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?

A 19th century Presbyterian publisher whose name you might know

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The subject of today’s post had an elder brother, William, who became a Presbyterian minister. The story is told, by Rev. William Hammil, the Principal of the Boys’ School at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, of William’s conversion, followed by that of his brother days later.

He [William] came to me,” says Mr. Hammil, “ and said, ‘I have found the Saviour, and I wish you would tell my companions.’ I said to him, ‘William, you had better tell them yourself. It will do them and you both good.’ He stood up and said, ‘My dear schoolmates, you have, perhaps, not understood why I have not been out upon the playground as much as usual for some days past. I have been seeking the salvation of my soul, and trust I have found my Saviour, and wish to tell you how much joy I have.’ After prayers, William came to me and said, ‘ I wish you would speak to my brother…, and pray for him.’ I promised to do so. Like Andrew the Apostle, he was desirous that his brother should see Jesus. In a few days, … his younger brother, was indulging a good hope of an interest in Christ.

James W. Alexander once wrote in a preface to his Discourses on Common Topics of Christian Faith and Practice that “The appearance of these Discourses is due to the kind importunity of the Publisher, once my pupil and since my esteemed friend, who has for several years asked this contribution.”

The man who would one day became a publisher whose name is known around the world studied at Princeton, graduating in 1840. After health issues derailed an initial venture into the legal profession, he instead went into the business of publishing books. His first base of operations was in meeting rooms leased from the Presbyterian Brick Street Chapel in New York City for $600 annually. Shepherd Knapp, Jr., in his sketch of this famous historical congregation, tells us that:

In 1846 another publishing house became the church's tenant, that of …, whose successors, …, and the present … have continued the firm's long relationship to the Brick Church by becoming the publishers of the principle works of the church's ministers during the last half century.

Charles Scribner Brick Chapel Church.jpg

J. David Hoevelter, Jr., in James McCosh and the Scottish Intellectual Tradition: From Glasgow to Princeton, p. 308), adds:

The firm had an eclectic list of works, but it excelled in high scholarly, and especially theological, works. These included books by Horace Bushnell, Henry B. Smith, Noah Porter, and others that especially illustrate the Princeton connection — Archibald and James Waddel Alexander, Charles Hodge, and then McCosh.

The list of works by Log College Press authors published by this man and his company is voluminous. Some of the names and titles can be noted on this Princeton chronology here. The publisher’s name remains well-known today, in the 21st century: Charles Scribner (1821-1871). Although he died at the age of 50, his work was carried on under the name Charles Scribner’s Sons. One of his sons, who later led the family business, was John Blair Scribner - named after a former Log College student, John Blair. His legacy has endured, and we at Log College Press are grateful for the many Presbyterian works that he and his family published during the 19th century.

Charles Scribner photo 2.jpg

J.W. Alexander: A Man Will Be as His Books

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“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” — Charles H. Spurgeon

A friend recently pointed this writer to a quote from James Waddel Alexander’s Thoughts on Preaching: Being Contributions to Homiletics.

It must be the habit of the preacher to be continually opening new veins, and deeply considering subjects allied to those on which he is to preach. This habit is greatly aided by judicious reading on theological topics. A man will be as his books. But of all means, none is so effectual as the perpetual study of the Scriptures. Let a man be interested in them day and night, continually labouring in this mine, and, whether he write or not, he will be effectually secured against self-repetition. There is such profundity, comprehensiveness and variety in the Word of God, that it is a library of itself. There is such a freshness in its mode of presenting truth, that he who is perpetually conversant with it can scarcely be dull (pp. 18-19).

The Book of Books — that is, the Bible — is the treasury of wisdom. All other books are to be measured by their consistency with the Scriptures. That being the case, the careful choice of good books is a great aid to the minister or elder or, indeed, to any Christian reader. At Log College Press, we select the titles that we republish with care as well.

Pastor's Package.png

Are you an elder? Read Witherspoon. Are you in seminary? Read Plumer. Are you a pastor? Read Rice & Grimké. Are you pastoring in a small town? Read Grafton. Are you getting older? Read Alexander. Are you interested in the Synod of Dort? Read Miller. There is profound, edifying and encouraging literature here for everyone. And a special deal for ordering all seven titles.

If you agree with Alexander that “a man will be as his books,” or that a person is a reflection of the books in which they spend their time, then consider these adding these titles to your library. These are volumes in which spiritual wisdom is practically applied and in which church history is made plain. It is our prayer that they will contribute to the church today, as they have in times past, and be a blessing to your soul.

The Story of a Children's Book that was Parleyed into a Presbyterian Library

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Have you heard of the Peter Parley stories? The title character of a popular series of children’s books authored by Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860), Peter Parley was “an elderly, quirky, but also lovable old Bostonian who enjoy[ed] telling stories to children.” The stories he told helped to teach children about history, geography, and science. By 1856, 7 million copies of the Peter Parley stories had been sold.

Peter Parley.jpg

Published by the firm of Sorin and Ball, the copyright holder to the series was an associate of the firm named Samuel Agnew (1820-1880). He was also a Presbyterian ruling elder who had a deep interest in books and history. The enormous success of his publishing labors enabled Agnew to retire at around the age of 40.

