Hughes Oliphant Old (1933-2016) is widely regarded as a preeminent church historian of the 20th century. He was the focus of the 2017 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian Journal. One of his greatest works is the 7-volume set titled The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. It consists of biographical sketches and analyses of the preaching of important figures throughout the span of international Christian church history.
Volumes 5 & 6 contain important references to some of the men highlighted here at Log College Press. We commend to you the study of this resource as a method of better understanding the lives and preaching of select American ministers of the gospel.
Volume 5 (Modernism, Pietism, and Awakening, 2004):
Volume 6 (The Modern Age, 2007):
Some additional American Presbyterian ministers are highlighted in Old’s set, but the men referenced above are all to be found here at Log College Press. Old’s analyses of particular, noteworthy sermons by these men constitute very valuable studies of Presbyterian and Reformed preaching of an era that we here at Log College Press aim to remember.
One instance of Old’s analysis of particular sermons comes from Archibald Alexander’s Practical Sermons. He looks at “Obedience to Christ Gives Assurance of the Truth of His Doctrine”; “The Incarnation”; and “Christ’s Gift of Himself For Our Redemption.” As to the whole collection of sermons, Old explains what Alexander means when Alexander wrote that “The sermons contain what the author believes to be evangelical truth.” Old elaborates: “The phrase ‘evangelical truth,’ probably meant to Alexander the truth of the gospel, the faith of classical Protestantism. ‘Evangelical’ did not yet mean a particular party in the Church, but rather the central thrust of the Christian message.”
Old gives context to the former sermon by explaining Alexander’s familiarity with the Enlightment message so popular in Philadelphia at the time when he preached and which the sermon opposed. Old describes “The Incarnation” as a “doxological hymn” of praise to Christ. He highlights Alexander’s notable opening lines: “There are two memorable occasions, in time past, on which the angels are represented as joining in chorus to praise God in relation to our world. The first was when the corner-stone of the fabric of the universe was laid, and its foundations were fastened. Then ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.’ The other was at the birth of a Saviour; which is referred to in our text” (Luke 2:13-14). Finally, Old takes note of Alexander’s sermon which so clearly affirms the divinity of Christ and opposes the Universalism prevalent in his day. As Old says, “This is a very rich sermon. Not brief summary could do it justice.” It is a powerful witness to the Christ of the Scriptures, and though the summary is brief, it is worth reading, as is, of course, the sermon itself.
These are men that Old thought worthy of inclusion and reflection in his valuable study of preaching in the Christian church. Take note of what he wrote as you study these ministers and their writings for yourself using primary and secondary sources. May these resources be a blessing to all ministers, students of the ministry and laymen for whom “the past is not dead.”