nation to immediate, unconditional, and universal emancipation. We hear his voice in these thunders of war saying to us, "Let my people go." Nevertheless, we have hailed with delighted satisfaction the several steps which you have taken in the direction of emancipation. Especially do we rejoice in your late proclamation, declaring your purpose to free the slaves in the rebel States on the first day of January, 1863, an act which, when carried out, will give the death-blow to rebellion, strike the fetters from millions of bondmen, and will secure for its author a place high among the wisest of rulers and the noblest benefactors of the race. Permit us, then, Mr. President, most respectfully yet most earnestly, to urge upon you the importance of enforcing that proclamation to the utmost extent of that power with which you are vested. Let it be placed on the highest grounds of Christian justice and philanthropy; let it be declared to be an act of national repentance for long complicity with the guilt of slavery. Permit nothing to tarnish the glory of the act, or rob it of its sublime moral significance and grandeur, and it cannot fail to meet a hearty response in the conscience of the nation, and to secure infinite blessings to our distracted country. Let not the declaration of the immortal Burke in this instance be verified: "Good works are commonly left in a rude and imperfect state through the tame circumspection with which a timid prudence so frequently enervates beneficence. In doing good we are cold, languid, and sluggish, and of all things afraid of being too much in the right." We urge you by every consideration drawn from the Word of God and the present condition of our bleeding country, not to be moved from the path of duty, on which you have so auspiciously entered, either by the threats or blandishments of the enemies of human progress, nor to permit this great act to lose its power through the fears of its timid friends.

There is another point which we esteem of prominent importance, and to which we wish briefly to call your attention. The Constitution of the United States contains no acknowledgment of the authority of God, of his Christ, or of his law as contained in the Holy Scriptures. This we deeply deplore, as wholly inconsistent with all claim to be considered a Christian nation, or to enjoy the protection and favor of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is above all earthly rulers. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one Mediator between God and man, through whom alone either nations or individuals can secure the favor of the Most High God, who is saying to us in these judgments, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, O ye judges of the earth! serve the Lord with fear. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that trust in him. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."

This time appears to us most opportune for calling the nation to a recognition of the name and authority of God, to the claims of him who will overturn, overturn, and overturn, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. We indulge the hope, Mr. President, that you have been called, with your ardent love of liberty, your profound moral convictions manifested in your sabbath proclamation, and in your frequent declarations of dependence upon Divine Providence, to your present position of honor and influence, to free our beloved country from the curse of slavery, and secure for it the favor of the great Ruler of the universe. Shall we not now set the world an example of a Christian State governed, not by the principles of mere political expediency, but acting under a sense of accountability to God, and in obedience to those laws of immutable morality which are binding alike upon nations and individuals?

We pray that you may be directed in your responsible position by divine wisdom, that God may throw over you the shield of his protection, that we may soon see rebellion crushed, its cause removed, and our land become Immanuel's land.

Another Covenanter minister, Thomas Sproull, reminisced shortly after Lincoln’s assassination about the president’s response to this powerful appeal:

Some time last winter two men connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church were in Washington City, and called at the President’s house. While in the room that is always open to visitors, the President came in, and got into a conversation with them, in the course of which mention was made,of the Covenanters. The name seemed to arrest his attention, and he remarked: “I know something about these people — they want the Constitution amended by putting slavery out of it, and by putting a recognition of God in it.” To this they assented, and he proceeded to speak in kind and earnest terms of the brethren who had been with him urging the amendments. He added that they had obtained one object of their mission during his first term in office, and he hoped they would obtain the other before the end of his second term.

National Reform Association Officers at Log College Press

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We have previously written about the history and mission of the National Reform Association (NRA) here. Although closely associated with the Reformed Presbyterian of North America (RPCNA), which emphasizes the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ over all things, including nations, the mission of the NRA — firstly, to amend the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ’s kingship over the nation — was widely supported by 19th century American Presbyterians from a range of denominations. The number of ministers who were supporters or officers of the NRA is remarkable, some of whom are available to read here at Log College Press. The names which follow — and some of the quotes — are all highlighted in the January 31-February 1, 1872 and February 4-5, 1874 Proceedings of the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the 1877 National Reform Manual.

National Reform Association.jpg
  • Samuel Agnew - The Treasurer of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia also served as the Treasurer of the National Reform Association.

Our duty is plain. We must search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. The loss of his favor will explain everything that has happened. And the grand aim should be to learn how we have lost his favor, and by what means we can regain it. This is too large a theme to be discussed within the compass of a few pages. But there is one feature of our government too closely connected with this question and too conspicuous to be passed by in silence. I refer, as you will readily suppose — for the topic is a familiar one— to the absence of any adequate recognition of the sovereignty of God, and the religion of which he is the author and object, in our Constitution, and in the practical administration of our political system. It may be conceded that the spirit of Christianity is to a certain extent incorporated into our Constitutions. The legal recognition of the Sabbath, the oath on the Holy Evangelists, and the appointment of chaplains, are, so far, an acknowledgment of the Christian religion. But our national charter pays no homage to the Deity. His name does not once occur in the Constitution of the United States. And, as if to confound the charity which would refer this omission to some accidental agency, the same atheism is repeated and perpetuated in another form no less excusable. . . . . The coinage of the United States is without a God. . . . . Is it too much to hope that this opprobrium may be wiped away? If we have never been taught the lesson before, we are admonished of it now, that the ‘Lord reigneth.’ Has not the time come to make our formal national confession of this fundamental truth — to impress it upon our coinage; to insert it (peradventure it may not be too late,) as the keystone of our riven and tottering Constitution? If the country is not ready for these two simple but significant steps in the direction of Christianity, we have been chastened to very little purpose (The Sovereignty of God, the Sure and Only Stay of the Christian Patriot in Our National Troubles: A Sermon (1862), pp. 20-23).

The Constitution Should Contain a Recognition of the Sovereignty of God Over the Nation.

In the consideration of this topic three things will be assumed, as their establishment (in substance) belongs to another tract of this series, viz. -- (1) That every nation is an organism, a moral person, of which Jehovah is Creator and Sovereign; -- (2) That God, as Sovereign, gives a Nation its prosperity and its adversity, and that He gives these for purposes of reward, of chastisement, and of special training; -- (3) That it is the duty of every nation -- especially of every Nation blessed as we have been -- to recognize, as an organism, His Sovereignty (The Religious Defect of the Constitution of the United States (1868), pp. 1-2).