In tracing the history of the Presbyterian Historical Society, which was founded in 1852, William Laurence Ledwith writes:

The noble triumvirate who bore the burden were the Rev. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, D. D., the Rev. Richard Webster, and Samuel Agnew, and the greatest of these was Agnew….Samuel Agnew was the librarian from the organization until 1880, the time of his death, covering a period of twenty-eight years. The Society owes to him more than to any one else; his time, his labors, his money being given without stint to the cause he so dearly loved. In his earlier days he was a member of the firm of Sorin and Ball, publishers, and he owned the copyright of the Peter Parley histories. He was a man of ample means, and devoted himself to the interests of the Historical Society, and it is no extravagant statement to say that the Society itself, its library with its large and rare collection, the building which the Society purchased in 1879, are his monuments. He was ever on the watch for anything and everything in print that had value for the Society. He frequented book auctions, and often, rather than miss the volume or pamphlet he desired, would purchase the whole package in which they were tied. It is said that when he saw the advertisement of a library sale in New York, Boston, Cleveland or Cincinnati, he would start at once for the place, and secure, often at large cost, the books he desired. Even in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, he had his agents under instructions to secure such books as he wished to purchase. In this work, to which he gave himself so heartily, he spent $25,000, as he once confessed to a friend, when worried lest these historic treasures of the Society which he had stored away might be destroyed by fire. He also collected 4,000 volumes and pamphlets on the Baptist Controversy, which he left in his will to Princeton Theological Seminary. After his death it was some little time before they could be found, but they were discovered stored away in a building used as a stable. He died just as the Society was entering upon the use of the first building it owned, and which he had labored so faithfully to secure.

We have a snapshot of the fruits of Agnew’s labors on behalf of the PHS library because in 1865 he published a catalogue of its holdings. It covers 100 pages of book titles, but remarkably it does not include a “large and valuable collection of more than eight thousand Pamphlets, Magazines and Reviews; two hundred volumes of Newspapers; three hundred Portraits; and many valuable Manuscripts.”

Thus it was, in the providence of God, that the fortune built on the sales of a children’s book by Samuel Agnew was parleyed into the library of the Presbyterian Historical Society, a legacy of lasting value to the church.

The History of Early Presbyterianism in All 50 States

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If you have been in search of resources covering the history of Presbyterianism in a particular state or regional area within the United States, the list below (which is by no means comprehensive) may be of some assistance. Links are provided to works by LCP authors, but also note that much of the other literature referenced can be found on our secondary sources page as well. PCA Historical Center Director Wayne Sparkman’s research here was one of several helpful resources in compiling this list.

  • Alabama - James Williams Marshall, The Presbyterian Church in Alabama: A Record of the Growth of the Presbyterian Church from its Beginning in 1811 in the Eastern portion of Mississippi (1977); Synod of Alabama, “The King’s Business” in the Synod of Alabama (1926)

  • Alaska - Sheldon Jackson, Alaska, and Missions on the Pacific North Coast (1880); Aaron Ladner Lindsley, Sketches of an Excursion to Southern Alaska (1881); Thora McIlroy Mills, The Contributions of the Presbyterian Church to the Yukon During the Gold Rush, 1897-1910 (1977); Dianne Anderson O’Connell, The Yukon Presbyterian: An Unauthorized Biography (100 Years of Presbyterian Work in the Northern Parts of Alaska) (1999); Samuel Hall Young, Hall Young of Alaska, The “Mushing Parson”: An Autobiography (1927)

  • Arizona - Richard K. Smith and J. Melvin Nelson, Datelines and By-Lines : A Sketchbook of Presbyterian Beginnings and Growth in Arizona (1969)

  • Arkansas - Thomas H. Campbell, Arkansas Cumberland Presbyterian, 1812-1984: A People of Faith (1985); Charles Beatty Moore, The History of Presbyterianism in Arkansas, 1828-1902 (1902); James Wilson Moore, Presbyterianism in Arkansas (1858, 1905); H.L. Paisley, Centennial History of Presbyterianism (U.S.) in Arkansas (1954)

  • California - Jane Atkins-Vásquez, Hispanic Presbyterians in Southern California: One Hundred Years of Ministry (1988); Robert B. Coote & John S. Hadsell, San Francisco Theological Seminary: The Shaping of a Western School of the Church, 1871-1998 (1999); James Curry, History of the San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and Its Alumni Association (1907); Henry Collin Minton, Presbyterianism in California (1897); Greg Roth, Gold Rush Legacy: W.W. Brier, Pioneer Presbyterian Pastor (2005); Edward Arthur Wicher, The Presbyterian Church in California, 1849-1927 (1927); James L. Woods, California Pioneer Decade of 1849: The Presbyterian Church (1922)

  • Colorado - Andrew E. Murray, The Skyline Synod: Presbyterianism in Colorado and Utah (1971); John Bernard Schoolland, A Pioneer church: Being a Reverently Realistic Account of the First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, Colorado in it's Total Pioneer Origin, 1872-1972 (1972)

  • Connecticut - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Delaware - John W. Christie, Presbyterianism in Delaware (1947); James H. Lappen, Presbyterians on Delmarva: The History of the New Castle Presbytery (1972); United States Army Command and General Staff College, Presbyterian Patriots: The Historical Context of the Shared History and Prevalent Ideologies of Delaware’s Ulster-Scots Who Took Up Arms in the American Revolution (2015); James Laird Vallandigham & Samuel Alexander Gayley, History of the Presbytery of New Castle, From Its Organization, March 13, 1717, to 1888 (1889)

  • District of Columbia - Frank E. Edgington, A History of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church: One Hundred Fifty-Seven Years, 1803-1961 (1961); Dorothy Schaffter, The Presbyterian Congregation in George Town, 1780-1970 (1971); Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Golden Wilson and Edith Holmes Synder, Capital Witness: A History of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. (2011)

  • Florida - James R. Bullock, Heritage and Hope: A Story of Presbyterians in Florida (1987); Karen Harvey, Florida’s First Presbyterians: A Celebration of 175 Years in St. Augustine, 1824-1999 (1998); Herbert A. Love, Opportunities, Responsibilities: The Work of the Presbyterian Church U.S. in Florida (1927); William Erskine McIlwain, The Early Planting of Presbyterianism in West Florida (1926)

