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So Much Preaching, So Little Practice – Manton on Ps. 119:97

In Uncategorized on 22/08/2009 at 23:44

“What is the reason there is so much preaching and so little practice? For want of meditation.  Constant thoughts are operative.  If a hen straggleth out from her nest, she brings forth nothing, her eggs chill; so, when we do not set abrood upon holy thoughts, if we content ourselves with some few transient thoughts and glances about Divine things, and do not dwell upon them, the truth is suddenly put off, and doth no good.  All actions require time and space for their operation; if hastily slubbered over, they cool; if we give them time and space, we shall feel their effects: so, if we hold truths in our mind and dwell upon them, there will be an answerable impression; but, when they come like a flash of lightning, then they are gone, and we run them over cursorily.  That truth may work, there are required three things, sound belief, serious consideration, and close application: “Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know it for thy good. (Job v. 27).”

[Thomas Manton, Sermons on Psalm 119, vol. 2, p. 325.]

Pray for your Minister (1840)

In Uncategorized on 17/08/2009 at 20:43

[from The Charleston Observer 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 5-6.]
by “Y.E.K.”

Called to a great work he needs your prayers; “He is an ambassador for Christ; a steward of the mysteries of God, to declare his course; to preach the Word, instant in season, and out of season.”  he stands in the place of the Divine Redeemer, to publish His message of mercy, and to urge its acceptance upon mankind.  He is appointed to proclaim the mind of the Most High, to declare His law, to utter His threatenings, to speak His promises, to press His claims, to do it truly and faithfully.  To accomplish this, he “must give attendance to his preaching, to exhortation, to doctrine, not neglecting the gift he has received with prophecy and the laying on of hands of the Presbytery, meditating continually on these things, that no man may despise his attainments.  This is to be done too, in opposition to the views of many who would have him always among his people; and in preaching a thorougly extemporaneous man, and also in the midst of multiplied and various calls upon his time and attention.  He must also “be an example to the flock in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; in doctrine, showing uncorruptness; in meekness, instructing them that oppose themselves, holding fast the faithful word.”

What knowledge, wisdom and grace, are requisite for all this?  How must the heart glow with the love of God!  What humility, and patience, and kindness are necessary!  What firmness and decision, tempered with what meekness and love!  How must the minister be rooted, and grounded in the truth!  What spiritual discernment ppossess, what unquenchable love to souls!  What a heavenly mind–a Christ-like temper and a holy life; and who shall possess these without large measures of the Spirit of truth and grace? and this is a gift bestowed in answer to prayer.

Then Christian, pray for that gift to thy minister.  Remember too, his work is trying.  He is tried, among other things, by the carelessness and inaction of the church–by the apathy and unbelief of his impenitent hearers.  Perhaps at the very moment some are complaining of his lifelessness, and look abroad for foreign aid, he is mourning in his closet the spiritual dearth among his people, and beseeching the God of heaven to revive his work, and to render his labors, though he feels personal unworthiness, more efficient and successful.  As he surveys the fruitlessness of his field of labor, his heart almost faints within him.  What need of supporting grace.  Christian, seek it in his behalf by prayer.

Think too, of the diversity of opinion and feeling among his people.  Lift up your eye.   Behold the eager anxieety to catch at something new and strange.  Mark the jealousy and suspicion which exist between brethren.  What shall he do?  How keep his heart right, and pursue the right course?  How stan amid conflicting views, unawed by fear; unwarped by prejudice; meek though bold, and speak the truth as it is in Christ?  Who needs your prayers, if he does not need them?

Then think he is a man, liable to the errors, and frailties and sins of men.  He is not infallible.  He is not all-wise, nor all-prudent, nor all holy.  A human being, is he called to these duties and trials.  An angel might sink under them, what shall he do?—How much grace does he need?  Then what need of prayer in his behalf?  Christian, cease to dwell upon his imperfections and proclaim his foibles; go to your closet, and if you can pray, pray that God would anoint him anew for his work.  Should you and your brethren do it, you might expect him to be far holier, far wiser, far more efficient and successful.  Then, too, your own improvement and happiness call upon you to do this.  The connection between the labors of your pastor, and the welfare of the Church is intimate and obvious.  You in fact allow it.  Therefore you provide for those labors.  You erect houses of worship, you employ  preacher, you attend to hear.  To build up the Church what need that preaching be correct, spiritual, discriminating, earnest; that it be in demonstration of the spirit and with power.