There is one strictly national, that commenced in the adoption of the Federal Constitution, which is, the want of an acknowledgment in it of a Supreme Being and of a Divine revelation. That all-important engine of our national prosperity is, in form at least, entirely atheistical. Undoubtedly it was a great sin to have forgotten God in such an important national instrument, and not to have acknowledged Him in that which forms the very nerves and sinews of the political body. He had led us through all the perils of the Revolutionary struggle, and had established us in peaceful and plentiful security, and then to have been forgotten in the period of prosperity, certainly demanded His rebuke. Therefore hath the voice of His Providence proclaimed and even still it sounds in our ears: “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore will I be unto them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them” (Judgment and Mercy: A Sermon, Delivered...On the Day of "Humiliation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer" (1820)).

George Duffield V (not an NRA officer):

“Ye have robbed me, even this whole nation,” and as a nation He will hold us responsible for this robbery of his service and honor, just as much as he did Israel, and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece and Rome. To deny that God is ‘“THE GOVERNOR OF THE NATIONS,” (Ps. xxii. 28,) is to deny HIS DIVINE PROVIDENCE, acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, and to deny the providence of God is to deny his ATTRIBUTES. * * * It is that old story of Israel and human nature over again: “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.” Temporal prosperity was too much for him. “Then he forsook the God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.’” (Deut. xxxii. 15.”)

* "That no notice whatever should be taken of that God who planteth a nation, and plucketh it up at his pleasure, is an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate. Had such a momentous business been transacted by Mohammedans, they would have begun, "In the name of God." Even the savages, whom we despise, setting a better example, would have paid some homage to the Great Spirit. But from the Constitution of the United States, it is impossible to ascertain what God we worship; or whether we own a God at all. * * Should the citizens of America be as irreligious as her Constitution, we will have reason to tremble, lest the Governor of the Universe, who will not be treated with indignity by a people, any more than by individuals, overturn, from its foundation, the fabric we have been rearing, and crush us to atoms in the wreck." —Works of J. M. Mason, D. D., Vol. i., p. 50.

“Was this omission intentional, as in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence? or was it a moral oversight, even greater than the tremendous political oversight in the original Articles of Confederation?” "Is it not strange that it appears not to have been perceived by any one at the time that the whole of this controversy arose out of a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the substitution of State sovereignty, instead of the constituent sovereignty of the people, as the foundation of the Revolution and the Union?" — ''Jubilee of the Constitution," by John Quincy Adams, April 30th, 1839, pp. 30-36 (The God of Our Fathers: An Historical Sermon (1861), pp. 13-15).

We have formed an association to effect an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Our proposed amendment does not touch to change — much less to abrogate — one of the truths, the principles or the features of that great instrument. Nor does it imply that we are wanting in appreciation of it; that we are dissatisfied or are restless under its working hitherto. Whoever likes the Constitution will find that we like it, and the institutions that have grown up under it, in the same measure and probably for the same good reasons. He will find us joined with him in the loyal support of all the good that is in it, its implied assertion of the rights of man and its wise provision for the growth of the nation. For such political wisdom given to our fathers we devoutly thank God; and it is our conviction and our boast that this Constitution is the best national charter recorded on the pages of history. But our fathers were not infallible, and the Constitution which they made for us was not perfect. Our nation's growth and experience have suggested several important amendments which have been already adopted ; and, as it seems to us, the time has come to discuss the adoption of another. There are certain evils and cer tain signs of coming evil which give us anxiety. These evils and evil omens we trace back to an omission in the Constitution, and it is evident that if this omission be supplied the evils will be averted. And this is what we propose to do. Our amendment, like all the others, is suggested by our experience, and, however it may seem to be late in the day, can never be out of date. There is no mention of God in the Constitution, no word which recognizes His sovereignty over human affairs or His interest in them. One of the great — one of the chief characteristics of our people at the time they entered into national com pact is thus ignored. The underlying faith of our forefathers, a faith which must have given life and shape to their politics and their institutions, is thus not alluded to. I repeat, this is the omission which now engages our attention and which we wish to supply. We feel that such an omission does injustice to the people, who, because of it, are but partially described and but partially represented in their Constitution. It would seem as if they had not understood how great and how grave was the work of nation-making in which they were engaged, and that they gave to.it only such earnestness as showed their desire for safety peace and wealth — mere material interests — though our forefathers, as we know, were a serious, thoughtful people, accustomed to do everything of a public nature in the name and the fear of God ; and though they settled the land and made their laws from the beginning as much for religious faith as for civil freedom, or rather, for the freedom of religious faith (Address of Dr. Edwards to the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

It is often claimed that the omission of all reference to God and His authority was simply an oversight; that His name was dropped from the oath by a mere inadvertence, and that the "no religious test" clause meant only no sectarian test; that some of the colonies had adopted sectarian tests, and that this was intended to forbid such tests under the Constitution. There are two things to be said in reply to this claim: First, that such deep forgetfulness and such astounding inadvertence in so grave a matter and in such circumstances, is wholly incredible and would scarcely lessen the nation's guilt if it were true. "For the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." And, second, there are historical facts connected with the framing, adoption, and first administration of the Constitution, which put beyond all question that our Constitution and government has this Godless, Christless character by the design and purpose of its founders (Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Vol. 3 (The Covenanter Vision) (1917), p. 293).

It is time that, without any narrowness or bigotry, Christians were united in the affirmation that this is and shall be a Christian land, and that the acknowledgment of this truth shall be put beyond all peradventure by being formally in the National Constitution (Letter to David McAllister, December 11, 1873).

This Church [Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America] is the special leader in the National Reform Movement. This is in the line of its testimony from the earliest days of Scotch Presbyterianism down to the present time. The thing which is peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Old Side) and which distinguishes it from all others, is the refusal of its people to vote, hold office, or do any other act definitely incorporating themselves with the government until the nation shall specifically recognize Jesus Christ as the source of its civil authority, and God's law as the rule of national conduct in legislation and in the administration of its affairs, both international and domestic. While the Covenanter Church is alone in maintaining the consistency of its political dissent by refusing to vote, large numbers of Christian American citizens in other communions look upon it as a radical, if not fatal defect of the Constitution that it contains no recognition of God as supreme, or of the nation as a moral person bound by the moral law. The Constitution acknowledges no benefit to be derived from the Bible, the Sabbath, Christian morality, or Christian conduct in officials, and gives no legal basis for any Christian feature of the government.

