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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalms for special occasions as selected by John Craig

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Howard McKnight Wilson describes what regular Presbyterian worship looked like in the mid-18th century in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in his enduring and valuable study of a noteworthy historic congregation. The congregation is Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia, and the pastor to whom he refers is John Craig.

The singing of Psalms was a regular part of their worship. The book from which they sang was, of course, the same as the pastor’s copy preserved by a descendant. His Psalter might have been the only copy possessed by the gathered congregation, since the clerk lined out each verse before it was sung. His book is The Scottish Psalter about 3/4 inch thick, measuring 2 X 3 1/2 inches. It is bound in leather and has the Scottish form of his initials “I.C.” stamped in gold on both front and back. It contains the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament “IN Metre.”

Shown here is a 1763 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter. John Craig owned a 1729 edition published in Belfast.

Shown here is a 1763 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter. John Craig owned a 1729 edition published in Belfast.

Wilson continues with a note of interest that gives us an insight into the piety of this frontier Presbyterian minister.

Some of these Psalms were favorites of Mr. Craig’s and therefore may have been chosen more frequently. In his handwriting on the flyleaf of his Psalter, Mr. Craig records the following:

Ps’ms to be sung upon particular times & occasions as in ye morning Pms 3: 5: 16: 22: 144
in ye evening 4: 121: 141
for mercy after a sin Committed 51, 102
in Sickness or heaviness 1, 13, 88, 90, 91, 137, 146
when recovered 30, 32,
on ye Sabbath day 19, 9, 95
in time of joy 80, 98, 107, 145, 136
before Sermon 1, 12, 119 — 1 & 5 part
at ye communion 22, 23, 103, 111, 116, 45, 72
for spiritual solace 15, 19, 25, 46, 67, 112, 146
after wrong & disgrace received 42, 69, 70, 140, 144

Source: Howard McKnight Wilson, The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom: A Study of the Church and Her People, 1732-1952, pp. 102-103

The 4th century Church Father Athanasius once wrote:

It is possible for us, therefore, to find in the Psalter not only the reflection of our own soul's state, together with precept and example for all possible conditions, but also a fit form of words wherewith to please the Lord on each of life's occasions. (Letter to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms)

John Craig found this to be true, and so may every Christian today in the singing of God’s Word. There is a Psalm for every condition and occasion in human life, because it is, as John Calvin says, “an anatomy of the soul,” which is, if we may say so, part of the genius of the Psalter.

John McDowell on Experimental Religion

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The Psalmist says, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Ps. 66:16). This verse is the basis for a sermon on “Experimental Religion” by the Rev. John McDowell (1780-1863) which is worth your time to read. It is Sermon No. 2 in The New-Jersey Preacher (1813), edited by George S. Woodhull and Isaac Van Arsdale Brown, and can be found on our site on the Compilations page.

J.C. Ryle once said, “Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all strive so to walk together in this evil world; that Jesus may often draw near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus!”

In like manner, John McDowell takes what the Psalmist has said and paints a picture of what “astonishing love” brings forth in the heart and by the tongue of the Christian who cannot help but speak of that which God has done in him and for him.

The Christian may say, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare he hath" called "my soul." — He saw me lying in the same mass of ruin with the rest of mankind. My mind was carnal, and it was enmity against him. I loved sin. I was walking with the multitude the broad way, which leadeth to destruction. God called after me. He gave me pious parents, who early dedicated me to him, and put upon me the seal of his gracious covenant; and who endeavoured by their prayers, their instruction, their example, and their affectionate reproofs and corrections, to bring me to a saving acquaintance with God, and divine things. But, although my conscience under these means frequently rendered me uneasy, still I continued a stranger to God; I wandered from him and loved to wander. — He cast my lot in a Christian land. He brought me within the hearing of a preached gospel. By this he called after me, day after day and year after year, instructing, inviting, warning, reasoning and expostulating with me, threatening me, and lamenting over me. But when he called, I refused ! when he stretched out his hand I disregarded. He poured out his spirit — many of my companions became serious I paused and became thoughtful. But still I loved sin, and soon said to my convictions, "go your way for this time, when I have a more convenient season, I will send for you." — He visited me with alarming providences; death snatched my friends from me, and disease threatened his approach to me. I trembled, I wished to die the death of the righteous; but I refused to give God my heart. I besought him to remove his hand from me, and promised amendment. He heard me, and granted my request; but I forgot his goodness and my promises, and returned to carelessness and sin. My heart became harder, my mind blinder, and my conscience less tender. O wonder of patience! that I was born with and not cut down in my sins!

