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The Family of President Edwards

In Uncategorized on 28/11/2012 at 19:03

[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 23 (5 June 1852):  89, column 5.]


It was an unspeakable privilege in the view of the late President [Jonathan] Edwards, that when surrounded by a young and growing family, and when his duty to his people, especially in seasons of revival, necessarily occupied his whole attention, he could safely commit his children to the wisdom and piety, the love and faithfulness of their mother [Sarah Pierpont Edwards]. Her views of the responsibility of parents were large and comprehensive. “She thought that, as a parent, she had great and important duties to do toward her children before they were capable of government and instruction. For them she constantly and earnestly prayed, and bore them on her heart before God, in all her secret and most solemn addresses to him; and that, even before they were born. The prospect of her becoming a mother of a rational, immortal creature, which came into existence in an undone and infinitely dreadful state, was sufficient to lead her to bow before God daily for His blessing on it; even redemption and eternal life by Jesus Christ. So that, through all the pain, labor, and sorrow which attended her being the mother of children, she was in travail for them that they should be born of God. Read the rest of this entry »

President Edwards, a Presbyterian.

In Presbyterianism on 20/08/2012 at 23:12

The following brief account concerns the small controversy over the ecclesiastical views of Jonathan Edwards. There is a separate account, to the same conclusion, originally told by Dr. Archibald Alexander and then related by the Rev. R. J. Breckinridge on the pages of the Philadelphia magazine, The Presbyterian. [perhaps I can retrieve that article soon]. But for now, this account comes from a September issue of The Christian Observer, 1850 :


In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Erskine of Scotland, President Edwards , (whom Robert Hall calls, “the greatest of the sons of men,”) gives the following statement of his views in respect to Presbyterianism :—

“You are pleased, dear sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian Form of Government. As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to Presbyterian Government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of Church government in this land, and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the word of God, and the reason and nature of things.”

Such were the views of many pastors in New England, twenty-five years ago—and such we presume, are the views of many at this time, notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Bacon, the Independent and others, to create and waken up prejudice against Presbyterianism.—It is very natural for an agitator, a man of progress, or of loose views in theology, to prefer some type of Independency. Without a Session to advise with him in the spiritual oversight of the Congregation, he can (if a manager) have his own way in controlling everything in his church. If a careful and discreet ruler, he may acquire more power in his charge as an Independent, than he could hope to gain as a Presbyterian minister.—Amenable to no permanent judicatory for the doctrines which he teaches, he can follow the impulses of his own nature, and teach all the contradictions and transcendentalism found in Dr. Bushnell’s book without losing his place or influence in his church and association.

But if it be desirable that the members of the Church should be duly represented in the administration of its spiritual government,—if the pastor should have responsible counselors, well acquainted with the Church, and all its interests and peculiarities, to aid him in this work, the Presbyterian form of government is to be preferred. It is equally important as a shield to the minister in many cases of discipline, as well as to render him duly responsible for his personal and official conduct, teaching, and character.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, Vol. XXIX, No. 38 (21 September 1850): 150, columns 2-3.]

The question now, of course, is did that letter survive? Where are Erskine’s papers, including his correspondence, and which institution preserves that collection?

Ancient Revivals: “The Testimony and Advice.”

In Uncategorized on 12/12/2012 at 14:21

Psalm 145:10-12
10.  All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You.
11.  They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power.
12.  To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

Earlier this week, The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, in partnership with William Eerdmans Publishing Company, announced that they will be producing A JONATHAN EDWARDS ENCYCLOPEDIA. The volume, to be published in print and online, will be comprised of some 450 entries. In light of that project, here transcribed below is an important document from the latter years of the First Great Awakening. THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE is not otherwise easily found on the Internet at this time, other than in short quotations, and so it seemed good to reproduce it here.

In that era of the First Great Awakening, Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors worked readily with one another in the proclamation of the Gospel, both groups being strongly Calvinistic in their theology. As you read through this document, you will see mentioned several of the concerns which figured prominently in the Old Side/New Side split of the Presbyterian Church, 1741-1758. The issues prompting that split included itinerant preaching and ministerial authority, and both of these concerns are discussed in THE TESTIMONY AND ADVICE.

[Originally published Boston : Printed, and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1743, and here excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, Vol. XII, No. 38 (22 September 1838): 149, columns 4-5.]

