What is the Rule of Our Faith? - Thomas H. Skinner, Jr.

“God is His own interpreter.” — William Cowper

Thomas Harvey Skinner, Jr. (1820-1892) was the son of the senior T.H. Skinner (1791-1871), who was a founder of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Both men were prolific writers; the elder Skinner was a New School Presbyterian, while his son was Old School. For a time the younger Skinner pastored the First Presbyterian Church of Honesdale, Pennsylvania (pictured). In 1859, a controversy erupted in that church over what was to be the rule of the Christian’s faith. It was asked whether the Bible alone should be the rule of our faith, or a rule of our faith, in conjunction with subjective “reason.”

The controversy, sadly, resulted in Rev. Skinner’s departure from the congregation, but in a powerful Farewell Address to his flock, he clearly explained his minority position, describing his conviction that “the Bible is the word of God, the only rule of faith and practice” as the “citadel of the Christian religion…This is the Protestant formula.”

And on another vital point, the interpretation of the Scripture, the determinative authority as to what the Scripture does say and does mean, what say our excellent [Westminster] standards? They teach us that the Bible interprets itself; that God is His own interpreter; that if God has not made His truth plain, so plain, that in all important matters, the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein, man cannot help His Maker; that "God's own word must be as intelligible as any human interpretation of it." So our standards emphatically declare. Hear them on this subject: "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is" — what, my hearers? — reason? conscience? common sense? No, no. "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and, therefore, when there  is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." Oh, that God would give you grace to see the deep, vital necessity there is for contending for this truth, and make you all satisfied with God's own simple word, which shines in its own light, and is its own ornament and glory and defence. For, as has been eloquently said [by Charles Hodge], "If men bring their torches around this pillar of fire, the sacred light goes out, and they are left to their own guidance, and then the blind lead the blind." 

Rev. Skinner went on to minister to other Presbyterian churches and to serve as a professor at Northwestern (now McCormick) Theological Seminary. According to his obituary, which appeared in the July 1892 issue of The Presbyterian and Reformed Review and was authored by John DeWitt, towards the end of his life Skinner was given a new position at the seminary, specially created for him, called the “Chair of Divinity.” “For two years he performed his duties, lecturing during the first half of each seminary session on the ‘Rule of Faith.’” So important was the Protestant analogy of faith to Skinner that he made it the special focus of his seminary instruction to the very end of his life. In an age of reason, it was the very rock upon which he stood.

"Let Him Who Loves Me Follow Me": A Story by E.D. Warfield

Ethelbert Dudley Warfield (1861-1936) was the younger brother of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (visit their pages to see how alike their pictures are!). After studying and practicing law, E.D. Warfield would go on to serve in other capacities such as a Presbyterian minister and ruling elder, and as president of Miami (Ohio) University, Lafayette College and Wilson College, as well as a director of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Among his varied and interesting writings, many of which are fascinating histories, today we highlight At the Evening Hour: Simple Talks on Spiritual Subjects (1898) and, in particular, a story that he tells at the beginning, which is inspirational. This and other stories from this volume are derived from his Sabbath afternoon addresses to the students at Lafayette College, and were published with the aim to “bring a message of cheer to others who are seeking to live for Christ and his service.”

In April 1512, Warfield tells us, the French were facing a Spanish-Papal States alliance in Italy, at Ravenna, as part of the War of the Holy League. Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours, and nephew of King Louis XII of France, led the French forces as an extremely capable military commander, and though young (in his early twenties), he was known as “the Thunderbolt of Italy,” and was beloved by his men. De Foix died an heroic, gallant death in this battle, even as he led his soldiers to victory (though the French would soon be forced to vacate Italy).

The battle was waged with varying fortune. At length, when the triumph of the French seemed assured, there came a change in the tide of battle. Two battalions of the Spanish infantry, the wonder of the age, were about to break through their all but victorious foemen. The young general determined to avert this, and prepared to lead a charge. Those about him strove to prevent so hazardous an adventure, but in vain. As they still urged him, pressing round him on the field, he suddenly broke from them, crying, "Let him who loves me follow me!" and spurred upon the foe. For a moment they paused. Then every gentleman of France, every battle-scarred mercenary, every stout burgher and peasant pikeman, followed where he led, with that brave call, "Let him who loves me follow me!" ringing in his ears.

The Spaniards, not used to falter, faltered at that shock; the lions of Aragon and the castles of Castile gave way before the lilies of France, and the trumpets and clarions pealed forth gladly the notes of triumph. But the noblest lay round their leader slain. They had heard his call, "Let him who loves me follow me!" and they had followed him to "death and glorious victory." They followed him, even unto death, for the love they bore him. They followed him, they died with him, though with them perished the cause they served.

Louis, when he heard the story of that fatal field, exclaimed that he would rather have lost Italy than that gallant boy. Well might he say so, for in losing him he lost Italy.