  • Georgia - Lowry Axley, Holding the Torch Aloft: A Histor of the Independent Church of Savannah, Georgia (1958); Groves Harrison Cartledge, Historical Sketches: Presbyterian Churches and Early Settlers in Northeast Georgia (1960); Dwyn Mecklin Mounger, Who We Are As Presbyterians: Brief Scences From Our Past - A series of five vignettes to be presented at the fourteenth stated meeting of the Synod of the Southeast at St. Simons Presbyterian Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia, - September 16-17, 1986 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Presbyterianism in Georgia (1986); James Stacy, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia (1912); Franklin C. Talmage, The Story of the Presbytery of Atlanta (1960); Groves Harrison Cartledge, Historical Sketches: Presbyterian Churches and Early Settlers in Northeast Georgia (1960)

  • Hawaii - James McKinney Alexander, Mission Life in Hawaii: Memoir of Rev. William P. Alexander (1888)

  • Idaho - E. Paul Hovey, Presbyterian Yesterdays in Northern Idaho (1964)

  • Illinois - William Irvine Blair, The Presbyterian Synods of Illinois (1952); Leroy Jones Halsey, A History of the McCormick Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church (1893); James Gore King McClure, Sr., The Story of the Life and Work of the Presbyterian Seminary Chicago (1927); Augustus Theodore Norton, History of the Presbyterian Church, in the State of Illinois (1879); Andrew Stevenson, Chicago: Pre-Eminently a Presbyterian City (1907)

  • Indiana - Hanford Abram Edson, Contributions to the Early History of the Presbyterian Church in Indiana (1898); L.C. Rudolph, Hoosier Zion: The Presbyterians in Early Indiana (1963)

  • Iowa - J.F. Hinkhouse, One Hundred Years of the Iowa Presbyterian Church (1932); Joseph Welton Hubbard, The Presbyterian Church in Iowa, 1837-1900 (1907); H. Gene Straatmeyer, The Synod of the West: A History of the Presbyterian German Synod of the West and Its Churches (2016); Beth Wunder, North Central Iowa Presbytery: Bicentennial History (1989)

  • Kansas - John Boyton Hill,The Presbytery of Kansas City and Its Predecessors (1901); Robert H. McFarland and A.J. McFarland, Papa Got It Right! (2016)

  • Kentucky - Robert Hamilton Bishop, An Outline of the History of the Church in the State of Kentucky (1824); Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky; With a Preliminary Sketch of the Churches in the Valley of Virginia (1847); Moses Drury Hoge, Memorial Discourse on the Planting of Presbyterianism in Kentucky One Hundred Years Ago.(1883); Louis B. Weeks, Kentucky Presbyterians (1983)

  • Louisiana - Benjamin Charles Bell, Presbyterianism in North Louisiana, Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Red River Presbytery (1930, 1988); Penrose St. Amant, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Louisiana (1961); Louis Voss, Presbyterianism in New Orleans and Adjacent Points (1931)

  • Maine - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Maryland - James E.P. Boulden, The Presbyterians of Baltimore: Their Churches and Historic Grave-Yards (1875); James William McIlvain, Early Presbyterianism in Maryland (1890)

  • Massachusetts - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Michigan - Maurice F. Cole, Impact of the Civil War on the Presbyterian Church in Michigan (1965); John Comin & Harold F. Fredsell, History of the Presbyterian Church in Michigan (1950)

  • Minnesota - Maurice Dwight Edwards, History of the Synod of Minnesota, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (1927); Edward Duffield Neill, Early Days of the Presbyterian Branch of the Holy Catholic Church, in the State of Minnesota (1873)

  • Mississippi - Frederick Roscoe Graves, The Presbyterian Work in Mississippi (1927); Robert Milton Winter, Outposts of Zion: A History of Mississippi Presbyterians in the Nineteenth Century (2014)

  • Missouri - Joseph M. Garrison,The Missouri Presbytery, 1817-1937  (1937); Eugene Edward Stringfield, Presbyterianism in the Ozarks A History of the Work of the Various Branches of the Presbyterian Church in Southwest Missouri 1834-1907 (1909)

  • Montana - George Edwards, The Pioneer Work of the Presbyterian Church in Montana (1907); Patricia M. McKinney, Presbyterianism in Montana: Its First Hundred Years (1972)

  • Nebraska - Charles Arthur Hawley, Fifty Years on the Nebraska Frontier: The History of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Omaha, Nebraska (2012); Julius F. Schwarz, History of The Presbyterian Church in Nebraska (1924)

  • Nevada - Zelvin D. Lowman, A Voice in the Desert: A History of First Presbyterian Church, Las Vegas, Nevada (1992)

  • New Hampshire - Samuel Lankton Gerould, The Congregational and Presbyterian Churches and Ministers of New Hampshire connected with the General Association : A Continuation of the compilation of Rev. Henry A. Hazen, issued in 1875, bringing the record down to 1900 (1900); see also below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • New Jersey - Allen H. Brown, Historical Sketch of the Synod of New Jersey For the Quarter of a Century, From 1861 to 1886 (1888); David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary (2 vols., 1996); Centennial, Presbytery of Newton: An Adjourned Meeting, in the First Presbyterian Church, Washington, N.J.: The Historical Narrative, Histories of the Churches and Other Data (1917); William Armstrong Dod, History of the College of New Jersey (1844); George H. Ingram, “The Erection of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, Together With Some Account of the Beginnings of Organized Presbyterianism in the American Colonies” in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 6, No.6 (June 1912) [and a series of articles titled “History of the Presbytery of New Brunswick” appearing in the Journal of Presbyterian History from 1912 to 1919]; Theron Hewitt, One Hundredth Anniversary of the Organization of The Presbytery of West Jersey, November 5, 1839 - November 5, 1939, in the First Presbyterian Church, Bridgeton, New Jersey, November 6, 1939 (1939); John Maclean, Jr., History of the College of New Jersey, Vol.s 1&2 (1877); Samuel Miller, A Brief History of the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton, New Jersey, Together With Its Constitution, By-Laws, &c (1837, 1838); Joseph Gaston Symmes, Historical Sketch of Monmouth Presbytery and Its Churches (1877)