The Lord would not give me up; but continued to call me, and sent his Spirit to accompany the call with his Almighty, and irresistible influences. Then, like the prodigal, I came to myself, and saw my wretchedness. I saw myself walking the broad way to destruction. I heard the law of God pronouncing its curses against me; and felt a load of guilt pressing down my soul into woe. Then my anxiety was excited in earnest; and I cried, "what shall I do to be saved." — I then feared that the day of grace might possibly be past — I read, and heard, and prayed, and reformed; but could find no comfort. I heard the law rigorously demanding satisfaction for the past, and perfect obedience in future. I heard of the gospel plan of salvation; but my mind was blind, I could not understand it. My heart was proud, and unwilling to submit — it was filled with unbelief, and I could not by faith lay hold of an offered Saviour. Ignorant of the deceitfulness of my own heart, I thought I was willing to give myself away to God; but that he was unwilling to assist me to make the surrender, or to accept the dedication. But he led me by a way that I knew not — he humbled my proud heart — he made me willing in the day of his power — he put his spirit within me — he took away my stony heart and gave me a heart of flesh — he enlightened my mind — he renewed my heart — he discovered to me the suitableness of the Saviour, and his ability and willingness to save. My heart approved of his character, and I was enabled to believe in him, and to receive and rest upon him for salvation as he is offered in the gospel.

Then was my soul comforted. "Old things passed away, and all things became new." The character of God appeared to me glorious and worthy of my highest love — his law appeared holy, just and good, and I loved it, and heartily desired to render obedience to it. — Sin appeared to me odious and I detested it, and loathed myself on account of it, and wondered how I could live in sin with delight, as I had done. Jesus appeared precious to me, "the chiefest among ten thousand," and "altogether lovely." He appeared a suitable, an able, willing, and compassionate Saviour; and I felt as though I could and did venture my soul upon him, and commit my everlasting interests into his hands; and I heard him in his word speaking peace to my troubled conscience, and promising to me everlasting life. O fellow-christian! what a season was this! after the gall and wormwood which I had been compelled to drink! It was a day of espousals — a season of love. "Then was my mouth filled with laughter and my tongue with singing,” Psalm 126:2. O the riches of divine grace! that such a wretch was arrested in his career to destruction, while he was stopping his ears against the voice of mercy! and hath been brought to a saving knowledge of himself, and of Christ!

Fellow-christian, you have experienced this same grace, though there may be shades of difference in the manner and circumstances of your call, and the exercises through which you have passed. Like me, you were once blind, but you now see — you were once dead, but you are now alive — you were once lost, but you are now found. Let us unite in admiring, adoring and loving God. Why were we guests? Why were we made to enter while there was room, while so many have perished, and are perishing in their sins ? We must ascribe it to the free grace of God. To grace we will give the glory — "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory," Psalms 115:1.

Consider then the gracious work that God does in a sinner, which ought to well up in the heart of every believer as a fountain of gratitude. Our experiences will differ, but who can refrain from declaring the works of God in their life when God has done such great and wonderful things? God is exalted and praised, and our brethren edified and encouraged, when we thus speak.

