Daniel Baker (1791-1857) was one of the great Presbyterian evangelists of the first half of the 19th century. Originally from Liberty County, Georgia, and the famous Midway Church, Baker studied for the ministry under the Rev. William Hill in Winchester, Virginia. After pastoring churches in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama, the Lord called him to leave the United States and move to the Republic of Texas in 1839 (Texas became a state in the Union in 1845). After preaching throughout east and south Texas, he pastored for a time in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He eventually returned to Texas, and became the pastor of First Presbyterian Galveston in 1848. He was instrumental in starting Austin College in Huntsville, TX (the college moved to Sherman, TX, in 1876). You can read more of Baker's life and work in the memoir written by his son William Munford Baker (a book published by the Banner of Truth under the title, Making Many Glad: The Life and Labours of Daniel Baker). You will also find Daniel Baker's works on the Log College Press website, including two volume of revival sermons and a book on the sacraments, here. Read of this man of God who loved to preach Christ in settled situations and on the frontiers!
"He had judgment, strong and discriminating, to seize his subject by the right handle, and set it before you in its proper point of view. He had knowledge, ample and various, to inform, and learning, beyond that of almost any one of his contemporaries, to enlighten you; and, what was of great importance, he was the master of it, and not its slave. He was, therefore, always instructive without being ever pedantic, and gave you the light of the lamp without its smell. At the same time, he was always strictly and purely evangelical, and, of course, remarkably practical. His style of preaching, indeed, naturally partook of the character of his personal religion, to which we have already adverted. Accordingly, he could not, or would not separate Faith and Duty for a moment from each other, in his public ministrations, any more than in his private conduct" (An Oration Commemorative of the late John Holt Rice, D. D.)
Ebenezer Platt Rogers (1817-1881) was at various times a Congregationalist, Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed pastor. His Presbyterian service was rendered at the esteemed First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1847-1854. While there he preached and subsequently published in one volume three discourses on the doctrine of election, entitled The Doctrine of Election: Stated, Defended, and Applied (it can be found here). Fellow Southerner Thomas Smyth penned the introduction to this work, which makes it doubly valuable. Rogers' presentation is short (approximately 100 pages), and as the title indicates, covers the statement and Scripture proof of the doctrine of election, objections to the doctrine of election, and the use and glory of the doctrine of election. If someone you know is wrestling with this Biblical truth, consider printing off this PDF and working through it with them.
In May of 1868, some three years after the end of the Civil War, John Lafayette Girardeau was called upon to address the Society of Missionary Inquiry at Columbia Theological Seminary. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Presbyterian Church) had recently seen a resurgence in interest in foreign missions, and Girardeau wanted to strike while the iron was hot. The text of this discourse was printed in the August 1868 edition of The Missionary, and presents us with a stirring call to consider the obligation upon the church to bring the gospel to the nations who have not yet heard it.
Girardeau writes out of his particular context, and so explores the Southern Presbyterian Church's relative lack of foreign missionary involvement in the antebellum period, as well as the changes that the Civil War had brought, and the opportunities that were then before the church by God's almighty providence. His convictions about the gospel are clear: "That the heathen, as constituents of the federal head of the race, are involved in the guilt of his first sin; that they are voluntary transgressors of natural law indelibly impressed upon the conscience of mankind; that they perish under the operation of the penalty of that violated institute though it be not reduced to a written form; that their condition is one of misery, ruin, and death; that their only hope of eternal salvation lies in their knowledge of the gospel of Christ; that the Church as the constituted trustee of that gospel is imperatively bound by her Master's last command, by the laws of her being and the very instincts of her nature, to preach to them a crucified and risen Saviour as their light in darkness, their deliverance from sin, and their redemption from woe..." Likewise, his belief in the necessity of foreign missions is settled: "A selfish Church would be a contradiction in terms, a monster drinking from her own breast the milk which was intended to nourish the dying children of want."
Girardeau's address captures a vital aspect of the ministry of the church, at a significant time in the life of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. It is relevant both as a historical document, and for its ongoing encouragement to those engaged in foreign missions on a variety of levels. Tolle lege!
"Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God," Paul declared to the saints in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Acts 14:22). Thus for the Christian, as for Christ, the cross comes before the crown. Yet our heavenly Father sustains and comforts us in the midst of our suffering, and through our suffering He refines us for an eternity with Himself. These truths are the theme of several of Thomas Smyth's shorter writings, found in Volume 10 of his Complete Works:
- Council and Comfort for Afflicted Believers
- God Comforts us to Make us Comforters
- Solace for Bereaved Parents
- God Glorified and Christian Obedience Perfected in the Prostration and Suffering of Believers
Smyth, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1834 until nearly his death in 1873, endured a life of tragedy - chronic illness, debilitating headaches, paralysis, shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, the death of two infant children to scarlet fever, and the list could go on. Yet this shepherd knew the word of God, and sought to apply it to himself and to his sheep. Avail yourself of the experiential wisdom of this 19th-century American Presbyterian today.
Samuel Leslie Morris was born on December 25, 1854, in Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, South Carolina. He came from robust Scotch-Irish stock that were committed Presbyterians. After graduating from Erskine College at the age of 18, he entered Columbia Theological Seminary. He pastored churches in Walhalla, South Carolina; Macon, Georgia; and Atlanta, Georgia. His first call in Walhalla was for an annual salary of $300. Two small country churches promised another $300, and he wrote, "I now had an income of $600 a year -- not equal to that of Vanderbilt or Astor; but it gave me the temerity to take unto myself a wife. As one of my church officers had borrowed all of my 'savings,' something less than $100, I went to the town bank and secured a small loan to buy a wedding suit and bring home my bride. I was accordingly formally married October 23, 1877, to Ella M. Brice, only child of Christopher S. Brice, Sr., of New Hope Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregation near Woodward, S.C." (quoted here).
Morris is best known, however, for his work as Secretary of Home Missions for the Southern Presbyterian Church. He wrote several books on the mission effort of the Presbyterian Church to America, including At Our Own Door, The Task that Challenges, and Christianizing Christendom (find these works here). These volumes provide an insightful look at the state of the missionary heart of Presbyterians, as well as the vision and strategies they employed at the beginning of the 20th century. Morris also wrote a well-known book that could easily have been used as a text for Inquirers' Classes, Presbyterianism: Its Principles and Practice. The table of contents is as follows:
1. Presbyterianism - A System
2. Presbyterianism in History
3. Presbyterianism and Calvinism
4. Presbyterianism and Church Polity
5. Presbyterianism and the Sacraments (the Lord's Supper)
6. Presbyterianism and the Sacraments (Baptism)
7. Presbyterianism and the Covenant (Infant Church Membership)
8. Presbyterianism in Action
9. Presbyterianism and Catholicity
10. Presbyterianism and Missions
Spend some time perusing Morris' works, and be instructed and spurred on in your heart for the gospel going forth to the lost through the church of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever considered the irony that many who plant Ten Commandment signs in their front yards today reject the fourth commandment as binding upon Christians under the new covenant? As you rejoice in this Lord's Day, be encouraged by the challenging, persuasive, and promissory words of William Swan Plumer:
"He, who loves God's word and worship, he, who delights in prayer and praise, loves the day devoted to the study of Scripture, and the service of Jehovah. Among the thousands of religious biographies now before the world, is there one which shows that any heart loved the other precepts of the Decalogue and disregarded this?
It is generally agreed that Christ came to enlarge, not to curtail the privileges of his people, and especially of the poor and afflicted, many of whom are not the masters of their own time. But if he abolished the Sabbath, he cut off the pious poor from one of their dearest privileges, one no less necessary to relieve their heavy hearts than to refresh their toil-worn bodies.
The Scriptures contain many precious promises to those who reverently keep this day, and take pleasure in its appropriate duties. Isa. 56:1-7, and 58:14; Jer. 17:21-26. To such God will give, in his house and within his walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters. He will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. He will make them joyful in his house of prayer, and will accept all their sacrifices; and blessings like those which came upon Jacob shall fall upon them." -- The Law of God, page 299
The General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church were held this week. At some point in the near future the minutes of these assemblies will be approved, and then in the more distant future a digest of these minutes, and the minutes of other years' assemblies, will be compiled for historical record and easy reference. Digests are a great blessing for the historian and the church government wonk, and some are available on the Log College Press website.
Several Digests were published in the first half of the 19th century, but Samuel Baird's Digest (published in 1856) is the most well known. It covers all the way back to the beginning of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Digests were also published in 1859, 1861, 1873, 1886, 1898, and 1907. None of these are currently on our site. We do have the 1923 Digest compiled by Lewis Seymour Mudge for the Northern Presbyterian Church, as well as W. A. Alexander's Digest of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Presbyterian Church) in 1888, covering the years 1861-1888.
