A New Booklet by Charles Allen Stillman and a New Audiobook of Archibald Alexander's Aging in Grace!

If you haven’t heard the news yet, we've recently published a new booklet by Charles Allen Stillman, the founder of what is now known as Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s called “The Pulpit and the Pastorate,” and examines the connections between a pastor’s pulpit ministry and his pastoral ministry. It was originally an address giving at an anniversary celebration of Columbia Theological Seminary in 1881, and is a great encouragement to all pastors to be faithful in all the work God has given us to do. You can purchase it in booklet or ebook format here. And if you’re interested in buying all eight of our titles for yourself or for a friend, you can purchase them for $35 here.

We’ve also just come out with an audiobook edition of Archibald Alexander’s Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life. This audiobook will eventually be available on Audible and other audiobook online stores, but when you purchase it on our website we get more than just a mere percentage of the sales price, so if you’re interested in buying it please do so from our webstore. We are in the process of creating audiobooks of all our titles, so if you prefer to listen to your books rather than read them, then be on the lookout for news of future releases in the coming months. (Sign up at the bottom of this page if you’d like to be alerted to new titles and receive a weekly glimpse into new content on our website.) We’re excited about being able to reach folks who possibly won’t or can’t read, but love to listen to books as they drive, work, workout, etc.

Please tell your friends both in the flesh and online about our new titles. It’s because of the support of our readers and customers that Log College Press has been able to do what it’s done, both in terms of our free PDF library on our website, and our publications. Thank you!

Archibald Alexander on "an indissoluble connexion"

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

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

A place called Zion: Archibald Alexander explains

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The word ‘Zion,’ although a place name that dates back millennia, is often seen in today’s, whether as the name of a college basketball star or as a place in The Matrix trilogy, and it has many other usages as well. But its meaning is anchored in its usage in the Word of God, and to better understand the word, it is helpful to refer to a Bible Dictionary, such as the one published by Archibald Alexander in 1829.

At 546 pages long, Alexander’s A Pocket Dictionary of the Holy Bible may not be named appropriately according to our way of thinking, but it is a valuable tool for the student of Scripture.

Turning to p. 545, we read the following (in slightly modernized English):

ZION, or Sion; (1.) A top or part of Mount Hermon, or an arrangement of hills near to it, Psal. 133.3. (2.) Cellarius, Lightfoot, and others, think the other famed Mount Zion was to the north of the ancient Jebus; Reland has offered a variety of arguments to prove that it was on the south of it. We think the south part of Jerusalem stood on Mount Zion, and that the king’s palace stood on the north side of it, and the temple on Mount Moriah, to the north-east of it, 2 Sam. 5.1 1 Kings 8.1. Psal. 68.2; but as Mount Moriah was but at the end of it, it was sometimes called Zion; and even the temple and its courts are so called, Psal. 65.1 84.7; and the worshippers at the temple, if not the whole inhabitants of Jerusalem, are called Zion, Psalm 97.8. In allusion hereto, the church, whether Jewish or Christian, or heaven, is called Zion: how graciously was she chosen of God for his residence! how firm is her foundation, and how delightful her prospect! how solemn and sweet the fellowship with and worship of God therein! Psal. 102.13. Isa. 2.3. Heb. 12.22. Rev. 14.1. Isa. 51.11.

Whether reading those portions of the New Testament that speak of Zion, or whether we are singing the “Songs of Zion” — that is, the Psalms — it is helpful to comprehend the source of the word ‘Zion’ as well as its usage in Scripture. And, as Alexander reminds us, how sweet that word is to we who inhabit the place where God dwells with his people today, meaning, the church.

While we are taking note of what this gifted theologian and scholar has to say about Zion, let us also remember that he was born on April 17, 1772 - 247 years ago. Happy birthday to Archibald Alexander!

Archibald Alexander on Redeeming the Time

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Archibald Alexander, in his “Counsels of the Aged to the Young” (found in Thoughts on Religious Experience, pp. 367-369, 1850 ed.) gives us some reminders about spending time wisely that are needed today by both young and old:

XVII. My next counsel is, that you set a high value upon your time. Time is short; and its flight is rapid. The swiftness of the lapse of time is proverbial in all languages. In Scripture, the life of man is compared to a multitude of things which quickly pass away, after making their appearance; as to a post, a weaver's shuttle, a vapour, a shadow, &c. All the works of man must be performed in time; and whatever acquisition is made of any good, it must be obtained in time. Time, therefore, is not only short, but precious. Every thing is suspended on its improvement, and it can only be improved when present; and it is no sooner present, than it is gone: so that whatever we do must be done quickly. The precious gift is sparingly parcelled out, by moments, but the succession of these is rapid and uninterrupted. Nothing can impede or retard the current of this stream. Whether we are awake or asleep, whether occupied or idle, whether we attend to the fact or not, we are borne along by a silent, but irresistible force. Our progressive motion in time, may be compared to the motion of the planet on which we dwell, of which we are entirely insensible; or, to that of a swift-sailing ship, which produces the illusion that all other objects are in motion, while we seem to be stationary. So in the journey of life, we pass from stage to stage, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to mature age, and finally, ere we are aware of it, we find ourselves declining towards the last stage of earthly existence. The freshness and buoyancy of youth soon pass away: the autumn of life, with its "sere leaf," soon arrives; and next, and last, if disease or accident do not cut short our days, old age with its gray hairs, its wrinkles, its debility and pains, comes on apace. This period is described by the wise man, as one in which men are commonly disposed to be querulous, and to acknowledge that the days draw nigh in which they have no pleasure. "The keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows are darkened. When men rise up at the noise of the bird -- when all the daughters of music are brought low, and there shall be fears. And the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper be a burden."