In the conclusion of this discourse, we may observe from what has been said, that Christians need never be at a loss for conversation on experimental religion when they meet. The subject is inexhaustible. Even eternity will not exhaust it. And considering what great things the Lord hath done for his people, how can we belong to that number, if we seldom, or never w hen we meet, speak of these things to his praise and glory. Even the real people of God engage too seldom, and with too much indifference on this subject. Let them be humbled and excited by this subject more frequently to engage, when they meet, in conversation on experimental religion. Thus they will shew forth the praise and glory of God, and mutually edify and animate each other.

Read John McDowell’s sermon on “Experimental Religion” in The New-Jersey Preacher here in full, and be encouraged, be stirred up, then, dear believer, to speak of the things that God has done for you.

A candle bright and brief: Abraham Rezeau Brown

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They say that the candle that burns brightest, burns half as long. Church history has many examples to offer in support of this truism. For example, consider the following, to name a few:

  • Lady Jane Grey, English Queen (1536/1537 - 1554, age 16/17)

  • Andrew Gray, Scottish Puritan (1634 – 1656, age 22)

  • Patrick Hamilton, Scottish Reformer (1503 – 1528, age 24)

  • James Renwick, Scottish Covenanter (1662 – 1688, age 26)

  • Jim Elliot, American Missionary (1927 – 1956, age 29)

  • Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Scottish Presbyterian (1813 – 1843, age 29)

  • David Brainerd, American Presbyterian Missionary (1718 – 1747, age 29)  

  • Christopher Love, English Presbyterian (1618 – 1651, age 33)

  • James Durham, Scottish Presbyterian (1622 – 1658, age 36)

There is another name to add to this distinguished list, one that is less well-known, but equally as inspirational as the names above in personal piety and devotion to Christ — Abraham Rezeau Brown (1808-1833, age 24). The New Jersey-born eldest son of Isaac Van Arsdale Brown, and friend of James Brainerd Taylor, Rezeau, as he was known, was a gifted student who was brought up in his father’s academy (originally known as Maidenhead Academy, now Lawrenceville School), and was clearly gifted early in life. His longtime “particular friend” (1830 letter to John Hall) and biographer, James Waddel Alexander, wrote that he joined the junior class at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) at age 15 and graduated two years later with the highest literary honors. Rezeau was always of a “weak” and frail constitution, and it was poor health that took him to his Savior at the tender of age of 24. But as Alexander wrote, quoting John Newton, “Tell me not how he died, but how he lived.” And thus we shall endeavor here to do so.

It is Rezeau himself, through manuscripts found after his death, who tells us that he was not a devout Christian early on, but something remarkable happened.

There has, no doubt, happened a great change in my character, which I date in March 1S27. I was before that a mere worldling, careless of eternity, thoughtless of my own eternal interests, and of those around me, a profane swearer. Sabbath breaker, and every thing else that is wicked; though only to that degree which was quite consistent with a decent exterior, and what were considered quite regular and moral habits in a young man. At the time mentioned, I was led in a most sudden and surprising way, when I was alone one evening, to look upon myself as a deeply depraved and guilty sinner, and to experience, in a lively manner, the feeling of my desert of hell. But in the course of a few days, I was enabled, as I thought, to cast myself on the Lord Jesus Christ as my Redeemer, and I felt through him a sweet sense of forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

After his conversion, although earlier inclined to the field of medicine, more and more he felt a strong inner call to the ministry. He pursued the study of languages (Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, French, German) and ministerial studies at Yale and Princeton. He was naturally inclined to languages but also hoped to serve the gospel in foreign lands. He served from 1828 to 1831 as a tutor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and was licensed to preach the gospel in April, 1831. He served as stated supply for three different congregations located around Morgantown, Virginia (now West Virginia) from October 1831 to June 1832. The harsh winter and constant travel wore him down and he was recalled to Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, where he continued to preach. He then joined J.W. Alexander as assistant editor of The Presbyterian in Philadelphia. He was making plans to take a trip to Europe in March 1833, when he became ill. It was an illness from which he never recovered, and on September 10, 1833, he entered the presence of his Lord. His funeral sermon was preached by J.W. Alexander from Revelation 22:3-5.

