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Dr. Alexander’s Last Sermon (1851)

In Archibald Alexander on 26/10/2012 at 17:11

From THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE, IV.2 (February 1854): 94.


It was in the First Presbyterian Church at Princeton, and on the 20th of July, 1851. The Sabbath was one of the most beautiful I ever saw. The harvest was just over, and the farmers, who made up the country portion of the congregation, had finished reaping the fruits of their year’s toil, and had carefully housed their crops. Many of them were present with their faces bronzed by the harvest suns. Judge, therefore, the appropriateness of Dr. Alexander’s subject. His text was I Cor. iii. 9. “Ye are God’s husbandry.” I can, of course, give but an imperfect outline; but he said:—”These words apply to the Church universal, or its members taken individually. The agriculturalist who wishes to raise a good crop does four things: 1. He prepares the ground. 2. He sows the best seed he can procure. 3. He takes care of the grain when growing. 4. He reaps and stores away the harvest. So, in spiritual things it is necessary for us : 1. To make ready our hearts to receive the impressions of the truth—to come to Christ repenting of all our sins, and asking forgiveness of them for his sake. 2. We must plant the good word of God; and 3. We must cultivate the good seed by prayer, self-examination, and the use of all the means of grace. We must learn the precepts the Bible lays down, and practice them in our walk and conversation. As the husbandman is never free from solicitude and care until he gets the cropt stowed safely away, so the spiritual man can never cease to watch or relax his diligence till life is over. 4. He will reap his reward, to some extent, here, but the great reward shall be hereafter.”


Dr. Alexander’s tomb has the following inscription :

Sacred to the memory
Doctor of Divinity
First Professor of the Theological
Seminary in this place :
Born in what is now Rockbridge county,
Virginia, April 17th, MDCCLXXII :
Licensed to preach the gospel
October 1st, MDCCXCI :
Ordained by the Presbytery of Hanover
June 9th, MDCCXCIV :
A Pastor in Charlotte and Prince Edward
for some years :
Chosen President of
Hampden Sidney College in MDCCXCVI :
Pastor of the Third Presbyterian
Church in Philadelphia in MDCCCVII :
Professor of Didactic and Polemic
Theology in MDCCCXII :
He departed this life
In the faith and peace of Christ,
October 22d, MDCCCLI.

[He forbade all words of praise upon his tomb.]—PRESBYTERIAN.

Image source : The Alexander Memorial. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Company, 1879.


Dr. Archibald Alexander’s Farewell Address (1812)

In Uncategorized on 26/10/2012 at 16:46

Excerpted from Volume III of The Presbyterian Magazine, September 1853, pp. 413-415.
This recounting of the venerable Dr. Alexander’s farewell to his congregation bears the following footnote:

THE PRESBYTERIAN says, that “A valued friend recently discovered in the possession of one of the Pine Street parishoners of Dr. Archibald Alexander,  a manuscript copy of the remarks made by him after his closing sermon as the pastor, and sends it to us for publication, with the remark that ‘it is eminently characteristic of the man, and peculiarly seasonable in its suggestions at this time.’ It will, of course, be read with much interest.”


As it is known to this congregation that I have been appointed by the General Assembly to be a Professor in the Theological School, which they are about to establish at Princeton, New Jersey; and as the time draws near when it will be expected that I should declare my mind in relation to this appointment, I have judged it proper and expedient, in the first place, to make a communication to you, the dear people of my charge.

After viewing this important subject in every light in which I could place it, and after having earnestly sought the direction of Heaven, it does appear to me to be the call of Providence, which I cannot and ought not to resist.

This resolution has not been formed under the influence of any dissatisfaction with my present condition, nor from any want of affection to this people; for, since I have been your pastor, no event has occurred to disturb that peace and harmony which should ever exist between minister and people; and I have had no reason to doubt the sincerity and cordiality of the attachment of this congregation to me, from the first day I came amongst them until this time. For all their respect and attention, and especially for that readiness with which they have received the word at my mouth, “I give thanks to God.” I moreover wish to say, that I do not know a single congregation within the bounds of our Church, of which I would choose to be pastor in preference to this. No invitation, therefore, from any other would ever have separated us.

I did expect to live and die with you, unless ill health (with which I have been threatened of late) should have made a removal expedient. But we know nothing of the designs of Providence with regard to us. His dispensations are unsearchable. In the whole of this business, thus far, I have been entirely passive. I never expected or sought this appointment. When it was mentioned to me by some members of the Assembly, the day it took place, my answer was, that I sincerely wished they would think of some other person; that it was an office which I did not covet, and for which I felt myself altogether unqualified. But when asked whether I would give the subject a serious and deliberate consideration, if I should be appointed, I answered, that this I dare not oppose.