These books will not be interesting even to all who love Presbyterianism, or even all who love General Assembly. But for the handful of individuals who enjoy reading Assembly minutes, we hope you find access to these documents useful.
Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) elected its first African-American Moderator, Dr. Irwyn Ince (who, coincidentally, also wrote the Foreword to our upcoming book, Meditations on Preaching, by Francis Grimke - available for Pre-Order on Amazon here!). In his Moderator's Address, Dr. Ince mentioned the impact that discovering African-American Presbyterian fathers in the faith had on his spiritual development and his love for the PCA. How easy it is to be unaware, or forget, that there have been Black Presbyterian pastors from the earliest days of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America! Many of these fathers and their published works are on the Log College Press website:
We don't have all the published works of these men on our site yet, so if you know of some books or sermons or articles that we can upload to our site, please contact us! Likewise, let us know of other African-American Presbyterians from the 18th through the early 20th centuries, so we can put them on our website as well. God has been at work through the history of our country, even through long seasons of pain and oppression, to build His church (even the Presbyterian church) from all ethnicities. May He continue to do as He writes our history in this generation.
One of the goals of Log College Press is to collect as many of the writings of 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians as possible in digital form. Thanks to websites such as Archive.org and Google Books, and participating libraries, this job of collecting and arranging is much easier than it would have been ten years ago. Now, what one formerly could only access in a physical library, is available on any screen in your possession.
Such is particularly the case of the ten-volume set of The Complete Works of Thomas Smyth, since only a limited number of copies of this set were published, and most went to libraries. Smyth, a native of Belfast, Ireland, came to America to study at Princeton Seminary in 1829. Upon graduating, he filled the pulpit of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC. In 1834, he was installed as the pastor of the church, remaining in that charge until his death in 1873. His works were published nearly forty years later, which speaks to the lingering impact of his ministry - yet he is all but forgotten today. A prolific author (and buyer of books - at one point his library numbered approximately 20,000 volumes!), he wrote on all manner of topics. You can peruse the contents of each volume under the titles pages here. I especially recommend the articles in Volume 7 on Missions, a primary focus of Smyth's ministry at Second Presbyterian Church. (Also interesting is Smyth's 1850 introduction to Ebenezer Platt Rogers' The Doctrine of Election Stated, Defended and Applied, recently found and posted.)
Note that Dr. Barry Waugh has produced a valuable guide to understanding the contents of the full 10-volume set of Thomas Smyth's Works, which can be accessed here.
May the Lord use the easy access and increased knowledge of the writings of early American Presbyterians to build up His church in our own day!
Dr. David Calhoun has been one of the most prolific historians of American Presbyterianism over the past several decades, and in the Log College Press Bookstore you can find eight of his books on that topic.
Calhoun wrote the 50th Anniversary history of his own Covenant Theological Seminary (By His Grace, For His Glory). Three titles explore the history of the most famous 19th-century seminaries: Princeton Seminary (a two-volume set) and Our Southern Zion (about Columbia Theological Seminary). Three titles are histories of individual churches: The Glory of the Lord Risen Upon It (First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC), Cloud of Witnesses (First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA), and Splendor of Grace (Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA). Finally, he wrote on the life and works of William Childs Robinson, a 20th-century seminary professor who upheld the evangelical and Reformed faith in the face of the rising tide of liberalism (Pleading for a Reformation Vision).
Surely our readers own some, if not most, of these volumes - complete your collection by visiting our Bookstore today!
Log College Press exists to collect and reprint the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries. That "about" aspect is found in our Bookstore (perhaps the largest curated list of books about Presbyterian history on the internet), and now on the newest page of the Log College Press website, the Dissertations and Theses page. On this page you will find an ever-increasing collection of the writings of PhD and ThM students who focused their studies on American Presbyterianism. As many of these dissertations and theses as we can get access to, we will make them available for you. We want to become the one-stop shop for all things American Presbyterianism, and this new page is a definite step in that direction.
Currently, we have five papers posted:
1. A History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, by Nancy Elizabeth Clark;
2. Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Southern Presbyterian Divine, by Christopher Duncan;
3. Gilbert Tennent: An Analysis of His Evangelistic Ministry, Methods, and Message During the Great Awakening, by Cheryl Ann Rickards;
4. The History of a Confessional Sentence, by Barry Waugh; and
5. Direct and Immediate? The 19th Century Southern Presbyterian Controversy Regarding God's Call to the Ministry, my just-completed ThM thesis.