It was after that life-changing work of the Spirit in his soul in 1827 that Rezeau directed all of his energy and limited strength to this one goal - as Alexander wrote: “All his studies had this object; and it is worthy of remark, that he appeared always to study for God.” Notes found in his private memorandum book bear this out. After penning considerations on the right understanding of the call to the ministry, we read these lines written to summarize his planned course of study.

To this end, I would attend,

I. To the affairs of my soul.
II. To the affairs of my body.
III. To the affairs of my mind.
1. 1. To be much engaged in reading the Bible, in meditating and in prayer.
2. To improve opportunities of Christian intercourse.
3. To cultivate a Christian temper, and do every thing as conscious that the eye of God is directed to me, as well as the eye of the world.
4. To gain proper views of duty, and to act up to my convictions.
II. 1. To take regular exercise, morning and evening.
2. To be moderate in eating, &c.
3. To ‘keep my body under.’
III. In regard to objects of study.
1. The Bible.
2. Theology, as a science.
3. Books to aid the intellect, by their power of thought or some effective quality.
B. In regard to method,
1. Read twice every good book.
2. Read carefully, not caring so much to finish the volume as to gain knowledge.
3. Read pen in hand, noting striking thoughts, and recording such as throw light on points not hitherto understood.
C. In regard to writing. I wish to gain some facility as well as correctness in my composition for the pulpit and the press.
1. Analyses of Sermons.
2. Sermons.
3. Presbyterial Exercises.
4. Notes on remaining topics in Didactic Theology.

Another extract from his memorandum book gives witness to his experience in personal piety.

Monday, January 2, 1832. Another year is gone! Let me be excited by the remembrance of my failures in duty, sins, waste of time, slow advancement in piety and knowledge — let me be stimulated to future diligence in every good thing.

I would, in dependence on divine aid, this morning resolve,

1. To be more diligent in the pursuit of piety. And as I have most failed by the neglect of devotional reading of the scriptures, by wandering thoughts in prayer, and by permitting unholy thoughts and tempers to gain admission to my mind, I would resolve to pay special attention to these things.

2. I resolve to be more faithful in every public and private duty of the ministry. Especially in bearing such an exterior as to exhibit the influence, and commending the nature of religion; and in private and public admonition.

3. I resolve to attempt to do some good to some individual every day.

4. I resolve to study the Bible more than I have done, both critically and practically.

5. I resolve to press forward towards perfection, as much as possible here below; or in other words, to grow in grace.

His correspondence also bears witness to his faith: Writing to a relative who had just become a communicant church member he gives this counsel, based on personal experience:

In regard to personal piety, I find (as you will do) that prayer is the chief means of growth. Days devoted to prayer are very profitable; seasons of fasting and humiliation equally so. To pray much and yet be a cold Christian, is an anomaly I have never seen in the dealings of God with his church. The scriptures should take up much of your attention. Religious biography, and other religious books, are also worthy of regard and perusal. There is no royal road to manhood in Christ Jesus: we must grow by degrees, which will be greater or less in proportion to our diligence in the use of the means. Read Ephesians vi. 10—18. Philippians ill. 12—14. Romans xii. 1 —21. for some inspired directions.

We have the account of his private prayer dated July 26, 1832, which was for him a day of fasting and humiliation. And we have a meditation he wrote also in the summer of 1832 in which he critically evaluated the state of his soul. These personal devotional writings are nearly sermons, deeply humbling and convicting to read. They are too long to quote here, but the reader is encouraged (and forewarned!) to read them in J.W. Alexander’s memoir, which appeared in the October 1834 Biblical Repertory and Theological Review here, which is the source for most of this biographical record (a memoir which is also supplemented with letters from Isaac Van Arsdale Brown, Samuel Miller and Archibald Alexander). We have a few writings and translated works by Rezeau on his own page here. His story can only be briefly told in this post, but it is a story worth knowing. His candle burned brightly and briefly, but his memory is blessed forever.