Across the centuries comes the call of one who hath loved us unto the death, bidding us follow him. We have not loved him first, but he has loved us, even from the foundation of the world. He saith to us, "If any man will come after me, let him . . . take up his cross, and follow me."

Who is this that speaks to us thus? He is the Captain of our salvation. His right to our allegiance is absolute, because he is the Son of God. But he does not base his call on this claim, which he might justly assert, but on the character of the service. It is a good service, a service in itself joyous, in which those who are employed are ennobled by the cause they serve, and in which victory is sure.

The men who followed Gaston de Foix on that memorable day knew that they were doing a foolhardy thing; they did not know that it would be a thing remembered through many generations. They knew it was to end in almost certain death; they did not know that it was to be crowned with glory. They followed, not for glory, nor for the fruits of victory, but for the love of him who called them. Theirs was a hard service, and its reward was death.

Those who follow Christ know that they are doing the wisest possible act; they are able to read in the countless examples of men in many generations the results of such a following of him. They know that it means effort, constant, unfailing courage, boldness, faithfulness. They know that it means the giving up of all sinful pleasures; but they know also that it means, even in this world, triumph; that the Christian wins from all good men respect and confidence, and wrings from bad men even a grudging, but no less real, trust and acknowledgment of qualities which they do not covet, yet must needs admire; and, at the end, fearless death, and, as we confidently believe, endless life beyond the grave. The Christian does not need to take thought how he shall die bravely, for he who has lived well need take no thought how he shall die.

Check Out the Writings of Geerhardus Vos at Log College Press

Log College Press has been working to add more literature by Geerhardus Vos to our site. In the past week, we have added around 20 new PDFs, which include some of his shorter writings published in The Princeton Theological Review.

In many of these essays, he examined a number of exegetical and eschatological issues, and these works have been republished under various titles. Here the original works are available to download for free.

It was John Murray who said that "Dr. Vos is, in my judgment, the most penetrating exegete it has been my privilege to know, and I believe, the most incisive exegete that has appeared in the English-speaking world in this century."

Take time to peruse his works at Log College Press. His writings are a treasure that the church can benefit from in the 21st century as it did in the 19th and 20th.

A Thought on Legalism by Geerhardus Vos

Geerhardus Vos wrote much on the epistle to the Hebrews. In one particular essay published in The Princeton Theological Review (Jan. 1916), titled “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke” (Part 2), Vos makes an insightful observation about the nature of legalism that is worth pondering.

Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore. And no deeper notes of adoration have ever been struck than those inspired by the Reformed Faith, no finer fruit of the lips making confession to God’s name has ever been placed upon the Christian altar.

Happy Birthday to Samuel Davies!

The “Apostle of Virginia” — Samuel Davies — was born at Summit Ridge in New Castle County, Delaware, on November 3, 1723. His parents were Thomas and Martha Davies, at the time Baptists of Welsh heritage. As the time of Samuel’s birth drew near, “his mother…had special occasion for the exercise of her faith, in waiting for the answer to her petition” (Appendix, Sermons on Important Subjects, Vol. 1, p. xxxi).

Samuel later told his friend Thomas Gibbons (as reported in Gibbons’ “Divine Conduct Vindicated,” ibid, p. 22): “That he was blessed with a mother whom he might account, without filial vanity or partiality, one of the most eminent saints he knew upon earth. And here, says he, I cannot but mention to my friend an anecdote known but to few; that is, that I am a son of prayer, like my name-sake Samuel the prophet; and my mother called me Samuel because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord, 1 Sam. i.20. This early dedication to God has always been a strong inducement to me to devote myself by my own personal act; and the most important blessing of my life I have looked upon as immediate as immediate answers to the prayer of a pious mother. But, alas! What a degenerate plant am I! How unworthy am I of such a parent and such a birth!”

Samuel Davies would go on to be noted as “the first Presbyterian minister east of the Shenandoah and Appalachian mountains to be lawfully licensed in Virginia…active in promoting the flames of revival throughout Virginia for over a decade…one of the first American ministers to actively labor among the African slaves…he started a mission to the Overhill Cherokees along the western borders of North Carolina and South Carolina…his sermons were among the most popular in print for nearly a century after his death…[and] he was the fourth President of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton College or Princeton University)” (Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia, pp. 21-22).

We remember his birth, life, work and legacy on this day, as a man who was indeed a “son of prayer.”

College Basketball and Presbyterians

In a week where the World Series has wound down and the college basketball season gears up in America, it is worth recalling that once upon a time there were strong connections between the sport of basketball and Presbyterians.

The Rev. Dr. James Naismith - the man who invented basketball (and who is credited by some with inventing the football helmet) - was a medical doctor, Presbyterian minister, ruling elder and chaplain. It was in 1891, while at serving at Springfield (Mass.) YMCA as a physical education instructor, that he originated the game that has become so popular around the world.