Could the preacher come each Sabbath laden with knowledge, imbued with love, and attended by the Holy Ghost—could he go thus from house to house, and meeting to meeting, how much might be accomplished.  Souls would be fed and nourished.  The thoughtless be aroused, the fearful encouraged, the doubting confirmed.  Many would arise to new activity in the divine life.  Sinners too must feel its influence.  God hath constituted the preaching of the Gospel His power and wisdom unto salvation.  Infinite consequences are depending.  That Gospel is a savor of life or of death.  With God’s blessing it may raise the soul from sin to holiness.  It may save it from hell and bear it to heaven.  Here is the grand reason after all, to pray for ministers.  Their personal difficulties and trials are of small account.—It is that the Gospel may have free course and be glorified; that it may hasten on its way, making glad the city of our God, and bearing salvation to the lost.

If you would love that Gospel, if you would see it triumph, if you love the souls it was given to save, and him who gave it, never forget to pray for your minister.  “Finally brethren, pray for us;” then the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.

The Importance of Biblical and Catechetical Instruction in the Family

In Uncategorized on 13/08/2009 at 16:43

[Paper read before the Presbytery of Central Mississippi, and published at its request.]
By Prof. J.A. Sanderson.

That it should be necessary to advance arguments in support of so important a duty, or even to use exhortation to encourage its performance, is a most remarkable thing.  It seems almost a travesty on our religion–an insult to our Christian intelligence.  It is certainly not from want of knowledge.  The Bible is clear and full on this point.  We have the testimony of thousands of good men in every generation, expressing the debt of gratitude they owe to their parents for faithful instruction given in childhood.  Every time parents present a child for baptism, they take a solemn obligation to instruct it in the Bible and Catechism.  Yet, as a matter of fact, there is an alarming and increasing dereliction on the part of parents in this matter.  Taking things, therefore, as they are, we will proceed to some thoughts on the line indicated.

Parents should instruct their children in the Bible—first, because God has plainly enjoined it upon them.  Do we really accept the Bible as God’s word?  Do we look upon it as an inspired and hence an infallible guide for our conduct?  Then we cannot evade the force of its plain teachings.

Deut. xi. 18, 19, says:  “Therefore, shall ye lay up these my words in your heart; * * and ye shall  teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”  Psalm lxxviii. 5:  “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.”   Prov. xxii. 6:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Strong as this language is, yet, like many other great moral truths, this duty is even more strongly taught inferentially.

Secondly, there are considerations founded in reason and common sense, and abundantly attested by observation and experience, to prove advisability and utility.  The child’s faith in its parents is implicit.  In his sight, the parent is a god—omnipotent, omniscient, infallible.  His word is taken implicitly.

Again, the child’s mind is thoroughly receptive and open to conviction.  Like the highly sensitive place of the photographer, responding to the least ray of light.  Impressions made at this period are most lasting.  I once heard a wise and experienced parent say, that if a child did not learn the principles of obedience before it was two years old, it never would properly imbibe them.

Again, the parent alone has access to the child at the tender age when these instructions should begin.  Nature, as well as Revelation, designates him as the proper one for this task.  He alone is clothed with the authority necessary to enforce attention and application necessary to acquire knowledge.  Ask the Sabbath-school teachers why, after their most earnest efforts, there is so little real study and positive acquisition.  They will tell us that it is because they have no coercive authority.  It would doubtless be the testimony of most of those in this audience who have committed the Catechism or considerable portions of Scripture or hymns, that the work was done almost entirely under the gentle but firm compulsion of a Christian mother.