Songs From the Soul: Geerhardus Vos

In 1994, when Banner of Truth republished Geerhardus Vos’ 1922 collection of sermons titled Grace and Glory, which originally contained six sermons, they added 10 more to the reprint. Sinclair Ferguson explains:

In possessing a copy of Grace and Glory the reader has in his or her hands a book of sermons which are almost as rare as they are remarkable. Not only so, but in addition to the six sermons which originally constituted the volume Grace and Glory the present edition includes a further nine sermons which Vos preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1896 and 1913, as well as an undated exposition of Ephesians 2:4-5 translated from Dutch. This additional material has been provided to the publishers by James T. Dennison, the Librarian of Westminster Theological Seminary in California and the editor of the journal Kerux, in which the bulk of has already been published. Mr. Dennison originally uncovered Vos’s personal sermon book in 1971 in the Heritage Hall Archive of Calvin Theological Seminary and transcribed the material. As heirs of his labours the publishers are also indebted to the Heritage Hall Archive of Calvin Seminary for the privilege of reproducing the material in this more permanent form.

One of those additional sermons is titled “Songs From the Soul,” based on Psalm 25:14: “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” In this sermon, Vos speaks to the experimental piety of the Psalter in eloquent terms (pp. 169-171).

The Psalter is of all books of the Bible that book which gives expression to the experimental side of religion. In the law and the prophetic writings, it is God who speaks to his people; but in the Psalter we listen to the saints speaking to God. Hence the Psalter has been at all times that part of Scripture to which believers have most readily turned and upon which they have chiefly depended for the nourishment of the inner religious life of the heart. I say that part of Scripture and not merely that part of the Old Testament, for even taking the Old and New Testament together the common experience of the people of God affirms that there is nothing in Holy Writ which in our most spiritual moments — when we feel ourselves nearest to God — so faithfully and naturally expresses what we think and feel in our hearts as these songs of the pious Israelites. Our Lord himself, who had a perfect religious experience and lived and walked with God in absolute adjustment of his thoughts and desires to the Father's mind and will, our Lord himself found his inner life portrayed in the Psalter and in some of the highest moments of his ministry borrowed from it the language in which his soul spoke to God, thus recognizing that a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.

Undoubtedly it is in the Psalter that the specific work of inspiration which the Holy Ghost performs in inditing the Scriptures and the more general task which he carries out in sustaining, directing, stimulating and guiding the religious thoughts and aspirations of believers are most closely united. Inspiration for the disclosure of truth is not always accompanied by the subjective appropriation of the truth in a saintly experience (a Balaam and a Caiaphas were among the prophets); but nevertheless it remains the more natural and ordinary procedure of God that the instrument through which his truth is brought to man should be a mind in intimate touch with his own; a mind responsive to that personal revelation of God himself which lives and throbs in the truth. And consequently we see that the great prophets (like a Moses, an Isaiah or Jeremiah) appear at the same time as the outstanding examples of a wonderfully rich and tender religious intercourse with God. But in the Psalms we can more clearly than anywhere else observe the interaction of these two things: supernatural reception of the truth and spiritual nearness to God. Possibly the fact that in David's case the prophetic disclosures of truth that he received were so vitally connected with his own life and destiny may have something to do with the presence of this feature in the Psalms, whereas the other prophets sometimes stood more or less apart from the development of things to which their words applied. And then the prophets, of course, in many instances spoke to and for the nation collectively, whereas in the Psalter it is the individual soul which comes face to face with God.

