19th Century Bible Study Questions from A-Z

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The right question makes all the difference in the world - and not just in Jeopardy. The best interviewers, whether on TV or on podcasts, ask the best questions - the most insightful, the most difficult, the ones that make their subject squirm, or laugh, or angry, or transparent. Knowing the right questions to ask of a person, or a text, usually means the difference between understanding and ignorance.

In 1884, the Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was published by Alfred Nevin. The following questions were included in it, as a guide for reading the New Testament in particular, but can be applied to the whole Bible. Helpfully, they are listed in alphabetical form. Keep these handy wherever you read and study God’s word.

In the study of the New Testament, and of the gospels especially, we need to inquire and compare. The inspired writings are infinitely rich in truth, and each verse is so connected with the rest that an intelligent inquirer may easily extend its investigations from one passage over the whole of Scripture. Without attempting to exhaust topics of inquiry, we mention the following :

A. What analogies between sensible and spiritual things may be here traced ?

A1. What prophecy is here accomplished? where found? when written? what rule of interpretation is illustrated?

B. What blessing is here sought or acknowledged, or promised, and why?

C. What custom is here referred to ?

C1. What trait of character is here given? good or bad? belonging to our natural or our renewed state? what advantages are connected with it?

D. What doctrine is here taught? how illustrated? what its practical influence ?

D1. What duty is here enforced, and how? from what motives ?

D2. What difficulty is here found in history or doctrine? how explained?

E. What evangelical or other experience is here recorded?

E1. What example is here placed before us? of sin or of holiness? lessons?

F. What facts are here related? what doctrine or duty do they illustrate? do you commend or blame them, and why ?

G. What is the geographical position of this country, or place? and what its history ?

H. What facts of natural history or of general history are here referred to or illustrated?

I. What institution or ordinance is here mentioned? On whom bindling? what its design? what its connection with other institutions?

I1. What instructions may be gathered from this fact, or parable, or miracle?

K. What knowledge of human nature, or want of knowledge, is here displayed?

L. What lofty expressions of devotional fervor?

L1. What Levitical institute is here mentioned? why appointed?

M. What miracle is here recorded? by whom wrought? in whose name? what were its results? what taught?

N. What is worthy of notice in this name?

P. What prohibition is here given? is it word, or thought, or deed it condemns?

P1. What is the meaning of the parable here given? what truth as to God, Christ, man, "the kingdom," is taught?

P2. What promise is here given? to whom?

R. What prophecy is here recorded? is it fulfilled? how? when?

S. What sin is here exposed?

S1. What sect is here introduced? mention its tenets.

T. What type is here traced?

T. What threatening? when inflicted?

U. What unjustifiable action of a good man? what unusual excellence in one not pious?

W. What woe is here denounced? what warning given? against whom, and why?

X. What is here taught of the work, character, person of Christ?

X1. What sublimity of thought or of language is here? what inference follows ?

Foreign Missions in the 19th Century Southern Presbyterian Church

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The 19th century Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) was a missionary church from its formation, continuing the commitment that Presbyterians had demonstrated since their coming to the shores of America. These words by John Leighton Wilson, the first “Coordinator” of Foreign Missions for the PCUS, beautifully sum up the importance of foreign missions to Presbyterians in the South:

Finally, the General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church's banner as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the Headship of her Lord, His last command: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;" regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord's promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which in connection with the love of Christ can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources, so as to cause her to carry on with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of our people and pressed upon their consciences,—and every minister owes it to his people and to a perishing world to give such instruction on this subject as he is able; and to this end the monthly concert ought to be devoutly observed by every church on the first Sabbath of each month for the purpose of missionary instruction as well as prayer, and it would be well to accompany their prayers with their offerings. To the same end the Assembly earnestly enjoins upon all our ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath school teachers, and especially upon parents, particular attention to our precious youth in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, and not only to form habits of systematic benevolence, but to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field..." (Minutes of the 1st General Assembly of the PCUS/PCCSA [1861], p. 17 - not yet on the Log College Press website).

Several writings by Presbyterians in the South on the topic of missions are worthy of note:

  • James Henley Thornwell's "The Sacrifice of Christ the Type and Model of Missionary Effort" - on page 411 of Volume 2 of his Collected Writings (1871) - found here

  • Moses Drury Hoge's "The Westminster Standards and Missionary Activity" - on page 185 of Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897 (1897) - found here

  • Thomas Cary Johnson's Introduction to Christian Missions (1909) - found here.