From the Pastor’s Journal.

After the remarkable work of God in New England in the beginning of the last century, it was suggested by a writer in the Boston Gazette of May 31st, 1743, that a Convention of Ministers should be held to “consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony, to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which through the permitted agency of Satan have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement.” Accordingly, on the 7th July of the same year, about ninety Ministers met at Boston for the above purposes. After a sermon, they proceeded to confer together, and to hear the letters of such as desired but were not able to attend the meeting. As the result of their deliberations they drew up and published the following document, which was signed by sixty-eight Ministers—the number of those who remained, the others having left.


Of an Assembly of Pastors of Churches in New England, at a meeting in Boston, July 7th, 1743, occasioned by the late happy Revival of Religion in many parts of the land. Read the rest of this entry »


In Bookplates on 17/12/2011 at 21:11

Here’s a great quote that would be well suited for a bookplate:

“I have a peaceful study, as a refuge from the hurries and noise of the world around me; the venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me, and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.” — Samuel Davies

Another quote that I’m particularly fond of, reputedly by Ben Franklin:

“Only a fool loans books; half the books in my library were loaned.”

But apparently memory is a poor servant, or I heard wrong, for this site indicates the author of that quip was instead Anatole France:

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other people have lent me.
– Anatole France

I think I like my version better. Anyway, all that by way of introduction and an excuse to present some bookplates from a few of the volumes in the research library at the PCA Historical Center: Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons of the Past

In Old School/New School Division, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 16/09/2011 at 16:26

Who Were the Old School Presbyterians?

By Rev. Charles E. Edwards, D.D.

[The Presbyterian 99.44 (31 October 1929): 6-8.]

IF America forgets the lessons of history, especially church history, she will cease to be the America that we love. The Presbyterian family of denominations have made great contributions to the kingdom of God for centuries. But if they forget the lessons of the past, they will cease to be Presbyterians, and will be like reprobate silver. Even religious controversies have their lessons. Sweet are the uses of adversity. For various reasons it is advisable that the noble services of the Old School Presbyterians should be better known.

First of all, it is well to recall that the separation of Presbyterians in America into the two denominations, Old and New School, was not a sudden event, with no previous warnings. When the enemies of the Eighteenth Amendment raise the question whether it was adopted too hastily, those loyal to the Constitution have overwhelming proofs of the long period of which it was the culmination. And the Presbyterian Assembly of 1837 did not originate the discord which had grown in intensity from 1801 to 1837. Read the rest of this entry »

Buswell Reviews Clark (1947)

In J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. on 23/07/2011 at 13:03

Prior to the series of articles on presuppositionalism that appeared in THE BIBLE TODAY, there was about a year earlier another series begun by Dr. Buswell when he reviewed A CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, by Dr. Gordon H. Clark. This series of exchanges between Buswell and Clark will include the following:

Articles in the Buswell-Clark Series :
1. “A Christian Philosophy of History: A Book Review,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.1 (October 1947): 3-15.
2. “Dr. Clark Comments,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 67-70.
3.  ”Dr. Clark’s Comments—Editorial Note,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 70-74.
4. “Does the Bible Sanction Apologetic?,” by Vernon Grounds, The Bible Today 41.3 (December 1947): 84-89.
4. “Concerning System and Demonstration,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.4 (January 1948): 109-114.
5.  ”Editorial Comment,” by J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., The Bible Today 41.4 (January 1948): 114-118.
6. “System and Induction,” by Gordon H. Clark, The Bible Today 41.6 (March 1948): 173-177.

On a related note, see also these articles by the Rev. David S. Clark, father of Gordon H. Clark :
1. The Philosophical Basis of Christianity, by Rev. David S. Clark, The Presbyterian 94.50 (11 December 1924): 6-7.
2. Modernism and the Higher Criticism, by Rev. David S. Clark, D.D., The Presbyterian 95.1 (1 January 1925): 8-9.

“A Christian Philosophy of History”[1]

Dr. Clark is a competent scholar of outstanding achievements, and a well informed, devout Bible-believing Christian. His B.A. and Ph.D. degrees were taken at the University of Pennsylvania. Of unquestioned loyalty to Christ and the Bible, his teaching and his writings have exemplified a high order of learning which does honor to his Phi Beta Kappa key.