Hence the lessons and encouragements which we obtain from other parts of the Old Testament are frequently drawn indirectly by a process of inference, for which we are not always in the right frame of mind and the proper spiritual mood. But the in Psalms, whatever our mood, whether we are exultant or downcast, vigorous or weary, penitent or believing, we can always find our hearts mirrored there. It needs no process of reasoning to make their sentiments our own. Here the language of the Bible comes to meet the very thoughts of our hearts before these can even clothe themselves in language and we recognize that we could not have expressed them better than the Spirit has here expressed them for us. At first sight, this may easily seem strange to us when we remember that the the psalmists lived under the conditions of a typical and preparatory dispensation; that on many points they saw through a glass darkly, whereas we, who live in the full light of the complete gospel, see face to face. But for the very reason that the Psalms reflect that experimental religion of the heart, which is unvarying at all times and under all circumstances, we need not greatly wonder at this. The influx of the divine light, whether more or less strong, must always produce the identical effect of joy, hope and peace in every soul to which it comes. The well at which we drink may flow more abundantly than that at which the psalmists drank, but the experience of thirst, of drinking and of satisfaction must still be the same as it was in the time of David.

David Brainerd's Preface to Thomas Shepard's Diary

In August of 1747, two months before his death, David Brainerd (1718-1747) wrote a preface to Thomas Shepard’s (1605-1649) diary, published that year under the title Meditations and Spiritual Experiences. A portion of Brainerd’s preface was later extracted and included in the “Reflections and Observations” of Jonathan Edward’s (1703-1758) edition of Brainerd’s own journal.

The intersection of Brainerd and Shepard and Edwards — three of the brightest luminaries of American colonial experimental piety who each wrote diaries that they never envisioned would be published — is a remarkable window into the souls of the godly.

Recently added to the inventory of Log College Press, Brainerd’s preface to Shepard’s diary stands as a remarkable essay on the importance of true religion, exemplified in the life of a New England Puritan.

It was Brainerd’s hope that the publication of Shepard’s diary would serve to better illustrate the yearnings of a godly soul, and that Shepard’s example would stir up men, and especially ministers of the gospel, to greater holiness.

Now, as all proper means are to be used to cure the errors of men's minds, especially in things of religion, and as something of this nature may, therefore, seem peculiarly needful, especially in some places, so 'tis hopeful that the publication of the following small piece of the Rev. Mr Shepard's will be made, in some measure, serviceable in that respect. For, as it is a journal of the private experiences of that excellent and holy man, designed for his own use, so it contains, as it were, this true religion for a course of time delineated to us in a very exact manner; whence we have opportunity to see, with utmost plainness, what passed with him for religion, what he laboured after under that notion, and what were the exercises and difficulties he met with in pursuance of a religious life: And those who have any favour for the name and piety of that venerable man, 'tis hoped, will read his experiences with care and attention, and, as they read, consider whether there be any manner of agreement be tween his and theirs; and whoever reads attentively, I'm persuaded must own that he finds a greater appearance of true humility, self-emptiness, self loathing, sense of great unfruitfulness, selfishness, exceeding vileness of heart, smallness of attainments in grace; I say he must needs own that he finds more expressions of deep unfeigned self-abasement in these experiences of Mr Shepard's than some are willing to admit of And 'tis hopeful, the reader will further observe, that, when Mr Shepard speaks of his comforts in religion, as he frequently does of his satisfaction, sweetness, and desire to die and to be with Christ, he always gives a solid account of the foundation of these comforts, and mentions some exercises of grace from which they proceeded; so that they are wholly different from those groundless joys that arise in the minds of poor deluded souls from a sudden suggestion made to them — that Christ is theirs, that God loves them, and the like. The reader will further observe, that he valued nothing in religion that was not done with a view to the glory of God, as appears by many of his expressions, especially that under April 15, where he says, “When I looked over the day, I saw how I fell short of God and Christ, and how I had spent one hour unprofitably: and why? because though the thing I did was good, yet because I in tended not God in it, as my last end, and did not set my rule before me, and so set myself to please God, therefore I was unprofitable. O that others, from this example, would learn to lay the stress of religion here, and labour that whether they live, they might live to the Lord, or whether they die, they might die to the Lord!