  • Thomas Smyth's writings on missions can be found in Volume 7 of his Complete Works - found here. His article "The Duty of Interesting Children in the Missionary Cause" is particularly stimulating and helpful.

  • William Sheppard's book on his mission work to the Congo can be found here.

  • Some of the most memorable words on missions from an American Presbyterian came from the mouth of the Southerner John Holt Rice in 1831: "The Presbyterian Church in the United States is a Missionary Society, the object of which is to aid in the conversion of the world; and every member of the Church is a member for life of said Society, and bound in maintenance of his Christian character to do all in his power for the accomplishment of this object." (from William Maxwell's Memoirs of John Holt Rice, pages 387ff.)

Many other missionary works by 18th and 19th century American Presbyterian can be found on on this page. There are great riches to be found in these pages, so read them, and forward this post on to missionaries you know, that there hearts might be strengthened in the work to which God has called them.

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary's Interview About Log College Press

On March 28, Zack Groff of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary interviewed me about the background and purposes of Log College Press. If you’d like to learn more about why I started this website/ publishing endeavor, and why we think it’s important to collect and reprint the writings of and about 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians, please listen here!

How to Contend Earnestly for the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints

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Book 7 of Samuel Baird’s Digest (formally titled A Collection of the Acts, Deliverances, and Testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church From Its Origin in America to the Present Time, published in 1856) is entitled “Heresies and Schisms.” It is filled with details about the controversies in the Presbyterian Church in the 18th and 19th century. Baird opens Book 7 with a quote from the 1806 General Assembly Minutes (one of these days we hope to have all the 18th and 19th century GA Minutes available on our site) that is both time-bound and timeless. May the Lord enable us to hold to and contend for the truth in holiness and love.

We live at a time when it become a duty peculiarly incumbent, to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” It will however be remembered , that the sacred cause of truth can never be promoted by angry controversy or railing accusation. It is therefore recommended to the churches to vindicate the truth, not only by sound and temperate discussion, but also and especially by the manifestation of its sanctifying and transforming power over the life and conversation; and by evincing that “the like mind is in us which was in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It should ever be recollected, that error in doctrine has a native tendency to produce immorality in practice; and therefore, that we should not be carried about by every wind of doctrine. Let us prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. This caution, it is hoped, will be received with attention and solemnity, inasmuch as the Church has been of late invaded by errors which strike at the very foundation of our faith and hope; such as the denial of the Godhead and atonement of the blessed Redeemer, the subjection of the Holy Scripture to the most extravagant impulses of the heart of man. These, and other errors of a dangerous nature, have been industriously, and, alas! that the Assembly should be constrained to add, in some portions of our country, too successfully disseminated.

Moses Drury Hoge on the Cause and Cure of Despondency

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On October 2, 1898, Moses Drury Hoge stood to preach to the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, a church he had planted in 1845 and pastored from that point. He had just turned eighty years of age two weeks earlier, and due to a “severe and serious illness,” it was the first time in many weeks that he had been in the pulpit. His sermon text was Psalm 42:11, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God,” and its title was “Cause and Cure of Despondency.” The sermon is now available on Hoge’s page on the Log College Press website (Andrew Myers was able to photograph this volume thanks to the courtesy of the staff of the rare book room at the William Morton Smith Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia).

What words would this octogenarian give to his people to comfort and cheer them in their distresses? Hoge began by noting that David confronted his deep despondency with “searching inquiries as to the cause of his disquietude.” But his examination was aimed within, for “the soul has a strange power of going out of itself and conversing with itself as with another.” And Hoge saw this self-examination as a vital part of the Christian’s response to suffering:

Well would it be for us if we would cultivate this habit of going out of ourselves to counsel, to examine, to rebuke, or to cheer our own hearts. God has given us memory, and reason, and imagination for this very purpose. We exercise our memory and our reason more frequently than our imagination, and fail to make a proper use of it, because we confound imagination with fancy or fiction, overlooking the fact that imagination is a conception - a realization of the unseen. It pictures to us an unseen Savior, an unseen heaven; and, like faith, it enables us to apprehend the things hoped for as a present possession. We do not make enough of this imagination…Since God has given us these faculties, let us employ them for the purpose for which they were bestowed. We live in an executive, rather than a contemplative, age. As an antidote to this, let us spend more time in self-communion…It is greatly wise to catechize ourselves, to exhort, to scrutinize, to chide, to sit in judgment on our characters and lives.