A Canadian-American, he received his degree in theology from Montreal’s Presbyterian College. He would later serve “as chaplain in the Army National Guard and as a volunteer chaplain in France during World War I.” He also served as a ruling elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Lawrence, Kansas, where he would preach - and he preached at other churches as well. Not unlike Eric Liddell, James Naismith was a believer in the concept of “muscular Christianity”: strong mind, strong body, strong spirit. Naismith wrote the original rule book for the game he invented, which you can read at here, along with his posthumously-published Basketball: Its Origin and Development.

It is in the latter volume that he identifies the place where basketball was first played at the college level: Geneva College of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

"Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the University of Iowa both played basketball in the season of 1892. Which of these two colleges may claim the first game, I do not know. Mr. C.O. Beamis [sic], a Springfield boy, had gone to Geneva College as a physical director. Beamis had seen the game played in the Training School gymnasium while he was home on a vacation. He realized that it might solve the need of a winter activity in his school. I told him of the success we had and explained to him the fundamentals of the game. On his return to Beaver Falls he started the game in Geneva College; it is my belief, therefore, that this college was the first to play basketball” (Naismith, Basketball: Its Origin and Development, p. 118). [Charles O. Bemies was the first athletic director at Geneva College.]

David Carson adds with more precision: “The first college basketball game in the United States was played at Geneva on April 8, 1893, when Geneva defeated the New Brighton YMCA” (Carson, Pro Christi et Patria: A History of Geneva College, p. 33).

Basketball today is quite different from its 19th century beginnings in many ways. But the Presbyterian heritage of this sport is not to be forgotten.

Happy Birthday to Samuel Miller!

It was 249 years ago today, on October 31, 1769, that Samuel Miller was born in Dover, Delaware to the Rev. John and Margaret Miller. From the two-volume biography of his life by his son, Samuel Miller, Jr., we may learn about his early years.

The elder Samuel Miller (then known as “Sammy”) was a young witness to history having been present at the State House in Philadelphia (Independence Hall) at the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He watched as George Washington, and many other founding fathers, some of whom were friends of his father, entered and departed while the work of preparing the US Constitution was going on. He was also a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1789 while the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was meeting and working to revise the standards of the church. Miller’s friend — and later, colleague — Dr. John Rodgers played an important role at that Assembly (Miller was Rodgers’ biographer). He also developed close ties at this time to Dr. Ashbel Green, whose advice and counsel to young Miller would prove important as he entered upon his theological studies.

Miller was just beginning his pastoral career as the 18th century was coming to a close. In this period of his youth he would embrace some things that he later repudiated (Freemasonry, Thomas Jefferson) while he took an early stand in 1797 promoting the freedom of slaves as well as their protection after receiving freedom. After preaching a New Year’s sermon on January 1, 1801, Miller was inspired to publish a remarkable work in two volumes: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803). More volumes were projected but not completed. However, the value of this comprehensive look at the various progress and accomplishments in a diversity of fields within the preceding century earned Miller great respect as an academic, as well as the degree of Doctor of Divinity from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and Union College, and also membership in the prestigious Philological Society of Manchester, England.

Miller’s life and career as a pastor-educator (he became the second professor to serve on the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary) would go on to span another nearly 50 years. The young American Republic became established and grew during this period, while Miller’s beloved Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) would undergo several significant upheavals, before Miller entered his eternal rest on January 7, 1850.

We have written much about the life and works of Samuel Miller previously here at Log College Press, but on the occasion of his 249th birthday, it worth taking note of his early beginnings. To read more about Samuel Miller, please consult:

  • Samuel Miller, Jr., The Life of Samuel Miller (2 vols.);

  • John DeWitt, The Intellectual Life of Samuel Miller;

  • Henry A. Boardman, A Discourse Commemorative of the Character and Life of the Late Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D. of Princeton, New Jersey; and

  • William B. Sprague, A Discourse Commemorative of the Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D.

Archibald Alexander's Aging in Grace is Now Available!

Exciting news from Log College Press! Our newest booklet is now available for purchase: Archibald Alexander, Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life.

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This is a small collection of letters originally appended to Alexander’s spiritual classic, Thoughts on Religious Experience. Together, they constitute a wonderful, pastoral encouragement to those in the “autumn of life,” written when Alexander himself was in his 70s. Here he candidly addresses the sorrows, trials and temptations of old age, while offering Biblical wisdom, encouragement, and practical counsel to his fellow aged friends. This counsel, thought written over 150 years ago, is equally applicable today.

To order this booklet for yourself, or for a loved one, visit our Bookstore today. Besides the booklet format ($3.99 plus shipping), one may also order this work in Kindle or EPUB formats ($2.99 each). Because this is our fifth volume, we are also offering a “Pastor’s Package” special, which includes all five volumes ($22 + free shipping). This is a special opportunity that you don’t want to miss!