It has been remarked by prominent teachers of philosophy, and Dr. Clark calls attention to the fact (p. 6), that whereas the Roman Catholics have presented their philosophy in a fairly well integrated form, based upon the teachings of Thomas Aquinas,[2] the Protestant philosophy has not been presented (at least not as a technical system of metaphysics) in any compact body of philosophical writings.

To meet this need in part Dr. Clark has undertaken to write not a Protestant philosophy in general, but a philosophy of education which, as he says, is one of the important branches of the field.

Dr. Clark has indeed made a noteworthy contribution. Whereas, so far as bulk is concerned, this review may seem critical, I should like to urge that the excellencies of his work so far outweigh the points which I criticize, that there is no comparison. It is hoped that the book will be widely read and circulated not only by school teachers but especially by parents who seriously care to fulfill their obligations in bringing up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I have heard that someone in conversation once criticized Charles Hodge for the bulk of negative material in a certain portion of his writings. Thereupon Hodge produced a marine map and showed that by far the larger number of notations were to be found in the shallow waters near shore. The great open stretches of the ocean where the sailing is clear were generally characterized by absence of comment. So it is with my review of this product of the workmanship of my good friend and former colleague.


My most basic criticism has to do with Dr. Clark’s theory of evidences. He is one of a group of earnest Bible-believing younger professors who do not regard the traditional arguments for the existence of God as valid, and who give entirely inadequate logical place to the historical data of the Christian message. He denies that we have any common ground, in facts and rationality, with unbelievers. His constructive view is given in the following words:

Persuasion therefore is not an appeal to a common ground or [should read of (?)] non-Christian experience. Persuasion must be regarded as a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The faithful Christian presents the Christian faith to an unbeliever, he explains it and shows it in all its fulness. Then the Christian prays that the Holy Spirit regenerate his auditor, renew his mind, open his eyes, and enable him to see the truth of what was said. This is not an appeal to a common ground ; it is an appeal to God. (p. 164)

I thoroughly agree with the affirmations in the above quotation. It is the denial of a common ground in factual and reasonable material to which I strongly object. Indeed in our proclamation of the Gospel we are utterly dependent upon the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. No word of ours would have the slightest effect were it not for the fact, promised by the Lord, that the Holy Spirit “will convict the world.” (John 16:8)  In this, however, we have a constant principle of all Christian activity. In explaining our dependence upon the Holy Spirit in evangelistic activities, Paul used the obvious illustration of agriculture. “I planted, Apollos waters ; but God gave the increase.” (I Cor. 3:6)  Is the farmer not on some common ground with his crops, because he trusts God for the increase? The Apostle Paul in his own ministry constantly assumed a direct transitive interaction between his proclamation of the Gospel and the mind of the unbeliever. “Knowing . . . the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” (II Cor. 5:11)

Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology, Volume III, p. 79f.) points out that the denial of a common rational factual ground between believers and unbelievers is found in certain historical Lutheran writings, but is contrary to the Calvinistic position. Dr. Clark is a “High Calvinist.” It is strange that in our generation several prominent “High Calvinists” have take a distinctly non-Calvinistic position in denying common intellectual ground between believers and unbelievers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism

In Apologetics, Presuppositionalism on 05/07/2011 at 13:14

The following extended review by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell continues our current series on presuppositionalism. In this article, Buswell reviews Cornelius Van Til’s then recent book COMMON GRACE. For convenience, here again is the full listing of articles in this series:

Series Articles :
1. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Arguments from Nature to God: Presuppositionalism and Thomas Aquinas—A Book Review with Excursions,” The Bible Today 41.8 (May 1948): 235-248.
2. Schaeffer, Francis A., “A Review of a Review,” The Bible Today 42.1 (October 1948): 7-9.
3. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “The Fountainhead of Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 41-64.
4. Young, G. Douglas, “Dr. Young’s Letter”, The Bible Today 42.2 (November 1948): 65.
5. Buswell, J. Oliver, Jr., “Warfield vs. Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.6 (March 1949): 182-192.
6. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.7 (April 1949): 218-228.
7. Anonymous, “Presuppositionalism,” The Bible Today 42.8 (May 1949): 261.
8. Van Til, Cornelius, “Presuppositionalism Concluded,” The Bible Today 42.9 (June-September 1949): 278-290.