Time wasted can never be recovered. No man ever possessed the same moment twice. We are, indeed, exhorted "to redeem our time," but this relates to a right improvement of that which is to come; for this is the only possible way by which we can redeem what is irrevocably past. The counsels which I would offer to the young on this subject are: Think frequently and seriously on the inestimable value of time. Never forget that all that is dear and worthy of pursuit must be accomplished in the short span of time allotted to us here. Meditate also profoundly, and often, on the celerity of the flight of time. Now you are in the midst of youthful bloom, but soon this season will only exist in the dim shades of recollection, and unless it has been well improved, of bitter regret.

If you will make a wise improvement of your time, you must be prompt. Seize the fugitive moments as they fly; for, otherwise, they will pass away before you have commenced the work which is appropriated to them.

Diligence and constancy are essential to the right improvement of time. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." "Work while it is called to-day." Walk while you have the light; for the dark night rapidly approaches, when no work can be done.

Let every thing be done in its season. There is a time for all things; and let all things be done in order. The true order of things may be determined by their relative importance, and by the urgency of the case, or the loss which would probably be sustained by neglect.

If you would make the most of your time, learn to do one thing at once, and endeavour so to perform every work, as to accomplish it in the best possible manner. As you receive but one moment at once, it is a vain thing to think of doing more than one thing at one time; and if any work deserves your attention at all, it deserves to be well done. Confusion, hurry, and heedlessness, often so mar a business, that it would have been better to omit it altogether.

Beware of devolving the duty of to-day on to-morrow. This is called procrastination, which is said, justly, to be "the thief of time." Remember, that every day, and every hour, has its own appropriate work; but if that which should be done this day, is deferred until a future time, to say the least, there must be an inconvenient accumulation of duties in future. But as to-morrow is to every body uncertain, to suspend the acquisition of an important object on such a contingency, may be the occasion of losing forever the opportunity of receiving it. The rule of sound discretion is, never to put off till to-morrow, what ought to be done to-day.

Archibald Alexander's Advice to a Young Pastor on How to Arrange His Schedule

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We have recently posted the first four volumes of Home, the School, and the Church, edited by Cortlandt Van Renssalaer in the 1850s. This journal/magazine was a collection of articles on Christian education in the three arenas mentioned in its title. Van Renssalaer was the Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church from 1846-1860, so he had a special interest in seeing the church think deeply about its responsibility to educate its members.

In the third volume of Home, the School, and the Church, a letter by Dr. Archibald Alexander to a young pastor is included. His counsel about how to spend mornings and evenings in study, and afternoons (presumably) in ministry to people, is instructive both from an historical and a practical standpoint.

[The late Dr. Alexander, who was exceeded by none in sound practical wisdom, gave the following counsels to a pupil who had left the Seminary and gone into the active duties of the ministry.]

Princeton, June 21, 1838.

While you remain at home, I would advise you to spend much of your time in making yourself familiar with the English Bible, and also read a portion of the Greek Testament. Compose one good sermon every week; and set down such texts in your common-place book, as strike you at any particular time, with such a division and leading thoughts as occur; and when you insert a text, leave room for a few leading thoughts or illustrations, to be added from time to time. Spend an hour or two each day in carefully reading the writings of some able theologian. The particulars mentioned will be sufficient for your morning occupation.

In the evening, when at home, read history, ancient and modern. Cultivate an acquaintance with the best English classics. Read them with some regard to your own style. And if you have a strong predilection for any branch of science, literature, or theology, indulge it, at least to a certain extent, and endeavour to make yourself eminent in that department. Make some experiment in writing paragraphs for the periodical press, or in composing a tract. By writing a good evangelical tract, you may be the means of more good than by preaching all your life; for that would live when you were dead.

Do not be idle in the exercise of the ministry which you have received. Your commission reads: "Be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine." Carry the Gospel to the ignorant in the suburbs and vicinity of B___________. Seek a blessing and expect a blessing on your labours. Make use of this resting-time to cultivate piety in your own heart; endeavour to keep up communion with your God and Saviour. Be much in meditation, self-examination, learn more and more the wisdom of self denial. Beware of being guided and governed principally by a regard to your own ease or emolument. For Christ's sake be willing to encounter difficulties and to endure privations. Think much of the worth of the soul, and exert all your energies to rescue sinners from ruin. Be not afraid to go to any place where Providence opens the way. Be sure to mark the leadings of Providence towards you, and to follow the path indicated. If you, through inattention and selfish affections, take a course different from that indicated, you will get strangely entangled and bewildered in your pilgrimage, and may never enjoy comfort or be of much use in the world. Through God's blessings we are all well.

