A scar on the author's wrist: J.W. Alexander's story for children

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James Waddel Alexander (the father of seven children) was known for the many books for young people which he authored, especially for the American Sunday-School Union. One — part of The Infant’s Library series consisting of 24 small books for the littlest children — was published in 1825 under the title The Sabbath Breaker. This little work is not yet available on Log College Press, but the autobiographical story authored by Alexander can be read in a biography of Edward Norris Kirk (1802-1874) by David Otis Mears. It is about two boys (James and Edward) who learned a lesson about keeping the Lord’s Day holy.

The Sabbath Breaker

Children, I am going to tell you another story. Every word of it is true, and I know it to be so. There were two boys, named James and Edward. They knew what was right, but they did what was wrong. This is very bad. They knew that the Sabbath was God’s day, but still they profaned the Sabbath.

One fine Sabbath afternoon, they had a lesson in the Bible to say to their teacher. But they were wicked and played truant. They did not get their lesson. And they played instead of going to their teacher. You will see what happened to them.

Edward and James used to go to bathe in a brook about two miles from home. Edward asked James if he would go and bathe there. James was at first afraid to go, because it was the Sabbath. But he was ashamed to say so. So they both set off to go to the brook.

As soon as they set off, they saw that some clouds were rising. But they went on.

When they got to the water, it thundered very loud, so that James was afraid to go in, though he was undressed. Edward went in and bathed.

The thunder was so loud, and it rained so hard, that they boys dressed themselves in a great hurry and began to return. The storm increased, it was very dark, and the lightning was dreadful. The boys were frightened. They knew they had done wrong. They knew that God saw them. They heard his thunder in the heavens, and were afraid. One clap of thunder was awful. The lightning struck a house in the town, and threw down a part of the chimney. James trembled, because he was afraid the Lord would strike him dead. But God is merciful, and spared these bad boys. The storm was short, and it was soon clear weather again.

When James and Edward got half-way home, they began to laugh and talk again. James was afraid Edward would think he was frightened. To show how brave he was, James took a penknife and tried to strike it into his coat-sleeve. The knife slipped, and the whole blade went into the back part of his wrist. The blood spouted out, and ran over his white clothes. He was then frightened indeed. He had escaped the storm, but now he saw that God had punished him. He had to send for a doctor. The doctor said it was a wonder he had not cut an artery. This was many years ago, but I saw the scar on his wrist, just before I wrote this. Remember the Sabbath.

The two boys in this story grew up to become devout and serious Christians, as well as friends for life — not unlike David and Jonathan, according to Kirk’s biographer. And the lesson they learned in their youth about keeping the Lord’s Day holy became a story to teach other young children as well.

Freedom's Cost

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That is which sometimes known as “the Presbyterian Rebellion” — the 1776 American War of Independence — had many actors who played their parts in leading the colonies to resist the actions of King George III and Parliament along Augustinian-Calvinistic principles of interposition by lesser civil magistrates against tyranny. The roll call listing heroes of the faith includes such as:

  • Alexander Craighead was the first Presbyterian minister to advocate the necessity to take up arms against the mother country back in 1743 (the tyrant-king then was Charles II). It was his patriotic influence (even after his death) that is largely credited for the May 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

  • John Craig was the “spiritual guide and minister” to 5 out of the 15 freeholders who wrote the January 20, 1775 Fincastle, Virginia Resolves, which stated in part: “We assure you, Gentlemen, and all our countrymen, that we are a people whose hearts overflow with love and duty to our lawful sovereign George III. whose illustrious house, for several successive reigns, have been the guardians of civil and religious rights and liberties of his subjects, as settled at the glorious Revolution; that we are willing to risk our lives in the service of his Majesty, for the support of the Protestant religion, and the rights and liberties of his subjects, as they have been established by compact, law, and ancient charters. We are heartily grieved at the differences which now subsist between the parent state and the colonies, and most ardently wish to see harmony restored, on an equitable basis, and by the most lenient measures that can be devised by the heart of men. Many of us, and our forefathers, left our native land, considering it as a kingdom subjected to inordinate power, and greatly abridged of its liberties. We crossed the Atlantick, and explored this then uncultivated wilderness, bordering on many nations of savages, and surrounded by mountains almost inaccessible to any but those very savages, who have incessantly been committing barbarities and depredations on us since our first seating the country. These fatigues and dangers we patiently encountered, supported by the pleasing hope of enjoying those rights and liberties which have been granted to Virginians and were denied us in our native country, and of transmitting them inviolate to our posterity. But even to these remote regions the land of unlimited and unconstitutional power hath pursued us, to strip us of that liberty and property with which God, nature, and the rights of humanity, have vested us. We are ready and willing to contribute all in our power for the support of his Majesty's government, if applied to constitutionally, and when the grants are made by our own representatives; but cannot think of submitting our liberty or property to the power of a venal British parliament, or to the will of a corrupt ministry. We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful sovereign, but on the contrary shall ever glory in being the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince, descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion, as Protestants, and our liberties and properties, as British subjects. But if no pacifick measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to a state of slavery, we declare, that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth, but at the expense of our lives. These are our real, though unpolished sentiments, of liberty and loyalty, and in them we are resolved to live and die.”

  • The freeholders who wrote the February 22, 1775 Augusta County, Virginia Declaration were also influenced by John Craig, when they wrote: “Placing our ultimate trust in the Supreme Disposer of every event, without whose gracious interposition the wisest schemes may fail of success, we desire you to move the Convention that some day, which may appear to them most convenient, be set apart for imploring the blessing of Almighty God on such plans as human wisdom and integrity may think necessary to adopt for preserving America happy, virtuous, and free.”

  • James Caldwell, the fighting parson who cried, “Give ‘em Watts, boys!” lost his wife to the British before being shot by an American sentry before the war ended.

  • Jacob Green, the father of Ashbel Green, was known as “Parson Green.” He authored Observations, on the Reconciliation of Great-Britain, and the Colonies by a friend of American Liberty in early 1776, and did much to both preach the gospel and defend the cause of civil liberty in colonial America. He also declared in a 1778 sermon: “Can it be believed that a people contending for liberty should, at the same time, be promoting and supporting slavery?” He saw American slavery as completely incompatible with the principles of freedom for which the colonists were then fighting.

  • Hezekiah James Balch, a leading architect of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, died just a year after its signing.

  • Ephraim Brevard - The reputed author of the 1775 Mecklenburg Resolutions and the scribe who penned the 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence spent time in British custody as a prisoner of war at Charleston, South Carolina, where the unwholesome air and diet crushed his health. After his release, he reached the home of his friend John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, only to breathe his last shortly thereafter in 1781.

  • John Witherspoon preached a sermon based on Psalm 76:10 on May 17, 1776 titled “The Dominion of God Over the Passions of Men” which is credited with helping to prepare the colonies to embrace the Declaration of Independence which he signed (making himself a marked man) later that year: “If your cause is just — you may look with confidence to the Lord and intreat him to plead it as his own. You are all my witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit. At this season however, it is not only lawful but necessary, and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.

    So far as we have hitherto proceeded, I am satisfied that the confederacy of the colonies, has not been the effect of pride, resentment, or sedition, but of a deep and general conviction, that our civil and religious liberties, and consequently in a great measure the temporal and eternal happiness of us and our posterity, depended on the issue. The knowledge of God and his truths have from the beginning of the world been chiefly, if not entirely, confined to those parts of the earth, where some degree of liberty and political justice were to be seen, and great were the difficulties with which they had to struggle from the imperfection of human society, and the unjust decisions of usurped authority.

    There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.”

Many more names could be added to the ranks of those colonial American Presbyterians who proclaimed by word and deed their devotion to the cause of religious and civil liberty, and who were willing to sacrifice all for the sake of God and liberty. But one of the more poignant testimonies is found on the tombstone of the unknown Revolutionary War soldier at the Presbyterian church in Alexandria, Virginia. This epitaph speaks volumes about freedom’s cost.

Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Old Presbyterian Meeting House, Alexandria, Virginia

Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Old Presbyterian Meeting House, Alexandria, Virginia

A Visit to the Birthplace of Samuel Davies

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When Samuel Davies — the “Apostle to Virginia” — and Gilbert Tennent were chosen as emissaries to raise funds in Europe for the College of New Jersey, Davies left his Hanover, Virginia base in September 1753 to return home to Delaware and parts surrounding, including Philadelphia and New Jersey. An entry from his journal in November 1753, records his sentiments as he traveled through the Delaware Welsh Tract of his boyhood once again:

[W]hen I past by the Places where I had formerly lived, or walked, it gave a solemn Turn to my Mind. Ah! How much I have sinned, wherever I have been! And what solemn Transactions have been between God and my Soul in these my old Walks! Visited two Grave-Yards in my Way, to Solemnize my Mind among the Mansions of the Dead. O how solemn Eternity appeared! How frail and dying the Race of Mortals! And how near my own Dissolution!

Davies was born on November 23, 1723, at what is today known as the Lum’s Mill House in Bear, Delaware. It still stands but is in great disrepair and not open to the public. It is adjacent to the Lums Pond State Park, but beyond the grass being mowed, there is little evidence that it is remembered for its mark on history.

This writer recently toured some of the old stomping grounds that Davies may have visited on that 1753 trip, including his family home. Dewey Roberts — author of Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia, a most valuable resource for studying the life of this great saint, particularly, his earlier years — was kind enough to make suggestions for the itinerary.

Samuel Davies’ birthplace - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

Samuel Davies’ birthplace - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

His family was originally associated with the Welsh Tract Baptist Church in New Castle County. I was not able to visit that church on this trip. But I did visit the church that the Davies family joined after departing from the Baptist church: Pencader Presbyterian Church (originally called the Welsh Tract Presbyterian Church). It is now known as Olivet Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), but the name Pencader is still found on the church building itself as well as the at the adjacent cemetery.

Pencader (Olivet) Presbyterian Church (originally founded 1707-1710; present building established in 1852) - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

Pencader (Olivet) Presbyterian Church (originally founded 1707-1710; present building established in 1852) - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

The pastor who embraced the Davies family and counseled them through a challenging transition was likely Thomas Evans, who is buried at this location.

Historical marker - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

Historical marker - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

I also visited other Presbyterian churches in the vicinity, including Head of Christiana — pastored by George Gillespie, who is buried at the cemetery there, as is James Laird Vallandigham, who authored a history of Pencader Presbyterian Church and a history of the New Castle Presbytery.

Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church (founded in 1706-1708; present building established in 1859) - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church (founded in 1706-1708; present building established in 1859) - photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

Finally, I stopped at St. Georges — pastored by WIlliam Robinson (who played such an important role in the life of Samuel Davies and may be the subject of a future post) and Davies’ “close friend” John Rodgers (Samuel Finley preached the ordination sermon for Rodgers here in 1749 and later preached Samuel Davies’ funeral sermon elsewhere in 1761).

St. Georges Presbyterian Church (present building established in 1844)- photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

St. Georges Presbyterian Church (present building established in 1844)- photo credit: R. Andrew Myers

One additional place visited on this trip was the site of the Duck Creek Presbyterian Church. It was a place of significance to Thomas Evans, who conducted the first worship services there in 1733. This was just a year after Martha Davies (Samuel’s mother) was forced out of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church and received spiritual counsel from Rev. Evans (see Dewey Roberts, Samuel Davies: Apostle to Virginia, pp. 31-33).

Smyrna, Delaware

Smyrna, Delaware

Walking around the old historic buildings and graveyards, like Old Mortality (Sir Walter Scott), reminds one that Memento Mori (“Remember, you must die”) is a saying worthy to be impressed upon our thoughts, and pondered from time to time. The historical landmarks are too often in a sad state of decay, and it is greatly to be desired that they be not lost to future generations. But regardless, as Davies would say, it is eternity upon which our eyes of faith must be fixed, and while the footsteps of time have their necessary place, our chief care as we move through this world must be to ensure, by the grace of God, that these “mouldering tabernacles are become everlasting habitations.”

A Family Tradition Passed Down by Timothy Alden

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Many have heard of the famous Pilgrim love triangle involving Myles Standish, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. It is immortalized in the classic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858).

In Longfellow’s poem, Priscilla famously says to John who is there to court by proxy on behalf of Myles:

“Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.jpg

It was Longfellow who impressed the love story that would become John and Priscilla Alden upon the American consciousness. But the story itself was first published by a descendant of theirs, Timothy Alden, Jr. (1771-1839), in 1814. Born in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, Timothy went to live with his uncle at the age eight. It was his uncle who told him stories about the Alden family heritage all the way back to the Mayflower experience, Leyden and England. One of those stories involved the notable union of his direct ancestors. Alden later became a noted historian and antiquarian, the first president of Allegheny College and a Congregationalist-turned-Presbyterian minister. It was in 1814 that he published A Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions in five volumes, which included the very account which inspired Longfellow’s poem. It is from the third volume that we may obtain his version of what really transpired.

Note. — The hon. John Alden was one of the pilgrims of Leyden, who came, in the May Flower, to Plymouth, in 1620. He was about twenty-two years of age, when he arrived, and was one of those, who signed the original civil compact, formed and solemnly adopted by the first adventurers at Cape Cod harbour, on the 15 of November. This was a few days previous to their finding and selecting a place for the commencement of their settlement in this western world. He was a single man and appears to have been an inmate in the family of captain Myles Standish. He was the stripling, who first leaped upon the rock, as mentioned by president Adams in a certain communication.

It is well known, that, of the first company consisting of one hundred and one, about one half died II six months after landing, in consequence of the hardships they were called to encounter. Mrs. Rose Standish, consort of captain Standish, departed this life, on the 29 of January, 1621. This circumstance is mentioned as an introduction to the following anecdote, which has been carefully handed down by tradition.

In a very short time after the decease of Mrs. Standish, the captain was led to think, that, if he could obtain Miss Priscilla Mullins, a daughter of Mr. William Mullins, the breach in his family would be happily repaired. He, therefore, according to the custom of those times, sent to ask Mr. Mullins' permission to visit his daughter. John Alden, the messenger, went and faithfully communicated the wishes of the captain. The old gentleman did not object, as he might have done, on account of the recency of captain Standish's bereavement. He said it was perfectly agreeable to him, but the young lady must also be consulted. The damsel was then called into the room, and John Alden, who is said to have been a man of most excellent form with a fair and ruddy complexion, arose, and, in a very courteous and prepossessing manner, delivered his errand. Miss Mullins listened with respectful attention, and at last, after a considerable pause, fixing her eyes upon him, with an open and pleasant countenance, said, prithee John, why do you not speak for yourself? He blushed, and bowed, and took his leave, but with a look, which indicated more, than his diffidence would permit him otherwise to express. However, he soon renewed his visit, and it was not long before their nuptials were celebrated in ample form. From them are descended all of the name, Alden, in the United States. What report he made to his constituent, after the first interview, tradition does not unfold; but it is said, how true the writer knows not, that the captain never forgave him to the day of his death.

For a few years, the subject of this article lived in Plymouth and then settled in Duxborough on a farm, which, it is a little remarkable, has remained in the possession of his descendants ever since and is one of the best in the town. He built his house on a rise of land near Eagle Tree Pond, where the ruins of his well are still to be seen.

He had four sons and four daughters, who lived to enter the marriage state, who had many children and most of whom lived to a good old age.

Timothy’s family tradition led to Longfellow’s narrative poem, and there you have the background for an American Pilgrim legend.

Elisha Mitchell's Mountain

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J.G. Machen once wrote:

One thing is clear — if you are to learn to love the mountains you must go up them by your own power. There is more thrill in the smallest hill in Fairmount Park if you walk up it than there is in the grandest mountain on earth if you go up it in an automobile. There is one curious thing about means of locomotion — the slower and simpler and the closer to nature they are, the more real thrill they give. I have got far more enjoyment out of my two feet than I did out of my bicycle; and I got more enjoyment out of my bicycle than I ever have got out of my motor car; and as for airplanes — well, all I can say is that I wouldn't lower myself by going up in one of the stupid, noisy things! The only way to have the slightest inkling of what a mountain is is to walk or climb up it….There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men. (“Mountains and Why We Love Them”).