Since the appointment has been made, I have thought much, but said little. I have seriously and deliberately considered the subject. I never viewed any decision to be made by me in so important a light. I think I have desired to do the will of God, and have, as earnestly as I could, asked His counsel and guidance, and the result is, that I am convinced that I ought not to refuse such a call.

To train up young men for the ministry has always been considered of higher importance to the Church of Christ than to preach the gospel to a particular flock, already gathered into the fold; and it has always been considered as a sufficient reason for dissolving the pastoral relation between minister and people, that he was wanted for this employment; and sister churches, which do not allow of removals from a pastoral charge, do, nevertheless, admit this to be a sufficient reason for the translation of a minister.

In addition to this, it ought to be considered that this call comes to me in a very peculiar way. It is not the call of a College, or University, or any such institution, but it is the call of the whole Church by their representatives. And I confess that it has weighed much with my mind, that this appointment was made by the General Assembly in circumstances of peculiar seriousness and solemnity, and after special prayer for Divine direction and superintendence, and by an almost unanimous vote. Perhaps it would be difficult to find a disinterested person who would not say, under such circumstances, “It is your duty to go–it appears to be the call of God;” and I do believe that the majority of this congregation are convinced in their judgment, whatever their feelings may dictate, that I would be out of my duty to refuse. Indeed, I cannot but admire the deportment of the people in relation to this matter. Although tenderly affected, and many of you grieved at heart, yet you have not ventured to say “Stay.”  You saw that there was something remarkable in the dispensation, and you knew not but that the finger of God was in the affair, and therefore, with a submissive spirit, you were disposed to say, “The will of the Lord be done.”

It does appear hard, indeed, that this bereavement should fall upon you who have already been bereaved so often; but consider that He who causeth the wound hath power to heal it, and can turn this event to your greater advantage; and I entertain a confident persuasion that if you willingly make this sacrifice for the good of the Church, the great Head of the Church will furnish you with a pastor after His own heart, who will feed you with knowledge. Commit your cause to Him with fervent prayer and humble confidence, and He will not forget nor forsake you.

My dear brethren, as we have lived in peace and love, I hope that we shall part in the same spirit. I hope that we will remember one another unceasingly at the throne of grace. Let us recollect the times and seasons when we have taken sweet converse together in this house, and other places where prayer is wont to be made. If any shall choose to be displeased, and follow me with hard speeches instead of prayers, I shall not return unto them as they measure unto me. I will not resent their conduct. I desire ever to be disposed to bear you as a people on my heart with tender love; and now to His grace and kind protection do I commit you. Farewell !

The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

In Catechesis, Preaching, Shorter Catechism, Westminster Shorter Catechism, Westminster Standards on 17/10/2012 at 11:25

The following article, though written from the perspective of a concern within Congregational churches in the early 19th century, has much that is applicable for us today.  One key point is made in the statement that “Doctrinal  standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline.” Dr. John Leith made this same point, though more extensively, some years ago in his Warfield Lecture, “Reformed Preaching Today.” Among other points, Leith stressed that the recovery of great preaching requires a well-educated congregation that can track with the pastor’s sermons:

 The recovery of great preaching calls for the revival of the Christian community as a disciplined, knowledgeable, worshiping community of people. The recovery of preaching and the recovery of the community will have to take place together, because there can be no recovery of a vital Christian community, well informed, apart from the recovery of great preaching. And on the other hand, a great congregation makes a great preacher.

And catechesis is the indisputable foundation of a great congregation!

The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

[The Charleston Observer, 10:29 (16 July 1836): 113.]

            In this age of change and boasted improvement, we have witnessed with regret, the increasing disposition of Christians to depart from ancient standards and formularies of doctrines. How far the love of novelty has influence in producing this state of things, we are not prepared to say. The fact is that innovations and changes are easily effected, and the old paths are forsaken; often, seemly because they are old and have been trodden by men of other ages, and new ones are chosen, seemingly because they are new and without examination, whether they will conduct safely or not.