I am, affectionately, yours, &c.

May the Lord enable pastors to redeem their time with diligence.

Whatever happened to William Tennent, Jr.?

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Few figures in Reformed and Presbyterian history have had a greater cloud of mystery shrouding them than William Tennent, Jr. His first biographer, Elias Boudinot IV, wrote of him: We have never known a man in modern times concerning whom so many extraordinary things are related.” Frank R. Symmes adds: “His biography is of surpassing interest, a fascinating story of the unusual and extraordinary in spiritual life.” The son of the founder of the original Log College of Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, which was the seed that grew into the College of New Jersey (Princeton), he was trained for the ministry and then sent to New Brunswick, New Jersey for further training and theological exams under his brother Gilbert, who was already serving as a minister of the gospel.

While there, the toll of his intense studies affected his physical and emotional health greatly, so much so that his body wasted away and doubts of his salvation assailed him. In that condition, and he fainted. To all appearances he was in fact dead, and Gilbert with great sadness began the process of arranging for his funeral. A doctor arrived and thought he detected a slight tremor in one arm, but even a day later, no further sign of life was detected. Yet the doctor continued with efforts to revive him, delaying the scheduled funeral, until while Gilbert and the assembly who had gathered had grown impatient thinking the doctor’s efforts were useless, suddenly, William with a groan opened his eyes, and then relapsed into unconsciousness. This happened again and again until after a time he revived fully, though was bedridden for a year following. He experienced almost complete amnesia, which was discovered when his sister Eleanor found that he did not know what the Bible was. He had to be re-taught everything, although after more time, as he regained strength, the memory of his past life eventually returned to him.

Something else was learned of his experience. As he related it to both Elias Boudinot and separately to Dr. John Woodhull, while he was unconscious, he experienced a trance.

This was the substance of his recital: suddenly he found himself in another state of existence, with an innumerable throng of heavenly beings surrounding him, singing hallelujahs with unspeakable rapture. He was unable to define any shapes to these celestial beings, aware only of their adoration and the aura of glory enfolding them. His entire being was so pervaded with their rapture that he longed to join them, comforted by the thought that he had been redeemed and permitted to enter heaven. But at this point the guide who had led him thither told him that he must return to earth. The thought pierced his soul like a sword and at that instant he awoke to hear the doctor and Gilbert arguing above him. The three days had seemed but a few moments in length, but for three years afterward the echoes of that celestial music rang ceaselessly in his ears (Mary A. Tennent, Light in Darkness: The Life of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, pp. 104-105).

So William thus narrowly escaped being buried alive, and eventually was ordained to the ministry, and lived a full life until sickness and death overtook him in 1777. The story of his trance was widely discussed, with some understanding it in natural and others in supernatural terms.

Boudinot wrote: “The pious and candid reader is left to his own reflection on the very extraordinary occurrence. The facts have been stated and they are unquestionable. The writer will only ask whether it is contrary to the revealed truth or to reason to believe that in every age of the world, instances like that here recorded have occurred to furnish living testimony to the reality of the invisible world, and the infinite importance of eternal concerns” (Life of the Rev. William Tennent, p. 24).

Archibald Alexander did not view the trance as anything more than what could be “accounted for on natural principles.” Although there was other event in William’s life that led Alexander to conclude that God does still interpose in human affairs by means of dreams - a man and his wife who came from Maryland to Trenton, New Jersey after having both experienced the same dream whereby they were called to come to the aid of a Mr. Tennent who was in great distress. In fact, at the time they found him in Trenton he was facing a false charge of perjury for having served as a witness for the defense of a fellow minister accused of robbery under a case of mistaken identity. The arrival of the man and his wife from Maryland, who had previous contact with him, was helpful in establishing an alibi for William during his trial, and led to a verdict on “not guilty” on William’s behalf. It was a remarkable end to a troublesome situation (Biographical Sketches of the Founder, and Principal Alumni of the Log College, pp. 192-200, 222-231).

Back to William’s trace, Mary Tennent, writing in 1971, says: “Of course the simple explanation is that after a long and devastating illness, in a state of exhaustion and weakness, he sank into a coma from which he was at length aroused by the continuous efforts of his friend, the doctor. The vivid dream occurring during the few moments of returning consciousness was the natural result of his last conscious anxiety concerning his soul, while the tremendous surge of happiness at seeing and hearing the angelic choir was but a subconscious wish fulfillment” (Light in the Darkness: The Story of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, p. 105).

Many other fascinating anecdotes are recorded about William by Boudinot and Alexander. One that is mentioned by the latter, but not the former. One night he awoke from his sleep with intense pain in one foot. It seems that several of his toes had been cleanly amputated, although the toes were not to be found, nor was there any bloody trail or blade was found. There was simply no explanation for the event, which left him minus several toes. Whether he was a sleepwalker who had an accident or whether something else natural or supernatural occurred, we have no way of knowing.