Another Presbyterian minister who loved mountains and mountain-climbing — doing so with fragile scientific equipment under strenuous circumstances — was the Rev. Dr. Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857). A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he was a chemist, a mathematician, and a geologist, as well as a minister of the gospel. On a geological tour of western North Carolina in the Black Mountains in 1828 (with return visits in 1835, 1838, and 1844), he observed a peak that, according to his barometric calculations, was higher than either Grandfather Mountain or Mount Washington in New Hampshire. That peak was then known as Black Dome (or Attakulla to the Cherokee), and he reckoned its height to be 6,672 feet above sea level. Challenged by a former student as to the accuracy of his observations, he made a final trek up the mountain in 1857 to prove his claim. Last seen on June 27, 1857, he never returned from that trip. His body was found on July 8 by a search party at the base of a waterfall, now known as Mitchell Falls. Originally buried in Asheville, North Carolina, his body was re-interred at the top of the peak he had set his eyes and his heart upon - later named in his honor. With modern altimeters, Mount Mitchell is now reckoned to be 6,684 feet above sea level, the highest mountain peak on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The Rev. Dr. Mitchell now rests above the clouds.

T.W. Hooper's Antidote for Worry

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Thomas Williamson (“T.W.”) Hooper (1832-1915) was a graduate of both Hampden-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary (Richmond, Virginia). Ordained to the ministry in 1858, he served different pastorates in his home state of Virginia (most notably in Christiansburg in 1865-1870 and 1888-1906), as well as in Selma, Alabama. He was at one a time a chaplain, and in 1884, he served as a delegate to the Presbyterian Alliance in Belfast, Ireland. Letters written by him (and others) on a 1873 overseas trip were published under the title A Memphian’s Trip to Europe. In 1876, he was awarded a D.D. degree by Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia. He was a trustee of Hampden-Sydney College; a director of Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina; and a member of the executive committees of the Colored Theological Institute and the Orphans Home in Tuskegee. He delivered an address on the genius of the Westminster Assembly and its work in 1897, and authored other works and tracts.

We take note today of his little book of comfort to the discouraged titled “Lead Me to the Rock” (1892). It was the fruit of much pastoral experience and was written

To The
Beloved People in Virginia and Alabama
Among Whom,
For More Than Thirty Years, Amid Sunshine and
Shadows, It Has Been His Blessed Privilege
To Labor in the Gospel,
This Little Volume
Is Affectionately Dedicated
By Their
Old Pastor

Within this book of comfort and encouragement is a chapter titled “An Antidote for Worry.” Taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Hooper refers to the timeless message from Christ to his disciples as “words to the weary.” Knowing that “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head,” Jesus spoke to people with real needs, but often over-anxious cares about “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”

Christ directed his hearers to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but [rather] lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It is this treasure that Hooper reminds us of. Our Heavenly Father knows our earthly needs. But there is something far more solid to seek after: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto.”

Hooper: “Oh, what a blessed assurance that this is those who are sometimes filled with anxiety about even their daily bread! It is hard, very hard, to put in practice these plain lessons of the word. But the Lord has made good that promise so it has never failed.”

This is a promise to take hold of by faith. A treasure indeed, which does not decay, but gives everlasting peace. As Christ has said elsewhere, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). May T.W. Hooper’s “antidote for worry” be an encouragement to you, dear Christian, to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and therefore to cast your cares upon Him who cares for you.

Missionary Stories at Log College Press

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If the history of missions work by American Presbyterians interests you, there is a goldmine to be discovered among the writings available at Log College Press. As Robert Dabney Bedinger wrote, “The providences of God run through the American Presbyterian Congo Mission like the vein of gold through the stratum of rock.” The stories that are told in these volumes will enrich, educate and inspire. Readers can explore the world and learn how the gospel has gone forth to all four corners of the planet.

We have many volumes by and about missionaries on the Missions page. Today we wish to highlight some of the new additions that tell the story in particular of Southern Presbyterian foreign missions, as well as other volumes that have been available here for some time. Within the following memoirs and historical accounts are told the stories men and women who followed the call of Christ to foreign lands to testify of his goodness and the gospel of his free grace by their lives and labors. Additionally, some have served as educators, translators, diplomats, medical workers and more to help those in need and to advance cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. Take time to get to know these stories. Pray for these lands. And consider the promise of God that “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num. 14.21).

General

  • Samuel Hall Chester, LIghts and Shadows of Mission Work in the Far East: Being the Record of Observations Made During a Visit to the Southern Presbyterian Missions in Japan, China, and Korea in the year 1897 (1899)

  • Thomas Cary Johnson, A Brief Sketch of the Missions of the Southern Presbyterian Church (1895)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In Four Continents: A Sketch of the Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (1910)

Africa

China

  • Hampden Coit DuBose, Preaching in Sinim (1893)

  • John Leighton Stuart, Fifty Years in China: The Memoirs of John Leighton Stuart, Missionary and Ambassador (1954)

  • Henry Francis Williams, Along the Grand Canal: The Mid-China Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1911) and North of the Yangtze: The North Kiangsu Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1911)

  • Samuel Isett Woodbridge, Sr., Fifty Years in China: Being Some Account of the History and Conditions in China and of the Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States there from 1867 to the present day (1919)

Japan

  • Lois Johnson Erickson, The White Fields of Japan: Being Some Account of the History and Conditions in Japan and of the Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States there from 1885 to the Present Day (1923)

  • Egbert Watson Smith, Present Day Japan (1920)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In the Mikado’s Empire: The Japan Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

Korea

  • Anabel Major Nisbet, Day In and Day Out in Korea: Being Some Account of the Mission Work that has been carried on in Korea since 1892 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1920)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In the Hermit Land: The Korea Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

Latin America

  • William Alfred Ross, Sunrise in Aztec Land: Being an Account of the Mission Work that has been carried on in Mexico since 1874 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1922)

  • Henry Francis Williams, In Mexico and Cuba: The Near-Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1912)

South America

  • Henry Francis Williams, In South America: The Brazil Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1910) and In Brazil: Our Missions in Brazil (1917)

What moves armies and pulls down empires, according to J.G. Machen

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D.G. Hart explains the background for an article that we know as “Christianity and Culture” by J.G. Machen:

An address that the young professor delivered to the Philadelphia Ministers’ Association in the spring of 1912 revealed his maturing thoughts on the ministry. The address was to be a defense of “scientific theological study” that he repeated at the seminary’s opening exercises in the fall of that year. A forthright declaration of the aims of theological education at Princeton, the lecture also contained Machen’s personal confession of faith. It was published a year later in the Princeton Theological Review under the title “Christianity and Culture.” (D.G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America, p. 30).

Machen was concerned about the growing divide between intellectual scholarship and piety that he observed from his role as a teacher. “In his six years as instructor he had become painfully aware of a tendency among students, as well as in the Church as a whole, to set up a sharp disjunction between knowledge and its pursuit, on the one hand, and piety and cultivation, on the other” (Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, p. 155). The wedge of anti-intellectualism from the Fundamentalist camp had a tendency to weaken and undermine the Christian apologetic to the non-Christian world. In Machen’s view, Christianity was being sidelined at the table where important ideas and worldviews were battling it out, and to him this was not acceptable.

It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root. Many would have the seminaries combat error by attacking it as it is taught by its popular exponents. Instead of that they confuse their students with a lot of German names unknown out side the walls of the universities. That method of procedure is based simply upon a profound belief in the pervasiveness of ideas. What is to-day matter of academic speculation begins to-morrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combatted; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassionate debate. So as Christians we should try to mould the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.