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Alexander’s Aging in Grace tackles the challenges of old age honestly, from first-hand experience, and in a series of five letters, empathizes with the struggles we face in this stage of life, while offering cautions and encouragements to move forward in the path of obedience and duty. Most helpfully, he highlights how mature saints can help guide those that are younger, and emphasizes how our lives and labors, most particularly at this advanced stage of life, are not less valuable in the service of Christ the King and his church, but in fact more so. Alexander reminds us that there are special ministry opportunities that are unique to those in the autumn of life.

Read what others have said about this booklet:

"While grateful that the letters of Archibald Alexander to the aged have been made available to our Lord’s church, I am also overjoyed as a pastor that I now have them as an excellent asset for discipleship and encouragement to the Titus 2 'older men and women,' as well as an instrument of insight for the Titus 2 'young men and women' in our Lord’s church." - Harry L. Reeder, III, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama

"...Filled with keen insight into the physical, mental and spiritual conditions that accompany and come to define growing older, these letters should be required reading for Christians entering their fifties and older, their children and those who minister to all ages. Far beyond pious platitudes, Alexander offers not only comfort and warning regarding approaching the end of life but extremely helpful and realistic suggestions to make these years productive and richly satisfying." - Dr. W. Andrew Hoffecker, Emeritus Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary 
 
"...In a time when many want to deny the approach of old age, Alexander’s letters are an honest, refreshing, and helpful encouragement to grow in God’s grace at all ages and to serve Christ faithfully to the end. The younger generation in the church will always need mature saints who take to heart what is written in these pages." - Mr. Wiley Lowry, Minister of Pastoral Care at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

The Protestant Reformation in the Writings of 19th Century American Presbyterians

To commemorate what is arguably the greatest event in church history since Pentecost, Log College Press wishes to highlight select works by early American Presbyterians which relate to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation:

  • Ezra Hall Gillett (1823-1875)The Life and Times of John Huss (1864) – This is a good introduction to the Bohemian (Czech) proto-Reformer, John Huss.

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)Aonio Paleario and His Friends, With a Revised Edition of "The Benefits of Christ's Death" (1866) – This is an interesting work which contains both a biography of the Italian Reformer, Paleario, and an edited version of the great Italian spiritual classic that was long attributed to him (modern scholarship now attributes authorship of “The Benefit of Christ” to Benedetto Fontanini, also known as Benedetto da Mantova (1495-1556)).

  • William Maxwell Blackburn (1828-1898)William Farel, and the Story of the Swiss Reform (1867) – A fascinating look at the life of the Swiss Reformer, William Farel, who with his friend John Calvin, so influenced Geneva and the world.

  • Henry Martyn Baird (1832-1906)Theodore Beza: The Counsellor of the French Reformation, 1519-1605 (1899) – The classic biography of the French Reformer Theodore Beza, who became Geneva’s spiritual leader after the death of John Calvin.

  • Thomas Carey Johnson (1859-1936)John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation (1900) – An important biography of the great French Reformer and spiritual leader of Geneva, John Calvin.

  • B.B. Warfield (1851-1921)The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance  (1917) – Originally published in The Princeton Theological Review in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Reformation, this is a fascinating study of the document by Martin Luther that launched the Reformation on October 31, 1517.

  • Thomas Ephraim Peck (1822-1893), Martin Luther (1895) - This biographical lecture about the great Reformer was originally delivered in 1872, and is here found in Vol. 1 of Peck’s Miscellanies.

  • John William Mears (1825-1881), The Beggars of Holland and the Grandees of Spain: A History of the Reformation in the Netherlands, From A.D. 1200 to 1578 (1867) - This is another comprehensive look at the Dutch Reformation, and in particular, what lead up to it.

Note: This blog post was originally published on October 31, 2017, and has been edited.

William S. Plumer on the Offices of Christ

There are two volumes published by William Swan Plumer which examine in great deal the mediatorial offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, both of which merit in-depth study by those who wish to delve into this important aspect of Christology.

The first is an abridgment of an original work by George Stevenson (1771-1841), a Scottish divine who was instrumental in the founding of the Associate Synod of Original Seceders, having written the doctrinal part of its 1827 Testimony (the historical portion of the Testimony was written by Thomas M’Crie the Elder). Stevenson’s original work, The Offices of Christ, was first published in Scotland in 1834, with a second edition following posthumously in 1845, and it has received high acclaim. Plumer published his abridgment with the same title in 1840. The 1845 edition has over 500 pages of material, while Plumer’s abridgment tops out at around 150 pages.

The second is an original work by Plumer titled The Rock of Our Salvation: A Treatise Respecting the Natures, Person, Offices, Work, Sufferings, and Glory of Jesus Christ (1867). It covers many additional aspects of the person and work of Christ beyond his mediatorial offices (see here for our previous notice of this work along with a table of contents), but the portion covering the mediatorial offices constitutes just under 80 pages out of a volume that is over 500 pages in length. His practical lessons for Christians after examining Christ as Priest and King are very devotional and encouraging.