This is just one of many extraordinary events in the life of an extraordinary man. The biographies consulted above are worth perusing to learn more about this remarkable figure and his place in church history.

Tennent, Jr., William, The Remarkable Trance of Rev. William Tennent.jpg

William Graham and the Lost State of Franklin

Following the American War of Independence, the US Congress (operating under the Articles of Confederation) was in great financial debt. As a result, the State of North Carolina, in 1784, voted to offer a grant of land on its western frontier to Congress as a way of paying off some of its debt. Congress would be obligated to assert its control of the area within two years, which it was reluctant to do. Peace had not yet been made with the Cherokee Indians, and the settlers there were in need of a solid government. North Carolina rescinded its offer later that year, and a movement bearing the name of Benjamin Franklin, under the leadership of John Sevier, aimed to fill the power vacuum by proclaiming independence for the territory to which they originally gave the name of the State of Frankland (they later changed it to the State of Franklin).

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

There were many famous men associated with the Frankland / Franklin movement for an independent free state in what is now Tennessee. At least three Presbyterian ministers were actively involved in the movement, including the Rev. Samuel Houston (1758-1839) [uncle of the famous Virginian-Texan general and governor Sam Houston]; the Rev. Samuel Doak (1749-1830); and the Rev. William Graham (1745-1799), founder of Liberty Hall, near Lexington, Virginia, where he tutored Archibald Alexander.

It was William Graham, according to Kent Wilcox, author of The Lost History of Washington and Lee: New Discoveries: A Historical Performance Audit (2018), who authored a remarkable document titled A Declaration of Rights, along with a proposed constitution for the State of Frankland (this proposed constitution differs from that which was actually adopted later). This document, promoted by Rev. Houston, was published in Philadelphia, and demonstrates the principles of civil government to which the patriotic Presbyterian pastor adhered. Consistent with the address to Virginia’s General Assembly, also authored by Graham in 1785, neither the Declaration of Rights nor the proposed Constitution affirm or seek an established church for the “Commonwealth of Frankland,” but the proposed Constitution does assert that

…no person shall be eligible or capable to serve in this or any other office in the civil department of this State, who is of an immoral character, or guilty of such flagrant enormities as drunkenness, gaming, profane swearing, lewdness, Sabbath breaking, and such like; or who will, either in word or writing, deny any of the following propositions, viz:

1st. That there is one living and true God, the Creator and Govern or of the universe.
2nd. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
3rd. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are given by divine inspiration.
4th. That there are three divine persons in the Godhead, co-equal and co-essential.

A petition was made to Congress for statehood in 1785, but although seven states voted in favor, the required two-thirds threshold for passage was not met. The Congressional delegation went so far as to changed the name from Frankland to Franklin with the aim of soliciting more active support for the project from Benjamin Franklin himself (it is thought that Graham was not particularly favorable to the man, likely because of Franklin’s religious views, and that he originally chose the term “Frankland” to reflect this), but to no avail. In 1786, Graham, as a “citizen of Frankland,” authored an Essay on Government (not yet available at Log College Press). Although not accepted as a state, the government of Franklin attempted to operate as an independent republic until conflicts with the Cherokees and the State of North Carolina over taxes and other issues resulted in the 1788 “Battle of Franklin,” soon after which the State of Franklin collapsed, except for one county (“Lesser Franklin”) which continued its claims of independence until 1791. The territory in dispute eventually became part of a new State of Tennessee, and Sevier himself would serve as Governor of Tennessee.

For more on the life of William Graham, consult Archibald Alexander’s biographical notice which appears in Vol. 3 of William B. Sprague’s Annals of the American Pulpit. He was a fascinating and influential man in American civil and ecclesiastical history. Although the State of Franklin was short-lived, Graham’s spiritual legacy lives on through the spiritual and political lessons he taught others, including Archibald Alexander.

The Place of Conscience in the Life of a Christian: Samuel J. Cassels


It was Jiminy Cricket who said, "Always let your conscience be your guide." This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous. — R.C. Sproul, Sr., Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, p. 151

Just two months before his death at the age of 47, Samuel Jones Cassels contributed an article to The Southern Presbyterian Review (Vol. 6, no. 4, April 1853) titled “Conscience - Its Nature, Office and Authority.” This is a valuable study of an important topic that Christians continue to struggle with today. By reviewing selections from Archibald Alexander’s Outlines of Moral Science, John Dick’s Lectures on Theology, James McCosh’s The Method of the Divine Government, and Thomas Brown’s Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Cassels lays out an argument concerning what the conscience is and its place of authority with respect to divine revelation.

Cassels affirms that the conscience is “that faculty or power of the human soul by which it perceives the difference between right and wrong, approving the one and condemning the other. In this definition, two things are to be observed: first, conscience is a mental power or faculty, the same as the reason, the will, or the memory.” However, the question arises, when the conscience is misinformed or seared, what is the case of a Christian in such a situation? Cassels responds thus (pp. 465-469):

We come now to what we consider the most difficult part of this discussion; and the more so, because we are compelled to differ from some of those excellent Divines with whom we have heretofore so heartily agreed. When we speak of the authority of conscience, we are apt to be misled by the language. Authority is exercised by kings, magistrates, officers and parents. It supposes an intelligent ruler, a system of laws, and rational subjects. But when we apply this term to a mental faculty, we must certainly exclude from it all these accessory ideas of regular human administration. And yet, even metaphysicians discoursing upon the mere powers or capacities of the human mind, employ a sort of court-language, as if they were describing the administration of some great monarch. This is a great fault, especially with Mr. McCosh, whose vivid imagination seems always ready to give a scenic representation to mental processes.