  • New Mexico - Ruth Kerns Barber, Sowers Went Forth: The Story of Presbyterian Missions in New Mexico and Southern Colorado (1981); Dale B. Gerdeman, Presbyterian Missionaries in Rural Northern New Mexico: Serving the Lord on the New Mexico Frontier (1999)

  • New York - Samuel Davies Alexander, The Presbytery of New York, 1738 to 1888 (1887); Dorothy Ganfield Fowler, A City Church: The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, 1716-1976 (1981); Philemon Halstead Fowler, Historical Sketch of Presbyterianism Within the Bounds of the Synod of Central New York (1877); Robert Handy, A History of Union Theological Seminary in New York (2011); Robert Hastings Nichols, Presbyterianism in New York State: A History of the Synod and Its Predecessors (1963); Theodore Fiske Savage, The Presbyterian Church in New York City (1949); Thomas S. Wood, History of the Presbytery of New York (1976)

  • North Carolina - Walter Conser & Robert Cain, Presbyterians in North Carolina: Race, Politics, and Religious Identity in Historical Perspective (2012); David Irwin Craig, A History of the Development of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, and of Synodical Home Missions (1907); William Henry Foote, Sketches of North Carolina (1846); Neill Roderick McGeachy, Confronted by Challenge: A History of the Presbytery of Concord (1985); Jethro Rumple, The History of Presbyterianism in North Carolina (1966); Charles Alfonso Smith, Presbyterians in Educational Work in North Carolina Since 1813 (1913); Robert Hamlin Stone, A History of Orange Presbytery, 1770-1970 (1970)

  • North Dakota - Stanley Norman Murray, Presbyterians on the Northern Plains: A History (2002)

  • Ohio - William Wilson McKinney, The Presbyterian Valley: 200 Years of Presbyterianism in the Upper Ohio Valley (1958); Rick Nutt, Contending for the Faith: The First Two Centuries of the Presbyterian Church in the Cincinnati Area (1991); E.B. Welsh, Buckeye Presbyterianism: An Account of the Seven Presbyterian Denominations With Their Synods Within the State of Ohio (1968)

  • Oklahoma - Michael Cassity & Danny Goble, Divided Hearts: The Presbyterian Journey Through Oklahoma History (2009); G.T. Ralls, Oklahoma Trails: A History of the Work of the Synod of Oklahoma of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1927)

  • Oregon - Clifford Merrill Drury, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon, Vols. 1&2 (1986); Julie Joy Jeffrey, Converting the West: A Biography of Narcissa Whitman (1994); Nard Jones, The Great Command: The Story of Marcus & Narcissa Whitman and the Oregon Country Pioneers (1959)

  • Pennsylvania - Daniel M. Bennett, Life and Work of Rev. John McMillan: Pioneer, Preacher, Educator, Patriot of Western Pennsylvania (1935); Centenary Memorial of the Planting and Growth of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania and Parts Adjacent (1876); Samuel John Mills Eaton, History of the Presbytery of Erie (1868); Peter E. Gilmore, Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1830 (2018); Dwight Ray Guthrie, John McMillan: The Apostle of Presbyterianism in the West, 1752-1833 (1952); Guy Solliard Klett, Presbyterians in Colonial Pennsylvania (1937); Donald Roth Kocher, The Mother of Us All: First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, 1698-1998 (1998); William Wilson McKinney, Early Pittsburgh Presbyterianism: Tracing the Development of the Presbyterian church, United States of America, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1758-1839 (1938); Thomas Murphy, The Presbytery of the Log College; or, The Cradle of the Presbyterian Church in America (1889); Robert Mayne Patterson, Historical Sketch of the Synod of Philadelphia (1876); Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, To God Be the Glory: Celebrating 200 Years (2008); Joseph Smith, Old Redstone; or, Historical Sketches of Western Presbyterianism, Its Early Ministers, Its Perilous Times, and Its First Records (1854); James Arthur Walther, Ever a Frontier: The Bicentennial History of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1994)

  • Rhode Island - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • South Carolina - David B. Calhoun, Our Southern Zion: Old Columbia Seminary (1828-1927) (2012); Joanne Calhoun, The Circular Congregational Church: Three Centuries of Charleston History (2008); Erskine Clarke, Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990 (1996); George Howe, History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, Vols. 1&2 (1870); Nancy Snell Griffith & Charles E. Raynal, Presbyterians in South Carolina, 1925-1985 (2016); F.D. Jones and W.H. Mills, History of The Presbyterian Church in South Carolina (1926); Edward Guerrant Lilly, Beyond the Burning Bush: First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, Charleston, S.C. (1986); Caroline T. Moore, The Reverend Archibald Stobo: Brief Account of Archibald Stobo's Immigration from Scotland in 1700 and His Ministerial Labors in Charleston, S.C., and Vicinity, Including the Founding of Presbyterian churches at James Island, Willtown Bluff, Pon Pon, Edisto Island, and Cainhoy (1969)

  • South Dakota - Bruce David Forbes, “Presbyterian Beginnings in South Dakota, 1840-1900” (South Dakota State Historical Society, 1977); Dakota Presbytery Council, The First 50 Years: Dakota Presbytery to 1890 (1892); Stanley Norman Murray, Presbyterians on the Northern Plains: A History (2002); Stephen Return Riggs, Sketches of the Dakota Mission (1873)

  • Tennessee - John Edmiston Alexander, A Brief History of the Synod of Tennessee, from 1817 to 1887 (1890); Thomas C. Barr, et. al., eds., The Story of the Presbyteries of Nashville and Columbia: From Early Settlement to 1972 (1976); Charles Edward Diehl, The Story of a Vineyard: The Work of the Presbyterian Church U.S. in the Synod of Tennessee (1927); Jovanna Emerson & Mary Ann Van Osdell, Historic Presbyterian Churches of Tennessee (2006); James Isaac Vance, Pioneer Presbyterianism in Tennessee (1898)

