William Plumer on the Sabbath Day

Have you ever considered the irony that many who plant Ten Commandment signs in their front yards today reject the fourth commandment as binding upon Christians under the new covenant? As you rejoice in this Lord's Day, be encouraged by the challenging, persuasive, and promissory words of William Swan Plumer: 

"He, who loves God's word and worship, he, who delights in prayer and praise, loves the day devoted to the study of Scripture, and the service of Jehovah. Among the thousands of religious biographies now before the world, is there one which shows that any heart loved the other precepts of the Decalogue and disregarded this?

It is generally agreed that Christ came to enlarge, not to curtail the privileges of his people, and espe­cially of the poor and afflicted, many of whom are not the masters of their own time. But if he abolished the Sabbath, he cut off the pious poor from one of their dearest privileges, one no less necessary to re­lieve their heavy hearts than to refresh their toil-worn bodies. 

The Scriptures contain many precious promises to those who reverently keep this day, and take pleasure in its appropriate duties. Isa. 56:1-7, and 58:14; Jer. 17:21-26. To such God will give, in his house and within his walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters. He will give them an ever­lasting name, that shall not be cut off. He will make them joyful in his house of prayer, and will accept all their sacrifices; and blessings like those which came upon Jacob shall fall upon them." -- The Law of God, page 299

Beware of Digging Ditches

Before the early American Presbyterian worship wars between those who preferred the hymns of Isaac Watts and those who preferred Rous' Psalms (although nicknamed such, the Scottish Psalter of 1650 was in fact far removed from the earlier version by Francis Rous), there was Sternhold & Hopkins' edition of the Psalms of David. In the 19th century, Sternhold & Hopkins, nevertheless, was not forgotten. 

In the commentary on the Psalms by William Swan Plumer, he refers to Sternhold & Hopkins twice. One reference is found in his exposition of Psalm 7:15, in which he quotes the metrical version thus: 

"Sternhold and Hopkins have given a version of this and the next verse, which has attracted attention.

He digs a ditch and delves it deep,
In hope to hurt his brother;
But he shall fall into the pit
That he digged up for other.
Thus wrong returneth to the hurt
of him in whom it bred;
And all the mischief that he wrought,
Shall fall upon his head." 

Rev. Plumer had occasion to quote this verse at the 1874 General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church, which was dealing with a controversy at Columbia Theological Seminary, which had enacted a rule requiring faculty and students to attend chapel services on the Lord's Day morning (which, according to Richard McIlwaine, later president of Hampden Sydney College, obstructed professors supplying other pulpits and students desiring to hear other ministers preach). The following was recorded by McIlwaine in his autobiography, Memories of Three Score Years and Ten, pp. 312-313:

"This seems to show that the root of contention was a personal disagreement in the Faculty, and to justify the story narrated to me by Rev. Dr. A.P. Smith, then of Mississippi, but afterwards, for a quarter of a century or more, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Tex. He was a most companionable man, full of life and spirit and bubbling over with good humor. He said that on the adjournment of the session of the Assembly at which these resignations were accepted, he walked out of the house with Dr. Plumer, who took his arm and as they got out of the crowd, asked, 'Do you remember Sternhold and Hopkins' version of such and such a palm?' and on his reply, 'No,' the doctor repeated a verse, as follows:

'He digged a pit, he digged it well,
He digged it for his brudder,
Into that selfsame pit he fell,
Himself and not anudder.'

This narration impresses the fact that we are all liable to err and do err..."

Even servants of Christ, who desire to do right, as McIlwaine acknowledged of those with whom he disagreed on the issue at Columbia Theological Seminary, may yet dig ditches for others into which they themselves fall. May God grant that we be not blind leaders of the blind, leading ourselves and others into ditches. But rather, may we stick close to the light of God's Word, and build bridges over snares rather than dig ditches that are snares. 

The Word of God its Own Witness

The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that "We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts" (WCF 1:5). 

William Swan Plumer writes that "If the Bible is not the word of God, it is certain that man has no revelation from heaven...None will deny that the Bible claims to be the word of God...All these things are found in a volume, which reserves its heaviest woes and maledictions for false prophets and false teachers, who corrupt God's word, add to it, or take from it. So that if the prophets, evangelists and apostles were not divinely inspired to write the various books of the Bible, they were, by their own showing, among the worst men that ever lived, and deserving of the sorest plagues reserved for atrocious sinners." (Earnest Hours, pp. 25-26)

David MacDill (1826-1903) has written a full and very helpful volume titled The Bible a Miracle; or, The Word of God its Own Witness (1872). If you are seeking a book about the divinely-inspired Book of books is indeed what it claims to be, be sure to download this work for further study. 