Hoge declared that all of our despondency may be reduced to one cause: sin. Sometimes that sin lies within our own heart, and must be “searched out, confessed and repented of.” The hiding of a Father’s face due to indwelling corruption leads to “self-scrutiny and self-examination [which are] sad work at the time, but its fruits are precious, and the chastened child never forgets the lessons he has learned in these hours of anguish.” On other occasions our troubles are the result of the sins of others against us, or of the sicknesses that are the result of sin’s entrance into the world, or to “insoluble mysteries…which seem to baffle all investigation and to elude all explanation.” Oftentimes our distress and despair are due to the slow development of our spiritual lives, or to the fact that we see no fruit for our labor, though we have strained to edify our neighbors and glorify God.

What is the cure to all these various forms of despondency? In a word, hope. Whether our own sin or the sin of others against us; whether perplexing providence or crushing bereavement or a seemingly vain attempt at doing good; we must put our hope in a sovereign and forgiving God, who is “our God by covenant, by oath, by indwelling presence.” This hope flows naturally into praise, and Hoge ends his sermon with a expression of desire: “How it would rejoice my heart if this, my first sermon on my return, should be the means of leading some soul to Christ, or of strengthening and comforting one of God’s dear children.” May the Lord do the same for you as you read this sermon.

Thomas Cary Johnson On How God Used William Carey for the Good of His Church

As I prepare to teach a Sunday School class on the theology and history of missions this summer, I’ve been greatly aided by Thomas Cary Johnson’s Introduction to Christian Missions (1909). He weaves together biblical theology, exegesis, and history beautifully, and does so from a high view of the church and its calling to be God’s appointed missionary society. We get a taste of how Johnson’s ecclesiology and missiology merge in his evaluation of how God used William Carey in the life of the church:

“Carey no more caused the mission movements which were so closely connected with his life than Luther caused the Reformation amongst the German people; but as Luther led and accelerated the one movement so Carey led, accelerated and gave his own character to early nineteenth century Protestant missions. In this way he was helping toward the awaking of more than individuals, and groups of individuals to a sense of their responsibility to be missionary. If the winning of religious toleration was a preparation to the winning of religious liberty in Virginia, in Colonial and Revolutionary days, so the excitation into being of great voluntary missionary societies was a preparation for something much better for the awakening of the Churches of Christendom to a consciousness of the fact that God's Church is the God-ordained missionary society, and that every Christian in virtue of his Church membership is a member of a missionary society, and as such is pledged to do his utmost for the disciplining of all nations.”

As a little lagniappe today, you’ll be encouraged by the missionary principles of Carey and his fellow-laborers, composed on October 7, 1805, as a "Form of Agreement Respecting the Great Principles on which the Brethren of the Mission at Serampore [in India] Think it their Duty to Act in the Work of Instructing the Heathen."

(1) It is absolutely necessary that we set an infinite value on immortal souls;

(2) that we gain all information of the snares and delusions in which these heathen are held;

(3) that we abstain from those things which would increase their prejudice against the Gospel;

(4) that we watch all opportunities of doing good;

(5) that we keep to the example of Paul and make the great subject of our preaching Christ the crucified;

(6) that the natives should have entire confidence in us and feel quite at home in our company;

(7) that we build up and watch over the souls that may be gathered;

(8) that we form our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius and cherishing every gift and grace in them; especially advising the native churches to choose their pastors and deacons from among their own countrymen;

(9) that we labor with all our might in forwarding translations of the sacred Scriptures in the languages of India, and that we establish native free schools and recommend these establishments to other Europeans;

(10) that we be constant in prayer and the cultivation of personal religion to fit us for the discharge of these laborious and unutterably important labors; let us often look at Brainherd, in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for the perishing heathen without whose salvation nothing could make him happy;

(11) that we give ourselves up unreservedly to this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or even the clothes' that we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify them all to God and his cause. Oh, that He may sanctify us for His work! No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness than we have done since we have resolved to have all things in common. If we are enabled to persevere, we may hope that multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His Gospel to this country."

May the Lord cause his church today to pursue His glory and the good of the lost with the zeal of Carey and those who served with him!

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

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

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

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

Princeton, June 21, 1838.

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

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

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

I am, affectionately, yours, &c.