  • Texas - Thomas Chavez, Jr., Texas Mexican Presbyterians (1980); William E. Lytch, The Cradle of Texas Presbyterianism: A History of Memorial Presbyterian Church, San Augustine, Texas (1993); William McLeod, Presbyterian Expansion in the Synod of Texas of the PCUS (1927); George H. Paschal, Jr. and Judith A. Benner, One Hundred Years of Challenge and Change: A History of the Synod of Texas of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1968); William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (1936); Levi Tanney, History of the Presbytery of Central Texas (1895)

  • Utah - Paul Jesse Baird, Presbyterian Pioneers in Utah (1996); Frederick Burton, Presbyterians In Zion: History of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Utah (2010); Andrew E. Murray, The Skyline Synod: Presbyterianism in Colorado and Utah (1971)

  • Vermont - See below (esp. Blaikie on Presbyterianism in New England)

  • Virginia - Patricia Alridge, ed., Virginia Presbyterians in American Life: Hanover Presbytery (1755-1980) (1982); Henry M. Brown & William M.E. Rachal, Yesterday and Tomorrow in the Synod of Virginia (1962); Thomas E. Buckley, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787 (1977); William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia (First and Second Series) (1850, 1855); Wesley M. Gewehr, The Great Awakening in Virginia, 1740-1790 (2011); James Robert Graham, The Planting of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia (1904); Thomas Cary Johnson, Virginia Presbyterianism and Religious Liberty (1909); Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia (2017); William Henry Tappey Squires, The Presbyterian Church in the Colony of Virginia, 1562-1788 (1938); William B. Sweetser, Jr., A Copious Fountain: A History of Union Presbyterian Seminary, 1812-2012 (2016); Howard McKnight Wilson, The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom: A Study of the Church and Her People, 1732-1952 (1954), The Lexington Presbytery Heritage: The Presbytery of Lexington and its churches in the Synod of Virginia, Presbyterian Church in the United States (1971), Presbyterian Beginnings in Lower Tidewater Virginia (1973)

  • Washington - Robert Boyd, History of the Synod of Washington, of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1835-1909 (1910); Robert L. Welsh, The Presbytery of Seattle, 1858-2005: The “Dream” of a Presbyterian Colony in the West (2006)

  • West Virginia - Dennis Eldon Bills, Presbyterianism in West Virginia: A History (2019); Lloyd Courtney, The Church of the Western Waters: An History of Greenbrier Presbytery and Its Churches (1940); Dorsey Daniel Ellis, Look Unto the Rock: A History of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. in West Virginia, 1719-1974 (1982); Gill I. Wilson, The Story of Presbyterianism in West Virginia (1958); The Work Projects Administration, Inventory of the Church Archives of West Virginia: The Presbyterian Churches (1941)

  • Wisconsin - William Fiske Brown, Past Made Present: The First Fifty Years of the First Presbyterian Church and Congregation of Beloit, Wisconsin; and A History of Presbyterianism in Our State Up to the Year 1900 (1900); Edward C. Wicklein, A Wisconsin History of the Associate Presbyterian Church of North America, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of the West (Later of America), Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod, United Presbyterian Church of North America, With Historical Sketches of Each Congregation, 1840-1958 (1974)

  • Wyoming - Art Randall, History: The Presbytery of Wyoming of the Synod of the Rocky Mountains, 1869-1988 (1988)

There are also a number of helpful regional studies of Presbyterianism in America:

New England

  • Alexander Cameron Blaikie, A History of Presbyterianism in New England (1881)

  • Charles N. Pickell and Mrs. George E. Bevans, Presbyterianism in New England: The Story of a MIssion (1962)

  • Earl A. Pope, New England Calvinism and the Disruption of the Presbyterian Church (1987)

  • William Henry Roberts, “The New England Churches and the First Presbytery,” in Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 5, No. 6 (June 1910)


  • Edward Marshall Craig, Highways and Byways of Appalachia: A Study of the Work of the Synod of Appalachia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1927)

  • Irving Spence, Letters on the Early History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1838)



  • Daniel Walker Hollis, Look to the Rock: One Hundred Ante-Bellum Presbyterian Churches of the South (1961)

  • Harold M. Parker, Jr., Studies in Southern Presbyterian History (1979)

  • Walter Brownlow Posey, The Slavery Question in the Presbyterian Church in the Old Southwest (1949); and The Presbyterian Church in the Old Southwest, 1778-1838 (1952)

  • T. Watson Street, The Story of Southern Presbyterians (1961)

  • Ernest Trice Thompson, The Changing South and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1950); and Presbyterians in the South, (3 vols., 1963-1973)

  • John Miller Wells, Southern Presbyterian Worthies (1936)

  • Henry Alexander White, Southern Presbyterian Leaders (1911)


  • Mark T. Banker, Presbyterian Missions and Cultural Interaction in the Far Southwest, 1850-1950 (1992)

  • R. Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. Garcia-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican-Americans in the Southwest (1987)

  • Louis Voss, The Beginnings of Presbyterianism in the Southwest (1923)


  • Norman J. Bender, Winning the West for Christ: Sheldon Jackson and Presbyterianism on the Rocky Mountain Frontier, 1869-1880 (1996)

Puerto Rico

  • Graeme S. Mount, Presbyterian Missions to Trinidad and Puerto Rico (1983)

New Addition to Log College Press: Machen's Christianity and Liberalism

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

January 1, 2019 marked the lapse of copyright restrictions for many books published in the United States in the year 1923. It also marked the 82nd anniversary of the passing of J.G. Machen into glory (which occurred on Jan. 1, 1937). It so happens that one of his most famous books — Christianity and Liberalism — was published in 1923 and is now in the public domain. A faithful friend and reader of our site, Pastor Phil Pockras, was kind enough to alert us to the availability of this particular book, which is now accessible at Machen’s author page.