The Fountainhead Of Presuppositionalism

A BOOK REVIEW By Dr. Buswell

THE origin of the name “Presuppositionalism” was given in a review under that title in The Bible Today for May 1948, page 235. A friendly letter from Professor Carnell, whose recent book was there reviewed, indicates that he at least does not resent the term. He suggests “Inductivism” as a counter designation, and this of course I do not resent There is this difference, however, those who hold to presuppositionalism are advancing a negative thesis, denying that there is common ground of reasoning between those who accept Christian presuppositions and engage in the spread of the Gospel, and those who do not accept Christian presuppositions and reject the Gospel.1 The inductionist thesis is positive and partial rather than negative and universal. It is held that ordinary processes of inductive reasoning are valid as a part of the method of evangelism. As a part of the inductive reasoning process, it is further held that there are areas of common knowledge occupied by the Christian evangelist and the unsaved inquirer or doubter. If the unsaved person or persons declare, “The God of the Bible is only a mythological figure,” and the Christian evangelist declares, “The God of the Bible exists as a substantive entity, an actual Being,” there must be some element of common meaning in the terms employed in the two contradictory statements, if the Scriptural conception of “unbelief” has any meaning at all.

Whether the position which I should maintain is properly designated by the term “inductionism” or not, the view that there is common ground of knowledge which may be employed in evangelism is very adequately expressed in the following paragraph by Professor Van Til’s colleague, Professor of Systematic Theology John Murray, in an excellent article on “Common Grace” in the Westminster Theological Journal for November 1942.2

. . . when we come to the point of actual conversion, the faith and repentance involved in conversion do not receive their genesis apart from the knowledge of the truth of the gospel. There must be conveyed to the mind of the man who believes and repents to the saving of his soul the truth-content of law and gospel, law as convicting him of sill and gospel as conveying the information which becomes the material of faith. To some extent at least there must be the cognition and apprehension of the import of law and gospel prior to the exercise of saving faith and repentance. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But this apprehension of the truth of the gospel that is prior to faith and repentance, and therefore prior to the regeneration of which faith and repentance are the immediate effects in our consciousness, cannot strictly belong to the saving operations of the Spirit. They are preparatory to these saving operations and in the gracious design of God place the person concerned in the psychological condition that is prerequisite of the intelligent exercise of faith and repentance. In other words they place in his mind the apperceptive content that makes the gospel meaningful to his consciousness. But since they are not the saving acts of faith and repentance they must belong to a different category from that of saving grace and therefore to the category of non-saving or common grace. . . . faith does not take its genesis in a vacuum. It has its antecedents and presuppositions both logically and chronologically in the operations of common grace. [Professor Murray continues in a footnote] . . . All that has been said above is simply that the operations in the individual and subjective sphere whereby that truth-content has become the property of consciousness, prior to the acts of regeneration and faith, are operations that are not in themselves saving and therefore belong to the category of common grace. Read the rest of this entry »

The Heart of Buswell’s Critique

In J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. on 30/06/2011 at 13:34

Reproduced here is the substance of Dr. Buswell’s critique of Van Til’s work on the Christian Apologetics. I posted yesterday the first two letters between Buswell and Van Til, and a portion of the third letter to which Buswell attaches the details of his critique of CVT’s work on Christian Apologetics.
In this review, Buswell is working with a pre-publication copy and the references cited below are
[frustratinglykeyed to that edition. Dr. Van Til’s book was published two years later(1939) under the auspices of the Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. The published work has 113 pages, where the pre-publication copy had at least 146 pages. Thus it is at least possible that Van Til took some of Buswell’s critiques into account in editing for the final published edition.

Perhaps someone with access to either the pre-publication copy (1937) or the first edition (1939) of CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS will supply us with a copy of same or possibly take up the project of supplying the specific quotes that would make better sense of Buswell’s comments. 

[I’ve added some explanatory notes to the text below, shown in square brackets. Also, Latin phrases have been rendered in italics to facilitate reading. Otherwise the text is an accurate reproduction of the original document, retaining Buswell’s spelling, etc.]

[Update (Overly scholarly bibliographic note) : I’ve received via Interlibrary Loan a copy of the 1939 publication. It is interesting to see that the printing process employed for the 1939 edition was mimeography or stencil duplication (some will remember the old blue ink on paper look).  Also, on the obverse side of the title page, there is this Publisher’s Note: “In order to produce this book at the least possible cost, no proof reading beyond careful typing has been done. Mistakes of which neither the author nor printer are cognizant may have crept in.” The last page of this softcover edition notes that it was “Revised and Printed, January 1939.”]