There is something in these papers of the Rev. Mr Shepard's that seems excellently calculated to be of service to those who are in the ministry in particular. His method of examining his aims and ends, and the temper of his mind, both before and after preaching, whether he had met with enlargement or straitening, is an excellent example for those that bear the sacred character. By these means they are like to gain a large acquaintance with their own hearts, as 'tis evident he had with his.

May the blessing of heaven attend the following pages, that he who has long been dead may yet speak by them to the instruction, conviction, and saving benefit of many souls!

With an introduction such as this, be encouraged dear reader to read the whole of Brainerd’s short essay, and to peruse Shepard’s diary. Also on David Brainerd’s page is his own journal edited and reflected upon by Jonathan Edwards. These are two volumes which constitute a storehouse of spiritual treasures.

The Monitory Letters

Although published anonymously, the author of Monitory Letters to Church Members (1855) was William Buell Sprague. These are the letters of a watchman for the souls of his flock, and they address challenging issues that were prevalent in the 19th century, and no less so today. 

Contained in this volume are a series of 22 letters written to address subjects that reflect a declination in serious religion. Among those persons and topics addressed are:

  • Those who undervalue divine truth;
  • Those who willfully skip the second worship service on the Lord's Day;
  • Those who would send their children to dancing school (Sprague does not argue that dancing is sinful);
  • Those who neglect family worship;
  • Those who travel excessively on the Lord's Day;
  • Those who neglect mid-week services;
  • Those who are stingy and censorious (overly-critical); 
  • Those who are impatient, complaining, fickle, bigoted, neglectful, and irreverent;
  • Those who lack parental involvement and oversight; and 
  • Those who would send their children to a Roman Catholic school. 

Sprague means here to uphold the sanctity of the Lord's Day, the virtue and importance of family worship, the graces of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, the appreciation of true religion, and the wholesomeness of the home. Not all in our day will agree with his position on all issues. But these letters remind us of the seriousness of the issues which are pastorally addressed. They are not to be lightly dismissed. 

Three of the letters speak to the subject of family worship. The second letter, in particular, addresses the Scriptural warrant for its duty and practice. All of them are valuable incentives to experimental piety, which Sprague aimed at in all of his writings. 

Take time to read over these monitory letters. You may not be the addressee, but they may still convict the 21st century reader and stir him or her unto a serious apprehension of our duties before God and man. 

The Happy Man's Pedigree

William Mills (1739-1774) was a graduate of Princeton, who became pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Long Island, New York, one of the first Presbyterian churches in America. As part of his ministry, he wrote tracts, such as the Bunyan-like one below, which can be found in James Madison McDonald, Two Centuries in the History of the Presbyterian Church, Jamaica, L.I.; The Oldest Existing Church, of the Presbyterian Name, in America (1862), pp. 182-183.

The Happy Man's Pedigree

The HAPPY MAN, was born in the City of Regeneration — in the parish of Repentance unto Life: he was educated at the School of Obedience, and lives now in Perseverance: he works at the trade of Diligence, notwithstanding he has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment; and many times does jobs of Self-Denial; he wears the plain garment of Humility, and has a better suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness; he often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountain of Spiritual-Mindedness; he breakfasts every morning upon Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same; he has Meat to eat that the world knows not of, and his Drink is the sincere Milk of the Word: — Thus, happy he lives, and happy he dies. Happy is he who has Gospel Submission in his will — due order in his affection — sound peace in his conscience — Sanctifying Grace in his soul-real Divinity in his breast — true Humility in his heart — the Redeemer’s yoke on his neck — a vain world under his feet — and a crown of Glory over his head. Happy is the life of such an one: — In order to attain which — Pray frequently — Believe firmly wait patiently — work abundantly — live Holily — die daily — watch your hearts — guide your senses — redeem your time — love Christ — and long for Glory.