Again, instructive parental love is a powerful auxiliary in the proper training of children.  The teacher who instructs children not her own, either for remuneration or from duty, may tire and flag over a dull pupil; but parental love inspires to perseverance, or even family pride will impel to untiring efforts to train the child for stations of honor and usefulness.
Again, the parent has a larger period of contact with the child than any one else, during which so many kinds of opportunities occur for naturally and pleasantly instilling religious instruction, and making deep and practical impressions.

Do not these considerations throw a great responsibility upon parents?  It is so recognized in the matter of secular education.  Why not in that of religious instruction?  Is it that the one is prized more highly  than the other—our children’s temporal welfare more than their eternal?  Or, is it than, recognizing the importance, we shrink from the duty, and endeavor to shift the task, indulging the vain and illusive idea that the pastor, or the Sabbath-school teacher, can perform it better than we can.  I think I will be borne out by universal experience and observation, that if the Catechism is not learned in early life, it will not be learned at all; and the same may be said of committing Scripture and learning hymns.  The responsibility cannot be shifted.

But, along with these responsibilities, there are some rewards to faithfulness.  Is there not a great reward involved in Solomon’s injunction, already quoted:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  It is certainly a joy to any right-minded parent to see his children growing up into intelligent Christian men and women, known and honored of all men for truth and piety, adorning the church with the graces of the Spirit—each new home a centre of Christian influence—the salt to save, a light to lighten the world.  Should not the prospect of such a fruition stimulate every parent to more faithfulness?

In conclusion, I will draw a contrast.  There are two homes.  We will examine them.  As we approach the first, the exterior is inviting, if not elegant.  Within we find many devices to beguile time.  Perhaps a deck of cards lies convenient.  The daily paper is conspicuous, though the father thinks he cannot afford the church paper.  There are few, if any, religious books.  The Bible is a family relic kept on the parlor centre-table, where the children must not go for fear of injuring the furniture.  The voice of prayer is never heard, nor hymns of Zion, but, in their place, voluptuous music, and the dance trips merrily.  But Sunday comes.  These are church people.  It is respectable to be.  It is good form to attend service—that is, morning service.  After a late breakfast the children are hustled off to Sabbath-school, without even a thought for their lessons, to get them out of the way while the mother gives the house an extra cleaning, to atone for the neglects of the past six days, and prepares an elaborate toilet [i.e, grooming or dressing] for appearance at service.  Children may stay to service or not; sit where they want to, whether inside or out, on ground floor or in gallery.  Afternoon finds mother fagged out with household duties or society demands, and she must rest; no time to drum at children and Catechisms and Sabbath-school lessons.  Father is engrossed with his forty-page Sunday paper and cannot be annoyed.  Children want out in search of amusement.  So the days and months go by, and no seeds have been sown  but those of worldliness and sin.

It is scarcely necessary to draw the other picture; even a dull imagination may supply it.  Night and morning prayer ascends from the family altar.  The little tot at his mother’s knee is taught to lisp his little prayer.  Almost his first budding thoughts are directed to God and heaven.  The mother’s heart is full of solicitude for her children’s spiritual welfare.  Pleading with God to help her train them, she will spare no pains to help God.  Sunday finds her house in order.  She has found time to assist the children with the Sabbath-school lessons.  All attend worship, and all occupy the family pew together.  After a frugal meal, prepared mostly on the day before, all assemble in the sitting-room.  Mother and father vie with each other in making home pleasant and profitable for the children.  With stories from the Sabbath-school library or the religious newspaper, or from the Bible itself, with Scripture texts and Catechism committed, interspersed with hymns, the whole seasoned with love and anon with gentle but firm parental authority, the time is only too short.  These are the parents that bind their children to them with bands of steel.  These are the occasions which, embalmed in memory, stand out as a perpetual barrier against the machinations of Satan.

From which of these homes, think you, are more likely to come gamblers, pilferers of money-drawers, forgers, defaulters, train-robbers, profaners, Sabbath-breakers, murderers, etc.?  Or from which will come those men and women who are the salt of the earth, the pillars of the Church, who stand prominent among men for veracity, honor and all noble virtues, who are the pride and stay of their parents in their declining days, and finally go down to their graves followed by the benedictions of mankind, and are received into mansions prepared?  To ask the question is to answer it.