19 3 7

Professor Cornelius Van Til
Westminster Theological Seminary
1528 Pine Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

My dear Professor Van Til

I must apologize for imposing upon you this lengthy set of notes and remarks. I should not blame you one bit if you simply consigned them to the waste basket.

I have dictated on the dictaphone and corrected all the notes up to page twenty.

I have to leave this afternoon for a Bible conference in Elkhart and shall not have a minute’s time next week. I am therefore sending the notes on to you without having read my secretary’s write-up of the material from page twenty on.

Very cordially yours

(Signed) J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.

It is very presumptuous on my part to write you in such detail in regard to your valuable work on Apologetics I have learned much from reading it and have profited thereby, I feel that your insistence upon the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the trinity and your strong emphasis Upon the absolute self-existence and independence of God, constitute a very necessary and valuable emphasis in our modern world.

The following consists chiefly of a listing and brief discussion of points that troubled me as I read.

Page 2, lines 2 and 6 from the bottom of the page. You seem to use the phrases “full information” and “full interpretation” as synonymous. As I said in my former letter, I have been troubled all the way through your work by your usage of the word “interpretation.” In this context on page 2 of course you do not mean that one would gain either a full interpretation or full information about a snake from the Bible, but I understand that you mean that one would never find out that a snake has a relationship to God as a creature, without looking into the Bible, In this of course I agree. No one has ever reasoned from any fact directly up to God, James Orr makes this very emphatic in “The Christian View of God and the World.” Logically and metaphysically of course there is a direct path of inference from any fact in the universe to God and to the correct view of that fact as a created fact, but historically no one has ever followed that path, independent of revelation.

Page 4, line 17 to 15 from the bottom of the page. If we defend the fortress of Christian theism, we have the world to ourselves logically, but not actually. It then remains for us to persuade and instruct men as God has commanded us and by such logical means as he has put at our disposal. Read the rest of this entry »

Revival Values, by George W. Ridout (1925)

In The Presbyterian, Uncategorized on 15/05/2011 at 20:20

Revival Values
By George W. Ridout

[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN (19 February 1925): 8-9. Read the rest of this entry »

Chaplain J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. in WWI

In J. Oliver Buswell on 25/08/2010 at 12:07

My sincere thanks to Wes Neel, a recent graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, who has been digging into his own family’s history and along the way has turned up some information on the early ministry of Dr. J. Oliver Buswell.  During World War I, Buswell served as a Chaplain with the 140th Infantry during World War I and was cited in orders for distinguished bravery.  Wes found mention of his own great-grandfather and of Chaplain Buswell in the book From Doniphan to Verdun: The Official History of the 140th Infantry, by Evan A. Edwards (Lawrence, KS: The World Company, 1920).
On page 46 of the book, there is this glowing description of Chaplain Buswell and his ministry:

“Two Chaplains joined us in the Vosges.  Chaplain Oliver P. Buswell, Jr. [sic], a Presbyterian who was assigned tot he second Battalion.  Chaplain Buswell, a young man of twenty-three, was gifted with a magnificent physique, a splendid musical voice, brains and common sense.  He won the hearts of the men at once, and his work was of the greatest value to the regiment.  There was no more popular chaplain in the A.E.F.  He was wounded in the Argonne, and cited in orders for bravery.  He did not know the meaning of fear, and thought only of his men.  From the 17th of August, when he joined the regiment, his presence and influence was of the greatest value.  His genuine and simple Christian spirit won the respect and admiration of all who knew him.  Always cheerful, never discouraging, he deserves with Chaplain Hart the credit for making real religion respected in the regiment.”

After the war, Chaplain Buswell went on to become Dr. Buswell, serving as pastor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Brooklyn, NY, and then appointed to serve as the third president of Wheaton College in 1926.  He served there for fourteen years before taking over the presidency of the National Bible Institute in New York City.  In 1956 he was called to be the Dean of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and he remained in this post until retirement in 1970.

For more about Dr. Buswell, see the information on his manuscript collection preserved at the PCA Historical Center.  This collection comprises seventeen cubic feet of correspondence and both published and unpublished writings by Dr. Buswell.