Christianity, as the religion of Truth, must engage the minds as well as the hearts of unbelievers, according to Machen. Combatting false ideas is an important aspect of the Christian witness because ideas have consequences. It was just one year after publication of “Christianity and Culture” that the Great War began in Europe, the first of two World Wars in the 20th century. Machen himself served in Europe during the war in a non-combatant role. But above all, in the witness of his life and work, Machen “remains Mr. Valiant-for Truth par excellence” (Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, p. xiii).

Why the need for systematic theology? Charles Hodge answers

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The systematization of the Holy Scriptures has been a tremendous blessing to the Church. But some wonder why it was necessary. To this query, Charles Hodge responds:

It may naturally be asked, why not take the truths as God has seen fit to reveal them, and thus save ourselves the trouble of showing their relation and harmony?

The answer to this question is, in the first place, that it cannot be done. Such is the constitution of the human mind that it cannot help endeavoring to systematize and reconcile the facts which it admits to be true. In no department of knowledge have been satisfied with the possession of a mass of undigested facts. And the students of the Bible can as little be expected to thus satisfied. There is a necessity, therefore, for the construction of systems of theology. Of this the history of the Church abundant proof. In all ages and among all denominations, such systems have been produced.

Second, A much higher kind of knowledge is thus obtained, than by the mere accumulation of isolated facts. It is one thing, for example, to know that oceans, continents, islands, mountains, and rivers exist on the face of the earth; and a much higher thing to know the causes which have determined the distribution of land and water on the surface of our globe; the configuration of the earth; the effects of that configuration on climate, on the races of plants and animals, on commerce, civilization, and the destiny of nations. It is by determining these causes that geography has been raised from a collection of facts to a highly important and elevated science. In like manner, without the knowledge of the laws of attraction and and motion, astronomy would be a confused and unintelligible collection of facts. What is true of other sciences is true of theology. We cannot know what God has revealed in his Word unless we understand, at least in some good measure, the relation in which the separate truths therein contained stand to each other. It cost the Church centuries of study and controversy to solve the problem concerning the person of Christ; that is, to adjust and bring into harmonious arrangement all the facts which the Bible teaches on that subject.

Third, We have no choice in this matter. If we would discharge our duty as teachers and defenders of the truth, we must endeavor to bring all the facts of revelation into systematic order and mutual relation. It is only thus that we can satisfactorily exhibit their truth, vindicate them from objections, or bring them to bear in their full force on the minds of men.

Fourth, Such is evidently the will of God. He does not teach men astronomy or chemistry, but He gives them the facts out of which those sciences are constructed. Neither does He teach us systematic theology, but He gives us in the Bible the truths which, properly understood and arranged, constitute the science of theology. As the facts of nature are all related and determined by physical laws, so the facts of the Bible are all related and determined by the nature of God and of his creatures. And as He wills that men should study his works and discover their wonderful organic relation and harmonious combination, so it is his will that we should study his Word, and learn that, like the stars, its truths are not isolated points, but systems, cycles, and epicycles, in unending harmony and grandeur. Besides all this, although the Scriptures do not contain a system of theology as a whole, we have in the Epistles of the New Testament, portions of that system wrought out to our hands. These are our authority and guide.

Thus Hodge accounts for the need to systematize the truths of Scripture. His magnum opus, the Systematic Theology in three volumes, is a gem worthy of thoughtful, prayerful study. Explore it further here.

J.W. Alexander: A Man Will Be as His Books

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“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” — Charles H. Spurgeon

A friend recently pointed this writer to a quote from James Waddel Alexander’s Thoughts on Preaching: Being Contributions to Homiletics.

It must be the habit of the preacher to be continually opening new veins, and deeply considering subjects allied to those on which he is to preach. This habit is greatly aided by judicious reading on theological topics. A man will be as his books. But of all means, none is so effectual as the perpetual study of the Scriptures. Let a man be interested in them day and night, continually labouring in this mine, and, whether he write or not, he will be effectually secured against self-repetition. There is such profundity, comprehensiveness and variety in the Word of God, that it is a library of itself. There is such a freshness in its mode of presenting truth, that he who is perpetually conversant with it can scarcely be dull (pp. 18-19).

The Book of Books — that is, the Bible — is the treasury of wisdom. All other books are to be measured by their consistency with the Scriptures. That being the case, the careful choice of good books is a great aid to the minister or elder or, indeed, to any Christian reader. At Log College Press, we select the titles that we republish with care as well.

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Are you an elder? Read Witherspoon. Are you in seminary? Read Plumer. Are you a pastor? Read Rice & Grimké. Are you pastoring in a small town? Read Grafton. Are you getting older? Read Alexander. Are you interested in the Synod of Dort? Read Miller. There is profound, edifying and encouraging literature here for everyone. And a special deal for ordering all seven titles.

If you agree with Alexander that “a man will be as his books,” or that a person is a reflection of the books in which they spend their time, then consider these adding these titles to your library. These are volumes in which spiritual wisdom is practically applied and in which church history is made plain. It is our prayer that they will contribute to the church today, as they have in times past, and be a blessing to your soul.

J.P. Smith Describes a June Day

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This is the month (halfway through the year) for commencements - which signify both endings and beginnings. In his collection of inspirational meditations titled Brightside Idyls: Every Week of the Year, Southern Presbyterian minister James Power Smith has this to day about a June day.

A Day in June.

Not many things are as bright and fair as a day in June. It must have been a June day of which George Herbert sang:

"Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky.”

Spring has come to its crowning day, and nature opens all its richer beauty of greenery and flowers. If it is "the leafy month of June," it is also the month of sweet perfumes, the month of bees and birds, of long, balmy days and of fair, green landscapes. It was our American Lowell who wrote:

"And what is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

It is well the schools open their doors at the coming of June, and send the throngs of boys and girls out into the lanes and fields. Books are well, but freedom and play are also well. Now must come the happy parties, with their well-stored baskets, to find a picnic place under the trees, be side the streams, and spend a long holiday in joy unrestrained. School days for profit and training, and June days for fishing and ranging and boating to the heart's content.

What a time it is for commencements! Examinations are all over, and diplomas are awarded, and degrees won, and these bright June days great companies of youth will leave the colleges for good. What a serious time Commencement Day is! It is the ending of so much: school days, book learning, mind training, long years of discipline and education; yet it is the commencement of more. It is the threshold across which they pass from narrow school to the great out-door of free and self-directed manhood and womanhood. Flowers and sheepskins, sermons and appeals, final frolics and silent hand-clasps, tearful home travel, and then come commencements indeed.

What would the world come to if the forces that battle were not reinforced by the June commencements! What a splendid infusion of young life! What a grand addition to the powers working for progress and uplift are the ambitions and hopes of the young! We lay the old warrior down to rest and cover him with laurels, and then turn to meet the young soldier coming on the field and crown him with the roses of June. Long may he Stand, strong and brave, win battles in his own breast, and then win battles for his brothers and for the world. All the future of the home, and the State and the church depend on the army of young men and women who come to their commencements in June.

Just as it was in 1904 when this was written, so it is in our day. Commencement days in June mark new beginnings for students and families in the 21st century too. We wish congratulations to those who have passed this milestone after years of study and hard work, along with their families, and it is our prayer for all the students who are graduating that you will continue to seek God’s glory in all of your endeavors, and be richly blessed in the service of your King.

D.H. Hill on the Three Cardinal Graces

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“We have men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” — General Omar Bradley, Armistice Day Speech, 1948

Military men, confronted with issues of conscience, have often been at the forefront of addressing matters of ethics. One example of this is found in the religious writings of Daniel Harvey Hill, best known for his military service for the United States in the Mexican War and later as a Confederate general, who also served a professor of mathematics at the Presbyterian college of Davidson, in North Carolina, and was a devout Presbyterian. In 1858, he authored A Consideration of the Sermon on the Mount.

It is from this remarkable volume, discoursing on the Beatitudes, that we can read what a mighty man of war has to say about what it means to love one’s enemies. Further on, speaking of the Lord’s Prayer, he again takes up the subject of love, or charity, in conjunction with “the three cardinal graces of the Christian character.”

The prayer, too, in its very language presupposes the existence in the heart of the utterer, of the three cardinal graces of the Christian character — Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Faith. For he says “Our Father.” “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Heb. xi. 6.