That the different mental faculties have distinct offices, and that each one either does or ought to predominate in its specific sphere, will be readily admitted. Reason is supreme in all abstract truth; the will on all matters of choice; the emotions in all objects of affection; the imagination in the province of fancy; and the conscience in the domain of morals. Now, each of these mental faculties does and must take the lead in its particular field of operation. Yet, as our consciousness will testify, most of our actions are the results of not one only, but of several of these mental powers. Indeed, the relation between these mental faculties is so intimate, that in most cases the action of the one must take place before the action of another can exist. All then, that we can mean by the authority of a mental power, is simply its precedence over the rest in any one action. And all that we can mean by the obedience, or subjection of one mental faculty to another, is simply the posteriority of its operation. Reason asserts that a certain abstract proposition is true; at once the will and the heart concur in the conclusion. The proposition was addressed to the reason, and its decision must be, of course, that of the entire mind or soul. At another time, an object may be presented to the emotion of love. The point now'to be decided is, shall such an object or person be loved? If the case be a doubtful one, the reason may again be called upon to do its office: that, is, to compare, judge, decide, etc. In other cases, however, the heart overleaps the tardy work of reason, and responds at once to the object, as soon as presented. Shall a mother love her babe? It is not her intellect, but her heart that solves that question. The same is true of the conscience. — Where a question of morality admits of doubt, the reason may be called in, and may be long employed in its investigations before the conscience is prepared to act. But in all obvious cases, this faculty acts instantly, and approves or disapproves of a certain act as soon as perceived. There are obviously then a precedence and a sequence in mental operations. But when we transcend this beautiful order in which the mental faculties operate, and establish, within the soul a sort of spiritual administration, with all the paraphernalia of courts and palaces, we evidently use language very loosely, and are in danger of being misled altogether in reference to the mind and its powers.

With these explanations, we proceed to consider the question at issue: Is a man bound to follow his conscience when its judgments are erroneous? That the real point of debate may be understood, we give the following quotations from Drs. Dick and Alexander: — “ An appeal” says the former, “may always be made from its (conscience) decisions to the word of God, and as soon as a difference is discovered between its dictates and those of Scripture, the sentence which it has pronounced is void. Hence it is plain, that the plea of conscience will not be admitted to exempt us from guilt and punishment. And this, we may observe, is the unhappy situation of those whose consciences are not sufficiently enlightened; that they sin, whatever they do; in disregarding the voice of conscience, and in obeying it.” Dr. Alexander maintains the same position: — “It is true, if a man’s conscience dictates a certain action, he is morally bound to obey; but if that action be wrong, he commits sin in performing it nevertheless. He, who is under fundamental error, is in a sad dilemma. Do what he will, he sins. If he disobey conscience, he knowingly sins ; doing what he believes to be wrong; and if he obey conscience, performing an act which is in itself wrong, he sins; because he complies not with the law under which he is placed.” Now, as much as we esteem the sentiments of the authors above quoted, we must think they have both fallen into error on this subject. This will appear from the fact, that they have here introduced two opposite rules of conduct, each of which the subject is bound at the same time to obey. The law of God dictates one course; and the law of conscience another, directly opposite. To each of these laws a man is morally bound to submit. Now, it is evident, that a man can no more obey two such opposite rules at the same time, than that he can occupy two places at the same time, or than he can both love and hate the same object at the same time. The thing is impossible, and therefore cannot be a matter of moral obligation. The same difficulty is also seen when we consider the moral qualities of the action: it is both right and wrong — worthy of reward and also worthy of punishment! Now, a human action cannot possess two qualities so diametrically opposite. As the same object cannot be white and black at the same time, so the same moral act cannot be both virtuous and vicious.