[excerpted from The Southwestern Presbyterian 27.39 (17 October 1895): 2, cols. 4-6.]

Woe betide the Age of E-mail

In Uncategorized on 13/08/2009 at 15:34

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

“Everyone knows, of course, that the actual number of letters passing through the mails of every civilized country is greater, rather than less, year by year.  But everyone also feels that these letters are no longer letters, in the true sense, at all.  They are amplified telegrams, bald and bare statements of fact; and they have the loose and disjointed and careless phraseology of the telegraphic message.  That sense of the fit expression, the graceful concept; that feeling for the lucid and connected exposition of the ideas, for the balance of the parts of a letter, for its composition, in short–the very term is pre-Adamite to the end-of-the-century ear — that used to pre-occupy the best letter-writers of another generation, have gone from our present day scribblers of hasty notes, as though such musty things had never been.  The only people who “compose” their letters now are cultivated old ladies.  Their college-bred grand daughters, intellectually armed and professionally equipped, exhibit productions in that line, of which, for the most part, it might be said, as Henry James remarked of the notes of invitation of the London society woman, that they have nothing in common with the epistolary art but the postage stamp.

It may be held that such an accomplishment is not, after all, of the greatest value.  But behind it there is an instinct, deep-seated in the race, that a widespread habit of careless writing affects very directly the thinking of a people.  And this one cannot but believe to be the case.  It takes no intellect to put plain facts into honest, self-respecting phrases.  But it takes self-restraint and attentiveness, and these lead in time to a disciplined and coherent way of looking at life.


[excerpted from The Southwestern Presbyterian 27.23 (27 June 1895): 3, col. 4]

Deacons (1840)

In Deacons on 08/08/2009 at 19:55

The following short article appeared on the pages of The Charleston Observer in 1840, reprinted there from The Presbyterian, a Philadelphia paper.  The article was written in response to actions taken in the Presbyterian Church at that time, correcting the error of disuse into which the diaconal office had fallen

We are pleased to observe that the injunctions of the General Assembly, relative to the appointment of Deacons in our several Churches, has attracted attention, and in many instances, has led inferior judicatories to take immediate measures to supply the glaring defect which is so general, and has been so long continued.  The disuse into which the office has fallen, has arisen from a wrong impression, that it may properly be dispensed with in any Church which has no poor dependent on its charity, or where the Elders without inconvenience, can attend to the poor.  In reply to this, we refer to the requirements of the Church, which are imperative on the subject.  The Deacon is an officer who is spoken of as an indispensable part of a rightly organized Church, and if he may be set aside by such a plea, as the one above alluded to, with the same propriety may the Ruling Elder be dispensed with, on some similar plea.  The Deacon is a spiritual officer in the Church of Christ, and while it is his peculiar duty to be the almoner of the Church to its poor, it is surely not his only duty.  Is he under no obligations to accompany these charities with kindly visits, religious conversation, and prayer?  Is he not to give counsel to the widow in her affliction, and instruction to the orphan?–He may be a co-adjutor to the Elder, and aid the Pastor materially in the well-ordering of the Church.  The office of the Deacon was not designed to be a temporary one ; there is not one intimation in Scripture to this effect ; and although it originated in the peculiar wants of the Church at the time, yet those wants will always exist in a degree sufficient to justify its continuance.–The duty of the Churches, therefore, is clear: they should forthwith chosed out suitable men to fill this office.–The Presbyterian.

[The Charleston Observer, 14.40 (21 November 1840): 1, col. 6]

Five Things To Be Avoided (1840)

In Preaching on 05/08/2009 at 06:12

Five Things to Be Avoided When Called Upon to Preach in Strange Churches.
by Dr. Doddridge

I.  Do not chose texts which appear odd, the choice of which vanity may be supposed to dictate.

II.  Nor a text of censure.  This is assuming.

III.  Nor a text  leading to curious and knotty questions:  then it would be said you preached yourself.

IV.  Do not aim to eclipse the minister of the place by an extraordinary display of talent.  This is unkind.  But,

V.  Chose a text of an ordinary, edifying nature, connecting doctrine and practice together, still not a doctrine in respect to which there may be at that time much division among the people ; this, I think, does not belong to a stranger.  Deliver the discourse with urbanity and Christian feeling ;  you will then be welcome a second time.