Together these works represent a synthesis of Scottish and Southern Presbyterian (though Plumer was born in Pennsylvania, he ministered and taught a great deal in the South and is considered to be “one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church”) perspectives on the mediatorial offices of Christ. And though neither Stevenson nor Plumer was a Reformed Presbyterian (or Covenanter), a Reformed Presbyterian in the vein of William Symington (author of the classic work on Christ’s kingship, Messiah the Prince (1840), would find in their works much with which to happily agree on the kingly office of Christ, particularly regarding the universal scope of his dominion and reign. (Another similar Scottish-Southern Presbyterian take on the universal dominion of Christ in his kingly office as mediator can be found in the Sermons of Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, republished by Sprinkle Publications.)

Presbyterians of all branches and stations would do well to read Plumer / Stevenson on the offices of Christ. These works will help to enrich your understanding of the work that Christ performed and continues to perform to accomplish our redemption.

Thomas Murphy's Recommended Pastoral Library

The following is a list of recommended books that should be had and consulted by the Christian minister in his library, prepared by Thomas Murphy, an Irish-American Presbyterian, who was born in Country Antrim in 1823 and died in New Jersey in 1900. Many of the authors he cites in his most valuable Pastoral Theology, pp. 144-147, not surprisingly, are to be found here at Log College Press. This guide can be useful to all Christians, but especially if you are a pastor or seeking to become one, take note of the authors and titles and links below.

In order to give some assistance in the selection of books, we would name a few upon the respective branches of ministerial study. We pass by general reading and culture, for it is with the minister in his special calling as pastor that we are now concerned. We give only a few authors as many as may serve at the beginning of the ministry a sort of indispensable apparatus for commencing the great work. At least, the pastor's library should be stocked with most of these as soon as circumstances will allow. The books we name have been well tried, and are recommended by persons whose judgment is worthy of confidence.

1. Books of general reference….

2. Interpretation of Scripture….

3. Commentaries. On the whole Bible, [Matthew] Henry's Commentary; Critical and Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Faussett and Brown; [Johann Peter] Lange's great Bible work is a thesaurus of scriptural exposition which may be secured as the wants of the pastor require. Many of the best expositors have written on only one or a few books of Scripture. A detailed list of some of the most useful of these may now be given: On Genesis, [James Gracey] Murphy, [Melancthon Williams] Jacobus, [George] Bush; on Exodus, Murphy, Jacobus, Bush; on Leviticus, Bush, [Andrew] Bonar; on Numbers, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Deuteronomy, Keil and Delitzsch; on the whole Pentateuch, [John] Calvin; on Joshua and Judges, Bush, Keil and Delitzsch; on Ruth and Samuel, Keil and Delitzsch; on Esther, [Thomas] McCrie [the Elder]; on Job, [Albert] Barnes; on Psalms, Barnes, Calvin; on Proverbs, [Charles] Bridges, [Moses] Stuart; on Ecclesiastes, Bridges; on Song of Solomon, Newton; on Isaiah, Barnes, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on Jeremiah and Lamentations, [Ebenezer] Henderson; on Ezekiel, [Patrick] Fairbairn; on Daniel, Barnes, [Karl August] Auberl[e]n, Stuart; on the minor prophets,  Henderson; on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi[T.V.] Moore; on the four Evangelists, John J. Owen; on Matthew and Mark, [Joseph Addison] Alexander; on John, [George] Hutch[e]son; on Acts[Joseph Addison] Alexander, [Horatio Balch] Hackett, Jacobus; on Romans, [Charles] Hodge, [Samuel Hulbeart] Turner; on Corinthians[Charles] Hodge; on Galatians, [Martin] Luther; on Ephesians[Charles] Hodge; on Philippians and Colossians, [John] Eadie; on Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barnes; on Hebrews, Stuart, [John] Owen; on James, Barnes, [Robert Everett?] Pattison; on Peter, Barnes and [Robert] Leighton; on John and Jude, Barnes; on Revelation, Stuart, Barnes and Auberl[e]n.

4. TheologySystematic Theology, by [Charles] Hodge; [George] Hill's Divinity; [Timothy] Dwight's Theology; [John] Dick's Theology; Outlines of Theology, by A. A. Hodge; [Benedict] Pictet's Theology.

5. Church History. [Johann Lorenz] Mosehim's Ecclesiastical History; [W.G.T.] Shedd's History of Doctrines; [Johann Heinrich] Kurtz's Sacred History; [Philip] Schaff's Apostolic Church; [Thomas] McCrie's [the Elder] Life of Knox; History of the Church in Chronological Tables, [Henry Boynton] Smith; The Ancient Church, by Dr. [William Dool] Killen; [Jean-Henri Merle] D'Aubigne's Histories.