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

Robert Lewis Dabney on the Source of True Courage

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On the first Sunday of June, 1863, Robert Lewis Dabney delivered a memorial sermon for General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in Richmond, Virginia. The sermon (found in Volume 4 of his Discussions as well as individually on Dabney’s page) was entitled “True Courage,” and took as its text Luke 12:4-5, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more than they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him.” Dabney speaks about the true nature of courage, and proceeds to give several reasons why it is the Christian who can be the bravest individual. The second reason is found in God’s special providence, which is over all His creatures - but over them that fear Him, for their good only. Dabney’s description of the providence of God is well worth five minutes of your time today:

By that almighty and omniscient providence, all events are either produced; or at least permitted, limited, and overruled. There is no creature so great as to resist its power, none so minute as to evade its wisdom. Each particular act among the most multitudinous which confound our attention by their number, or the most fortuitous, which entirely baffle our inquiry into the causes, is regulated by this intelligent purpose of God. Even when the thousand missiles of death, invisible to mortal sight, and sent forth aimless by those who launched them, shoot in inexplicable confusion over the battle-field, his eye gives each one an aim and a purpose, according to the plan of his wisdom. Thus teacheth our Saviour.

Now, the child of God is not taught what is the special will of God as to himself; he has no revelation as to the security of his person. Nor does he presume to predict what particular dispensation God will grant to the cause in which he is embarked. But he knows that, be it what it may, it will be wise, and right, and good. Whether the arrows of death shall smite him or pass him by, he knows no more than the unbelieving sinner; but he knows that neither event can happen him without the purpose and will of his Heavenly Father. And that will, be it whichever it may, is guided by divine wisdom and love. Should the event prove a revelation of God's decision, and this was the place, and this the hour, for life to end; then he accepts it with calm submission; for are not the time and place chosen for him by the All-wise, who loves him from eternity? Him who walks in the true fear of God, God loves. He hath adopted him as his son forever, through his faith on the righteousness of the Redeemer. The divine anger is forever extinguished by the atonement of the Lamb of God, and the unchangeable love of God is conciliated to him by the spotless righteousness of his substitute. The preciousness of the unspeakable gift which God gave for his redemption, even the life of the Only-begotten, and the earnest of the Holy Ghost, bestowed upon him at first while a guilty sinner, are the arguments to this believer, of the richness and strength of God's love to him. He knows that a love so eternal, so free, so strong, in the breast of such a God and Saviour, can leave nothing unbestowed, which divine wisdom perceives to be for his true good. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things" (Rom. 8: 32). And this love has enlisted for his safeguard, all the attributes of God, which are the security of his own blessedness.

Why dwelleth the divine mind in ineffable, perpetual peace? Not because there are none to assail it; but because God is conscious in himself of infinite resources, for defense and victory; of a knowledge which no cunning can deceive; of a power which no combination can fatigue. Well, these same attributes, which support the stability of Jehovah's throne, surround the weakest child of God, with all the zeal of redeeming love. "The eternal God is his refuge; and underneath him are the everlasting arms'' (Deut. 33: 27). Therefore saith the Apostle, that the believer hath "his heart and mind garrisoned by the peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). And therefore our Saviour saith, with a literal emphasis of which our faint hearts are slow to take in the full glory: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you" (John 14: 27). In proportion as God's children have faith to embrace the love of God to them, are they lifted in spirit to his very throne, and can look down upon the rage of battle, and the tumult of the people, with some of the holy disdain, the ineffable security, which constitute the blessedness of God. “Their life is hid with Christ in God.”

The 1838 PCUSA (Old School) General Assembly's Pastoral Letter to Foreign Missionaries

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Samuel John Baird, in his famous Digest of the Minutes of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (officially titled A Collection of the Acts, Deliverances, and Testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church From its Origin in America to the Present Time) includes a beautiful pastoral letter from the General Assembly to its foreign missionaries in 1838. It is signed by William Swan Plumer, the Moderator of that Assembly, and John M. Krebs, the Assembly’s Permanent Clerk. Plumer, presumably the author of the letter, calls the attention of the missionaries to eight points of importance (I encourage the reader to read the entirety of each point, found on pages 358-362 of Baird’s Digest):

1. He earnestly exhorts them to aim continually at a high standard of personal piety.
2. He calls them, in imparting a knowledge of the gospel to the heathen, to be careful to communicate its pure and simple doctrines, without any of those additions or modifications which human philosophy, falsely so called, is apt to suggest.
3. He urges them to be careful to let their example at all times manifest the power and purity of the religion you teach.
4. He entreats them to bear in mind that all their labors will be in vain, unless they are accompanied and made effectual by the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. He encourages the foreign missionaries to let the heathen among whom they labor see that they [the missionaries] love them, and that they are intent on promoting their best interest.
6. He recommends to their attention, and to their unceasing prayers, the children of the heathen.
7. He exhorts them to be careful to maintain in all their missions, the worship and order, as well as the doctrine of the Presbyterian Church.
8. He asks them to be diligent in collecting all the information of every kind, which can be considered as bearing on the missionary cause.