The errors in these statements, as we conceive, are two fold. The one consists in giving conscience a supremacy which does not belong to it; the other in blending two distinct moral acts, and ascribing a common moral character to them, as if they were one. Conscience is neither a moral governor, nor a moral law. It is a faculty of the soul, fitting man for a moral government existing, not within, but without him. God is our only true moral governor, and his will is our only supreme moral law. Our subjection then, is not to be a subjection to conscience, (which, being a part of ourselves, would imply subjection to ourselves,) but a subjection to God, as our moral governor. The very moment we set up conscience as a sort of rival to Jehovah, that moment we become idolaters, and sacrifice our real liberty. The care is very much that of the Papist, who is perfectly satisfied that when he has heard his priest he has heard his God; and that when he stands well with his priest, he also stands well in the court of Heaven. Now, to exalt the conscience into any such high position, and to obey its dictates with the full assurance that they must be right, is but to deify a faculty of the human soul, and to fall down in worship to ourselves. Man is a moral agent, possessed of certain mental faculties, all of which are designed to aid him in the prosecution of a virtuous course of conduct. But he is depraved; and there is not a mental faculty that is not erroneous in its operations. The reason is more or less blind, the will is perverse, the passions are deranged, and the conscience is dull, inefficient and easily perverted. This condition of the human soul is taught us by experience, observation and scripture. For a man, then, to trust himself to the dictates of any one of his faculties, or of all of them combined, is necessarily to hazard the peace and well-being of his soul. The decisions of conscience in many cases are just as much to be held in doubt, as those of the reason. And in attempting to ascertain our duty in such cases, we are not to consult, but to instruct our consciences. We must take the conscience itself to the revealed will of God, and there, and there only, obtain that light which is to guide us in the path of duty. Now, when this course is honestly and faithfully pursued, it is next to impossible that the conscience should be in “fundamental error.” To suppose so, is to suppose either that the Bible does not adequately reveal the will of God, or that man is incapable of understanding that will when so revealed.

But our theologians will tell us, that the case supposed is that of one who has done all this, and is still in error. He has examined the Scriptures prayerfully and honestly, and has conscienciously come to certain conclusions, both as to its doctrines and precepts. Still those conclusions are erroneous. Now, in such a case, we say without hesitation, that such a man is bound to receive, as God’s revealed truth, that which, after such examination, he conceives to be such. But this is not subjection to con science, but to God. Faith is here placed, not in the decisions merely of a mental faculty, but in the infallible teachings of the Holy Ghost. That such a man should err as to the essentials of the Gospel, is improbable in the last degree; that he should mistake on some of its minor points, is very likely. We cannot conceive, however, that such mistakes should vitiate his obedience. Errors in religion, when they arise from carelessness, prejudice, pride of intellect, or any other like cause, are certainly,criminal. But those errors, which even the best men are liable to make on this subject, and which arise from causes beyond their control, can certainly never inculpate them in the sight of God.

The Great Secret of True Comfort - Archibald Alexander

When Archibald Alexander first published his devotional classic Thoughts on Religious Experience in 1841, it did not contain the Appendix that was first added to the 1844 edition which contains his “Letters to the Aged.”

It is difficult to ascertain for sure what led to the creation of those Letters to the Aged, but one possible explanation for their genesis might lie in a letter written by his son, James Waddel Alexander, to John Hall, dated August 10, 1837, in which J.W. makes this intriguing suggestion: "A book ought to be written with this title: 'The Aged Christian's Book: printed in large type for the convenience of old persons.' It should be in the largest character attainable. Such topics as these: The Trials of Old Age; The Temptations of Old Age; The Duties of Old Age; The Consolations of Old Age, &c, &c. It should be a large book, with little matter in it. Why has no Tract Society thought of such a thing? (J.W. Alexander, Forty Years' Familiar Letters, Vol. 1, p. 255; see also James M. Garretson, Thoughts on Preaching & Pastoral Ministry, p. 170).” This is an almost-perfect description of what came to be known a few years later as Alexander’s “Letters to the Aged” (republished by Log College Press under the title Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life, 2018).

Regardless of the particular origin of these “Letters to the Aged,” we have an early example of the same from the pen of Archibald Alexander as recorded by J.W. in the biography he wrote of his father. According to J.W., this is “the only letter to his aged and declining mother, which is known to be in existence” (dated May 25, 1823, from Princeton, New Jersey; see J.W. Alexander, Life of Archibald Alexander, pp. 402-404).

My Dear Mother: —

When I last saw you, it was very doubtful whether you would ever rise again from the bed to which you were confined. Indeed, considering your great age, it was not to be expected that you should entirely recover your usual health. I was much gratified to find that in the near prospect of eternity, your faith did not fail, but that you could look death in the face without dismay, and felt willing, if it were the will of God, to depart from this world of sorrow and disappointment. But it has pleased your Heavenly Father to continue you a little longer in the world. I regret to learn that you have endured much pain from a disease of your eyes, and that you have been less comfortable than formerly. Bodily affliction you must expect to endure as long as you continue in the world. 'The days of our years are three-score years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.' But while your Heavenly Father continues you in this troublesome world, he will, I trust, enable you to be resigned and contented and patient under the manifold afflictions which are incident to old age.

The great secret of true comfort lies in a single word, TRUST. Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain them. If your evidences of being in the favour of God are obscured, if you are doubtful of your acceptance with him, still go directly to him by faith; that is, trust in his mercy and in Christ's merits. Rely simply on his word of promise. Be not afraid to exercise confidence. There can be no deception in depending entirely on the Word of God. It is not presumption to trust in him when he has commanded us to do so. We dishonour him by our fearfulness and want of confidence. We thus call in question his faithfulness and his goodness. Whether your mind is comfortable or distressed, flee for refuge to the outstretched wings of his protection and mercy. There is all fulness in him; there is all willingness to bestow what we need. He says, 'My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. As thy day is so shall thy strength be. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' Be not afraid of the pangs of death. Be not afraid that your Redeemer will then be afar off. Grace to die comfortably is not commonly given until the trial comes. Listen not to the tempter, when he endeavours to shake your faith, and destroy your comfort. Resist him, and he will flee from you. If you feel that you can trust your soul willingly and wholly to the hands of Christ, relying entirely on his merits; if you feel that you hate sin, and earnestly long to be delivered from its defilement; if you are willing to submit to the will of God, however much he may afflict you; then be not discouraged. These are not the marks of an enemy, but of a friend. My sincere prayer is, that your sun may set in serenity; that your latter end may be like that of the righteous; and that your remaining days, by the blessing of God's providence and grace, may be rendered tolerable and even comfortable.