Hope. For he uses the language of expectation, “May thy kingdom with all its blessings come. May my daily food be given,” &c.

Charity — Love to God and love to man. For he uses a sublime ascription of praise to the Triune God, and he asks only for pardon from God, upon condition of his own universal good-will to his fellow-creatures. “Forgive me my debts, as I forgive my debtors.”

The graces spoken of by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13 are well-known. But here Hill connects them specifically to the Lord’s Prayer, and in so doing, he reminds us to exercise these graces in our prayers, as well as to seek for the grace to exemplify them in our lives. Consider these thoughts today from Hill, who, although he was a man of war at times during his life, or perhaps because of that, understood that these are the virtues that should shine in every Christian — and “these greatest of these is charity.”

The Most Important Day in the Life of Philip Vickers Fithian

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March 31, 1766, was the most important day in Philip Vickers Fithian’s life. It was a Monday, and Philip was still reflecting on the sermons that Rev. Simon Williams had preached the day before.

Thus John Fea begins chapter 2 (“A Presbyterian Conversion”) of The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (2008). Rev. Williams had preached the day before on Psalm 24 and John 17, and these sermons made a deep impression upon the young man whose journal is noted by historians today for its valuable insights into the culture and religious practices of colonial New Jersey and Virginia.

Since that January, Fithian had come under increasing conviction of sin and his need of a Savior. The last day of March proved for him to be a “spiritual breakthrough” (Fea, p. 55).

His journal entry for the day begins with a customary report on the weather:

This morning is calm pleasant and clear, before noon the Wind rose at north-north-east and is very pleasant; in the after-noon the Wind came West moderately.

Then we note the following poetic lines:

Degenerate minds, in many error lost; 
May combat heaven & impious triumphs boast, 
But while my veins feel annimating fires, 
And vital air, this breathing breast inspires; 
Grateful to Heaven, I'll stretch a pious wing; 
And sing his praise, who gives one power to sing.

Although we know that Fithian tried his hand at poetry (his “Valentine” poem, written for Miss Priscilla Carter, for example, is well-known). these particular lines are in fact taken from the ending of a 1712 epic poem titled “Creation” by Sir Richard Blackmore. Fea tells us that at the time Fithian “was dwelling in Greenwich [New Jersey], but he inhabited two distinctly cultural worlds. He cut ‘hoop-poles’ in the morning and returned to his room in the evening to read Sir Richard Blackmore’s poetry” (p. 59). These verses clearly stood out to Fithian at a very crucial moment in his life.

Finally, we take note of Fithian’s acceptance of Christ as his Savior.

He that upon the loving request of 
God and Christ, made to them by the 
mouth of Ministers, having commission 
to that effect, hath embraced the offers 
of perpetual reconciliation through 
Christ, and doth purpose by Gods grace,
as a reconciled person, to strive against 
sin, and to serve God, to the uttermost of 
his power; constantly; may be assumd'
to have righteousness, and eternal life 
given to him for the obedience of Christ 
imputed to him; as it is sure that Christ 
was condemned, and put to death for 
the sins of the redeemed, imputed to him.

But I, upon the loving request of God, 
and Christ, made to me, by the mouth of 
his ministers, have embraced the offers 
of perpetual reconciliation through 
Christ; and do purpose by Gods grace, 
a reconciled person, to strive against 
sin, and to serve God with all my power 
constantly, therefore I may be assure 
to have righteousness, and eternal life 

Although these words are quoted by Fea, what is not discussed in the book is the fact that they are also an almost verbatim quote - this time from The Sum of Saving Knowledge (1652), a succinct presentation of the gospel jointly authored by Scottish Covenanters James Durham and David Dickson, and often printed along with the official and unofficial Westminster Standards. The significance of this quote is that Fithian took note of the prescribed manner in the Presbyterian tradition of a sinner embracing the promises of the gospel. In the words of Durham and Dickson:

Hence may a weak believer strengthen his faith, by reasoning from this ground after this manner:

He that, upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to him by the mouth of his Ministers, (having commission to that effect,) hath embraced the offer of perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and doth purpose, by God's grace, as a reconciled person, to strive against sin, and to serve God to his power constantly, may be as sure to have righteousness and eternal life given to him, for the obedience of Christ imputed to him, as it is sure that Christ was condemned and put to death for the sins of the redeemed imputed to him.

But I (may the weak believer say) upon the loving request of God and Christ, made to me by the mouth of his Ministers, have embraced the offer of perpetual reconciliation through Christ, and do purpose by God's grace, as a reconciled person to strive against sin, and to serve God to my power constantly.

Therefore I may be as sure to have righteousness and eternal life given to me, for the obedience of Christ imputed to me, as it is sure that Christ was condemned and put to death for the sins of the redeemed imputed to him.

In this manner, Fithian expressed privately in his journal how his soul closed with Christ. “Shortly after he ‘embraced the offers of perpetual reconciliation with Christ,’ Philip started to write less about God’s plan of redemption and more about the necessary disciplines that were essential to living a Christian life” (Fea, p. 55). Fithian would go on to graduate from the College of New Jersey (Princeton), and serve as an ordained Presbyterian minister, missionary, chaplain and tutor before illness took his life at the age of 28.

It is always fascinating to read a journal, especially the diaries of saints who have gone before. In this case, taking a close look at such a pivotal moment in the short life of this colonial Presbyterian minister reveals important influences on his life and the direction that it would soon take. It was indeed “the most important day” of his brief life on this earth.

The Story of a Children's Book that was Parleyed into a Presbyterian Library

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Have you heard of the Peter Parley stories? The title character of a popular series of children’s books authored by Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860), Peter Parley was “an elderly, quirky, but also lovable old Bostonian who enjoy[ed] telling stories to children.” The stories he told helped to teach children about history, geography, and science. By 1856, 7 million copies of the Peter Parley stories had been sold.

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Published by the firm of Sorin and Ball, the copyright holder to the series was an associate of the firm named Samuel Agnew (1820-1880). He was also a Presbyterian ruling elder who had a deep interest in books and history. The enormous success of his publishing labors enabled Agnew to retire at around the age of 40.

In tracing the history of the Presbyterian Historical Society, which was founded in 1852, William Laurence Ledwith writes:

The noble triumvirate who bore the burden were the Rev. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, D. D., the Rev. Richard Webster, and Samuel Agnew, and the greatest of these was Agnew….Samuel Agnew was the librarian from the organization until 1880, the time of his death, covering a period of twenty-eight years. The Society owes to him more than to any one else; his time, his labors, his money being given without stint to the cause he so dearly loved. In his earlier days he was a member of the firm of Sorin and Ball, publishers, and he owned the copyright of the Peter Parley histories. He was a man of ample means, and devoted himself to the interests of the Historical Society, and it is no extravagant statement to say that the Society itself, its library with its large and rare collection, the building which the Society purchased in 1879, are his monuments. He was ever on the watch for anything and everything in print that had value for the Society. He frequented book auctions, and often, rather than miss the volume or pamphlet he desired, would purchase the whole package in which they were tied. It is said that when he saw the advertisement of a library sale in New York, Boston, Cleveland or Cincinnati, he would start at once for the place, and secure, often at large cost, the books he desired. Even in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, he had his agents under instructions to secure such books as he wished to purchase. In this work, to which he gave himself so heartily, he spent $25,000, as he once confessed to a friend, when worried lest these historic treasures of the Society which he had stored away might be destroyed by fire. He also collected 4,000 volumes and pamphlets on the Baptist Controversy, which he left in his will to Princeton Theological Seminary. After his death it was some little time before they could be found, but they were discovered stored away in a building used as a stable. He died just as the Society was entering upon the use of the first building it owned, and which he had labored so faithfully to secure.

We have a snapshot of the fruits of Agnew’s labors on behalf of the PHS library because in 1865 he published a catalogue of its holdings. It covers 100 pages of book titles, but remarkably it does not include a “large and valuable collection of more than eight thousand Pamphlets, Magazines and Reviews; two hundred volumes of Newspapers; three hundred Portraits; and many valuable Manuscripts.”