Plumer concludes with this word of encouragement:

"Finally, dear brethren, you are engaged in the noblest cause that can employ the attention and efforts of mortals. Be faithful unto death, and you shall receive a crown of life. And unite with us in prayer that the whole Church may, with one heart and one soul, come up to the performance of this great work. We pledge ourselves, in the fear of God, to you and to the heathen world, that, by the favour of the Almighty King of Zion, we will go forward in this cause, and employ all the means which He may put at our disposal, in prosecuting the enterprise before us. May the Lord inspire you with wisdom, and gird you with strength ! And may the Spirit of Missions be poured out in large measures upon all the Churches, that they may all feel their obligation, and all, with one consent, and with united Strength, come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty!”

Do you know a foreign missionary? Forward this post to them, and let them know that you are praying for them with all your heart.

The Duties of a Gospel Minister, by John Holt Rice, is Now Available

Log College Press has just published its latest title, a booklet by John Holt Rice entitled The Duties of a Gospel Minister. Rice (1777-1831) was an American Presbyterian who ministered in Virginia and was instrumental in the early days of Union Theological Seminary. This booklet, with a foreword by Barry Waugh introducing Rice the man and the minister, originally was a sermon preached in 1809. It sets forth the duties of a pastor to his fellow pastors and to the church, as well as laying down motivations for diligence in the work of the ministry. All pastors, whether right out of seminary or near retirement, will be encouraged and instructed by this brief distillation of the pastoral calling.

Here are a few endorsements of Rice’s work:

“Too many works on pastoral ministry are long on worldly pragmatics and short on Biblical practicality. Yet The Duties of a Gospel Minister, though a brief work, is filled with the latter as Rice directs pastors toward a truer Presbyterian approach to the ministry. His section on pastoral ministry to youth – a key factor in awakening in church history – is especially needed in this directionless age.”

– Dr. Barry J. York, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

 “In this startlingly relevant little work, Rice refreshes the minister’s soul as he sets the spiritual beauty of this peculiar calling before his readers anew. Every new minister as well as every tired, world-worn, or discouraged pastor who would be more than a ‘baptized deist’ would do well to take the few minutes required to read this address. Do it, and see how God might use it in your life: to settle your heart; to remind you of the grand proportions, profound significance, and urgent need of your work; and to renew your desire to serve Christ vigorously, ‘with all diligence and fidelity,’ as a minister of ‘unadulterated Christianity’ in His Church and to a desperate and dying world.”

– Dr. Bruce P. Baugus, Associate Professor of Philosophy & Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson

 “A wise man listens to counsel – especially counsel drawn from the Word. While John Holt Rice’s exposition of aspects of ‘The Duties of a Gospel Minister’ was written to a past generation, his application of Scripture is as relevant as ever, challenging us to re-engage the high calling of gospel ministry in Christ for the joy set before us.”

– Dr. William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

You can purchase Rice’s book for $3.99, or all six of our titles for $26 (plus free shipping). Visit our online bookstore today.

Our First Log College Review Article Has Been Posted, Have You Read It Yet?

One of the ideas floating around Log College Press for some time has been to start a “Log College Review” - an online forum for short-form scholarship on the individuals, writings, and theological issues of 18th/19th century American Presbyterianism. By short-form, we mean anything in the 500-2000 word range, something that wouldn’t be long enough to be published in an academic journal, but that carries the same commitment to rigorous academic excellence. We envision a platform for short book reviews and recommendations, both of the primary and secondary literature; for biographical explorations; for discussions of the debates and controversies of the period; for investigations into particular doctrines and streams of thought that marked our Presbyterian forefathers; for studies of homiletical exegesis, systematic formulations, biblical-theological meditations, and experiential discourses.