A special request: if you have written a dissertation or thesis on American Presbyterianism, please contact us if you would like us to post it for all to read. We hope this page becomes a frequently accessed stop on the LCP website. Happy reading!
You don't have to live in North Carolina or Virginia to be curious about the founding and progress of the Presbyterian churches in these states. To read accounts of God's work from the perspective of a pre-Civil War minister of the gospel, check out the writings of William Henry Foote (1794-1869). He was a native of Connecticut who pastored in North Carolina and Virginia. In the 1840s and 1850s he wrote historical sketches of the most significant events and personalities from those two states, and toward the end of his life he wrote a volume on the French Huguenots. Without his books, there is much we would not remember about early Presbyterian history.
[This post was originally published on July 5, 2017.]
In the 1860 Catechism he wrote for the African-Americans seeking admission to the church he pastored in Charleston, South Carolina, John Lafayette Girardeau included a short address to the inquirer, "in the hope that the truths contained in the Catechism may be enforced in the form of direct exhortation." The beauty and power of these gospel words depict the heart of this evangelistic pastor, and challenge the modern church's lack of evangelistic zeal and its truncated gospel. Use these words in your preaching; include them in your personal evangelism; share them with the lost in as many forms as you can come up with.
My Friend, are you inquiring about the salvation of your never-dying soul? You are right. You cannot live here very long. You must soon die, and pass into eternity; and if that one soul, which God has given you, be lost, your all is lost. Will you listen to some affectionate advice on this all-important subject?
First, then, consider how great a sinner you are in God’s sight. You have broken His Law, that holy, just and righteous Law which angels and all good beings reverence and obey. You have wickedly trampled under foot all the commands of God’s Law, and you know full well that you have not had the shadow of an excuse for so doing. That Law says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” You have sinned, and you, therefore, deserve to die. Consider, too, how you have abused God’s great goodness and mercy to you. Ever since you were born God has been blessing you. He has given you clothing, food and shelter, and has mercifully provided for all your wants. Above all, He so loved sinners that He gave His only-begotten Son to die for them; and you have also despised this His amazing mercy, and refused to take God’s crucified Son as your Savior and your Lord. Think, too, how far short you have come of God’s glory in all things. You have not loved Him nor obeyed Him in any degree as He requires. You are a great sinner in God’s sight. Your sins are exceedingly offensive and abominable to Him, your Maker and your Judge. If He should cut you down and send you to hell, there to suffer forever and ever, He would treat you just as you deserve. O my friend, pray earnestly to God that He would convince you of your sins, by His Holy Spirit. Pray to Him to open your eyes that you may see your awful danger. Pray to Him to show you your great and manifold sins. Pray to Him to make you deeply feel your need of Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and hell.
You cannot save yourself. You have no goodness to recommend you to God’s favor. You are vile and wicked in the sight of a holy God. You have no righteousness. “All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” They cannot cover you in the day of God’s wrath. You cannot obey the Law in your own strength, for you have broken it already and its awful curse is now resting on your soul. Nothing that you can do can lift that curse from your soul. It threatens to sink you down into the bottomless pit. No works that you can do can save you. “By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.” If you pray in your own strength, that will not save you. If you try to serve God, in your own strength, that will not save you. Pray that God would show you that you are “miserable and poor and blind and naked;” that you are “dead in trespasses and sins;” and that unless He have mercy upon you, and save you, you must be lost and undone forever and ever.
Are you, then, shut up to final despair? Is there no hope for you? Hear, O sinner, what God has done to save us. He is full of pity, love and mercy, to poor, guilty, wretched sinners. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Yes, Jesus Christ, God’s well-beloved Son, saw us in our sinfulness and misery, and touched with heavenly pity for us, He came down to this world to save us. Jesus took the place of sinners. Jesus suffered, and bled, and died for sinners, that He might deliver them from the dreadful curse of the Law. He died and rose again from the dead, and now ever liveth in heaven to intercede for sinners.