It is not probable that we shall ever meet again in this world; and yet, as you have already seen one of your children go before you, you may possibly live to witness the departure of more of us. I feel that old age is creeping upon me. Whoever goes first, the rest must soon follow. May we all be ready! And may we all meet around the throne of God, where there is no separation for ever and ever! Amen!

His mother was Agnes Ann Reid Alexander (1740-1825), and her earthly remains are buried with her husband at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.

Archibald Alexander clearly understood what it was like to be in the “autumn of life,” with its particular physical and spiritual challenges and opportunities, and the comfort and encouragement that is needed at this stage of life. This is why Log College Press chose to republish his worthy “Letters to the Aged” as Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life. Be sure to order your copy here, and consider purchasing extra copies for your pastor or loved ones.

Archibald Alexander's Aging in Grace is Now Available!

Exciting news from Log College Press! Our newest booklet is now available for purchase: Archibald Alexander, Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life.

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This is a small collection of letters originally appended to Alexander’s spiritual classic, Thoughts on Religious Experience. Together, they constitute a wonderful, pastoral encouragement to those in the “autumn of life,” written when Alexander himself was in his 70s. Here he candidly addresses the sorrows, trials and temptations of old age, while offering Biblical wisdom, encouragement, and practical counsel to his fellow aged friends. This counsel, thought written over 150 years ago, is equally applicable today.

To order this booklet for yourself, or for a loved one, visit our Bookstore today. Besides the booklet format ($3.99 plus shipping), one may also order this work in Kindle or EPUB formats ($2.99 each). Because this is our fifth volume, we are also offering a “Pastor’s Package” special, which includes all five volumes ($22 + free shipping). This is a special opportunity that you don’t want to miss!

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Alexander’s Aging in Grace tackles the challenges of old age honestly, from first-hand experience, and in a series of five letters, empathizes with the struggles we face in this stage of life, while offering cautions and encouragements to move forward in the path of obedience and duty. Most helpfully, he highlights how mature saints can help guide those that are younger, and emphasizes how our lives and labors, most particularly at this advanced stage of life, are not less valuable in the service of Christ the King and his church, but in fact more so. Alexander reminds us that there are special ministry opportunities that are unique to those in the autumn of life.

Read what others have said about this booklet:

"While grateful that the letters of Archibald Alexander to the aged have been made available to our Lord’s church, I am also overjoyed as a pastor that I now have them as an excellent asset for discipleship and encouragement to the Titus 2 'older men and women,' as well as an instrument of insight for the Titus 2 'young men and women' in our Lord’s church." - Harry L. Reeder, III, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama

"...Filled with keen insight into the physical, mental and spiritual conditions that accompany and come to define growing older, these letters should be required reading for Christians entering their fifties and older, their children and those who minister to all ages. Far beyond pious platitudes, Alexander offers not only comfort and warning regarding approaching the end of life but extremely helpful and realistic suggestions to make these years productive and richly satisfying." - Dr. W. Andrew Hoffecker, Emeritus Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary 
 
"...In a time when many want to deny the approach of old age, Alexander’s letters are an honest, refreshing, and helpful encouragement to grow in God’s grace at all ages and to serve Christ faithfully to the end. The younger generation in the church will always need mature saints who take to heart what is written in these pages." - Mr. Wiley Lowry, Minister of Pastoral Care at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

Hughes Oliphant Old on Log College Press Men

Hughes Oliphant Old (1933-2016) is widely regarded as a preeminent church historian of the 20th century. He was the focus of the 2017 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian Journal. One of his greatest works is the 7-volume set titled The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. It consists of biographical sketches and analyses of the preaching of important figures throughout the span of international Christian church history.

Volumes 5 & 6 contain important references to some of the men highlighted here at Log College Press. We commend to you the study of this resource as a method of better understanding the lives and preaching of select American ministers of the gospel.

Volume 5 (Modernism, Pietism, and Awakening, 2004):

Volume 6 (The Modern Age, 2007):

Some additional American Presbyterian ministers are highlighted in Old’s set, but the men referenced above are all to be found here at Log College Press. Old’s analyses of particular, noteworthy sermons by these men constitute very valuable studies of Presbyterian and Reformed preaching of an era that we here at Log College Press aim to remember.