There are already many wonderful outlets for robust long-form scholarship on American Presbyterianism in annual, quarterly, and monthly journals from seminaries, historical societies, and churchmen such as Chris Coldwell’s The Confessional Presbyterian (don’t miss the most recent issue, with Thomas Dwight Witherspoon as a chief focus). So Log College Review aims to fill a niche for authors who want to engage in writing projects on the 18th/19th century American Presbyterian scene, but whose schedules at this time may only allow them to write shorter articles, or who want to publish pieces more frequently, or who are just starting out in academic writing. We expect the viewpoints of the articles we post to be as varied as the viewpoints of the Presbyterians on the Log College Press website, and we hope to stimulate profitable debate and discussion for the church and the academy.

The first Log College Review article, a brief review of John Williamson Nevin’s book The Anxious Bench, written by Dr. Miles Smith of Regent University, was posted this weekend - you can access it here. We hope to post more articles slowly but surely. If you are a professor, pastor, independent scholar, or student who is interested in 18th/19th century American Presbyterianism and would like to send us a submission, please email it to Caleb Cangelosi (caleb@logcollegepress.com).

If you would like to sign up to receive the Log College Review articles in your email inbox, please visit the Log College Review page. We hope Log College Review will be of value to the people of God, and that through it American Presbyterians will garner a wider audience who will better appreciate all that the modern church has to gain from these saints, who though dead, still speak.

The Gospel of the Incarnation, by William Swan Plumer

William Swan Plumer, the 19th century Southern Presbyterian pastor and theologian, wrote more than most of us have time to read. But you don't want to miss this excerpt from the 21st chapter of his book The Grace of Christ (available here!) on the beauty and glory of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The gospel is richly here, soak in it today and lets it truths permeat your soul:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate, was made under the law, lived, acted, obeyed, suffered died and rose again for his people.

He came down to earth that they might go up to heaven.

He suffered that they might reign.

He became a servant that they might become kings and priests unto God.

He died that they might live.

He bore the cross that their enmity might be slain, and their sins expiated.

He loved them that they might love God.

He was rich and became poor that they, who were poor, might be made rich.

He descended into the lower parts of the earth that they might sit in heavenly places.

He emptied himself that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.

He took upon him human nature that they might be partakers of the divine nature.

He made flesh his dwelling place that they might be an habitation of God through the Spirit.

He made himself of no reputation, that they might wear his new name, and be counted an eternal excellency.

He became a worm, and no man, that they, who were sinful worms, might be made equal to the angels.

He bore the curse of a broken covenant that they might partake of all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.

Though heir of all things, he was willingly despised of the people, that they, who were justly condemned, might obtain and inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

His death was a satisfaction to divine justice, a ransom for many, a propitiation for sin, a sweet smelling savour to God, that we, who were an offense to God, might become his sons and daughters.

He was made sin for his people that they might be made the righteousness of God in him. 

Though Lord of all He took the form of a servant, that they, who were the servants of sin, might prevail like princes with God. 

He, who had made swaddling-clothes bands for the sea, was wrapped in swaddling-clothes that they, who were cast out in their blood, might be clothed in linen white and clean, which is the righteousness of the saints.

He had not where to lay His head that they who otherwise must have laid down in eternal sorrow, might read the mansions in His Father’s house. 

He was beset with lions and bulls of Bashan, that his chosen might be compassed about with an innumerable company of angels and of the spirits of just men made perfect.

He drank the cup of God’s indignation that they might for ever drink of the river of His pleasures.

He hungered that they might eat the bread of life.

He thirsted that they might drink the water of life.

He was numbered with the transgressors that they might stand among the justified, and be counted among the jewels.

He made His grave with the wicked that they might sleep in Jesus.

Though He was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, yet He became a helpless infant, that creatures of yesterday, sentenced to death, might live for ever.

He wore a crown of thorns that all, who love His appearing, might wear a crown of life.

He wept tears of anguish that His elect might weep tears of repentance not to be repented of.

He bore the yoke of obedience unto death that they might find His yoke easy and His burden light.

He poured out His soul unto death, lay three days in the heart of the earth, then burst the bars of death, and arose to God, that they, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, might obtain the victory over the grave and become partakers of His resurrection.

He exhausted the penalty of the law that His redeemed might have access to the inexhaustible treasures of mercy, wisdom, faithfulness, truth and grace promised by the Lord.

He passed from humiliation to humiliation, till He reached the sepulcher of Joseph, that His people might be changed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.

He was matchless in grace that they might be matchless in gratitude.

Though a Son, He became a voluntary exile, that they, who had wickedly wandered afar off, might be brought nigh by His blood.

He was compassed about with all their innocent infirmities that He might perfect His strength in their weakness.