[The Charleston Observer 14.21 (11 July 1840): 1, col. 6.]

Confession of Faith (1840)

In Westminster Confession of Faith on 04/08/2009 at 19:57

One hundred seventy years ago, Presbyterian congregations were largely ignorant of the Church’s own StandardsAre we much better off today?

“The Presbyterian Board of Publication have issued a correct edition of the Confession of Faith, and they are now selling it at the lowest possible rate, without any regard for pecuniary profit ; their principal aim being to circulate it widely through the Church.–It will be readily admitted that every Presbyterian should be at least partially acquainted with the standards of his own church, and yet how many are there who have never made these the subject of a days study?  It is wholly inexcusable in pastors to have families under their care who are not provided with the Confession, especially when a little exertion on their part, might supply the defect.  Will not Pastors and Sessions at once resolve that every family in the Presbyterian Church in the United States shall, before the expiration of two years, be provided with the Confession of Faith of our Church?”

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 14.8 (11 April 1840): 2, col. 3.]

Passports to the Table – Samuel Miller on Tokens (1837)

In Samuel Miller on 03/08/2009 at 16:50

Use of Tokens

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 11.2 (Sat., 14 Jan. 1837): 6, col. 2]

The enquiry [sic] is often made whence originated the use of tokens at one period in this country, so extensively in the Presbyterian Church, but now almost obsolete? The following answer from the Rev. Dr. Miller of Princeton, to the Editor of the Southern Religious Telegraph, appears to us satisfactory. — Philadelphia Obs.

“The use of Tokens had its origin in the churches of Scotland. At the commencement of the Reformation in the country, the Lord’s Supper was administered four times in each year. Afterwards, for reasons altogether insufficient, as I suppose, that ordinance came to be administered less frequently ; in none more than twice. The consequence of this arrangement was, that, whenever the ordinance was dispensed in each church, it was made an ecclesiastical occasion. The pastors of three, four, or five neighboring churches left their own pulpits on that day, went to the aid of their brother, and took the mass of their congregations with them, to enjoy the privilege of communing with their sister church. The sacramental service was commonly preceded by preaching on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, one of which days was observed as a Sacramental Fast ; and the Monday following the Sabbath as a day of Thanksgiving. This, of course, gave rise to much preaching, which rendered the presence and aid of several ministers highly desirable, if not necessary. When the Sabbath came, the Ministers, Ruling Elders and Communicants of four or five different churches were all assembled, and gathered round the same sacramental table. In these circumstances, the question arose, How should those who were really communicants, in good standing, be distinguished from unworthy intruders, who belonged to no church, and were perhaps even profligate ; but who, from unworthy motives, might thrust themselves into the seats of worthy communicants, and thus produce disorder and scandal? To meet this difficulty, the plan was adopted, to deposite [sic]in the hands of each pastor and his elders, a parcel of cheap metallic pieces, called “Tokens,” which they were to dispense to all the known members of their own church, who were in attendance, and wished to commune. Thus, although not a quarter part of the communicants were personally known to the pastor or elders of the church in which the sacramental service occurred ; yet those cheap and convenient little certificates of church membership, (for such they were intended to be) being received by each communicant, from the minister and elder of his own church, prevented imposition and secured regularity and order.

Such was the origin of Tokens. They were then of solid use. And wherever similar circumstances and practices exist now, they or something equivalent, may be usefully emplayed [sic]. As in many other cases, however, they have been long used, both in this country and in Europe, where the circumstances which brought them into use no longer exist. But it does appear to me that the use of these passports to the communion table, in cases in which the members of a single church only (every one of whom is known to the minister and elders) are about to commune, is a strange, if not a ludicrous example of the pertinacity with which good people cleave to old habits, when the reasons for them have entirely ceased.