            Perhaps in no portion of the Christian church has the change been greater, than in the congregational churches of Connecticut; ancient standards of doctrine in these churches, have been suffered to pass away, not by a public and formal objection, but by silent neglect on the part of individual churches in order to accommodate and receive to their communion such as would dissent from doctrines contained in their old standards. To this as one cause silently operating, may be traced as we believe the gradual decrease of the congregational churches in Connecticut, and the increase of other denominations. Doctrinal standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline, and then adhered in the denominations embracing them, they serve to strengthen and increase that denomination but when such standards are trodden down or thrown aside, the denomination is changed in its distinctive character, notwithstanding the name should be still retained. Read the rest of this entry »

Miller on Baptism, reviewed by C.C. Jones

In Uncategorized on 16/10/2012 at 17:45

For the Charleston Observer.

[Vol. X, no. 32 (6 May 1836): 126.


            My Dear Sir.—While a student in Princeton Seminary [1829-1830], I prized most highly the Lectures of Dr. Miller, especially those on Church History and Government. He has been justly styled “an accomplished Lecturer.” It always appeared to me that his aim was to communicate distinctly and pointedly, to his class, all he knew or deemed of most utility, on the subjects which he took in hand, and in this he succeeded. I heard his closing lecture to his several courses that it was my privilege to attend, with regret.

            The Lecture which he delivered on “Infant members” of the Church, was received by the class with most marked satisfaction. At its close, with several others, I went to his seat, and we requested his Lecture in manuscript, as well as expressed a wish that it might be published. My gratification was great when I received by order from New York his Sermons on Baptism, which treat both of the subjects and the mode.

            His first sermon answers the question “who are to be considered the proper subjects of Christian Baptism?” In this sermon he proves that Infant Baptism is Scriptural and reasonable, by arguments which must be satisfactory to every candid mind, stated briefly and clearly. The second sermon answers objections to the doctrine of Infant Baptism.—This sermon with its closing practical inferences, should be carefully studied. His remarks on the two points, that, the “baptism of a child is one of the solemn transactions pertaining to our holy religion,” and that “Paedo-baptist Churches have much to reform in regard to their treatment of baptized children, and are bound to address themselves to that reform with all speed and fidelity,” are most searching and true.

            The third and fourth sermons respect the mode of administering Baptism; and the additional notes are on “Giving a Name in Baptism”—“Baptismal Regeneration”—“Sponsors in Baptism”—“Confirmation”—“Vote of Westminster Assembly respecting Baptism.”

            I would not protract a notice of this work of Dr. Miller. It is unquestionably one which our Clergy would do well to procure and circulate in their respective Congregations. Dr. M. has been as brief as the nature of his subject, and his design permitted him to be, and the book could very well be taken as a Text Book, and enlarged upon in familiar lectures by Pastors; for Dr. M. has given the outlines of the argument, and of the truth, as we believe it to be Scriptures.

            The book is not large, it is about 150 pages 12 mo. and the price low. Its size and cost recommend it as a manual. Very respectfully yours,

                                                  C. C. J. [i.e., Charles Colcock Jones, 1804-1863.]

Rev. Jones wrote in review of Infant baptism scriptural and reasonable : and baptism by sprinkling or affusion, the most suitable and edifying mode, in four discourses, with additional notes (Philadelphia, PA: Joseph Whetham, printed by William S. Martien, ©1834, 1835), 148pp.; 19cm.  [Originally delivered in two sermons at the church in Freehold, Monmouth county, New Jersey, 29 September 1834, then revised and enlarged for publication.]  [cf. Life of Samuel Miller, Vol. 2, pp. 255-258.] This work is available on the web, here.

Fourierism, or Socialism

In Uncategorized on 10/10/2012 at 14:26

Another interesting short article from The Evangelical Guardian, and an interesting reflection on the last 40 years, during which these same ideas have been ceaselessly drummed into our heads, neatly summed up in the old Blind Faith song, “Do what you like.”


How vile and despicable appears the system of infidel socialists, when brought into contrast with the holy principles of revealed religion. The best rules for refining the heart and promoting the social happiness of man are found in the gospel.—The Christian Watchman, an excellent religious paper of the Baptist denomination, recently issued an able article on the “Social influence of Christianity,” in which the superlative value of the gospel system is eloquently set forth. In the concluding paragraphs we find the following just rebuke, of the licentiousness of our would-be reformers:—