His visage was so marred more than any man, that His ransomed might be presented before God without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

For a time He was forsaken of His Father that they, whom He bought with His blood, might behold the light of God’s countenance forever.

He came and dwelt with them that they might be forever with the Lord.

He was hung up naked before His insulting foes that all, who believe on His name, might wear a glorious wedding garment, a spotless righteousness.

Though He was dead, He is the firstborn among many brethren.

Through His sorrow His people obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away.

Though He endured the worst things, they do and shall forever enjoy the best things

Wonderful mystery! God was manifested in the flesh! Here is no absurdity, no contradiction, no fiction, and yet a mystery that baffles all attempts to solve it, and dazzles all human and angelic vision. Blessed is he, who is not offended in Jesus. Blessed is he, who loves the incarnate mystery, and rests upon it. It is a mystery of love, of power, of salvation. It is the mystery of Godliness. It is the great study of the inhabitants of heaven, and shall be while immortality endures.”

The North and the South Celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly

One of the reasons I started Log College Press was because I like books, especially old books. Another reason was because I like history, especially the history of books about history. I like seeing how past generations thought about the past, and how that thought has changed over time. The fancy name for it is “historiography,” the study of the writing of history, or the study of the methods by which historians practiced their trade, and the interpretations historians throughout history have given to events in the past. I can probably credit my 12th grade AP American History teacher for this part of my intellectual pleasure, because she would frequently teach us not only about the past, but about how various historians viewed the past.

All that to say, I like perusing books like the two published at the end of the 19th century by the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches, that celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Westminster Assembly. The North published Addresses at the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly in 1898, while the South published Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly one year before (both of these volumes are on our Compilations page). Not only do you find in these works in-depth studies of particular topics from the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, but you also learn how approaches to the Confession and to the Assembly have changed over the years.

If you appreciate the Westminster Assembly and its written documents, if you enjoy history, and especially if you are such a history nerd that you love historiography, then you will love reading these two books. They’re free on our site, so download them today.

William Swan Plumer on the Greatness of God's Goodness

William Swan Plumer’s Commentary on the Psalms is filled with nourishment for the soul of the believer. His comments on Psalm 31:19 are a case in point. David writes, “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You…” Plumer remarks:

The goodness here referred to seems to be God’s providential goodness in this life - a sure token indeed of greater goodness yet to come; but yet a great thing in itself. Several things commonly heighten the displays of God’s providential goodness to his saints:

1. Its principal acts are usually very unexpected. At such a time as men look not for him Jehovah appears.

2. It is very seasonable. A day or an hour sooner or later would have quite changed the aspect of the whole event.

3. God’s operations are commonly noiseless. He comes not with observation. God made a world with less noise than man makes a coffin.

4. When God manifests his providential goodness he does it effectually. The enemies are all gone; the victory is complete. Not an Egyptian was left alive at the Red Sea.

5. If means and instruments are used they are so inadequate, so unexpected that our wonder is greatly increased. Ahithophel’s suicide breaks the neck of Absalom’s rebellion.

6. God’s providential goodness to the righteous is by covenant and according to a fixed plan. He always designed to lift up David’s head above all his enemies round about. His goodness is laid up, hidden, reserved, or treasured up for the saints. It is hidden in God’s purpose. It is hidden as treasure of great value. It is laid up as a portion, an inheritance that none but they shall have.

May the Lord grant us faith to commit our souls into the good hands of our sovereign God.

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!

Witherspoon, T. D. - Five Points - Front Cover.jpg
Grafton, C. W. - A Forty Three Year Pastorate - Front Cover.jpg
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Alexander, Archibald - Aging in Grace - Front Cover.jpg
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(Most of) The Writings of John Lafayette Girardeau Are On Log College Press

John Lafayette Girardeau was born on November 14, 1825, nearly two hundred years ago. One of the luminaries of the Southern Presbyterian Church, he is remembered for his faithful ministry to African-Americans both on both sides of the Civil War. Several of his writings can be found on the Log College Press website, but there is one writing we have not yet been able to locate: his Discussion of Theological Questions. This book has been reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, but a scanned original copy has not been found on Archive.org or Google Books (the source of most of the PDFs on our site). This book contains several articles by Girardeau:

  • The Definition of Theology

  • The Distribution or Division of Theology

  • The Ultimate Source, Rule and Judge of Theology

  • The Person of Christ

  • The Doctrine of Adoption

It is the latter article that deserves the most notice, for in it Girardeau interacts with the question of whether Adam was in any sense of a son of God by nature, and considers adoption as an element of the scheme of redemption. As the topic of adoption has come into larger view during the past few decades, it is unfortunate that Girardeau’s essay has fallen out of knowledge. Hopefully we will have a chance one day to find an original copy and scan it ourselves, or some library somewhere will do that for us. Until then, enjoy the rest of Girardeau’s writings!