Thus it was, in the providence of God, that the fortune built on the sales of a children’s book by Samuel Agnew was parleyed into the library of the Presbyterian Historical Society, a legacy of lasting value to the church.

The difference between wisdom and knowledge, according to A.A. Hodge

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In his Outlines of Theology, Archibald Alexander Hodge asks the question:

36. How does wisdom differ from knowledge, and wherein does the wisdom of God consist?

His answer to the first part of the question is of great benefit to those for whom it might appear that wisdom and knowledge are but synonyms.

Knowledge is a simple act of the understanding, apprehending that a thing is, and comprehending its nature and relations, or how it is.

Wisdom presupposes knowledge, and is the practical use which the understanding, determined by the will, makes of the material of knowledge.

It may be recalled that the great-great-grandfather of A.A. Hodge, on his mother’s side, was the remarkable founding father Benjamin Franklin, a man filled with great knowledge, but — despite the bits of wisdom to be gleaned from Poor Richard’s Almanack — sorely lacking in Biblical wisdom. Hodge, on the other hand, understood that the Christ of the Scriptures is the source of true wisdom. Another quote attributed to A.A. Hodge is this: “He is wise who knows the sources of knowledge — who knows who has written, and where it is to be found.” May the Lord grant to us not only sound knowledge, but the practical application of it — that is, wisdom — which we may employ in all things to the glory of God!

Sinners are Called to the Lord's Supper: Samuel Bayard

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Are you preparing to observe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? Preparation is a good thing because communicants are called to examine themselves first and so to “worthily partake” of the Supper (Westminster Shorter Catechism #97). But, it may be asked, who can adequately prepare for such a service? The Westminster Larger Catechism addresses this concern head-on:

Q172: May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?

A172: One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

Judge Samuel Bayard, Esq., of French Huguenot descent, served as a ruling elder of the First (Nassau) Presbyterian Church of Princeton, New Jersey for 33 years. His Letters on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1822) also responds to the common anxiety shared by believers who feel that they are not in a position to come to the Table. Bayard offers these words of encouragement to those who so doubt of themselves:

My Dear Friend —

You acknowledge the weight of the obligation, and motives to obedience, stated in the preceding letters. You admit that Christians are obviously deficient in respect and gratitude to their Redeemer, if they willfully neglect to comply with his injunction, or abstain from institutions of his appointment. Still however you excuse your own delay in coming to his table, by alledging your unprepared state for this solemnity.

On this subject it is of great importance to form a correct opinion. Have you then ascertained, on scriptural grounds what is the preparation that is indispensible to a worthy communion? Do you imagine that nothing short of a state of sinless perfection, will authorize an attendance on the Lord's Supper; if so, you may indeed despair of ever being suitably prepared. — We are assured on the highest authority that “there is no one who liveth and sinneth not." — (Eccles. 7) In the heart of the holiest saint, how much indwelling corruption still exists! — No my friend, you must be content to come just as you are. The Lord Jesus ''came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." You must come in the exercise of faith, and of repentance, and relying on the assistance of Divine grace; with a fixed resolution to conform in your life and conversation with the rules of the gospel. Availing yourself of all the aids prescribed for advancing in holiness; — namely, of prayer — of meditation — study of the sacred Scriptures, and self examination, you have no ground for apprehension that the blessing of Heaven will be withheld from the use of these appointed means.

But you object — "After using the means, how shall I ascertain with any certainty that I am qualified for an admission to this solemn ordinance? I see many attend it without scruple, whose lives are in truth a libel on the profession they make. They must be grossly deceived in regard to their own state, — and I ask myself, may not this in like manner be the case with myself."

My brother, while we avoid presumption we should study not to err from excess of caution. lf all Christians were to reason thus, how thin would the ranks of openly professed followers of the Lord Jesus, then be!

Though your life is below the standard of the gospel; it is stained by no crime. You are not grossly ignorant. You are not an unbeliever in Divine Revelation. You do not willfully indulge in any known sin. Come then, not rashly, but with humility, and with a firm resolution, (aided by strength from above,) that in obedience to your Saviour’s dying command, you will commemorate his death, by a frequent attendance on this consolatory ordinance.

“There are many truly devout persons, who deal more seriously with themselves than with any one else, and from dejection or mistaken notions of duty some are disposed to render this Sacrament a mean of melancholy and discouragement instead of consolation and thanksgiving — they consider themselves as the chief of sinners, though they cannot fix on any great crime of which they have been guilty; and in consequence of this impression lose that cheerfulness of mind, and those pleasures which the gospel is calculated to impart.''

To such persons we may say — if men had been perfect the death of Christ would have been unnecessary. The means of grace are appointed for our advancement in holiness — the best of men have their infirmities; but the infirmities and weaknesses to which pious persons are exposed are their grief, against which they zealously contend. This ordinance is appointed to establish their faith, and to subdue every sin; such persons Christ affectionately invites to come to him for relief. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Consider these words of encouragement, and remember that the Lord’s Supper is not an ordinance in which only the perfect may partake, but a means of grace to establish the faith of sinners who know they are such. Read more of Samuel Bayard’s Letters here.

The Poetic Prayers of John Craig

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The 1769 autobiography of the Rev. John Craig (1709-1774), the Irish-American pioneer Presbyterian pastor who ministered in Augusta County, Virginia and elsewhere was originally titled “A Preacher Preaching to Himself From a Long Text of No Less Than 60 Years: On Review of Past Life.” The full text of this manuscript was included in Lillian Kennerly Craig’s Reverend John Craig, 1709-1774: His Descendants and Allied Families (1963), a valuable genealogical history, which was recently made available to the public domain via the Internet Archive, and recently added to Log College Press. It is a rich treasury of material, historical and devotional in nature, including Craig’s 1764 Farewell Sermon addressed to the congregation at Tinkling Spring of Fisherville, Virginia..

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The editor has noted that Craig’s recorded prayers are poetic in nature.

Not intended by him to be blank verse, but that is what his beautiful prose really is. Reverend Craig was a gifted writer. I suggest that you rewrite aIl of his prayers in the form of blank verse.

Two particular prayers were rendered in blank verse by the editor.

O my God,
Perfect what Thou hast early begun in me.
Oh, let me lean upon Thee! Thou, Thou alone art the only
beloved of my Soul!
Keep my love stead to Thee,
and be Thou ever near me.
Drive away all my fears; give me true and saving faith in Thee,
and in Thy promises.
Strengthen, help and uphold me in life, and thro Death,
by the right hand of Thy Righteousness.
Forsake me not, or I am undone forever!
Save me or I perish! Oh grant these to me
for Christ’s sake.
Amen

And another:

Eternal and Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe,
who rules and over rules all the events therein,
Thou art my God by creation, and by dedication,
by preservation, and by personal covenant relation.
Make me Thine by renovation and sanctification.
And thro faith in Christ, make me one of Thy children,
precious in Thy sight.
Oh Heavenly Father in Christ,
I now praise Thee with all my heart!
Thou early won my love, and Thou hast been
the Guide of my youth. Thy love, care and bounty
never failed. And as a loving and tender parent,
Thou took notice of my pride, vice and folly,
chastised and corrected me, yet took not
Thy loving kindness from me. Ye delivered me
from the Gates of Death, from the grave’s cruel
and devouring mouth. Thou sanctify’d the corrections,
and brought me to a sense of sin. Thou humbled me
in mine own sight, brought me to repentance
and to a cheerful resignation to Thy will.

Thou brought me to serve Thee
how, when, and where Thou pleas’d to call me —
with a firm dependence on Thy promise of the Holy Spirit
to guide, support and comfort me.
Glory in the highest to my God!
who not withstanding all my shortcomings and backslidings
from Thee, hast not left me to myself,
but by various chastisements and kind restraints;
with many comfortable providence, and constant striving
of the Holy Spirit still calling after me,
”This day return, my backsliding child,
I will heal thy backslidings!”
O my God, for Christ’s sake, give, O give me a heart to say
”Behold I come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord,
Thou art my God!”