...Reformed Presbyterians feel specially called upon to aid the success of this association at any cost or personal sacrifice. They believe that when the proposed amendments to the Constitution shall have been incorporated into that document, and not until then, shall this be a truly Christian government.

...That Movement seeks to add to the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States, as the source of its civil authority some acknowledgment of God and the Nation's accountability to him. At present the Preamble of the Constitution simply says 'We, the people of the United States,' as if the people were independent of the Almighty. The National Reform Association seeks to have that Preamble amended by inserting after the words just quoted, 'recognizing the dominion of Jesus Christ over the nations, and this nation's subjection to the Divine law (Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements (1892), pp. 420-421).

Christ’s Mediatorial authority embraces the universe.—Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23. It presents two great aspects. 1st. In its general administration as embracing the universe as a whole. 2nd. In its special administration as embracing the church…

The truth as held by all branches of the historical church is, that while Christ has been virtually Mediatorial King as well as Prophet and Priest from the fall of Adam, yet his public and formal assumption of his throne and inauguration of his spiritual kingdom dates from his ascension and session at the right hand of his Father….

The state is a divine institution, and the officers thereof are God’s ministers, Romans 13:1–4, Christ the Mediator is, as a revealed fact, “Ruler among the Nations,” King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 19:16; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23, and the Sacred Scriptures are an infallible rule of faith and practice to all men under all conditions…

It follows therefore— 1st. That every nation should explicitly acknowledge the Christ of God to be the Supreme Governor, and his revealed will the supreme fundamental law of the land, to the general principles of which all special legislation should be conformed. 2nd. That all civil officers should make the glory of God their end, and his revealed will their guide. 3rd. That, while no distinction should be made between the various Christian denominations, and perfect liberty of conscience and worship be allowed to all men, nevertheless the Christian magistrate should seek to promote piety as well as civil order (“Confession of Faith,” ch. 23, § 2). This they are to do, not by assuming ecclesiastical functions, nor by attempting to patronize or control the church, but by their personal example, by giving impartial protection to church property and facility to church work, by the enactment and enforcement of laws conceived in the true spirit of the Gospel, and especially in maintaining inviolate the Christian Sabbath, and Christian marriage, and in providing for Christian instruction in the public schools (Outlines of Theology, pp. 428-429, 434).

The point we want recognized in the Constitution is not a dogma of the churches, nor a theory of the schools, but a simple fact, everywhere operating, and universally recognized by believers. Jesus Christ is, as a fact, “Ruler among the nations,” (I.) providentially guiding their affairs, and determining their destinies; (2.) morally, by the revelation of truth and duty, the exhibition of motives, and stimulus and discipline of providentially arranged circumstances. If this be a matter of fact generally believed, should not a great self-governing community like this nation, conscious of its acts and of their character, make a distinct profession of its allegiance?

The practical recognition of this fact is no new thing in American history. It has formed a prominent characteristic of our successive governments, colonial, state, and national, from the beginning. We propose the adoption of no new principles, and no radical change of customs. We propose only to recognize, as a fundamental principle in the National written Constitution, that which has been a universally recognized principle of national life from the first. We aim not at change, but at conservation. We want to preserve through all coming time, and consistently carry out in all departments of law, the hitherto universally admitted fact, that Christianity is an element in the common law of the land (Address Concerning a Religious Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1874)).

The grand defect in the bond of our national union is the absence of the recognition of God as the Governor of this world. We have omitted — may it not be said refused? — to own him whose head wears many crowns, as having any right of dominion over us. The constitution of these United States contains no express recognition of the being of a God: much less an acknowledgment, that The Word of God, sways the sceptre of universal dominion. This is our grand national sin of omission. This gives the infidel occasion to glory, and has no small influence in fostering infidelity in affairs of state and among political men. That the nation will be blessed with peace and prosperity continuously, until this defect be remedied, no Christian philosopher expects. For this national insult, the Governor of the universe will lift again and again his rod of iron over our heads, until we be affrighted and give this glory to his name (The Little Stone and the Great Image; or, Lectures on the Prophecies Symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of the Golden Headed Monster (1844), pp. 280-281).

We have never believed it perfect. Doubtless some improvements are possible; but it makes abundant provision for them, without utter demolition. The principal defect apparent to our vision meets us at the vestibule. The portico lacks one gem to perfect its lustre. There is union and justice, common defence and general welfare, blessing and liberty, but we cast our eyes about in vain for that which alone can give stability and beauty to the whole. The Koh-i-noor, whose radiant glories crown the grandeur of the beautiful temple, the Shekinah, is absent. The grand bond of our national Union does not distinctly acknowledge the being of a God. For more than forty years, a Fourth of July has seldom passed, on which I have not preached and warned my countrymen of this defect, and told them if it be not supplied, God would pull down their temple and bury a nation in its ruins. This warning has been sounded forth from thousands of pulpits in the land, and would have been much more extensively trumpeted but for the paralyzing influence of the fallacy couched in the demagogue's double entendre. ‘Religion has nothing to do with politics’ (Political Fallacies (1863), pp. 305, 306).

Nations have no difficulty in recognizing and acting on the principle of national, responsibility in their dealings with each other. In our recent troubles with Spain on account of the capture of the Virginius and the barbarous deeds that followed, we did not go to the individuals who perpetrated the outrage; we did not go to Cuba with our demand of reparation; we took our case directly to those who represented the supreme authority of Spain. From the nation we demanded reparation, and from it we received it. On the same principle God deals with all nations. They may refuse to acknowledge his authority; they may seek to throw off all responsibility to him; but it is in his prerogative and power to hold them to it, whether they acknowledge it or not. He claims, not only under his general ordinance, but in specific terms, to be the “Governor among the nations;” and in his Providence, as in his word, has shown that he does “judge among the nations,” and that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” The sacred history abounds with records of this, not only in respect to the chosen people, but the nations around them whose history is interwoven with theirs. And in records outside of the sacred history, we have the evidences, in all the ages, of his judgment and power, approving or condemning, blessing or punishing, the nations according to their character and acts. The history of our own nation is a sufficient illustration of this; as, also, of the fact that no existing nation of all the world has been brought under greater obligations to acknowledge and honor him (Moral Responsibility of Nations (1874)).