B. B. Warfield's "Nutshell" Argument for Infant Baptism

Today, November 5, 2018, is the 167th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, the masterful theologian of Princeton Theological Seminary. In honor of his birth we offer this gem of a quote on the topic of infant baptism, taken from his article, “The Polemics of Infant Baptism,” found in Volume 9 of his Works, pp. 389-408 (this article was originally printed in The Presbyterian Quarterly, Volume 13, 1899, pp. 313-334).

Having rightly asserted, “According as is our doctrine of the Church, so will be our doctrine of the Subjects of Baptism” (9:389), Warfield summarizes the Presbyterian position in this way:

So long as it remains true that Paul represents the Church of the Living God to be one, founded on one covenant (which the law could not set aside) from Abraham to today, so long it remains true that the promise is to us and our children and that the members of the visible Church consist of believers and their children - all of whom have a right to all the ordinances of the visible Church, each in its appointed season. The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His Church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinance. Among these ordinances is baptism, which standing in similar place in the New Dispensation to circumcision in the Old, is like it to be given to children.

And we might rightly append, “Q. E. D.”

The Ecclesiastical Catechisms of Alexander McLeod and Thomas Smyth

Most Presbyterians are familiar with the Westminster Shorter/Larger Catechisms, or the Heidelberg Catechism. But have you heard of Ecclesiastical Catechisms? At least two were written by Presbyterians in America in the 19th century: one by Alexander McLeod (1806) and one by Thomas Smyth (1843). (Another was written by Luther Halsey Wilson titled The Pattern of the House; or, A Catechism upon the Constitution, Government, Discipline and Worship of the Presbyterian church, which we hope to add to the site in the future.) These books present the doctrine of the church in question and answer format, so that God's people might more easily understand what the Scriptures teach about the institution that Jesus is building. McLeod and Smyth won't agree on everything (for instance, the number of offices Jesus has appointed in His church), so comparing and contrasting these two documents, written 40 years apart, will undoubtedly be an edifying and rewarding use of your time. 

Note: This blog post was originally published on November 8, 2017 and has been slightly edited.

Do you see your family as a religious institution, and heaven as its model? If not, read Erastus Hopkins.

Erastus Hopkins (1810-1872) was a Princeton Seminary graduate, and a Presbyterian pastor in South Carolina, New York, and Connecticut. His book The Family A Religious Institution: or Heaven the Model of the Christian Family is much needed reading for Christian families today, for in it he reminds us that the family is as truly a religious institution as is the church. After establishing this fact from the Scriptures, and showing how heaven is the model of the family, he examines the family from several different aspects: childhood piety, the habits of childhood, parental duties, the season of parental effort, the culture of childhood obedience, on guiding the affections to God, and the covenantal sign and seal of baptism. How we need to be reminded of these things today - and sometimes hearing it from a voice of a different century is just what we need to be awakened to our duties anew. 

Note: This post was originally published on September 12, 2017, and has been very slightly edited.

What did a 19th century African-American think of Presbyterianism's relationship to African-Americans?

Matthew Anderson entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1874, and was the first black student to reside in the main seminary building. He became the pastor of Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, and in 1897 he wrote Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro. As the 21st century church seeks gospel peace and harmony among various ethnicities, this book would be an interesting and important source from which to learn how our heritage has thought through these issues in years gone by.

In the preface to his work, Anderson remarks, "We have always thought, and we believe rightly, that the Presbyterian Church has an important mission to perform among the colored people of the United States. The doctrines held by the church are the best calculated to correct the peculiar faults of the Negro, his legacy from slavery, and thus give him that independence and decision of character necessary to enable him to act nobly and well his part as a man and a citizen of our great republic" (7-8). In spite of what from our vantage point could be viewed as a paternalistic tone from Anderson toward his own people, yet his conviction is sound: the Presbyterian Church does indeed have a great and important mission to perform among - and the doctrines of our church are best calculated to correct the faults of - white, black, brown and every other color of skin under the sun. 

Ed. note: This post was originally published on July 8, 2017, and has been only slightly edited.