Oh leave me not now when old age steals in upon me,
but hold me up with the right hand
of Thy Righteousness.
Wean my heart from the world and all its sensual pleasures!
Dearest Lord,
Arm me to meet the king of terrors with courage;
he is Thy captive, and Thy messenger.
Let his sting and terror be taken away;
let him be the welcome messenger at Thy command
to call me from a world of misery
to Thy kingdom of Glory, purchased by Thy Blood —
for all that believe in Thy Name!
There I shall be one monument of Thy richest mercy,
to the eternal Glory of Thy free Grace,
of Thy unmerited Grace to sinners of whom I, even I
am Chief. But yet I am Thine!
O, Save me for Thy Glory’s Sake
Amen.

The present writer has taken it upon himself to follow the editor’s precedent and to put another of Rev. Craig’s prayers into blank verse (without changing the spelling) as follows:

O Father of Mercy,
ye Foundain of all Good, make me truly thankful to thee
for that mercy, goodness, and care thou hast taken of me --
especially in my days of foolish childhood and youthful vanity.
O remember not the errors of my youth,
but forgive them all for Christ’s sake, and in Him now
accept me a poor, guilty sinner.
Oh give strength and courage now, when Nature fails,
to fight the good fight of faith and to finish my course with joy;
not fearing even the King of Terrors thro Christ his Conqueror,
the Captain of my Salvation, the foundation of all my hopes,
and the Purchaser of present comfort and future joy and Glory for me,
and for all that truly believe in his name!
Make me faithful unto death so that I may truly expect life from thee!
And to ye, Three-in-one, thro Christ,
be all Glory, now and thro Endless Eternity.
Amen.

Further editing of the poetic prayers of John Craig might result in a devotional work not unlike the Valley of Vision on a smaller scale. For now, this brief introduction to Craig’s personal writings — indeed, the soliloquy of a soul crying out to God — may serve to whet the appetite of those who share Craig’s spiritual hunger for his beloved Christ.

How do we know what the Log College looked like?

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After the closing of the Log College in 1746, there was a gap in the historical memory of what the actual building used by William Tennent, Sr. to teach the next generation of American Presbyterian ministers looked like. Mary Tennent explains:

Until the close of the 19th century, it was thought that no likeness of the school existed. The sole reference to its appearance occurred in George Whitefield’s journal dated 1739 when he visited Neshaminy, that it was built of logs and was “twenty feet long and nearly as broad.” Around 1889, Dr. Thomas Murphy while engaged in writing a history of the “Log College Presbytery” (New Brunswick) learned otherwise through a rather unusual circumstance. (Light in the Darkness: The Story of William Tennent, Sr. and The Log College, p. 35)

We turn now to Murphy’s own account, published in The Presbytery of the Log College; or, The Cradle of the Presbyterian Church in America (1889), pp. 484-486, along with the first known visual representation of the original Log College.

In the journal of the Rev. George Whitefield record is found which states that the Log College was a structure built of logs, and that its dimensions were twenty by eighteen feet. Beyond this simple notice and the name it has ever borne, the appearance of the building has thus far been a mystery. No picture, or description even, has been supposed to be in existence. This makes the discovery of what is the frontispiece of this volume an event the value of which only the antiquary can appreciate. It is a discovery for which the author is indebted to Dr. W. S. Steen, a gentleman well known in San Francisco, Cal., member of the Calvary Presbyterian church of that city and for years superintendent of one of its Sabbath-schools, also an eminent mineralogist and assayer.

While engaged in geological and kindred pursuits at the Yuba mines, in California, he made the acquaintance of a man named Wilson, a pious and intelligent miner, in whom he became greatly interested. Both being natives of Pennsylvania and members of the Presbyterian Church, they would seek refuge on the Sabbath in the forest from the noise and profanity of the mine, and there study the Bible. On these days Wilson related his previous history. He was of pious ancestry in Eastern Pennsylvania. A grandfather had importuned him to study for the ministry of the Church of his forefathers, and among other inducements had presented him with a Bible in which there was a picture of "the first college established in this country for the training of young men for the Presbyterian ministry." It looked as if it had been an illustration from an old pamphlet or had been sketched by some bright youth of the institution. The building was small and rude, of logs, and located in Eastern Pennsylvania among the Presbyterians. On this picture, as a reminder of their faroff home, the two had gazed times without number. Dr. Steen came to have it so fixed in his imagination and memory that he could recall it with the utmost vividness. Failing by correspondence to find either Wilson or the Bible, at the author's solicitation he described the picture so exactly that the designer had no difficulty in reproducing it with the utmost accuracy. Of this the doctor has given the accompanying certificate, with the liberty of making it public:

"I do hereby certify that the accompanying engraving is an exact reproduction of ‘a picture of the first college building in this country for the education of young men for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Eastern Pennsylvania, and which was constructed of logs,' which I very frequently saw in the Bible of a pious miner of the Yuba mines of California, and which he had received as an heirloom from a grandfather whose ancestral home was in that region of the State.

"W. S. Steen,
"San Francisco, Cal."

In addition to this certificate, there are three corroborative circumstances which leave no question but that we have here an actual likeness of the original Log-College building: (1) The picture is so unique with its two tiers of windows, so unlike the traditional log house, that the building evidently had some special purpose; (2) The grounds around the building, as seen in the larger original picture, are precisely like the existing grounds around the site of the Log College; (3) In the original picture was the form of a man standing in front of the door, which in the position, dress and mode of wearing the hair bore an unmistakable likeness to the existing pictures of William Tennent. All these peculiarities Dr. Steen described before he had seen the likeness of Tennent or knew anything else about the Log College.

There can, therefore, be scarcely a doubt but that in this picture we have a correct representation of the original Log-College building, and so a treasure of the greatest value.

Log College.jpg

Thus, from the pen of Thomas Murphy we have the story of how this famous picture of the Log College was re-discovered in the late 19th century. It fires the imagination even today to think about how such a humble log cabin school left such a valuable spiritual legacy. We are thankful for the providence of God in the re-discovery of this illustration, but even more for the spiritual blessing to the church which it represents.

A "rainbow round about the throne" in the thought of B.M. Palmer

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And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. (Rev. 4:2-3)

Sometimes a recurring theme is evident in the writings that an author leaves behind in their several works. One such theme to be found in the sermons and other literature produced by Benjamin Morgan Palmer — whom his friend Theodore L. Cuyler once described as “the prince of Southern preachers” — is that of “a rainbow round about the throne” of Jesus Christ.

What did this particular double symbol from the vision of John the Apostle signify to this Southern Presbyterian theologian? To answer that question, let us first take note of some examples of this reference which appear in his various published works.

  • And with such a champion might not the rainbow of the ancient glory once more encircle the throne of David? — Christianity, the Only Religion for Man: A Discourse (1855)

  • What glory too surrounds the Church! an outer halo, a second rainbow to that which, like an emerald, John saw round the throne! She is the body of Christ, the bride, the Lamb's wife, whose "beauty" the "King hath greatly desired." — Opening Sermon at the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America (1861)

  • He, who sits enthroned beneath the emerald rainbow, smiles upon us from out the dark cloud, as he writes against it the hour of deliverance. — A Discourse Before the General Assembly of South Carolina on December 10, 1863 (1864)

  • 2. This Mediatorial supremacy explains to us also the intermingling of mercy with providence. What an exquisite symbol of this was afforded in one of the earliest of John’s visions in Patmos! “And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone; and THERE WAS A RAINBOW ROUND ABOUT THE THRONE, in sight like unto an emerald.” (Rev. iv.2, 3.) It is the emblem of mercy, and gives assurance of the staying of wrath. How easy to comprehend it, when it is the author of grace who executes justice, and who covers its claim with a perfect obedience He himself has rendered! Hence, the extension of common mercies to the guilty no less than to the righteous. It is under the administration of Him who “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mat. v.45.) — “Christ’s Universal Dominion” (Sermon preached on May 10, 1877) in Sermons, Vol. 2, p. 393

