Last week a biography of Dr. Abel McIver Fraser (1856-1933), who was for most of his ministry the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Staunton, Virginia, was posted on Presbyterians of the Past. This week a PDF copy of the book honoring him edited by William E. Hudson is available for download. At the time the book was published in 1920, Dr. Fraser was living, so it is not a memorial. Mr. Hudson said of Pastor Fraser that—
He is, no doubt, one of the greatest men of his generation, if greatness is measured by unselfish service, humility, purity of life and statesmanlike ability.
After his distinguished career is ended, beautiful tributes to his memory will be published, but the writer, as a mark of gratitude for having his life enriched by contact with Dr. Fraser, wanted to have some of these beautiful flowers given to him during his lifetime.…
It should be understood that this volume is published entirely upon the initiative of Dr. Fraser’s friends.…
The book is nicely done and will hopefully suggest to readers that honoring their pastors with some beautiful flowers … during his lifetime is appropriate today. Unfortunately, ministers are not always honored for their faithfulness while they are living, when they can be encouraged, but instead they are remembered by memorials after they have passed away. As Paul expressed his desire to go to Rome in the first chapter of Romans he wrote, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Paul anticipated that gathering with the Romans would lead to mutual encouragement, an imparting of a spiritual gift via fellowship and their common faith in Christ. Faithful pastors counsel, console, mourn, and encourage, thus those benefiting from their ministries should respond likewise and with double honor.
The book includes an editor’s preface, biographical material, comments of appreciation from colleagues, a selection of sermons, and five photographs. William C. White begins the text with a brief biography of Dr. Fraser; then the Clerk of Session of the church, Mr. R. D. Haislip, presented some thoughts regarding his pastor. Next are five brief pieces of appreciation for Dr. Fraser from his ministerial colleagues, Reverend Doctors J. E. Booker, Holmes Ralston, S. J. Brooke, H. W. McLaughlin, and W. W. Moore. The last section includes nine sermons, one of which is an exposition of Leviticus 27:32, “The tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” As was noted in Dr. Fraser’s biography, the tithe was one of his favorite subjects for preaching. The sermons are not technical nor detailed exegeses of Bible texts, but rather are clearly and simply worded lessons tailored for encouraging and strengthening his listeners. There is little of the flowery terminology sometimes used by those who grew up and were educated during the Victorian era. There are a fair amount of Bible illustrations and a moderate use of others. One particularly encouraging sermon is, “The Security of the Believer,” which expounds Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things?”
BY BARRY WAUGH