Do you ask, now, what you must do to be saved? This blessed Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for sinners, graciously invites you to come to Him, that you may have everlasting life. Listen to His sweet invitation to sinners! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Do you want rest from the burden of your sins? Go to Jesus and He will give you rest. Do you want to be happy? Hear what He says: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Be not afraid to venture your soul upon Him. “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Think not, because you are a great sinner, that He will not receive you. Hear what Jesus says: “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” The first thing, then, for you to do, is to go to the Lord Jesus, and believe in Him. When the Jews asked Christ what they must do, He answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.” When the jailor asked Paul and Silas when he must do to be saved, the Apostle told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
Go, then, O sinner, to Jesus Christ the Savior, and go just as you are. Stay not in the vain hope that you can make yourself any better than you now are. You cannot prepare yourself to go to Christ. The greater your sins are, the greater is your need of Christ. He “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Carry all your sins to Him. Lay them all on Him. “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” You have nothing but sins to give to Him, and He is willing to take them, and, in exchange, to give you His finished righteousness. What you want is mercy. Plead with God, for Christ’s sake, to have mercy upon you, to wash you in the atoning blood of Jesus, and to pardon all your sins. Trust alone in the righteousness of Christ. You have none of your own. Beseech God to accept you as righteous in His sight for the sake of His dear Son Jesus Christ. Do this, and being justified by faith, you shall have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And, sinner, go to Jesus at once. Do not suppose that it is your duty to spend a long time in seeking pardoning mercy, before you ought to expect to find it. God has made it your duty to believe in Christ now. And suppose you die before you find Christ as your Savior, of what good will your seeking be to you? Your life is uncertain. Tomorrow you may die; and if you die out of Christ, you will be lost forever. Be in earnest. Press your case in prayer before God. Plead as for your life that He would not enable you to believe in Christ, and to lay hold upon Him as He is freely offered in the Gospel. If God should please to keep you waiting some time before He gives you an answer of peace, be not discouraged. Draw nearer to Christ, and cry, “Lord, help me;” and never cease to cry for mercy, until God, for Jesus’ sake, pardons your sins and converts your soul.
And should God in infinite mercy be pleased to hear your prayer, and speak pardon to your soul, oh think of your crucified Savior, and think of your sins that nailed Him to the tree, until your heart melts into penitence at His feet. Plead with Him for strength to enable you to give up all your sins, and to do all His commands. And as you went to Jesus, at first, a poor, worthless, helpless sinner, so continue to go to Him every day and hour of your life. Trust in Christ, love Christ, live for Christ; and when you come to die, Christ will be with you, and give you the victory over death. Your body will sleep in Jesus till the glorious resurrection morning; and your happy, ransomed soul will go at once to be with Jesus, and to sing His praise forever and ever. Thus, to you, to live will be Christ, and to die will be gain.
Log College Press exists in part to preserve a digital archive of American Presbyterian works from the 18th and 19th century, and to propagate the knowledge of these works to the general public. These works have generally been forgotten by 21st century Presbyterians, and it is our hope that just as Puritan literature has enjoyed a revival over the past sixty years through Banner of Truth and other publishers, so Log College Press might serve to restore knowledge of the Presbyterian fathers from America.
To that end, if you are interested in studying the topic of Ecclesiology, I commend to you two works written toward the end of the 19th century, one by a Northerner, and one by a Southerner. A book we have highlighted previously, Alexander Taggert McGill's Church Government (written in 1888), compiled the lectures on the topic he gave at Princeton Theological Seminary. McGill had been called in 1854 to become the Professor of Pastoral Theology, Church Government, and Homiletics, and held this position for over forty years. Soon after McGill's book was published, Thomas Ephraim Peck wrote Notes on Ecclesiology (1892). McGill's book is much longer than Peck's (560 pages as compared to 212), and while both traverse similar terrain in the topic, Peck includes sections on church power and the relationship between the church and the state (specifically, church power as contrasted with civil power) that make his volume unique in its presentation. Both books are worth the time and effort spent to work through them.
In 1860, James Henley Thornwell and Francis P. Mullally were installed as co-pastors of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. John Lafayette Girardeau preached the sermon and Thomas Smyth gave the charges to the pastors and to the people. You can find these addresses in Volume 6 of Smyth's Complete Works here. The following is Smyth's charge to the congregation:
The very first thing I would impress upon you is, that in this eventful scene you are not spectators merely, but participants — not merely eye-witnesses to an interesting pageant, but partners to a solemn compact. The relations and responsibilities now constituted are mutual, and cannot be separated. Have these Brethren now become your pastors? — you have become their people. Are they under obligation to preach, to reprove, to rebuke, to make known God's will and your duty? — you are bound to hear, to obey, and to perform. Are they, in conscious impotence, to undertake a work
Which well might fill an angel’s heart,
And filled a Saviour's hands? —
they are to be strengthened with all might, obtained through your prayers on their behalf. Are they to give themselves wholly to the things which pertain to your spiritual welfare? — you are to provide all things needful for their temporal comforts; to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake; to count them worthy of an adequate and honorable maintenance; and to consider it a small thing to impart freely of your carnal things in return for their spiritual gifts.