Christ All in All: The Right Temper for a Theologian, by William Swan Plumer, is Now Available!

Our third publication is now for sale! Christ All in All: The Right Temper for a Theologian, by William Swan Plumer, is available in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB versions. Containing Plumer's two inaugural addresses (at Western Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary), this 32-page booklet will benefit all believers, and is a particular encouragement and exhortation to seminary students and officers in Christ's church. Plumer's Christ-centered piety shines through beautifully as he explains what the focus of theological studies should be and in what spirit the student of theology should approach such a transcendent topic. 

While you're in our online bookstore, make sure to check out our first two publications (Thomas Dwight Witherspoon's The Five Points of Presbyterianism and Cornelius Washington Grafton's A Forty-Three Year Pastorate in a Country Church) and our large collection of secondary sources on American Presbyterianism.

At Log College Press, we believe the past isn't dead, primary sources aren't inaccessible, and American Presbyterians aren't irrelevant. More publications are in the works, so every purchase paves the way for us to continue to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries. Thanks for your support!


Our Newest Publication Will Be Available Soon!

Christ All in All: The Right Temper for a Theologian, by William Swan Plumer, is at the printers! This booklet contains Plumer's two inaugural addresses at Western Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary. In the first he beautifully portrays the person of Jesus Christ and the importance of keeping Christ at the center of the theological enterprise. In the second, he lays out several characteristics of a theologian after God's own heart. Both addresses are rich and significant for the church today. 

We'll let you know as soon as you can purchase this booklet on our website. Until then, be sure to browse our library and subscribe to our near-daily blog posts. If you haven't checked out the Secondary Sources on American Presbyterianism in our Bookstore, it's worth a look. And if you appreciate all the free materials and blog posts we provide through our website, consider crowdfunding us here


William Swan Plumer's The Rock of Our Salvation is Well Worth Your Time

If you are looking for a work on the person and work of Jesus Christ, don't overlook The Rock of Our Salvation (1867), by William Swan Plumer. This 500-page tome is theologically robust and devotionally affective. A simple survey of the Table of Contents should whet your appetite for the rich fare you'll find within:

1. Christ All in All
2. The Divinity of Christ
3. The Sonship of Christ
4. The Incarnation of Christ
5. The Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth
6. Christ the Mediator
7. Christ a Prophet
8. The Priesthood of Christ
9. Christ a King
10. Christ's Humiliation
11. General Views of Christ's Work
12. Redemption in Christ
13. The Atonement
14. The Folly of Objecting to the Atonement
15. Christ's Resurrection
16. Christ's Ascension and Session
17. Christ in Heaven
18. Christ's Personal Absence From This World
19. Christ on the Judgement Seat
20. Christ the Good Shepherd
21. Christ a Physician
22. The Gentleness of Christ
23. Christ Shall Yet Have a Glorious Reward
24. The Gospel of Christ is Hid From Some
25. The Sin and Danger of Not Believing in Christ
26. The Reproach of Christ
27. Conclusion

If you've never read Plumer before, you're in for a treat!

A Word to the Weary

Christian, Are you physically weary from many labors during the day, or due to sickness and troubles in this earthly tabernacle which we bear? Are you vexed in your soul due to unkind words, or at the state of the church today, or for the injustices in this world, or from spiritual warfare or persecution for the name of Christ in your life or in the lives of saints around the world? Remember the words of Christ: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). 

In that vein, then, also consider this little book of encouragement by a 19th century Southern pastor: A Word to the Weary (1874) by William Swan Plumer (1802-1880). It is a balm to the soul filled with words of comfort from the Physician of Souls. Take up and read, and be comforted, Christian. 

The Gospel of the Incarnation, by William Swan Plumer

“Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate, was made under the law, lived, acted, obeyed, suffered died and rose again for his people.

He came down to earth that they might go up to heaven.

He suffered that they might reign.

He became a servant that they might become kings and priests unto God.

He died that they might live.

He bore the cross that their enmity might be slain, and their sins expiated.

He loved them that they might love God.

He was rich and became poor that they, who were poor, might be made rich.