To whet your appetite for this classic work, here are a few notable quotes that have stood out to this reader:

In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” - pp. 1-2

A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.’ – p. 14

Christ died" -- that is history; "Christ died for our sins" -- that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity. – p. 27

The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried" -- that is history. "He loved me and gave Himself for me" -- that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church. – p. 29

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart. – p. 65

If you have read this book already, what are some gems that you can share with our readers? If you have not read this book, please consider downloading it for your reading pleasure. And if you have other suggestions for books that we should add to the site, please contact us directly to let us know. Thanks Phil, and thanks to all our readers, for your support and encouragement!

Book Highlight: Presbyterian Worship in America by Julius Melton

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

From time to time, we hope to highlight books from our Secondary Sources page — which is intended to serve as a wealth of secondary resources on American Presbyterianism — which are of particular meaning and interest.

For this writer, one such book is Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns in Worship Since 1787 by the Rev. Dr. Julius Wemyss Melton, Jr. (1933-2017). First published as the product of his doctoral dissertation research at Princeton University in 1967, and later expanded in 2001 with an additional chapter which was first published in 1984 as part of a festschrift to honor his mentor, Horton Davies (John E. Booty, ed., The Divine Drama in History and Liturgy: Essays in Honor of Horton Davies on His Retirement From Princeton University), this book has served me as a valuable resource for the study of how Presbyterian worship in America has changed since the founding of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA).

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, the author received his B.A. from Mississippi College (1955); a B.D. (1958) and Th.M. (1959) from Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia; and master’s (1962) and Ph.D. (1966) degrees in religion from Princeton University; and has worked and taught at places such Southwestern (now Rhodes College) at Memphis, Tennessee, the University of Geneva, and Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He has been involved in both academic and ecclesiastical work, laboring in many capacities for his presbytery and denomination (PCUSA). He was a contributor to Donald K. McKim, ed., Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (1992). He was also a dear friend of this writer’s family.


Presbyterian Worship in America is the single most important book known to this writer on the broad topic which is of deep interest to many. To answer the question of how mainline Presbyterians at the turn of the 19th century (that is, circa 1800) worshiped, and why their forms of worship have changed so dramatically two centuries later, there is no other individual volume that so helpfully connects the dots. The scholarly research performed by Dr. Melton is a goldmine for those who wish to dig further. His end notes are full of citations to valuable primary material. It was from the first chapter that this writer first learned of Samuel Miller’s 1796 Sketch of the Early History of the First Presbyterian Church, which was reprinted in 1937, a rare copy of which I located at the Princeton Theological Seminary and later uploaded to Log College Press. Perhaps it was this very copy that Dr. Melton consulted in his own research.

The list of worship sub-topics that is covered by this volume is extensive, including holidays, musical instruments, liturgies, psalms and hymns, offerings, sacraments, responsive readings, preaching, Sabbath observance, and so much more. The additional chapter mentioned above, which is focused on trends in American Presbyterian worship of the 20th century, perhaps inspired by a similar chart comparing liturgies found in Horton Davies’ The Worship of the English Puritans, contains a chart comparing the orders of worship found in five American Presbyterian books of worship dating from 1906, 1932, 1946, 1970 and 1983.

Over many years of study, this is the book that has helped this writer more than any other individual work to better understand how things historically were done in worship, and why certain aspects of worship changed over the years. It is commended to the student of early American Presbyterian church history as a most useful resource, and it can be purchased at our Secondary Sources page here.

Walter L. Lingle on Knowing Where to Find Knowledge

Are you a student in seminary? Or, are you perhaps a layman seeking to build your theological library? If so, today’s post is for you.

After graduating in 1896 from Union Seminary in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, Walter Lee Lingle, future president emeritus of Davidson College in North Carolina, continued his post-graduate studies while serving as a tutor in Hebrew and Greek. He contributed an editorial to the March-April 1897 issue of The Union Seminary Magazine titled “About Books.” It is a short, valuable read that will profit the student of theological literature even — perhaps especially — in the age of Google. It is not enough to read, or to read a lot, but we must choose what we read with great care.

The Library of Union Seminary contains over fifteen thousand volumes. These books, for the most part, have been selected with the greatest care, and form one of the choicest Theological collections in the country. The best thoughts of the great religious teachers for twenty centuries are stored up here. The Divinity student can find almost anything he may wish from the works of the Ante-Nicene fathers to the latest refutation of the Kuenen-Wellhausen theory. What a rare opportunity he has of forming the acquaintance of books and authors! Yet how few seminary students avail themselves of this great opportunity.

We do not mean that the student should read through every book in the library. That were impossible even were it desirable. But we do mean that he should take advantage of this opportunity of learning who are the great authorities on great subjects. When the student leaves seminary he certainly should know who have written the great treatises on Theology from the Calvinistic standpoint, and the comparative merits of each. He should know which are the best commentaries on the various books of the Bible, the best discussion of the parables, the best monographs on such great themes as the Person of Christ, the Atonement, Justification, Baptism, etc. In short, he should learn in what books to look for the best discussion of those great themes with which he will be occupied all the remainder of his life. To know where to look for knowledge is a great accomplishment. Horace Walpole called it the sixth sense and coined the clumsy and infelicitous word “serendipity” to describe it. It is to be regretted that so many of us are lacking in that sense. The man who has it to the most remarkable degree of any one living is Dr. [Richard] Garnett [Jr. (1835 – 1906)], the present keeper of the printed books in the British Museum. It is said that at a half hour’s notice he can refer to anything that any man ever knew. We may never hope to become such walking encyclopedias. We may, however, by a little painstaking, learn much of books while we are yet in the seminary.

Every man must choose his own books, just as every man must choose his own friends. Others cannot choose for us. Never again will the student have such a rare opportunity of cultivating the acquaintance of books and of learning which he wishes to choose as his friends as he was while in the seminary. Shall we waste the opportunity?