You perceive, therefore, Brethren, that the solemnities of this occasion involve you not less than those who are set over you in the Lord. For weal or for woe you are now joined together. The relations and the responsibilities are mutual. You must be helpers or hinderers of each other’s prosperity and progress. Like priest like people, is not more true than like people like priest. It is in the power of any people to paralyze or to put life and energy into their pastor, and to make him not only a lovely song and as one that playeth well on an instrument, but the power of God and the wisdom of God, to the salvation of souls. And for all that they might do and ought to do, they must give account when they shall stand confronted at the bar of Him who judgeth righteous judgment.
May you so live and labour together as that this account shall be given with joy, and not with grief. Yours, I have said, is a model pulpit. May you be a model people. Model preaching will demand model practice, model piety, liberality and zealous devotion to every good cause. I congratulate you. Brethren, upon the present occasion and your future prospects. I rejoice with you in your joy. I remember your kindness to my youth, and your appreciation of my early ministrations, when you so cordially invited me to live and labour among you. Allow me, with all my heart, to pray that peace may be within your walls, and prosperity within your borders. May you go forward prospering and to prosper — a city set on a hill, a burning and a shining light, provoking all around you to love and liberality. May strength go out of this Zion, and may you arise and shine the glory of the Lord having arisen upon you.
This occasion must now close, but we who are now assembled must meet in review all the issues of this rehearsal. Oh, my friends, realize and lay to heart that hastening hour. Pray, oh, pray earnestly, that when pastors and people shall meet face to face, at that awful tribunal, instead of mutual upbraidings and reproaches — you accusing them of unfaithfulness or negligence, and they accusing you of coldness, formality, and refusal to come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty — you may be able to congratulate each other; you blessing God for them as helpers of your faith, and they presenting you to God as their joy and crown of rejoicing.
On the Log College Press Compilations page, you will find the Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897, a wonderful collection of essays about the formation and theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. One of the important articles in that book was written by Moses Drury Hoge, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, entitled "Relation of the Westminster Standards to Foreign Missions." Hoge examines some of the historical reasons why the churches who adopted the Standards were not as possessed of a missionary spirit as they ought to have been; the missionary vision of the Standards; and the ministries of Alexander Duff, missionary to India, and John Leighton Wilson, missionary to western Africa. All who love to see the gospel go forth will be encouraged by Hoge's reflection.
Here's an important slice from Hoge on how the Westminster Standards ground missions in the biblical doctrine of the church: "The true theory of missions is one that clearly recognizes the fact that the great head of the church has not only committed to it the truths necessary to salvation, but has provided it with the government, the laws, the offices, and the equipment for building up the kingdom of God and extending its conquests through the world. This is in accordance with the spirit and teaching of the Westminster Standards, in proof of which we need only quote their noble testimony: "Unto this catholic, visible church Christ has given the ministry, the oracles and ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life and to the end of the world; and this he doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, made effectual thereto." Thus are the scattered sheep ''gathered" from the North and the South, the East and the West, into the safe and happy fold of the Good Shepherd. By its divine constitution the church is, therefore, qualified to secure all the spiritual ends for which it was instituted, and is in itself a missionary society of which every communicant is a member; and as each one has a recognized place in it because of its representative form of government, this very fact is calculated to enlist the sympathies, to deepen the sense of responsibility, and to stimulate to the most earnest, practical activity on the part of every member of the great household of faith."
May those who live under the teaching of the Westminster Standards be impelled more and more to bring the gospel to the nations!