He descended into the lower parts of the earth that they might sit in heavenly places.

He emptied himself that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.

He took upon him human nature that they might be partakers of the divine nature.

He made flesh his dwelling place that they might be an habitation of God through the Spirit.

He made himself of no reputation, that they might wear his new name, and be counted an eternal excellency.

He became a worm, and no man, that they, who were sinful worms, might be made equal to the angels.

He bore the curse of a broken covenant that they might partake of all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.

Though heir of all things, he was willingly despised of the people, that they, who were justly condemned, might obtain and inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

His death was a satisfaction to divine justice, a ransom for many, a propitiation for sin, a sweet smelling savour to God, that we, who were an offense to God, might become his sons and daughters.

He was made sin for his people that they might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Though Lord of all He took the form of a servant, that they, who were the servants of sin, might prevail like princes with God.

He, who had made swaddling-clothes bands for the sea, was wrapped in swaddling-clothes that they, who were cast out in their blood, might be clothed in linen white and clean, which is the righteousness of the saints.

He had not where to lay His head that they who otherwise must have laid down in eternal sorrow, might read the mansions in His Father’s house.

He was beset with lions and bulls of Bashan, that his chosen might be compassed about with an innumerable company of angels and of the spirits of just men made perfect.

He drank the cup of God’s indignation that they might for ever drink of the river of His pleasures.

He hungered that they might eat the bread of life.

He thirsted that they might drink the water of life.

He was numbered with the transgressors that they might stand among the justified, and be counted among the jewels.

He made His grave with the wicked that they might sleep in Jesus.

Though He was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, yet He became a helpless infant, that creatures of yesterday, sentenced to death, might live for ever.

He wore a crown of thorns that all, who love His appearing, might wear a crown of life.

He wept tears of anguish that His elect might weep tears of repentance not to be repented of.

He bore the yoke of obedience unto death that they might find His yoke easy and His burden light.

He poured out His soul unto death, lay three days in the heart of the earth, then burst the bars of death, and arose to God, that they, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, might obtain the victory over the grave and become partakers of His resurrection.

He exhausted the penalty of the law that His redeemed might have access to the inexhaustible treasures of mercy, wisdom, faithfulness, truth and grace promised by the Lord.

He passed from humiliation to humiliation, till He reached the sepulcher of Joseph, that His people might be changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.

He was matchless in grace that they might be matchless in gratitude.

Though a Son, He became a voluntary exile, that they, who had wickedly wandered afar off, might be brought nigh by His blood.

He was compassed about with all their innocent infirmities that He might perfect His strength in their weakness.

His visage was so marred more than any man, that His ransomed might be presented before God without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

For a time He was forsaken of His Father that they, whom He bought with His blood, might behold the light of God’s countenance forever.

He came and dwelt with them that they might be forever with the Lord.

He was hung up naked before His insulting foes that all, who believe on His name, might wear a glorious wedding garment, a spotless righteousness.

Though He was dead, He is the firstborn among many brethren.

Through His sorrow His people obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away.

Though He endured the worst things, they do and shall forever enjoy the best things

Wonderful mystery! God was manifested in the flesh! Here is no absurdity, no contradiction, no fiction, and yet a mystery that baffles all attempts to solve it, and dazzles all human and angelic vision. Blessed is he, who is not offended in Jesus. Blessed is he, who loves the incarnate mystery, and rests upon it. It is a mystery of love, of power, of salvation. It is the mystery of Godliness. It is the great study of the inhabitants of heaven, and shall be while immortality endures.”

-- From The Grace of Christ, chapter 21

The dictionary definition of "prolific" is a picture of William Swan Plumer

It's "No Shave November," so here you go, men - aspire to the beardliness of William Swan Plumer. It will take likely you as long to read all his writings as it will take your beard to grow to the size of his. For we haven't even posted half of all the things William Swan Plumer wrote, and yet there are twenty-one books/pamphlets on the Log College Press site. He was an amazingly practical, pious, and pointed author, and working through his corpus will reward your soul. Start today! 