6. Church Government and the Sacraments[Samuel] Miller on the Christian Ministry; [Samuel} Miller on the Ruling ElderPrimitive Church Officers, J.A. Alexander; [Richard] Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; [Lyman] Coleman's Primitive Church

7. Sermons. This field is a boundless one, and we give only a few books which are known to be of standard value: [Robert] South's Sermons; Robert Hall's Sermons; Sermons of John M. Mason — these should be read by all means; [Samuel Davies’] Sermons; Archibald Alexander's Practical Sermons; Gospel in Ezekiel, [Thomas] Guthrie; Principal [William] Cunningham's Sermons, amongst the best in the language; [Charles] Spurgeon's Sermons; Bishop [Samuel] Horsley's Sermons, among the best.

8. Practical Piety. [Lady Rachel] Russell's Letters; [Samuel] Rutherford's Letters; [Thomas] A Kempis; [John Angell] James's Earnest Ministry; [Octavius] Winslow's Precious Things of God; [Richard] Baxter's Reformed Pastor; Daily Meditations by [George] Bowen; Owen on the Glory of Christ — a work of pre-eminent value; Owen on Spiritual-Mindedness — Dr. [Archibald] Alexander said this should be read once a year; [John] Howe's Delight in God; [John] Flavel's Keeping the Heart.

9. Christian Biography. Lives of [Robert Murray] McCheyne, [Charles] Simeon, Henry Martyn, [Thomas] Hal[y]burton, Archibald Alexander.

10. Great Puritan Writers. John Howe -- all of his works. Says James W. Alexander, "A little reading in the pages of great thought will sometimes set one thinking, as if by a happy contagion. Such pages are those of John Howe." Owen, especially on Hebrews Dr. Mason used to say all his theology was from this. Some of his most valuable productions are on "Spiritual-Mindedness," on the "Glory of Christ," on "Forgiveness of Sin," "Indwelling Sin," and "Mortification of Sin;" Baxter, especially his "Saints Rest" and "Reformed Pastor," Leighton's works; Flavel's works highly recommended; and [Stephen] Charnock on the "Divine Attributes." 

11. On Sabbath-school Work. "Sunday-School Idea" ([John Seely] Hart); "Sabbath -School Index" ([Richard Gay] Pardee); "Preparing to Teach" (Presbyterian Board).

The minister who has secured most of these books is furnished with the best of reading for many a day, and with authorities on almost all subjects that can come before him in his profession. Of other authors he will find out the value in the progress of his ministry, and purchase them as new wants arise. It was an excellent advice of Dr. Archibald Alexander that ministers should buy books only as they are actually needed, and not to be stored away on the shelves of the library for future use. Our last advice is to be sure of getting only the standard and very best authors.

J.W. Alexander: Remember to pray for your pastor

James Waddel Alexander reminds us what a privilege it is to lift our pastors before the heavenly throne to receive grace and blessing from above upon the ministry of Christ’s word:

The primary advantage of family-prayer to the church, is that it is answered. It is no small thing for any congregation to have daily cries for God's blessings on it ascending from a hundred firesides. What a spring of refreshment to a pastor! The family-devotions of praying Kidderminster, no doubt, made [Richard] Baxter a better minister, and a happier man; and it is possible that we are reaping the fruits of them, in his "Saints' Rest," and "Dying Thoughts." We have all heard of the preacher who told his flock that he had "lost his prayer-book," meaning their prayers; as also that good quaint saying of the last age, "A praying people makes a preaching minister." Such aid has been well compared to that of Aaron and Hur. Faithful and affectionate Christians never fail to remember their spiritual guide in their household supplications. (Thoughts on Family Worship, pp. 148-149)

The Man Who Coined the TULIP Acrostic: Cleland Boyd McAfee

Although many credit Loraine Boettner (1901-1990) in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (1932) with originating the acrostic for the Five Points of Calvinism known as TULIP, it is believed that the real originator was instead Cleland Boyd McAfee (1866-1944)who did so in 1905 (whose TULIP was a slightly different version than that of Boettner). More widely known for his study of the King James Version of the Bible, and other works, McAfee is a 19th century American Presbyterian worth getting to know. Visit here for more information on his life and works. 

Note: This blog post was originally published on January 24, 2018 and has been very slightly edited.

October 22, 1880: William S. Plumer Entered Into Glory

It was at 3:20 am on Friday, October 22, 1880, that William Swan Plumer breathed his last in a hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland after complications from kidney stone surgery.

His daughters wrote a memorial to their father describing his last days in which they recounted some of his last words: “‘When I first knew of the operation, my faith was as a mountain that could not be shaken. Then for awhile my thoughts were of man; but since I have been here I have never had in my life such clear manifestations of divine love.’ Again: ‘I did not want to die without giving my testimony on this bed that God is a faithful God.’”

His body was afterwards transported by train and laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, next to his wife’s, where their earthly remains await the great Resurrection. His tombstone reads: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil. i.21. A tablet erected to his memory in the First Presbyterian Church of Petersburg, Virginia, where he ministered for 4 years, also reads:

“Strengthened with might by His power.”

