One of the purposes of Log College Press is to encourage God’s people in the 21st century to read the writings of American Presbyterians in the 18th and 19th centuries. But let’s be honest - it’s often difficult for God’s people to find the time and motivation to read 21st century Christian authors. So I want to walk slowly through a book from our site by means of short chapter summaries, in hopes that even if readers of this blog aren’t actually able to download the book and read it for themselves, they will at least have a better idea of what it’s about and benefit from some of its main points. I’m starting with Charles Colcock Jones’ The History of the Church of God in the Period of Revelation, a book I’ve wanted to read for some time. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this experiment as this miniseries proceeds in future weeks, Lord willing.
Jones (1804-1863) was reared in Liberty County, Georgia, in the famous Midway Church. He attended the theological seminaries at Andover and Princeton, graduating in 1830. He is sometimes called the “Apostle to the Slaves” for his missionary efforts among the Africans in the antebellum South. In addition to his evangelistic labors, he also pastored First Presbyterian Church in Savannah (1831-1832), had two stints at Columbia Theological Seminary (1835-1838 and 1847-1850), and was a Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Domestic Missions in Philadelphia (1850-1853). More about Jones can be found in a chapter in Iain Murray’s Heroes, Erskine Clarke’s Dwelling Place, as well as the biographical resources on the Log College Press site (such as Henry Alexander White’s Southern Presbyterian Leaders).
Jones’ History was originally material delivered in his lectures to the classes at Columbia Seminary. Unfortunately, one evening in 1850, his house and all its contents was destroyed by a fire. Writing in his own words in 1860, “We saved nothing but our lives, through the tender mercy of our God. The manuscripts of twenty years, and the Lectures with them, then perished.” He moved to Philadelphia to serve the denomination, but poor health caused him to resign three years later. During the last ten years of his life he devoted himself to rewriting his lectures on the history of the Church. It was a joyful endeavor, giving him something to do with his time that would also be useful to Christ’s kingdom – but it was task completed in the midst of much suffering. Jones’ son, Charles Colcock Jones, Jr., who published the work four years after his father had passed away (and who had hoped to publish a second and concluding volume to this book, a desire that unfortunately never came to fruition — one wonders in what archive the manuscript pages for volume two now resides! — tells us that the work “was prepared by [his father] with a trembling hand, and amid great feebleness and physical depression. It was composed during moments of comparative freedom from pain, in the quiet of his own retired home, and for years occupied his serious thought, careful study, and prayerful consideration.”
As this volume is concerned with the history of the Church in the Old Testament period of revelation, Jones’ work is a rich combination of what we would call today biblical theology and systematic theology. He explains, “It becomes me to advertise [to] the reader that the work is not what is commonly called ‘A Bible History,’ nor is it a connection of Sacred and Profane History, nor is it a History of the Antiquities of the Jews, nor a History of that people as a nation. Their History is necessarily given, but as the visible Church of God. Nor is it a work on Chronology, or Prophecy. It is strictly what it purports to be: a History of the Church of God; and nothing is introduced but what we have thought essential to the proper composition of such a History.” Writing with a particular eye to ordinary members of Christ’s Church, Jones desired his book to be a reference book for the whole family, a source-book filled with answers to a wide array of questions concerning the Church of Jesus Christ. He knew his work could not be comprehensive, but he sought to speak where Scripture spoke, and to do so as plainly as possible. He understood that his interpretations of sacred writ would not be agreed upon by all his readers, but he trusted that the Holy Spirit indwelling all true believers would lead them to the truth.
Thus we embark upon a slow walk-through of a book that deserves to be better known. May the Lord bless these posts to the building up of His body. And of course, better than reading these posts would be to read Jones himself! So click here to download the book and read along with me.