"Presbyterians believe, that Christ has made all ministers who are authorized to dispense the word and sacraments, perfectly equal in official rank and power: that in every Church the immediate exercise of ecclesiastical power is deposited, not with the whole mass of the people, but with a body of their representatives, styled Elders; and that the whole visible Church Catholic, so far as their denomination is concerned, is not only one in name, but so united by a series of assemblies of these representatives, acting in the name, and by the authority of the whole, as to bind the whole body together as one Church, walking by the same principles of faith and order, and voluntarily, yet authoritatively governed by the same system of rule and regulation...That is a Presbyterian Church, in which the Presbytery is the radical and leading judicatory; in which Teaching and Ruling Presbyters or Elders, have committed to them the watch and care of the whole flock; in which all ministers of the word and sacraments are equal; in which Ruling Elders, as the representatives of the people, form a part of all ecclesiastical assemblies, and partake, in all authoritative acts, equally with the Teaching Elders; and in which, by a series of judicatories, rising one above another, each individual church is under the watch and care of its appropriate judicatory, and the whole body, by a system of review and control, is bound together as one homogeneous community. Wherever this system is found in operation in the Church of God, there is Presbyterianism."
-- Samuel Miller, Presbyterianism (Lord willing, a future publication of Log College Press!)
“Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, and lest you lay such stumbling-blocks before the blind, as may be the occasion of their ruin...Take heed to yourselves, lest you live in those sins which you preach against in others, and lest you be guilty of that which daily you condemn” (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, pp. 63, 67.
Few remember that Joseph Ruggles Wilson, the father of President Woodrow Wilson, was a Presbyterian pastor in 19th century America. In an article in The Southern Presbyterian Review entitled "In What Sense Are Preachers To Preach Themselves," he discusses the power and importance of the individual in the act and ethos of preaching. A snippet:
"[The agency of preaching] is, so far as it possesses visibility, entrusted to men, who are to wield it, in God's name, each according to his own idiosyncracies of mental and moral character. The preacher's power over those to whom he addresses the word of salvation,(whilst, indeed, it could be nothing—certainly nothing very valuable—were he not sent and sustained by the Almighty, whose servant he is yet,) greatly depends upon what he himself is. That is, there is a sense in which the preacher preaches himself. He is more than a mere instructor. His work does not terminate in the mere act of imparting information, of opening up truth, and causing people to know what they were before ignorant of. If he stopped here, there might be no necessity for his office; books could convey instruction as well, or better, and a general distribution amongst men of plain treatises upon religious subjects, might probably take the place of the living teacher. Indeed, the inquiry has been started in certain quarters, where now is the use of so much public preaching, seeing that the press is so active in sending forth ever-increasing multitudes of cheap printed volumes, whose pages teem with all the knowledge of Scripture that is needed by the reading masses? The answer to this query is not alone to be found in the fact that there are many who cannot read, and therefore must be orally taught; or in the very different fact that God having instituted preaching as the means for drawing souls to himself, will own only his own ordinance in effecting this great result. The truer and profounder answer is, that they who favor this suggestion altogether mistake the nature of a preaching office; regarding it as nothing more than a teaching office. They leave this entirely out of the account, viz.: that the preacher is a man who employs sacred truth as a vehicle through which he brings his own peculiar distinctive self to bear upon his fellow-men. That truth is with him not mere knowledge, but this knowledge woven into his own experiences, and it is these experiences which he seeks to impress upon others in a way that shall make them their experiences as well. He publishes salvation as he himself understands it, and as he has come to understand it thoroughly by having imbibed it into his own soul. Hence he says, "I believe, therefore I speak.'' From the storehouse of his own convictions he strives to convince. It is these convictions that constitute him a preacher at all; and in proportion to their warmth and strength is he a mighty preacher."
You can read the entire article here.
(You will also see on Wilson's page an unfortunate sermon advocating the righteousness of American slavery; as with many of our Presbyterian forefathers, Wilson believed that slavery was a Biblical institution. Log College Press in no way affirms or advocates these views, but includes these writings in an attempt to collect on our site all the 18th-19th century American Presbyterian writings that are available digitally, for historical reference, and as a humbling reminder that all men have feet of clay.)
[The majority of this post was first published on July 29, 2017.]
If you're a Presbyterian and you've never heard of William Henry Sheppard, that isn't surprising. But it is disappointing. He was a black Southern Presbyterian missionary to the Congo, who overcame prejudice and segregation to bring the gospel to the Congolese. At times perhaps he seems to have been more explorer and artifact collector than Christian missionary, but his impact on Presbyterian and world history was significant in both church and state. You can read his account of his missionary journeys here.
[This post was originally published on July 26, 2017. See also Pagan Kennedy, Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-Century Congo here.]