  • David McAllister (NRA General Secretary) - McAllister’s labors on behalf of the National Reform movement were diverse and extensive. Some of his writings from the 1870’s promoting an amendment to the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ as King are available to read at Log College Press. He also wrote a manual of the NRA’s history and principles.

The amendment proposed is such an addition, in substance, to the Preamble of the United States Constitution, as will suitably express our national acknowledgment of Almighty God as the author of the nation's existence and the source of its authority; of Jesus Christ as its ruler; and of the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

This is the great purpose of the National Association, based on the fundamental truth that a nation, as such, stands in clear and definite relations to God and his moral laws, and that in the Constitution, as well as the administration of its government, it is under obligations to acknowledge these relations (The Aims and Methods of the Movement to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

The doctrine here advocated is, that as the different branches of our national government, the executive, legislative, and judicial, are co-ordinate, each supreme within its own sphere, and independent of the others, but all alike responsible directly to the people, so the church and state are co-ordinate institutions, totally independent of each other, each, in its own sphere, supreme with respect to the other, but both alike of Divine appointment, having one and the same head and fountain of all their powers, which is God. Whence both alike are bound to acknowledge, worship, and obey him. It is as great a solecism for the state to neglect this, as it would be for the church. Many seem to think that the complete separation of church and state, implies that the state, as such, has no duties to God, and no religious character. As logically it could be inferred from the family’s independence of the church, that that family has no religious character, and no duties to God. The family, the church, and the state, these are all co-ordinate institutions, severally independent of each other, yet all alike having one and the same Head, which they are equally bound in solemn form to acknowledge, worship, and obey. When the state, for any reason, declines to do this, it falls into a gross anomaly, and exemplifies that which is described in the second Psalm: Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; Jehovah shall have them in derision (A Nation’s Right to Worship God (1859), pp. 36-37).

Nor is slavery by any means the only sin with which, as a nation, we are chargeable. Our constitution of government, and its administration, are, to all intents and purposes, atheistic, ignoring the existence of God and every institution that he has established among men. This constitution was formed at a period when this country and Europe were both overrun by the principles of French infidelity, by men who were notoriously sceptical, and by whom all recognition of God was purposely excluded from this “remarkable document.” This no one can deny who has any acquaintance with the history of this period (God's Judgments, and Thanksgiving Sermons: A Discourse (1858), p. 12).

The first which I name, Religion, is first also in point of importance and necessity. This is a prime support of national greatness and perpetuity. No government, much less one that is wholly dependent upon the morals of the citizens, will long exist without it. By religion in this connection, I do not mean merely the religion of the individuals composing the State, but national religion acknowledged in the Constitution, embodied in the laws, and entering as an element into all those institutions which are the outgrowth and the exponents of the national life….We refuse, then, the profane maxims current in the mouths of political speculatists: "Religion has nothing to do with politics," "The State has no God," "Law knows no Bible."…We do not affirm that as a nation we are wholly destitute of the Christian element. There is much in our country which is the direct result of its influence. There are certainly here a large number devotedly attached to Christian principles. Our great benevolent and educational institutions are largely moulded and controlled by Christianity. Its powerful and permeating influence is everywhere felt. Nevertheless, as a government, we are not merely profoundly laic, as Guizot would say, but absolutely infidel and atheistic. Our Government is no more Christian than it is Jewish or Mohammedan. There is no recognition of God in its Constitution, no allusion to his name, authority, or law, not the most remote allusion to that great fundamental truth which, as the General Assembly in its late deliverance upon this subject truly declares, must underlie all our claims to be considered a Christian nation; viz., that there is one mediator between God and man (The Three Pillars of a Republic (1862) in Life and Work of J.R.W. Sloane, D.D. (1888), pp. 235, 238-240).

We respectfully submit to your consideration, whether these amendments are not simply an appropriate recognition of the relations which all just human authority sustains to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Is not anything less than this wholly inconsistent with those relations? We propose the recognition of God, not only be cause He is the Supreme Ruler of all men and all organizations, but because it is He who has given the institution of civil government to man, and the just authority of the magistrate is derived from Him. "There is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God." It is surely fitting that a constitution framed by a Christian people should recognize a higher source of civil authority than the mere will or con sent of the. citizen. And in presenting civil government thus, as a divine institution, we enforce, by the highest possible sanctions, its claims upon the respect and obedience of the citizen. The true strength of a government lies in the conscientious regard felt for it as the ordinance of God. Thus only is the magistrate clothed with his true authority, and the majesty of the law suitably preserved. "The sanctions of religion," says De Witt Clinton, "compose the foundations of good government."

Government is instituted for man as an intellectual, social, and moral and religious being. It corresponds to his whole nature. It is intended (o protect and advance the higher as well as the lower interests of humanity. It acts for its legitimate purposes when it watches over domestic life, and asserts and enforces the sanctity of the marriage bond ; when it watches over intellect and education, and furnishes means for developing all the faculties of the mind; when it frowns on profaneness, lewdness, the desecration of the Sabbath, and other crimes which injure society chiefly by weakening moral and religious sentiment, and degrading the character of a people. Acting for such purposes, government should be established on moral principles. Moral principles of conduct are determined by moral relations. The relations of a nation to God and his moral laws are clear and definite: 1. A nation is the creature of God. 2. It is clothed with authority derived from God. 3. It owes allegiance to Jesus Christ, the appointed Ruler of nations. 4. It is subject to the authority of the Bible, the special revelation of moral law. In constituting and administering its government, then, a nation is under obligations to acknowledge God as the author of its existence and the source of its authority, Jesus Christ as its ruler, and the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

Up to the time of the adoption of the National Constitution, acknowledgments of this kind were made by all the States. They are yet made by many of the States. And in the actual administration of the national government the principle is admitted. But the fundamental law of the nation, the Constitution of the United States, on which our government rests and according to which it is to be administered, fails to make, fully and explicitly, any such acknowledgment. This failure has fostered among us mischievous ideas like the following: The nation, as such, has no relations to God ; its authority has no higher source than the will of the people; government is instituted only for the lower wants of man ; the State goes beyond its sphere when it educates religiously, or legislates against profanity or Sabbath desecration.