  • I have this to Him for, the greatest of all His mercies, and then for this, that He gave her to me so long. The memories of almost half a century encircle me as a rainbow. I can feed upon them through the remainder of a short, sad life, and after that can carry them up to Heaven with me and pour them into song forever. If the strings of the harp are being stretched to a greater tension, it is that the praise may hereafter rise to higher and sweeter notes before His throne — as we bow together there.” — Letter from B.M. Palmer to Theodore L. Cuyler after the death of Palmer’s wife (1888), in Theodore L. Cuyler, Recollections of a Long Life (1902), p. 223; and Thomas Cary Johnson, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1906), pp. 526-527

  • In addition to all this, consider what it imports to the child of God that the whole administration of providence is committed to him who has redeemed his soul from death. The dispensations of providence are often dark and forbidding, and they seem to frown upon us when we regard them only as issuing from the hand of “the unknown God.” No wonder that the crushed heart cries out from the depths, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” But how soon is seen “the rainbow round about the throne,” when we view our Priest-King seated beneath its blessed arch, dispensing grace to help in every trial and in every sorrow! — Theology of Prayer (1894), p. 283

Chiefly, we may also take note of this sermon by Palmer: The Rainbow Round the Throne; or, Judgment Tempered With Mercy: A Discourse Before the Legislature of Georgia, Delivered on the Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer (1863). From the text (Rev. 4:2-3), Palmer argues thus:

But the most remarkable feature in this scene is "the rainbow round about the throne," with its predominant green so refreshing to the eye, "in sight like unto an Emerald." This symbol, purely historical in its character, admits a more certain interpretation than the two which preceded. You remember that after the deluge God set his how in the clouds, a sign of the covenant into which he had entered with Noah, the second father of our race, and a seal of the promise that he would not again destroy the Earth, with a flood. From that day, the rainbow has been recognized as problem of mercy, and of mercy returning after judgment….Henceforth it is an integral principle of the Divine government, seated by the side of law in its administration both in Heaven and on Earth — and God shall rule forever over the redeemed, not simply as a king over his subjects, but as a father over his sons. If then the primary design of God in the creation of man be the revelation of his grace, surely this grace must interpenetrate his entire history. The record may vindicate the supremacy of law, but of law as it is tempered by mercy. He who sits upon the throne may be look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone; but he will sit and reign beneath the sign of the emerald rainbow. 2. The union of mercy with judgment in the government of this world, is more determinately proved by the fact that the whole administration of Providence is specially committed by the Father to his son, Jesus Christ….Upon the dark back-ground of the cloud which now hangs so low and drenches it with sorrow and with blood, can we discover the sign of the rainbow, the emblem of mercy and of hope? To these questions, I will return the long-pondered and deeply cherished convictions of my own heart: and may God help me this day “to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, and that she shall receive of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins”!

Consistently throughout his life, B.M. Palmer made reference to the double symbol of the throne encircled by a rainbow, a reference to Jesus Christ, whose government is that of both justice and mercy. It was, for Palmer, a “long-pondered and deeply cherished” conviction that the mediatorial rule of Christ brings together mercy and judgment (Ps. 85:10; 101:1).

The method of grace is perfectly safe for the sinner, because it never presents God in contradiction with himself. The language of grace is at the same time the language of law. The reconciliation between them is complete; for “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other: truth shall spring out of earth, righteousness shall look down from heaven.” (Ps. lxxxv.10, 11.) Justice, no less than mercy, is the guardian of the believer’s hope and all the divine attributes unite to lay the ground of his assurance of eternal life. — Theology of Prayer, pp. 186-187

From the double symbol of the “rainbow round about the throne,” Palmer himself has been comforted during times of personal and national troubles, and on the basis of such comfort Palmer was enabled to encourage and strengthen others. May this thought be a comfort to readers today — that He who rules and governs over all from his mediatorial throne of justice and judgment does so encircled by a rainbow of hope and mercy. His royal throne is a mercy-seat!

Pattillo's Geographical Catechism

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When John Chavis — the first African-American Presbyterian ordained as a minister in the United States (licensed on November 19, 1800) — engaged in his secondary schooling in preparation for the ministry, he studied first under the Rev. Henry Pattillo (1726-1801), and then at Princeton under the Rev. John Witherspoon (1723-1794), both Scottish-born American patriot Presbyterian ministers and educators. It is to Henry Pattillo that we look today — who himself studied under the Rev. Samuel Davies — to take note of a memorable work which he produced, which is thought to have made a deep impression upon Chavis, who also was a patriot who served in the American War of Independence (as did Pattillo; Witherspoon signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation).

That notable work was titled A Geographical Catechism (1796), the first textbook ever published in North Carolina. It constitutes an attempt to educate farmers and young people about the world around them, including the celestial world. Further, it introduced its readers to world history and culture, taking particular note of the newly-formed United States of America, and the other major nations of the earth. This overview, given in question-and-answer format, was produced with an explicitly Christian worldview, aiming to inculcate in its readers a desire to glorify the God of creation, providence and redemption.

Pattillo, Henry, A Geographical Catechism Title Page cropped.jpg

The scientific descriptions given by Pattillo for the world of nature reflect the current understanding of his day. Four continents are described, as well as seven planets in the solar system (the furthest away from the sun being known to Pattillo as “the Georgian Planet” — or, as we know it, Uranus).

His praise of the United States is high indeed. Answering Q. 104, he describes the United States as a “terrestrial paradise,” sketching its history from the arrival of Christopher Columbus, but focusing chiefly on the late conflict with England, summing his thoughts thus:

A general treaty took place, in which Britain acknowledged the independence of the American States, which the other nations of Europe did soon after. A constitution was formed by the united wisdom of our country, which after some time was adopted by all the states. Under its happy influence they have flourished ever since in peace, prosperity and reputation and the population of our western territory has never been equaled since the first ages of the world.

O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint Americanos! Virgil

Pattillo’s description of comets in space proceeds — encouraging his readers to follow this example — from the scientific to the doxological.

No part of God's works that have come to my knowledge, astonish me more than the infinite wisdom, foreknowledge and divine art of the Deity, in throwing from his creating hand more than 40 enormous globes, whose paths oppose and cross each other for thousands of years, in every direction, without the rapid fiery comet once touching or interrupting a single planet? which must have frequently happened had the planet been in that part of its orbit in which it was before the cornet passed, or would be soon after. Adore ye sons of men, and in humble gratitude acknowledge the power, wisdom and goodness of GOD! If he is thus tremendous in one of his works, who can stand when HE ariseth? Make peace with him whilst thou art in the way; for he is as gracious to returning penitents, as he will be terrible to the sinner in his crimes (A. 72).

Descending from the heavenly realm to the terrestrial, Pattillo still focuses the attention of the reader on the God who made all:

Q. 90. Having surveyed wonders sufficient to bring an infidel to his knees, and to animate the devotion of the most devout; may we now return to Geography, if any thing on our globe be worthy of notice, after the more illustrious scenes we have passed through?

A. It is true our world is but a speck in the creation, and yet it has wonders of power and wisdom belonging to it, sufficient to employ the deepest researches of the wisest of men, and fresh wonders discovered every day; and it has one thing to glory in, above all the creation of GOD.

Q. 91. What is that pray?

A. It is that great gospel truth, GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. A world thus redeemed, is well worthy of our notice. We return then to Geography, or that description of countries, cities, and seaports, without the knowledge of which, no person can read a news-paper, nor follow a traveller by sea or land.

Chavis’ biographer states that it was “the Presbyterian view” indeed “that all knowledge is a part of God’s providence” (Helen Chavis Othow, John Chavis: African American Patriot, Preacher, Teacher, and Mentor (1763-1838), p. 39). By summarizing the basic knowledge of the world of creation and providence for his students, including John Chavis, Pattillo made an enormous contribution to the godly education of students in North Carolina and Virginia. Chavis is an important part of that legacy, because it reflects a desire on the part of the teacher to have all of his students, of whatever skin color, in the words of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler, “think God’s thoughts after Him.”