The Monitory Letters

Although published anonymously, the author of Monitory Letters to Church Members (1855) was William Buell Sprague. These are the letters of a watchman for the souls of his flock, and they address challenging issues that were prevalent in the 19th century, and no less so today. 

Contained in this volume are a series of 22 letters written to address subjects that reflect a declination in serious religion. Among those persons and topics addressed are:

  • Those who undervalue divine truth;
  • Those who willfully skip the second worship service on the Lord's Day;
  • Those who would send their children to dancing school (Sprague does not argue that dancing is sinful);
  • Those who neglect family worship;
  • Those who travel excessively on the Lord's Day;
  • Those who neglect mid-week services;
  • Those who are stingy and censorious (overly-critical); 
  • Those who are impatient, complaining, fickle, bigoted, neglectful, and irreverent;
  • Those who lack parental involvement and oversight; and 
  • Those who would send their children to a Roman Catholic school. 

Sprague means here to uphold the sanctity of the Lord's Day, the virtue and importance of family worship, the graces of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life, the appreciation of true religion, and the wholesomeness of the home. Not all in our day will agree with his position on all issues. But these letters remind us of the seriousness of the issues which are pastorally addressed. They are not to be lightly dismissed. 

Three of the letters speak to the subject of family worship. The second letter, in particular, addresses the Scriptural warrant for its duty and practice. All of them are valuable incentives to experimental piety, which Sprague aimed at in all of his writings. 

Take time to read over these monitory letters. You may not be the addressee, but they may still convict the 21st century reader and stir him or her unto a serious apprehension of our duties before God and man. 

The Happy Man's Pedigree

William Mills (1739-1774) was a graduate of Princeton, who became pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Long Island, New York, one of the first Presbyterian churches in America. As part of his ministry, he wrote tracts, such as the Bunyan-like one below, which can be found in James Madison McDonald, Two Centuries in the History of the Presbyterian Church, Jamaica, L.I.; The Oldest Existing Church, of the Presbyterian Name, in America (1862), pp. 182-183.

The Happy Man's Pedigree

The HAPPY MAN, was born in the City of Regeneration — in the parish of Repentance unto Life: he was educated at the School of Obedience, and lives now in Perseverance: he works at the trade of Diligence, notwithstanding he has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment; and many times does jobs of Self-Denial; he wears the plain garment of Humility, and has a better suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness; he often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountain of Spiritual-Mindedness; he breakfasts every morning upon Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same; he has Meat to eat that the world knows not of, and his Drink is the sincere Milk of the Word: — Thus, happy he lives, and happy he dies. Happy is he who has Gospel Submission in his will — due order in his affection — sound peace in his conscience — Sanctifying Grace in his soul-real Divinity in his breast — true Humility in his heart — the Redeemer’s yoke on his neck — a vain world under his feet — and a crown of Glory over his head. Happy is the life of such an one: — In order to attain which — Pray frequently — Believe firmly wait patiently — work abundantly — live Holily — die daily — watch your hearts — guide your senses — redeem your time — love Christ — and long for Glory.