Presbyterians of the Past

Smyrna Presbyterian Church
Robert McLees, 1820-1866

The church at Smyrna addressed by Jesus in Revelation 2 was located on a scenic bay at the base of Mt. Pagos in the southwest portion of what is currently Turkey. Smyrna was considered the loveliest city in...

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"There is nothing like writing to make a man exact. In all seriousness I would advise you often to use the pen in rendering an account to yourself of the attainments you have made. It has been the mistake of my life that I have written so little. Learn from my experience.” J. H. Thornwell to T. E. Peck, August 24, 1853, as in Palmer’s The Life and Letters of J. H. Thornwell, page 374. [posted 4/14/2021]

"Meekness of spirit is as useful to a man's self as meekness of carriage is acceptable to others. The meek suffer much less from the unavoidable evils of life, than those of a contrary disposition. Many cross accidents of the less important kind, are in a manner annihilated when they are borne with calmness. The injury they do us, is not owing half so much to their weight or severity, as to the irritability of their own minds. It is evident that the same disposition must greatly alleviate calamities of a heavier kind and from analogy you may perceive, that as it mitigates the sorrows, it multiplies and adds to the sweetness of the comforts of life. A moderate portion gives greater satisfaction to the humble and thankful, than the most ample possessions to the proud and impatient." John Witherspoon, as in, " An Address to the Students of the Senior Class, at Princeton College, September 23, 1775, Who were to receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts," as in the 1815 Edinburgh edition of his works, vol. 6, page 24. [posted 4/7/2021]

"And first of all, as first in importance, see to it, that you are reconciled to God; put yourselves one and all, under the protection of that Arm which defends with resistless power, and sustains with untiring care. Be assured that for the want of piety, no talents, however brilliant, can compensate—no achievements, however splendid, can atone. To be called good, and great, and honorable, without it, is bitter satire—senseless, horrible mockery....As citizens of a free state, remember that you have rights most sacred, to cherish and defend. Let your political creed be modelled after the constitution of your country. With a holy care, guard, and perpetuate its union. Let your attachments be rather to principles than to men. Support with firmness such men, as by the fear of God, by their public services, and inviolable attachment to their country, merit its esteem. The observance of these rules will preserve you from that disgraceful vacillation in public concerns which is produced by weakness or selfishness, and which every man of good sense, and sound principle, will never cease to deplore." The words of Reformed Dutch (formerly Presbyterian) minister Philip Milledoler as he addressed the graduates of Rutgers College, July 20, 1831. [posted 3/28/2021]

“As it respects Hebrew, the difficulty is greatly overrated. It is far more simple in its structure and syntax than either of the classic languages, and the repulsive features of the vowel system become familiar after a few months attention. There is therefore no excuse to be found in the irksomeness of the task, for its neglect. The language of the Old Testament has its own peculiar claims....It is confessedly the repository of the oldest literature, of the most sublime productions, of the purest ideas of God and religion of the ancient world. The language in which Moses wrote, in which Isaiah breathed the eloquence of heaven, and through which the soul of David poured forth itself to God. No one can be insensible to the interest which belongs to the language of the patriarchs and prophets, and which has formed the medium of so large a portion of God's communications to men." Charles Hodge, On the Necessity of a Knowledge of the Original Languages of the Scriptures, 1832. [posted 3/18/2021]

"Salvation is God's work. He and he alone is the Saviour. He delivered Israel from Egypt in the Old Testament model of salvation. Hemmed in by the armies of Pharoah at the Red Sea, the freed Israelites were told to stand firm and see the salvation of God. God's salvation was more than his mighty acts of deliverance; he brought Israel out of Egypt to bring them to himself. Salvation meant that he would be their God and they his people. That promise became the ground of the prophetic message. Israel had sinned, but God would do a yet greater work of salvation in the future. He would deliver his people not only from their enemies, but from their sins. God their Saviour would come and lead them as of old through the desert. He would come with the coming of the Messiah." Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, IVP, 1988, page 50. [posted 3/8/2021]

"Conscious ignorance is a proof of growing knowledge. One does not really begin to know until he knows the fact that he does not know. Paul's paradox, 'When I am weak, then am I strong,' applies here. The man that is wise in his own conceit, who thinks that 'he knows it all,' is so encased in his own ignorance that he resists and prevents the approach of knowledge. The man who is conscious of his emptiness is ready to be filled. Receptivity and knowledge do not live apart. Each in the real sense produces the other." Presbyterian of the South, January 6, 1909. [posted 3/4/2021]

“The Passover, to a pious and intelligent Jew, had both a backward and a forward reference. It called to mind, as a memorial, a great deliverance already wrought. It suggested, as a type, a greater deliverance yet to come. It was meant to stir gratitude for the redemption brought to His people by Jehovah, on the memorable night of Israel’s emancipation in the land of Egypt. It was also meant to point to a fuller and more blessed emancipation through One whom the slain lamb prefigured, and who was to come in the fulness of time.” See C. A. Salmond, Our Christian Passover, Edinburgh, n.d., page 8. [posted 2/25/2021]

"A Christian's prosperity is measured by how much he gives rather than how much he has." This comment addresses Christ's message to the Laodiceans who took pride in their prosperity which they did not realize was in fact choking the vitality of the congregation's ministry (Revelation 3:14-22). See Greg Beale's Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, Eerdmans, 2015, page 92. [posted 2/8/2021]

A college professor had a visitor come to his home and when he saw the rows of books covering an entire wall floor to ceiling he commented, “You have a lot of books there. Say, what are they all about?” The professor responded, “Oh, they are mostly about the philosophy of the Middle Ages.” The visitor said, “Yeah, I guess when you get to middle age you need a philosophy.” Thus, “the meaning of philosophy is advice and sayings that will console you for not being able to do what you would like to do.” (W. H. Hay, “Paul Carus: A Case-Study of Philosophy on the Frontier,” Journal of the History of Ideas 17:4 (Oct. 1956), 498.) [posted 2/2/21]

Currently available is The Confessional Presbyterian: A Journal for Discussion of Presbyterian Doctrine and Practice volume 16 for 2020. Included within this issue bearing a lovely rendering of a color portrait of James Ussher (1581-1656) are articles about the Archbishop of Armagh by Harrison Perkins, Richard Snoddy, and Benjamin Shaw, as well as a bibliography of his works. Other subjects include pieces on the Westminster Assembly by Clif Daniell and Chris Coldwell (editor of the journal); Stewart E. Lauer on "The Role of the 'Great Commission' in the Apostolic Churches"; a study of David Dickson's sermons on Jeremiah and a bibliography of his works by Matthew A. Vogan; an article by Angelo O. Volle about John Owen's sermons delivered when he preached in ordination services and how they reflect Owen's pastoral theology; Wayne Sparkman of the PCA Historical Center has provided Thomas M'Crie's, as edited by Chris Coldwell, "Account of the Controversy Respecting The Marrow of Modern Divinity" which is currently a subject of interest due to Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, 2016; the moderator’s sermon by Thomas E. Peck on Mark 16:14-20 delivered at the PCUS General Assembly in 1879; "Neighborhood and Brotherhood," by R. A. Webb; and C. N. Willborn penned the timely entry regarding confusion of the ministries of church and state, "The Soul of the Church: The Church's Spiritual Mission," which he speaks about at Reformed Forum. No, the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth has not been forgotten because Frank J. Smith has provided an article. There are also several reviews as well as brief pieces on Dickson, Ussher, and George Gillespie. The 280 page issue is available at The Confessional Presbyterian. In addition to the current volume, all back issues are available except for the first. [posted 1/11/21]

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