“The more impressed any one becomes with the truth here suggested, the more profoundly will he abhor those pretended systems of social reform which discard the elementary doctrines of Christianity. Such are the theories of ‘Socialism,’ the schemes of [Robert] Owen and [Charles] Fourier. They set their philosophies above the authority of Christ. They overlook the fact of man’s depravity, and the need of regeneration. They have no affinity, therefore, with that gospel which discloses the disease before it prescribes the remedy. They have a seeming of piety, and the dialect of morals, but they seek to fill the world with happiness by pandering to sensual passions, and gratifying fleshly lusts. They would break down the marriage law, rend or dissolve the family association, and aim to produce a millennial state wherein the ‘impulses of the heart,’ should be the universal law, where enlightened human nature should be free from all ‘conventionalism,’  and act itself out spontaneously. We judge not these systems from the studied phrases of popular lecturers, but from the words of their founders, and the fundamental principles which they expounded. Although Fourier possessed naturally finer elements of character than Owen, yet the system of the former is as anti-christian in its character, and as base in its tendencies, as is the vile materialism of the latter.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.8 (January 1847): 370-371.]

Associate Reformed Anecdote : Dr. John M. Mason

In Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Dr. John M. Mason [1770-1829] on 10/10/2012 at 13:46

The Rev. John Mitchell Mason [1770-1829] was an Associate Reformed pastor who served for many years in New York City. The following anecdote was published in The Evangelical Guardian, vol. IV, no. 6 (November 1846): 285. The story is related on those pages by the editor of the magazine, as part of his account of travels in New York City that year.

On Sabbath evening before leaving the city, I paid a visit, in company with Mr. McLaren, to old Katherine Ferguson, a colored woman who became a member of Dr. Mason’s Church about 40 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. The most of what she made by keeping a confectioner’s shop (enough to have placed her now in independent circumstances) she spent in feeding, clothing, and educating destitute colored children. She is warmly attached to the Associate Reformed Church, and remembers Dr. Mason, and the ‘days of old.’ with peculiar delight. Two young persons, members of Mr. McLaren’s congregation, were in her house, being there, as I understood, to read the Bible, and converse with her. This would not fail to make on a mind at all accustomed to sober reflection, a favorable impression as to their piety.—One object of my visit, was to obtain from her lips an account of an occurrence which I had sometimes heard related. Her statement was as follows:

“After Dr. Mason commenced preaching in Murray Street, some ‘gay ladies’ from Pearl Street, said to him: ‘Doctor it will not do for those colored people (Katherine and a male relative of her’s who had made a profession of religion) to sit at the same table with the white communicants.—They should be at a Table by themselves at the last.’ The Dr. simply replied, that he would think of it. When the day for the communion came round, and the people were about to take their seats at the Lord’s table, the Doctor came down from the pulpit, and taking the two colored persons by the hands, he said,’This is my brother, this is my sister. He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister and mother. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Greek, nor Jew,—Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,’ and then led them forward to the table and set them down ‘first of all.’ “

This was the result of the Doctor’s reflection on the subject, and it settled the question forever.

The Foundation of True Liberty

In Uncategorized on 09/10/2012 at 15:31

Attempts to found democracies, or rather, true lawful liberty, are doomed to failure unless they are built on a proper foundation.

What follows is another article discovered today during my foray into an old dusty volume :


Some time since an interesting Sabbath School celebration was held in a town in the interior of this State. On one of the banners borne in the procession, there was a beautiful tree, spreading its tall and stately branches in every direction, and beneath it was a volume, in which its roots were deeply fixed, and from which it derived all its nourishment and strength.—The tree was Liberty, that volume the Bible. The idea was not only beautiful, but true. The Bible is the great protector and guardian of the liberties of man. There never has been on earth true liberty, apart from the Scriptures and the principles of the Bible. This remark is fully sustained by the history of the world. Go to the plains of Babylon, and the entire history of that Empire, until its destruction by Cyrus, is a history of the most absolute despotism. Egypt and Persia were equally strangers to civil liberty. The same was true, with some slight modifications, of Greece and Rome. Facts spread on every page of the world’s history, point to the Bible as the only basis of the temple of freedom.

Where the Bible forms public opinion, a nation must be free. “Christianity,” says Montesquieu, “is a stranger to despotic power.” De Tocqueville, “it is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its claims.” The Abbe de la Mennais, whom the late writer distinguishes as one of the most powerful minds in Europe, speaks eloquently of the Divine author of Christianity, “the great republican of his age.” Everywhere the men whose minds have been imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible, have been the devoted friends of civil liberty. Such were the Lollards in England, the adherents of Luther in Germany, and of Knox in Scotland. Such were the Huguenots of France, who fled their country, or sealed their testimony with their blood on the fatal revocation of the edict of Nantes. Such were the Puritans, who, with the courage of heroes and the zeal of martyrs, struggled for and obtained the charter of liberty which England now enjoys. Hume, with all his hostility to the Bible, says, “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone, and it was to this sect the English owe the whole freedom of their Constitution.