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”

Plumer once mused following a return visit to his old childhood home:

How short is life! It is a vapour, a shadow, a tale that is told. Fifty years have passed since I roamed over these fields, and bathed in these waters, and yet that whole time seems like a dream. All flesh is grass. Most of the companions of my early life have already gone beyond the bounds of time. Soon earth will know none of us any more forever.

How certain is death. None escape. The young and healthy may die; the old and sickly must. None can long withstand the assaults of disease. The grave-yard has filled up wonderfully.

What a Saviour we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! How wisdom and tenderness, power and love, grace and truth, shine out in him. “He is still in office for us; he pleads our cause before his Father; he rules the universe for our welfare; and he teaches us wisdom." Blessed one! how we ought to love him.

If we are in Christ, what a blessed meeting we shall soon have with all the redeemed in glory. Many of the best friends I ever had are gone before me. I sympathize with good old Richard Baxter when he says: "I must confess, as the experience of my own soul, that the expectation of loving my friends in heaven principally kindles my love to them while on earth. If I thought I should never know them, and consequently never love them after this life is ended, I should number them with temporal things, and love them as such; but I now converse with my pious friends in a firm persuasion that I shall converse with them forever; I take comfort in those that are dead or absent, believing that I shall shortly meet them in heaven, and love them with a heavenly love." It would be easy to make out a list of such old friends large enough to cover many pages. Their memory is precious. I hope soon to see them, and unite with them in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Words of Truth and Love [1867], pp. 51-52, 58-59).

The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism, Part Two

Previously, we have highlighted the important 1853 edition of The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by William Louis Roberts (1798-1864). Today we focus on the 1912 edition of The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Upon the Mediatorial Kingdom of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ) composed primarily by the chairman of the committee assigned to the task, George Alexander Edgar (1865-1927), a Belfast-born leader of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

Whereas the earlier catechism, which was almost 200 pages long, identified twelve “peculiar and more prominent” doctrines of the RPCNA by which it is distinguished from other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, the 1912 edition (26 pages long) is comprised of 146 questions and answers divided into nine general categories:

  1. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom

  2. The Bible - The Law of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom

  3. Covenanting - The Subject’s Acceptance of the Divine Law

  4. The Family

  5. The Church

  6. The Nation

  7. The Relation of Church and State

  8. Voluntary Associations

  9. Christian Living

The primary means by which the particular doctrines of the RPCNA are presented is through the lens of Christ’s mediatorial kingship over all the institutions over which he has created and governs - i.e., the family, the church and the state. In this way, His authority over all these institutions and the precepts which He gives us through Scripture are upheld.

The 1912 Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by Edgar serves as a good introduction to what the RPCNA historically believes, whereas the 1853 Reformed Presbyterian Catechism by Roberts is very in-depth examination of the most of the same territory. Both have their place both are here commended for the study of historic Reformed Presbyterian doctrine.

God's Light on Dark Clouds - Theodore L. Cuyler

Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was, like his Savior, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” which served him as he ministered to others in their grief, as we have noted before, including his The Empty Crib: A Memorial of Little Georgie. With Words of Consolation For Bereaved Parents (1868). Besides losing two infant children of his own, as he notes in his autobiographical Recollections of a Long Life, he lost a daughter at the age of 22:

Fourteen years afterwards, in the autumn of 1881, ‘the four corners of my house were smitten’ again with a heart-breaking bereavement in the death, by typhoid fever, of our second daughter, Louise Ledyard Cuyler, at the age of twenty-two, who possessed a most inexpressible beauty of person and character. Her playful humor, her fascinating charm of manner, and her many noble qualities drew to h he admiration of a large circle of friends, as well as the pride of our parental hearts. After her departure I wrote, through many tears, a small volume entitled God's Light on Dark Clouds, with the hope that it might bring some rays of comfort into those homes that were shadowed in grief.

His classic work of comfort for the wounded and the bereaved begins with a very personal and intimate insight that is shared from experience and resonates still (and is reminiscent of William Cowper’s God Moves in a Mysterious Way):

TO-DAY as I sit in my lonely room, this passage of God's Word flies in like a white dove through the window: "And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds; but the wind passeth and cleanseth [or cleareth] them." [Job 37:21] To my weak vision, dimmed with tears, the cloud is exceeding dark, but through it stream some rays from the infinite love that fills the Throne with an exceeding and eternal brightness of glory. By and by we may get above and behind that cloud into the overwhelming light. We shall not need comfort then; we want it now. And for our present consolation God lets through the clouds some clear, strong, distinct rays of love and gladness.