William Swan Plumer on Solus Christus

“In proportion as men are truly pious, they make Jesus Christ the foundation and top-stone, the sum and substance and center of all their hopes and rejoicings. He is believed on in the world, not merely because there is no other way of salvation, but because this way is so admirably adapted to all the necessities of sinners, and because it brings glory to God in the highest. The true believer not only trusts in Christ; he glories in him. He not only makes mention of him; he admits none into comparison with him. To all the ends, parts and purposes of salvation Christ stands alone. There is none like him, there is none with him, there is none before him, there is none after him, there is none beside him.” (From "Christ All in All" - Plumer's Inaugural Discourse at Western Theological Seminary)

Before there was Packer's Concise Theology, there was Plumer's Truths for the People

William Swan Plumer loved to write theology for the common man. Many of his books were aimed at the church at large, not merely pastors or scholars. Toward the end of his life, Plumer published Truths for the People: Or, Several Points in Theology Plainly Stated, for Beginners (1875). If you or someone you know is looking for a book that hits the highlights of systematic theology, but in an accessible style, in short chunks and even shorter sentences, then this is the book to read. 

How should students of the Bible approach their study? William Swan Plumer answers.

In his 1867 Inaugural Address at Columbia Theological Seminary, William Swan Plumer explained what ought to be the right "temper" of the student of God's word. You can find his address along with others works we've posted by him, but here's a sneak peek to the answers he gives: the theologian should possess modesty, impartiality, independence of thought and freedom of inquiry, profound reverence for what he studies, a love of truth, patience, a spirit of diligence, a genuine lively faith, just moderation, the spirit of prayer, a commitment to practice what he learns, and a gospel centered, evangelical spirit. The address is only 16 small pages, so make sure to read how Plumer unpacks each of these points. 

(This is actually an abridged version of his address, published for the popular press as a booklet. You can find the entire address in the Southern Presbyterian Review , 19.1 (January 1868), which we have not posted to our site yet!) 


Looking for something to read with your children?

It has been said that the mark of a good teacher is that he can explain deep truth to little children. William Swan Plumer was a good teacher. His book The Ribbon Room is written for children, and speaks at such a simple level that even a 3 or 4 year old could listen attentively to what he has to say. Here is his introduction, "To My Little Friends," to whet your appetite: 


Counsel for the middle-aged from William Swan Plumer

In his book The Promises of GodWilliam Swan Plumer gives this Biblical counsel and exhortation to the middle-aged:

The middle-aged also have trials peculiar to themselves. The burdens of life come upon them with great weight. As riches increase they are increased also that consume them. They hardly provide for one class of wants before others clamor for their attention.

Their duty is clear: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." Ps. 55:22. What such need is not less toil, or less care, but more resolution and greater confidence in God, who says: "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord;" "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense;" "I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord." Ps. 21:34; Isa. 35:4; Zech. 10:12.

Strong men ought not to behave like little children, or like the aged and infirm. "Quit you like men, be strong." 1 Cor. 16:13. It is a shame to be chicken-hearted when you ought to be intrepid.

Strong words, but we need to hear them! 

16 (really good) questions for self-examination, by William Swan Plumer

1. Do you sincerely desire to know and to do your duty, and how do you evince your sincerity?

2. Do you endeavor to keep the Sabbath? Do you regularly and seasonably attend on the public worship of the congregation? Do you endeavor to BE STILL; to be attentive; frequently to lift up your heart to God during the service; to sing with the spirit, and the understanding, making melody in your heart?

3. Are you always in your place at the Lord’s table? Have all your children been baptized? How are you fulfilling your covenant engagements?

4. Do you daily worship God in your family?

5. Have you a Bible of your own? Do you daily read it? How often have you read it through? Do you assent to every part that it is good?

6. Do you statedly pray in private? Why do you pray? For what? What is the general character of your prayers?

7. What good book are you reading? What is your object? Have you thought of the influence of the press upon public morals? Do you support the religious press?

8. What are you doing to support and spread the Gospel? What is the state of religion in different parts of the world?

9. Do you speak evil of none? Do you suppress evil reports? Do you promote peace and friendly feelings in your neighborhood? Do you speak the truth? Do you keep your word? Do you pay your debts? Are you strictly honest? Do you relieve the poor? In all companies and places do you give and get all the benefit you can?

10. Do you pray for your brethren in the church? Do you rejoice in their spiritual and temporal welfare? Do you give and accept Christian reproof? Do you wish to correct your faults?

11. What station do you hold in the family? How do you discharge the duties of your station?

12. Do you guard against pride, selfishness, covetousness, anger, moroseness, levity, discouragements? Against a contentious, censorious, unforgiving, discontented temper?Against improper companions, books, songs, sights, amusements? Against intemperance, idleness, impurity? Would fasting assist you in mortifying the flesh? How have you profited by afflictions? How do you bear prosperity?