The National Association, which has been formed for the purpose of securing such an amendment to the Constitution as will remedy this great defect, and indicate that this is a Christian nation, and place all Christian laws, institutions, and usages in our government on an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the nation, invites all American citizens who favor such an amendment, without distinction of party or creed, to meet in Thorns' Hall, Cincinnati, on Wednesday, January 31, 1872, at 2 o'clock, P. M. All such citizens, to whose notice this call may be brought, are requested to hold meetings and appoint delegates to the Convention (Call For a National Convention (1872)).

Persuaded that God is the source of all legitimate power; that he has instituted civil government for His own glory and the good of man; that he has appointed His Son, the Mediator, to headship over the nations; and that the Bible is the supreme law and rule in national as in all other things, we will maintain the responsibility of nations to God, the rightful dominion of Jesus Christ over the commonwealth, and the obligation of nations to legislate in conformity with the written Word. We take ourselves sacredly bound to regulate all our civil relations, attachments, professions and deportment, by our allegiance and loyalty to the Lord, our King, Lawgiver and Judge; and by this, our oath, we are pledged to promote the interests of public order and justice, to support cheerfully whatever is for the good of the commonwealth in which we dwell, and to pursue this object in all things not forbidden by the law of God, or inconsistent with public dissent from an unscriptural and immoral civil power. We will pray and labor for the peace and welfare of our country, and for its reformation by a constitutional recognition of God as the source of all power, of Jesus Christ as the Ruler of Nations, of the Holy Scriptures as the supreme rule, and of the true Christian religion;. and we will continue to refuse to incorporate by any act, with the political body, until this blessed reformation has been secured (The Covenant of 1871)

The Death of J.W. Alexander

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In the spring of 1859, at the age of 55, the health of James Waddel Alexander began to decline. He made the decision to leave New York City, where he labored as pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and head south to Virginia. It was thought that the curative effects of the western mountain springs could help to alleviate the chills he was experiencing. His long-time correspondent, John Hall, encouraged him to think about a trip out West, but Alexander determined to return to his home state (Alexander’s letter to Hall from Charlottesville, dated June 7, 1859).

Red Sweet Springs, as it appeared in 1867. Source:  http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/springs/redsweet/

Red Sweet Springs, as it appeared in 1867. Source: http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/springs/redsweet/

In the mid-19th century, places such as Warm Springs in Bath County and Red Sweet Springs (also known Sweet Chalybeate Springs) in Allegheny County drew many visitors and patients seeking a return to good health. Alexander visited the Warm Springs Hotel first, arriving on July 13. His delight in seeing the mountains was evident during the days following. Dr. James L. Cabell, Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who accompanied him to the springs, reported that:

In his daily drives, his enjoyments of our mountain scenery, which is unsurpassed for its varied beauty and grandeur, was almost rapturous. It had never before, he said, been half so great. He would repeatedly say that he had no language of his own adequate to the expression of his feelings, and could only exclaim with the Psalmist: ‘Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.’

Dr. Cabell also reported that Alexander experienced an immediate boost in his health, but that he was also anxious to move on to Red Sweet Springs. On July 20, Alexander commenced the next leg of his trip, but had to stop for the night due to the onset of extreme physical pain while traveling on a hot Virginia road. Dysentery began to afflict him that night. The next day he made it to the Red Sweet Springs. But over the course of the following week, he battled a fever, and the dysentery took its toll on his body too. Although the proprietor of the cottage he stayed at, the doctor, and others, made every effort to provide comfort and aid, Alexander realized that he was coming to the end of his mortal journey. Before the end came, according to Cabell, Alexander said:

I have not been in the habit of talking much on the subject of my own spiritual states of feeling. With respect to my subjective religion, I have often disappointed people who look for manifestations of a certain kind. But I have frequently made known to Elizabeth [his wife] the grounds of my hope…Let me say one word more with respect to the solemn event to which you have called my attention. If the curtain were to drop now, and I were this moment ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings? They would be these: first, I would prostrate myself in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt; but, secondly, I would look upon my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love. A passage of Scripture which expresses my present feeling is this: “I KNOW WHOM” (with great emphasis) “I have believed, and am assured that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.

These words were uttered by Alexander about 20 hours before he breathed his last at around 5:00 am on the Lord’s Day, July 31, 1859. Thus did he, who had brought such consolation and comfort to many during his ministry, enter into the presence of the Lord whom he loved.

J.W. Alexander’s grave at Princeton Cemetery (photo by R. Andrew Myers).

J.W. Alexander’s grave at Princeton Cemetery (photo by R. Andrew Myers).

Alexander’s body was transported from Red Sweet Springs, Virginia and buried some days later at Princeton Cemetery, where his father Archibald Alexander, and later his brother Joseph A. Alexander, were also laid to rest. Last year, this writer paid a visit to his grave. Today, we remember a prince in Israel who died exactly 160 years ago.

What's in a name? Part 2

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One of the greatest tributes to a respected person is the children who are named after them (even beyond Jr.’s and so forth). This has occurred quite a few times within American Presbyterianism. Some rather interesting examples pertaining to Log College Press authors can be found below.

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) - Charles Hodge (1797-1878) named his son Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886) after his mentor. Archibald Alexander Edward Taylor (1834-1903) was also named after the great Virginia-born Presbyterian.

Elias Boudinot IV (1740-1821) - Elias Boudinot (1802-1839) was a Cherokee Presbyterian minister who was born with the name Gallegina Uwati (Buck Watie). He took the name of his mentor after his conversion to Christ.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) - At least two American Presbyterian ministers have been named after the English Baptist author of The Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan Reeve (1831-1916) and John Bunyan Shearer (1832-1919). Additionally, William Drew Robeson I (1844-1919) named a son John Bunyan Reeve Robeson (1886-1930, the son did not care for the name and was referred to as “Reed”).

Reeve, John Bunyan photo.jpg

John Calvin (1509-1564) - John Calvin Boyd (1814-1886) and John Calvin Barr (1824-1911) were both named after the French Reformer.