One truth that beams in through the vapors is this: God not only reigns, but He governs His world by a most beautiful law of compensations. He setteth one thing over against another. Faith loves to study the illustrations of this law, notes them in her diary, and rears her pillars of praise for every fresh discovery. I have noticed that the deaf often have an unusual quickness of eyesight; the blind are often gifted with an increased capacity for hearing; and sometimes when the eye is darkened and the ear is closed, the sense of touch becomes so exquisite that we are able to converse with the sufferer through that sense alone. This law explains why God puts so many of His people under a sharp regimen of hardship and burden-bearing in order that they may be sinewed into strength; why a Joseph must be shut into a prison in order that he may be trained for a palace and for the premiership of the kingdom. Outside of the Damascus Gate I saw the spot where Stephen was stoned into a cruel death; but that martyr blood was not only the "seed of the Church," but the first germ of conviction in the heart of Saul of Tarsus. This law explains the reason why God often sweeps away a Christian's possessions in order that he may become rich in faith, and why He dashes many persons off the track of prosperity, where they were running at fifty miles the hour, in order that their pride might be crushed, and that they might seek the safer track of humility and holy living. What a wondrous compensation our bereaved nation is receiving for the loss of him who was laid the other day in his tomb by the lakeside! That cloud is already raining blessings, and richer showers may be yet to come. God's people are never so exalted as when they are brought low, never so enriched as when they are emptied, never so advanced as when they arc set back by adversity, never so near the crown as when under the cross. One of the sweetest enjoyments of heaven will be to review our own experiences under this law of compensations, and to see how often affliction worked out for us the exceeding weight of glory.

There is a great want in all God's people who have never had the education of sharp trial. There are so many graces that can only be pricked into us by the puncture of suffering, and so many lessons that can only be learned through tears, that when God leaves a Christian without any trials, He really leaves him to a terrible danger. His heart, unploughed by discipline, will be very apt to run to the tares of selfishness, and worldliness, and pride. In a musical instrument there are some keys that must be touched in order to evoke its fullest melodies; God is a wonderful organist, who knows just what heart-chord to strike. In the Black Forest of Germany a baron built a castle with two lofty towers. From one tower to the other he stretched several wires, which in calm weather were motionless and silent. When the wind began to blow, the wires began to play like an AEolian harp in the window. As the wind rose into a fierce gale, the old baron sat in his castle and heard his mighty hurricane-harp playing grandly over the battlements. So, while the weather is calm and the skies clear, a great many of the emotions of a Christian's heart are silent. As soon as the wind of adversity smites the chords, the heart begins to play; and when God sends a hurricane of terrible trial you will hear strains of submission and faith, and even of sublime confidence and holy exultation, which could never have been heard in the calm hours of prosperity. Oh, brethren, let the winds smite us, if they only make the spices flow; let us not shrink from the deepest trial, if at midnight we can only sing praises to God!

If we want to know what clouds of affliction mean and what they are sent for, we must not flee away from them in fright with closed ears and bandaged eyes. Fleeing from the cloud is fleeing from the Divine love that is behind the cloud.

If you are seeking a balm for your soul, take up Cuyler’s classic, God’s Light on Dark Clouds. There is a profound wisdom and Scriptural comfort to be found here that brings light to dark places even a century and a half after it was written.

Hughes Oliphant Old on Log College Press Men

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.”

A Sabbath Afternoon Read for the Family from James R. Boyd

Are you seeking something edifying to read this Sabbath afternoon with your family? Consider The Child’s Book on the Westminster Shorter Catechism by James Robert Boyd. He designed it as a supplemental catechism for students 12 and under with the aim of reviewing the great divine truths found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. He suggests that a half an hour on Sabbath afternoons be given to the study of this little book as a method of stirring up consideration religious conversation and promoting the spiritual interests of the family.

This is a good exercise for the family consistent with the aim of the Sabbath (see Boyd on the Fourth Commandment). And this is a means of involving the whole family in discussion of those matters which all should know about the basic divine truths of Christianity. Not meant to replace, but to supplement, the study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this little volume is a means of reinforcing the knowledge that every member of the family should know and can be used to stimulate further discussion. Here is one matter that may prompt a healthy family discussion:

Q. What is the best day of the week?
A. The Sabbath-day.

Q. Why is it the best?
A. Because it is to be kept holy, or spent in a religious manner.

If you are looking for a tool to help the family keep the Sabbath during the afternoon, this book will serve you well. For more in-depth study, be sure to check out Boyd’s other exposition: The Westminster Shorter Catechism: With Analysis, Scriptural Proofs, Explanatory and Practical Inferences, and Illustrative Anecdotes.

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 Sum of Archibald Alexander's Theology

As recounted in Practical Truths (1857), p. 386, “on his dying bed, [Archibald Alexander] uttered to his family these memorable words: ‘All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.'“ What a beautiful summation of the gospel, and what a simple truth to meditate upon this day to the glory of God, who sent his Son to save sinners.

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Be on the lookout for our forthcoming booklet by Archibald Alexander, which includes his counsel to those in the autumn of life. Coming soon!