13. What value do you put upon time? What is the great end of life? What is the great end of yours? For what will any fellow-creature have reason to bless you in eternity? How would you, a hundred years hence, wish you had spent your present life?

14. Are you doing anything, of the lawfulness of which you are not satisfied?

15. In conclusion, what evidence have you that you are a Christian? Do you love all Christians? Do you desire to requite evil with good? When you see others transgressing the divine law, does it give you pain? Are you more afraid of displeasing God than man? Would you rather suffer than sin? Does your sorrow for sin continue even after you hope you have been forgiven? Are you willing to have your sanctification promoted by any means?

16. How do you know that you are growing in grace? Do you feel more deeply your need of Christ? Do you confide in him? Have you more of a child-like spirit? Do you live near to God? Do you feel an increasing interest in the prosperity of his church? Do you find a growing thirst for divine truth? Have you a greater longing after holiness? Do you groan more painfully under the burden of indwelling sin? Is your devotion to God more fixed and entire? Are you conscious of an increasing willingness to sacrifice even the dearest things to his will?

Wisdom from William Swan Plumer for family worship...

Every Christian family should worship the Lord in the home. But it can be difficult to begin and to continue with consistency this blessed practice. William Swan Plumer, in his brief pamphlet "Family Worship," gives nine helpful instructions for heads of households as they seek to conduct this servie to the glory of God:

These rules may well aid in making this part of worship profitable:

1. Let it be at seasonable and convenient hours, commonly before breakfast and just after tea or supper.

2. Let it not be tediously long. It is sometimes painfully protracted. That is not edifying.

3. Let the reading of God’s word, prayer, and if possible, singing, be parts of each exercise.

4. Let great decorum and decent solemnity enter into all acts of family devotion.

5. Let not the presence of company nor business engagements interrupt the regular order for worship.

6. Let family mercies and afflictions be duly noticed by him who leads in the exercises.

7. Continually labor to have the heart right and warm.

8. Be joyful and cheerful in the whole service.

9. Never give reproofs to others in the forms of prayer.

What did 19th century Presbyterian pastors tell their people about parenting? Read William Swan Plumer.

William Swan Plumer was a prolific author, and I could blog a different one of his writings every day for nearly two months. It will take time to get all he has written loaded on the Log College Press website. But don't miss one of his earliest works, a book on parenting: Thoughts on Religious Education and Early Piety (1836).

The table of contents may sound bland, but the book is chock full of rich fare: 

I. Importance of the Subject of Education
II. Education - What it is
III. Religious Education
IV. Rules for a Religious Education
V. Early Piety Possible
VI. Motives to Fidelity in Religious Instruction
VII. Cases of Early Piety
VIII. Conclusion

William Swan Plumer's commentaries on Hebrews and Romans are as rich as his commentary on the Psalms.

Thanks to Banner of Truth, William Swan Plumer's commentary on the Psalms has been a blessing to the church not only in the 19th century, but in the 20th and 21st centuries as well. Unfortunately, his commentaries on Hebrews and Romans have not remained in print. Yet they contain the same exegetical, theological, practical, and pastoral gems that are found in his work on the Psalms. Here is a beautiful example, from his note on Hebrews 12:1-2:

Hebrews 12:1-12 largely introduces to us the subject of afflictions. To pious people this matter possesses special interest. They and all their friends are liable to suffer. For some kinds of grief custom allows us to hang out signals of distress, and to call on friends for lively sympathy. But many sorrows must be borne in silence and retirement. The dove lays her wing over the arrow that pierced her. The wounded hart seeks the silent dell there to die, and the child of sorrow often goes to his chamber to weep alone. The widow in her weeds may be truly sad, but her neighbor without a yard of black crape may be suffering ten times more. It is often a relief when we can say: “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me,” Job 19:21. But often we are compelled like the sad prophet to “weep in secret places,” Jer. 13:17.