Richard Cameron (1648-1680) - Richard Cameron Wylie (1846-1928), the American Covenanter, was named after the Scottish Covenanter martyr.

Henry Clay (1777-1852) - Henry Clay Cameron (1827-1906) was named after the American statesman.

William Cowper (1731-1800) - Archibald Alexander named his son William Cowper Alexander (1806-1874) after the English poet.

Samuel Davies (1723-1761) - Both Samuel Davies Alexander (1819-1894), son of Archibald Alexander; and Samuel Davies Hoge (1791-1826), son of Moses Hoge (1752-1820) and father of Moses Drury Hoge (1819-1899); were named for the Delaware-born “Apostle to Virginia.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Benjamin Franklin Bittinger (1824-1913) was named for the American Founding Father.

Ashbel Green (1762-1848) - Both Ashbel Green Fairchild (1795-1864) and Ashbel Green Vermilye (1822-1905) were named for this noted New Jersey-born Presbyterian.

John Huss (1369-1415) - The Cherokee Presbyterian minister John Huss (1787-1858) was originally known as We-Cha-Lah-Nae-He (“the Spirit” or “Captain Spirit”). but took the name of the Bohemian Reformer after his conversion to Christ.

John Knox (1513-1572) - John Knox Witherspoon (1723-1794) was not only named for Scotland’s Reformation hero, but was also related to him through his mother, Anne (née Walker). The grandson of Witherspoon was also a Presbyterian minister named John Knox Witherspoon (1791-1853).

Alexander McLeod (1774-1833) - Alexander McLeod Stavely (1816-1903) of the RPCNA was named after an earlier leading American Covenanter.

John Newton (1725-1807) - John Newton Waddel (1812-1895) was named for the English Anglican minister and poet.

William Swan Plumer (1802-1880) - William Plumer Jacobs (1842-1917) was named after the adoptive father of his mother.

James Renwick (1662-1688) - James Renwick Willson (1780-1853), the American Covenanter, was named for a famous Scottish Covenanter.

James Waddel (1739-1805) - Archibald Alexander named his son James Waddel Alexander (1804-1859) after his father-in-law. J.W. Alexander would go on to write a biography of James Waddel, “the Blind Preacher.”

The connections between these names reminds us that the past is not dead, and that names of heroes of the faith live on in more ways than one.

* This is an updated edition of a post originally published on April 19, 2018.

Samuel Davies taught us to 'live not for yourselves'

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During his final illness, Samuel Davies selected the text upon which Samuel Finley would preach Davies’ funeral sermon: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7-8). This was done by Finley under the title The Dis-Interested and Devoted Christian [1761]. George Pilcher says that this Scripture text “expressed the belief that had governed [Davies’] life” (Samuel Davies: Apostle of Dissent in Colonial Virginia, p. 187).

Davies was a man who loved his family and his studies, and would have contented himself to serve his flock in rural central Virginia for the rest of his days. In 1751, he wrote to his brother-in-law, John Holt:

I can tell you that I am as happy as perhaps the Creation can make me: I enjoy all the Necessaries and most of the Conveniences of Life; I have a peaceful Study, as a Refuge from the Hurries and the Noise of the World around me; the venerable Dead are waiting in my Library to entertain me, and relieve me from the Nonsense of surviving Mortals; I am peculiarly happy in my Relations, and Providence does not affect me by afflicting them. In short, I have all a moderate Heart can wish; and I very much question if there be a more calm, placid and contented Mortal in Virginia.

But though Davies, with characteristic humility, thought himself unworthy to take up calls to serve the College of New Jersey (Princeton) by fundraising in Europe or in the capacity of President, and resisted those calls strenuously, he was not deaf to the call of duty when pressed upon him by others. He himself preached war sermons during the French and Indian War in which he told others: “FOLLOW THE PATH OF DUTY wherever it leads you” (Religion and Patriotism: The Constituents of a Good Soldier [1756]).

As President of Princeton — which he spoke of as “a Seminary of Loyalty, as well as Learning, and Piety: a Nursery for the State, as well as the Church” (A Sermon Delivered at Nassau-Hall, January 14, 1761, on the Death of His Late Majesty King George II [1761]) — Davies delivered a discourse on the importance of cultivating a public spirit which is reminiscent of wisdom from Thomas à Kempis, who said “Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or endeavoring something for the public good” (The Imitation of Christ). Let us give heed to Davies:

Whatever, I say, be your Place, permit me, my dear Youth, to inculcate upon you this important instruction, IMBIBE AND CHERISH A PUBLIC SPIRIT. Serve your Generation. Live not for yourselves, but the Publick. Be the Servants of the Church; the servants of your Country; the Servants of all. Extend the Arms of your Benevolence to embrace your Friends, your Neighbors, your Country, your Nation, the whole Race of mankind, even your Enemies. Let it be the vigorous unremitted Effort of your whole Life, to leave the World wiser and better than you found it at your Entrance (Religion and Public Spirit: A Valedictory Address to the Senior Class, Delivered in Nassau-Hall, September 21, 1760 [1762]).

Samuel Davies did much good in the span of 37 years on this earth. He left a legacy of godliness which continues to encourage and inspire. May his “important instruction” to the students of his beloved college ring in our ears today: “Leave the world wiser and better than you found it at your entrance.”

The former American slave-turned Presbyterian missionary who signed the Liberian Declaration of Independence: Amos Herring

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The history of Liberia, founded in the 19th century by the American Colonization Society (ACS), to enable former American slaves to live free in Africa, is very much interwoven with American Presbyterianism. The Society was established in 1816 under the leadership of Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, who died one year later. It was in 1847 that Liberia officially became an independent nation (more on this later). Ralph Randolph Gurley, a Presbyterian chaplain to the US House of Representatives, was another founder of the ACS.

Not all black Americans or black American Presbyterian ministers supported the idea. Theodore Sedgwick Wright and Samuel Eli Cornish jointly published a rebuttal to the project in 1840 titled The Colonization Scheme Considered. They were both editors at Freedom’s Journal, which had previously engaged in an 1827 dispute with Samuel Miller, who had transmitted to them a letter signed with the nom de plume “Wilberforce,” likely authored by Archibald Alexander, which was critical of the journal for its anti-colonization perspective. Frederick Douglass also engaged in a bitter dispute with African-American Presbyterian minister Henry Highland Garnet over this issue (and others). Garnet would go on to become the first black minister to preach to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1865, but also was appointed the first black American to serve a high-ranking federal position when he was appointed US minister and consul general to Liberia in 1881, where he died the following year.