One instance of Old’s analysis of particular sermons comes from Archibald Alexander’s Practical Sermons. He looks at “Obedience to Christ Gives Assurance of the Truth of His Doctrine”; “The Incarnation”; and “Christ’s Gift of Himself For Our Redemption.” As to the whole collection of sermons, Old explains what Alexander means when Alexander wrote that “The sermons contain what the author believes to be evangelical truth.” Old elaborates: “The phrase ‘evangelical truth,’ probably meant to Alexander the truth of the gospel, the faith of classical Protestantism. ‘Evangelical’ did not yet mean a particular party in the Church, but rather the central thrust of the Christian message.”

Old gives context to the former sermon by explaining Alexander’s familiarity with the Enlightment message so popular in Philadelphia at the time when he preached and which the sermon opposed. Old describes “The Incarnation” as a “doxological hymn” of praise to Christ. He highlights Alexander’s notable opening lines: “There are two memorable occasions, in time past, on which the angels are represented as joining in chorus to praise God in relation to our world. The first was when the corner-stone of the fabric of the universe was laid, and its foundations were fastened. Then ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.’ The other was at the birth of a Saviour; which is referred to in our text” (Luke 2:13-14). Finally, Old takes note of Alexander’s sermon which so clearly affirms the divinity of Christ and opposes the Universalism prevalent in his day. As Old says, “This is a very rich sermon. Not brief summary could do it justice.” It is a powerful witness to the Christ of the Scriptures, and though the summary is brief, it is worth reading, as is, of course, the sermon itself.

These are men that Old thought worthy of inclusion and reflection in his valuable study of preaching in the Christian church. Take note of what he wrote as you study these ministers and their writings for yourself using primary and secondary sources. May these resources be a blessing to all ministers, students of the ministry and laymen for whom “the past is not dead.”

The Sum of Archibald Alexander's Theology

As recounted in Practical Truths (1857), p. 386, “on his dying bed, [Archibald Alexander] uttered to his family these memorable words: ‘All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.'“ What a beautiful summation of the gospel, and what a simple truth to meditate upon this day to the glory of God, who sent his Son to save sinners.

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Be on the lookout for our forthcoming booklet by Archibald Alexander, which includes his counsel to those in the autumn of life. Coming soon!

An Upcoming Publication of Log College Press!

Here's a sneak peek at the cover of one of our upcoming publications, Lord willing: Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life, by Archibald Alexander. It will consist of five letters (originally styled "Letters to the Aged" by Alexander) that appeared in the third edition of Thoughts on Religious ExperiencesAnyone dealing with the infirmities of encroaching frailty and death (i.e., everyone) will be richly encouraged by Alexander's counsel. I hope that this booklet will be a blessing especially to the seniors in our congregations, who can sometimes be overlooked in pastoral ministry in favor of those younger. Alexander isn't afraid of speaking truth into difficult situations, so he names some of the sins peculiar to old age, and speaks frankly - yet hopefully - of death for the believer. We'll let you know once we've published it; and be on the lookout, it may even be a free ebook giveaway at some point! 

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Grace Abounds

"It is as easy for him to save a great as a small sinner. No one was ever saved because his sins were small; no one was ever rejected on account of the greatness of his sins. Where sin abounded, grace shall much more abound. If your guilt is very enormous, the greater honour will redound to that Deliverer who plucks such a brand from the burning. 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" -- Archibald Alexander, "Sinners Welcome to Come to Jesus Christ" in Practical Truths, p. 164

Friday Funny

Eleanor Butler Roosevelt (née Alexander) (1888-1960) was the wife of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1887-1944) and the great-grandchild of Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) and Janetta Alexander (née Waddel) (1782-1852). Janetta's father was the famed Blind Preacher of Virginia, James Waddel (1739-1805)

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a 1959 book titled Day Before Yesterday: The Reminiscences of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in which she recounted an anecdote from the courtship of Archibald Alexander and Janetta Waddel. 

"When he asked for her hand in marriage her father said, 'There is something I think I should tell you about Janetta's suitability as the wife of a clergyman. While her Latin is excellent and her Greek good, her Hebrew leaves much to be desired."
 

Cane of Orthodoxy

Missionaries from Princeton were actively working in Hawaii in the early 19th century. A chief of the Sandwich Islands (as Hawaii was then known) sent a gift to Princeton, a cane or walking-stick carved from whalebone, by way of one of those missionaries in the 1820's with instructions to "present it to your chief," that is, Dr. Archibald Alexander. 

It was a treasured memento, which Alexander, on his death bed, bequeathed to Dr. Charles Hodge, who recorded the event afterwards thus: "He then, with a smile, handed me a white bone walking-stick, carved and presented to him by one of the chiefs of the Sandwich islands, and said, 'You must leave this to your successor in office, that it may be handed down as a kind of symbol of orthodoxy'" (J.W. Alexander, Life of Archibald Alexander, pp. 605-606).

The cane was passed "metaphorically" to A.A. Hodge by Charles and the Princeton trustees in 1878 when A.A. Hodge was appointed as his father's successor. It was again "symbolically" passed on to B.B. Warfield upon the death of A.A. Hodge in 1886 (Paul C. Gutjahr, Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy, pp. 378-380).

Today the cane resides in the Special Collections Department of the Princeton Theological Seminary library as a "kind of symbol of orthodoxy."