Your time is finite but of the choice of books there is no end (Eccl. 12:12). Tolle lege (take up and read), but read with discernment, and read well!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at Log College Press thank God for His faithfulness from generation to generation. He is the God of our fathers in the faith, and will be the Father of our children after us.

We thank Him for the opportunity He has given us to collect and reprint the writings of and about the 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians.

And we thank Him for you, our readers, followers, and customers!

As a way of saying thanks for enabling us to share with you our passion for history, books, and American Presbyterians, we are offering 25% off each of our five titles through Monday, November 26. Our booklets are $3.00, and Grimke's Meditations on Preaching is $9.00. (All orders will begin shipping on Monday, November 26.)

And while you're on our site, check out the new navigation of our free PDF library and online bookstore. If you haven't signed up to receive our near-daily blog posts, do so here. Please spread the word to your friends and followers, and if you enjoy our publications, please leave a review on Amazon!

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Do you have more books on your shelves than you can possibly read even though you aspire to? More titles in your portable ebook reader than you can possibly scroll through? Do not feel embarrassed. Bibliomania is a word from the past that has been replaced. Instead, take heart!

There is a Japanese word that describes this situation perfectly: Tsundoku — that is, the acquiring of reading materials which one piles up at home without reading them all. In fact, according to one writer, there is value in owning more books than you can read. Tsundoku is a very comforting word to the bibliophile.

We at Log College Press understand the book lover’s dilemma. We also want to make it easier for you to solve that dilemma. We have published five booklets so far and although they are not expensive individually, we have reduced the price on all five with our “Pastor’s Package.” Besides this print package, we have e-copies available of each title.

The real value here, of course, is the spiritual worth of the content. We do hope that you will read these works and not let them remain dusty on your shelf or unopened on your e-book reader. As Augustine once wrote, Tolle lege (take up and read)!

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Thomas Murphy's Recommended Pastoral Library

The following is a list of recommended books that should be had and consulted by the Christian minister in his library, prepared by Thomas Murphy, an Irish-American Presbyterian, who was born in Country Antrim in 1823 and died in New Jersey in 1900. Many of the authors he cites in his most valuable Pastoral Theology, pp. 144-147, not surprisingly, are to be found here at Log College Press. This guide can be useful to all Christians, but especially if you are a pastor or seeking to become one, take note of the authors and titles and links below.

In order to give some assistance in the selection of books, we would name a few upon the respective branches of ministerial study. We pass by general reading and culture, for it is with the minister in his special calling as pastor that we are now concerned. We give only a few authors as many as may serve at the beginning of the ministry a sort of indispensable apparatus for commencing the great work. At least, the pastor's library should be stocked with most of these as soon as circumstances will allow. The books we name have been well tried, and are recommended by persons whose judgment is worthy of confidence.

1. Books of general reference….

2. Interpretation of Scripture….

3. Commentaries. On the whole Bible, [Matthew] Henry's Commentary; Critical and Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Faussett and Brown; [Johann Peter] Lange's great Bible work is a thesaurus of scriptural exposition which may be secured as the wants of the pastor require. Many of the best expositors have written on only one or a few books of Scripture. A detailed list of some of the most useful of these may now be given: On Genesis, [James Gracey] Murphy, [Melancthon Williams] Jacobus, [George] Bush; on Exodus, Murphy, Jacobus, Bush; on Leviticus, Bush, [Andrew] Bonar; on Numbers, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Deuteronomy, Keil and Delitzsch; on the whole Pentateuch, [John] Calvin; on Joshua and Judges, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Ruth and Samuel, Keil and Delitzsch; on Esther, [Thomas] McCrie [the Elder]; on Job, [Albert] Barnes; on Psalms, Barnes, Calvin; on Proverbs, [Charles] Bridges, [Moses] Stuart; on Ecclesiastes, Bridges; on Song of Solomon, Newton; on Isaiah, Barnes, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on Jeremiah and Lamentations, [Ebenezer] Henderson; on Ezekiel, [Patrick] Fairbairn; on Daniel, Barnes, [Karl August] Auberl[e]n, Stuart; on the minor prophets,  Henderson; on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi[T.V.] Moore; on the four Evangelists, John J. Owen; on Matthew and Mark, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on John, [George] Hutch[e]son; on Acts[Joseph Addison] Alexander, [Horatio Balch] Hackett, Jacobus; on Romans, [Charles] Hodge, [Samuel Hulbeart] Turner; on Corinthians[Charles] Hodge; on Galatians, [Martin] Luther; on Ephesians[Charles] Hodge; on Philippians and Colossians, [John] Eadie; on Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barnes; on Hebrews, Stuart, [John] Owen; on James, Barnes, [Robert Everett?] Pattison; on Peter, Barnes and [Robert] Leighton; on John and Jude, Barnes; on Revelation, Stuart, Barnes and Auberl[e]n.

4. TheologySystematic Theology, by [Charles] Hodge; [George] Hill's Divinity; [Timothy] Dwight's Theology; [John] Dick's Theology; Outlines of Theology, by A. A. Hodge; [Benedict] Pictet's Theology.

5. Church History. [Johann Lorenz] Mosehim's Ecclesiastical History; [W.G.T.] Shedd's History of Doctrines; [Johann Heinrich] Kurtz's Sacred History; [Philip] Schaff's Apostolic Church; [Thomas] McCrie's [the Elder] Life of Knox; History of the Church in Chronological Tables, [Henry Boynton] Smith; The Ancient Church, by Dr. [William Dool] Killen; [Jean-Henri Merle] D'Aubigne's Histories.