It was Alexander who preached the ordination sermon for both John B. Pinney and Joseph W. Barr, the first foreign missionaries sent by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in 1832, but Barr died before leaving for Africa (his funeral sermon was preached by Miller). Pinney served under the auspices of the ACS as missionary and Governor of Liberia. John Leighton Wilson was also sent to Liberia in 1833, and spent almost two decades on the mission field there.

Other black Presbyterians were eager to minister the gospel in Liberia, such as Armistead Miller, James Ralston Amos and his brother, Thomas Henry Amos, all of whom were ordained in 1859 by the New Castle Presbytery. James M. Priest, a former slave from Kentucky who was freed and sent to Liberia by his former owner, returned, studied for the ministry, and was ordained by the Presbytery of New York and sent as the first foreign missionary of McCormick Theological Seminary to Liberia. Eventually, he served as Vice-President of Liberia from 1864-1868, and later as a justice on the Liberian Supreme Court.

The Liberian national flag.

The Liberian national flag.

All of which brings us to Amos Herring. Born as a slave in North Carolina, Herring moved to Augusta County, Virginia as a child, where he came under the ministry of the Old Stone (Presbyterian) Church. After gaining his freedom at the age of 26, he took his family and emigrated to Liberia in 1833 under the auspices of the ACS. He became pastor at the Presbyterian Mission in Monrovia and was esteemed so highly that in 1847 he served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on July 26, 1847 - a date which is celebrated annually as Liberian Independence Day. He was one of eleven signatories to the Declaration and the Constitution (hence, eleven bars in the Liberian flag). In 1871, after the disappearance and presumed death of the Liberian President, James Roye, Herring was one of three men appointed to a executive committee which temporarily took charge of the government. Herring himself died two years later on November 14, 1873.

The Liberian motto adopted in 1847 reads: “THE LOVE OF LIBERTY BROUGHT US HERE.” The Declaration of Independence, which Herring signed, unlike its 1776 American counterpart, contains an acknowledgment of God, and it tells the story of Liberia’s remarkable founding as well.

We the representatives of the people of the Commonwealth of Liberia, in Convention assembled, invested with authority for forming a new government, relying upon the aid and protection of the Great Arbiter of human events, do hereby, in the name, and on the behalf of the people of this Commonwealth, publish and declare the said Commonwealth a FREE, SOVEREIGN, AND INDEPENDENT STATE, by the name and title of the REPUBLIC of LIBERIA….

Our churches for the worship of our Creator, every where to be seen, bear testimony to our piety, and to our acknowledgment of His Providence.

The native African bowing down with us before the altar of the living God, declare that from us, feeble as we are, the light of Christianity has gone forth, while upon that curse of curses, the slave trade, a deadly blight has fallen as far as our influence extends.

Therefore in the name of humanity, and virtue and religion — in the name of the Great God, our common Creator, and our common Judge, we appeal to the nations of Christendom, and earnestly and respectfully ask of them, that they will regard us with the sympathy and friendly consideration, to which the peculiarities of our condition entitle us, and to extend to us, that comity which marks the friendly intercourse of civilized and independent communities….

It is our earnest desire that the affairs of this government may be so conducted as to merit the approbation of all Christendom, and restore to Africa her long lost glory, and that Liberia under the guidance of Heaven may continue a happy asylum for our long oppress ed race, and a blessing to the benighted and degraded natives of this vast peninsula. To secure which is our ardent wish and prayer.

With these profound words, the Liberian Declaration of Independence makes clear the nation’s early reliance upon Almighty God for its success. As Liberian Independence Day is observed in 2019, may American Presbyterians take note of this inspiring history, recalling to mind Amos Herring and the many who served as missionaries to Liberia, and continue in prayer for a nation that was founded by black Americans who sought freedom to live and to worship God in Africa.

A Prayer for New Orleans by Sylvester Larned

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“The first pastor of the first Presbyterian church in New Orleans,” Sylvester Larned (1796-1820), was Massachusetts-born, but after his Princeton education and 1817 ordination, he was appointed as a missionary to the “Old Southwest.” The city of New Orleans captured his heart, and in 1818, when he arrived, there was very limited knowledge of the gospel in this mostly Roman Catholic city. He coordinated outreach efforts for a time with the local Episcopalian minister (who, after his death, presided over his funeral). The cornerstone for the First Presbyterian Church was laid on January 8, 1819 and was dedicated on July 4, 1819 (two hundred years ago this month). Rev. Larned’s ministry to the people of New Orleans lasted but a short while before he succumbed to yellow fever on August 31, 1820 at the age of 24.

Ralph Randolph Gurley, a Presbyterian chaplain to the US House of Representatives and a founder of the American Colonization Society, wrote a biographical sketch of Larned along with a compilation of his sermons: Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned: First Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans (1844). Along with that material is included a prayer by Larned found in manuscript form. Part of that prayer is reproduced here because it shows his heart’s desire for his adopted city, a place which has endured great suffering over the years, as well as recent flooding even this month. It is a prayer that begins with a general exaltation of the God of the universe, and which descends into the particulars that were on his heart.