Sometimes tears come to the relief of the sorrowing. Then again their moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Dry sorrow drinks up their blood and spirits. Some afflictions are brief; others are lasting. Sadness sends some to their closets: others, to their graves. It covers some with wrinkles; others, with the clods of the valley. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

Very good men have bad punishments sent on them for particular sins. What sufferings came on Jacob for supplanting his brother? Leah is deceitfully given him for Rachel. And all his worldly goods are imperiled, yea and his life also by Esau. The rebellion of Absalom was a punishment on David for a particular sin, 2 Sam. 12:9-12. The father of John the Baptist, though he and his wife habitually walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, was yet by the judgment of God made dumb for nearly a year as a punishment for his unbelief, Luke 1:20. So that all temporal punishments are not confined to the reprobate. Yet we should guard against censoriousness and uncharitableness, when we see others suffering. It is seldom proper for us to say that a given calamity befalling one of our neighbors is a punishment for a particular sin. This was the great error of Job’s friends. Our Saviour warned us against this offence when he spoke of the fall of the tower in Siloam, etc., Luke 13:1-5.

We are less apt to err in regarding particular afflictions sent on ourselves as punishments for particular transgressions. Thus even a heathen said: “As I have done, so God hath requited me,” Jud. 1:6. The pious Jews confessed that the Babylonish captivity was in punishment for their great sins, Ezra 9:13. To Israel God said: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2. Yet even pious men may misinterpret God’s dealings with them, and without a cause write bitter things against themselves. We may reverently pray, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest me;” but we may not always decide that our afflictions are judgments sent on us for particular sins.

Some afflictions are exemplary. God often makes his people a spectacle to angels and to men. He commonly keeps the path to heaven moist with tears, and often with the blood of his saints. To this end in part the worthies of old suffered. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” Jas. 5:10. Rich treasures have been laid up for the church in the illustrious heroism of her suffering members. In the days of legal persecution the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. Mohammedanism triumphed by the blood of its foes; Christianity, by the blood of its friends. To this day the history of the martyrs ministers strength to the faith and fortitude of God’s suffering people. The Lord’s people are never sent a warfare at their own charges. Perhaps they are never more sustained than when outward things look dark. So thought Paul: “As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Cor. 1:5. Nor could the people of God from age to age do well without such examples. They stir them up to do and suffer all God’s will. To the plain and obscure they often give vast opportunities for usefulness. To a heathen tyrant, who was posing her with hard questions, a poor woman said: “I cannot dispute for Christ, but I can burn for him.” I have seen a whole community turn aside to admire the grace of God in one of his people, rustic in manners, poor in worldly goods, and weak in intellect, yet remarkable for severity of sufferings, and patience of spirit.

Some afflictions are designed to prevent worse evils. Sin is more to be dreaded than any earthly sorrow. God often makes men sick to teach them their weakness. Many things are permitted deeply to mortify us, that pride may not be our ruin. The cruel deceit of some gay worldling drives us from the giddy circle, which jeopards our salvation. In this life good men are often sorely chastened that they may not be condemned with the world. 1 Cor. 11:32. When God undertakes a man’s salvation, he will not permit any of his sins to have dominion over him. To do this, he sees best to spoil their pleasant things, write “vanity of vanities” on the glories of earth, and bring down their hearts with labor and sorrow. Low as are the attainments of God’s people, they would have been far less but for divine chastenings.

God’s people are also afflicted in the way of discipline. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law.” It is well for the Lord to correct us, if we may thereby be made partakers of his holiness. In his last sickness Dr. Archibald Alexander said: “My pains are intended for my purification.” The good husbandman prunes every fruitful vine that he may make it more productive. Christ often calls the languishing graces of his people into lively exercise by methods as strange as they are salutary. We wish to walk by sight, God would have us to walk by faith. Like Job in distress we cry out, “Oh that I knew where I might find him. Behold I go forward; but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him,” Job 23:8, 9. Yet one thus tried may soon be able to say: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” All the graces of the Spirit, not excepting joy, thrive best when the waters of affliction somewhat moisten their roots. Let us not object to the treatment God gave to the prophets, martyrs and confessors, who reached the kingdom of heaven through great tribulation Yea the Captain of our salvation himself was made perfect through sufferings.

In all our afflictions, whatever their design, let us in patience possess our souls. “He, who composes his own mind, is greater than he, who composes a book.” “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.” “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. He sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.” To be as a weaned child is a great attainment.

Plumer continues this train of thought for several more pages, discussing the truths that God has told us in order that we might behave wisely and quietly under trials, and the several things that we learn by way of application from Hebrews 12:1-2 in particular. If you are teaching or preaching through Hebrews or Romans, take advantage of Plumer!