Pass we to the period of the American revolution! Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Who were the men, whose wisdom in council, and whose daring in the field, delivered us from foreign oppression, and made us a free and independent nation? Who was Washington? His character is settled beyond all dispute—his sentiments are known and recorded. The infidel can never refer to him for authority. The Atheist can never enroll him among those who believe the universe is without a Father and a God. His examples and his opinions are to travel down with the richest influence to future ages, and his purity of life in the cabinet and the camp, his reverence for the Bible and the institutions of religion, are to be spoken of with the profoundest regard by millions yet unborn.

Who was Patrick Henry, the man who struck the notes of freedom to which this nation responded, and were changed from subjects of a British king to independent freemen? He has not left his religious sentiments in doubt. In his will is found the following passage : “I have now disposed of all my property to my family—there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the religion of the Bible. If they had that, and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

Who was Samuel Adams, on of the brightest stars in the constellation of great names, that adorned that era? “Adams,” says his biographer, “was a Christian. That last production of his pen was in defence of Christian truth, and he died in the faith of the gospel.”

And who was Roger Sherman? His biographer says, “few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention, and a few were more intimately acquainted with its doctrines?” And who does not know that Livingston, and Stockton, and Witherspoon, and Benjamin Rush, bowed with profound reverence to the teaching of the Bible, and drew from its precepts their strongest incentives in their self-sacrificing labors? The Bible, then we say it without the fear of successful contradiction—the Bible, in its influence more than any thing else, has made us what we are—a free and independent nation. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupt public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 442-443.]

Witherspoon on the Downward Course of Sin

In Uncategorized on 09/10/2012 at 11:41

Today’s uncovered jewel, something I came across while working on an unrelated project. This short article reminds me that the works of the Rev. John Witherspoon really do need to be dusted off and brought to greater public attention. Sprinkle Publications did recently reprint Witherspoon’s Works, but I think those volumes haven’t gathered too much attention. We’re the poorer for that neglect.


1. Men enter and initiate themselves in a vicious practice by smaller sins. Heinous sins are too alarming for the conscience of a young sinner; and therefore he only ventures upon such as are smaller, at first. Every particular kind of vice creeps in this gradual manner.

2. Having once begun in the ways of sin, he ventures upon something greater and more daring. His courage grows with his experience. Now, sins of a deeper die do not look so frightful as before. Custom makes everything familiar. No person who once breaks over the limits of a clear conscience knows where he shall stop.

3. Open sins soon throw a man into the hands of ungodly companions. Open sins determine his character, and give him a place with the ungodly. He shuns the society of good men, because their presence is a restraint, and their example a reproof to him. There are none with whom he can associate but the ungodly.

4. In the next stage, the sinner begins to feel the force of habit and inveterate custom; he becomes rooted and settled in an evil way.—Those who have been long habituated to any sin, how hopeless is their reform! One single act of sin seems nothing; but one after another imperceptibly strengthens the disposition, and enslaves the unhappy criminal beyond the hope of recovery.

5. The next stage in a sinner’s course is to lose the sense of shame, and sin boldly and openly. So long as shame remains, it is a great drawback. But it is an evidence of an uncommon height of impiety, when natural shame is gone.

6. Another stage in the sinner’s progress is to harden himself so far as to sin without remorse of conscience. The frequent repetition of sins stupefies the conscience. They, as it were, weary it out, and drive it to despair. It ceases all its reproofs, and, like a frequently discouraged friend, suffers the infatuated sinner to take his course. And hence,

7. Hardened sinners often come to boast and glory in their wickedness. It is something to be beyond shame; but it is still more to glory in wickedness, and esteem it honorable. Glorious ambition indeed!

8. Not content with being wicked themselves, they use all their arts and influence to make others wicked also. They are zealous in sinning, and industrious in the promotion of the infernal cause.—They extinguish the fear of God in others, and laugh down their own conscientious scruples. And now,

9. To close the scene, those who have thus far hardened themselves, are given up by God to judicial blindness of mind and hardness of heart. They are marked out as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. This is the consequence of their obstinacy. They are devoted the judgment they deserve.

Reader! view it with terror. — Dr. Witherspoon.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 461-462.]