Look down in mercy on this favored land, to which Thou hast already extended so much kindness and care. Dwell in our public councils. May the Congress of these United States, now assembled, be directed to such measures as Thou shalt own and bless. May all our civil and religious liberties be secured. May every form of infidelity, vice, and error be done away. May we cherish a lively sense of Thy rich and bountiful blessings which we enjoy, while so many other countries are consigned to ignorance, to oppression, or to captivity. May we witness the universal effusion of Thy Spirit, and the multiplied trophies of Thy grace and mercy, till we can confidently appropriate the benediction of that happy people whose God is the Lord. Especially, O our heavenly Father, do we implore Thy smiles on this city. Here, may the Redeemer appear in the greatness of his power, and gather many sons and daughters unto glory. Here, may the Holy One of Israel be seen repairing the desolations of Zion, and visiting Jerusalem with peace. Here, may that religion be revived which Jesus Christ has given to men as the medium of forgiveness and joy to all who are governed by its principles. Pour out Thy Spirit, we beseech Thee, on Thy servants in this place, who are appointed to proclaim the truth and dispense the consolations of the Gospel. May their responsibility be faithfully discharged. May their labors be rewarded in the efficacy and success in which Thou art able, amidst all their trials, to make them rejoice. Smile, we pray Thee, on the children of Thy grace, and strengthen them to perform the duties of their profession. O may they feel, in all its emphasis, the impressive declaration of Thy word, that they are as a city set on an hill, — that by their fidelity and exertions, and prayers, the visitations of mercy in this place may be instrumentally accelerated…

Larner, Sylvester photo.jpg

Do we pray not only for our nation, but also for the particular place in which we live? Do we pray for the gospel to go forth and accomplish great things for the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the city or town or county in which we reside, and work, and study, and worship? May our hearts be so affected by the spiritual needs of our home, adopted or otherwise, that we pray as Sylvester Larned did for the city of New Orleans.

Lost Treasures of American Presbyterianism

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What light would be thrown upon the dim past if we had to-day the diaries of Francis Makemie, Jedediah Andrews, Francis Doughty, Richard Denton or Matthew Hill. Had we the catechism which Makemie published, but which has absolutely disappeared, we should understand fully his attitude toward the Quakers and why he came into conflict with George Keith. Had we all the discussions and the letters which must have been written about the famous Adopting Act of 1729, how many precious hours of time in later years would have saved, misunderstanding avoided and the Church spared much restlessness and bad feeling. Could we but have the lost minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia from 1717 to 1733, the action of that body and the opinion of its members on the Adopting Act and other similar matters, might have proved mouth and wisdom to some of the men of later generations. Would it be more than the mere gratifying of an idle curiosity if we knew the reasons why the Presbyterians did not have a conference with the Baptists after having requested it and with whom they had worshipped in the Barbadoes Store, Philadelphia, from 1695 to 1698? If we could but see the lost page or pages of the first minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, it would settle for the Church the question of time and perhaps the question as to the declaration of doctrine and the attitude of the early fathers to the Confession of Faith. If we could but read 'the loving letters from Domine Frelinghuysen,' it might reveal to us the secret as to the change in the ministry of Gilbert Tennent to a more evangelistic style of preaching. -- William L. Ledwith, "The Record of Fifty Years, 1852-1902: Historical Sketch of the Presbyterian Historical Society" in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 404

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia was built to preserve the records and artifacts of Presbyterian history, and provides climate-controlled record storage services, along with fire protection, and other document preservation resources.

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia was built to preserve the records and artifacts of Presbyterian history, and provides climate-controlled record storage services, along with fire protection, and other document preservation resources.

At Log College Press, we delight in bringing old, dusty, classic American Presbyterian works into the light of day again for a new generation to appreciate. But there are some works that are simply lost to history, as painful for we bibliophiles to admit, and as William Ledwith has shown us already (the Presbyterian Historical Society was founded mainly to protect and preserve the treasures of Presbyterian church history). There are works known to exist at one time that have simply disappeared from the stage before the advent of digital imaging. These include diaries, Presbytery minutes, letters, and even entire books.A few examples which pertain to Log College Press authors:

The first two pages of the first Presbytery’s Minute Book, which describe the first meeting, are lost to history. Pictured above is page 3 of the Minute Book, which gives an account of the ordination of John Boyd.

The first two pages of the first Presbytery’s Minute Book, which describe the first meeting, are lost to history. Pictured above is page 3 of the Minute Book, which gives an account of the ordination of John Boyd.

  • Francis Makemie - Besides the aforementioned Catechism, and his personal Diary, which are both gone, Makemie was accused by Lord Cornbury (who had previously tried him for preaching without a dissenters’ license and lost) with authorship of a 1707 New Jersey publication titled Forget and Forgive — of which Makemie denied authorship — for apparently slanderous remarks directed at him contained within. That book, which would certainly shine light on the ongoing dispute between Makemie (even if he was not the author) and Lord Cornbury, is simply nowhere to be found today.

  • Alexander Craighead - The first American Covenanter minister has left us some remarkable writings, but there are some gaps in his bibliography as well. His 1742 Discourse Concerning the Covenant is, strangely, missing eight pages. Moreover, no copy of an anonymous 1743 pamphlet thought to be published by him has survived after it was condemned by the Synod of Philadelphia for seditious principles. Considering his known published views on resistance to British tyranny, and the influence he had posthumously on the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, this missing pamphlet constitutes a rather large gap in our understanding of a fascinating colonial Presbyterian.

  • Titus Basfield - Basfield was a former slave who studied at what is now known as Franklin College, where he was mentored by the college president and Associate Presbyterian pastor John Franklin. John Bingham (later the architect of the 14th Amendment) was a fellow student and close friend of Basfield with whom he carried on a correspondence of 40 years. Bingham's letters to Basfield were destroyed in the 1990s, after John Campbell, a private collector who owned them, died, and his widow threw them away (source: Gerard N. Magliocca, American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment, p. 197).

  • Samuel Davies - At one point during the ministry of Davies in Virginia, a writer who took the pen name “Artemas” attempted to “lampoon” Davies by association with alleged excesses related to the Great Awakening, including “a copious flow of tears” and “fainting and trembling” by some under his ministry. Davies responded with a pamphlet titled A Pill For Artemas, which according to a 19th century anonymous writer (“ A Recovered Tract of President Davies,” The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review (1837), Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 363-364), “evinced the power of his sarcasm.” Davies sought a middle ground between extremes of lukewarmness and frenzied ecstasy in his hearers as the received the word of truth and responded appropriately. In any case, although the anonymous writer above said he had seen Davies’ pamphlet, George H. Bost wrote in 1942 that “Both pamphlets seem to have been lost” (Ph.D. dissertation titled Samuel Davies: Colonial Revivalist and Champion of Religious Toleration, p. 53).

So while we will continue to hunt for the interesting, rare and special works pertaining to American Presbyterianism to make them available at Log College Press, sadly, there are some things that are apparently lost to history. Would it be wonderful though, to find something thought to be lost in a drawer or attic somewhere? A church historian can dream, can’t they?