6. Church Government and the Sacraments[Samuel] Miller on the Christian Ministry; [Samuel} Miller on the Ruling ElderPrimitive Church Officers, J.A. Alexander; [Richard] Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; [Lyman] Coleman's Primitive Church

7. Sermons. This field is a boundless one, and we give only a few books which are known to be of standard value: [Robert] South's Sermons; Robert Hall's Sermons; Sermons of John M. Mason — these should be read by all means; [Samuel Davies’] Sermons; Archibald Alexander's Practical Sermons; Gospel in Ezekiel, [Thomas] Guthrie; Principal [William] Cunningham's Sermons, amongst the best in the language; [Charles] Spurgeon's Sermons; Bishop [Samuel] Horsley's Sermons, among the best.

8. Practical Piety. [Lady Rachel] Russell's Letters; [Samuel] Rutherford's Letters; [Thomas] A Kempis; [John Angell] James's Earnest Ministry; [Octavius] Winslow's Precious Things of God; [Richard] Baxter's Reformed Pastor; Daily Meditations by [George] Bowen; Owen on the Glory of Christ — a work of pre-eminent value; Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness — Dr. [Archibald] Alexander said this should be read once a year; [John] Howe's Delight in God; [John] Flavel's Keeping the Heart.

9. Christian Biography. Lives of [Robert Murray] McCheyne, [Charles] Simeon, Henry Martyn, [Thomas] Hal[y]burton, Archibald Alexander.

10. Great Puritan Writers. John Howe -- all of his works. Says James W. Alexander, "A little reading in the pages of great thought will sometimes set one thinking, as if by a happy contagion. Such pages are those of John Howe." Owen, especially on Hebrews Dr. Mason used to say all his theology was from this. Some of his most valuable productions are on "Spiritual-Mindedness," on the "Glory of Christ," on "Forgiveness of Sin," "Indwelling Sin," and "Mortification of Sin;" Baxter, especially his "Saints Rest" and "Reformed Pastor," Leighton's works; Flavel's works highly recommended; and [Stephen] Charnock on the "Divine Attributes." 

11. On Sabbath-school Work. "Sunday-School Idea" ([John Seely] Hart); "Sabbath -School Index" ([Richard Gay] Pardee); "Preparing to Teach" (Presbyterian Board).

The minister who has secured most of these books is furnished with the best of reading for many a day, and with authorities on almost all subjects that can come before him in his profession. Of other authors he will find out the value in the progress of his ministry, and purchase them as new wants arise. It was an excellent advice of Dr. Archibald Alexander that ministers should buy books only as they are actually needed, and not to be stored away on the shelves of the library for future use. Our last advice is to be sure of getting only the standard and very best authors.

Thoughts on Literature by Thomas Bloomer Balch

“Some have well and truly observed that the interest of religion and good literature hath risen and fallen together.” – Increase Mather

“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” — Charles Spurgeon

These two maxims were certainly taken to heart by Thomas Bloomer Balch, a Southern Presbyterian (1793-1878). Son of the well-known Georgetown Presbyterian minister, Stephen Bloomer Balch, both men were graduates of Princeton. T.B. Balch was ordained to the ministry in 1816, and served pastorates in Georgetown; Maryland; and northern Virginia. Carrying forward Princeton’s goal of providing for “an able and faithful ministry,” Balch did much to promote a love of pious learning (“Daniel Webster said of Dr. Balch that he was the most learned man that he had ever known,” Thomas Willing Balch, Balch Genealogica, p. 364). He contributed articles both to the Southern Literary Messenger and The Christian World. He wrote Christianity and Literature: In a Series of Discourses (1826). Also, one of his Ringwood Discourses (1850) is titled “An Outline of Christian Reading.”

Consider the table of contents for Christianity and Literature:

  • Discourse I: The Temptations of Literature

  • Discourse II: The Literature of the Scriptures

  • Discourse III: Obstacles to the Piety of Literary Men

  • Discourse IV: Christianity Miscellaneously Applied

  • Discourse V: The Relation of Christianity to Polite Literature

  • Discourse VI: The Superior Value of Christianity to Literature

  • Discourse VII: Humility an Ornament to Literary Men

  • Discourse VIII: The Church a Field for Literary Men

Balch’s “Outline for Christian Reading” was written with the aim of guiding Christians in the choice of their evening or Sabbath afternoon reading. He encourages the Christian reader to consulate the best commentaries on Scripture (“for individuals, no commentary is to be preferred before old Matthew Henry’s”). To Balch, the study of the early church was important, but he cautions against delving into the early church fathers directly; he does commend Samuel Miller’s Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolic Constitution of the Church of Christ. He recommends histories of the Reformation, and Robert Baird on the Waldenses. Among the great Christian classics, he commends Richard Baxter, A Call to the Unconverted and The Saints’ Everlasting Rest; Joseph Alleine, An Alarm to the Unconverted; and John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Further, he highlights the writings of Anglican divines, Scottish Covenanters, French Huguenots, and Seceding Scottish divines, such as Thomas Boston, and Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine. And he commends the reading of Christian biographies, such as those of Thomas Halyburton, Robert Leighton, Thomas Boston, Thomas Scott, Henry Martyn, John Calvin, David Brainerd and many others. Additionally, for Balch, who was a poet himself, Christian poetry is to be included in the reading list - for example, he cites James Grahame on the Sabbath. (A suitor to his daughter Julia, E.P. Miller, was inspired to write Ringwood Manse: Pastoral Poem (1887), as a tribute to T.B. Balch.)

“This, my Christian friend, is a reading age,” Balch wrote in 1850. And hence, the Christian has every reason to “give attendance to reading” (I Tim. 4:10, his text for this particular discourse). With a view toward extending his usefulness to the kingdom of God, equipping himself in defense of the faith, discerning error from truth, and promoting the glory of God and the happiness of man, the reading of edifying literature is a necessary component of the Christian life.

As one of his recommended writers, Richard Baxter, said, "It is not the reading of many books to make a man wise or good, but the well-reading of a few, could he be sure to have the best." Balch has given principles and specific guidance to attain this goal, which we would do well to heed even in this internet age. Log College Press very much shares this vision.