March 2013

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A Child of great promise, and a Child of The Promise.

He was the youngest child of Joseph Courten Hornblower, who served for fourteen years as the Chief Justice of New Jersey. Joseph in turn was the youngest child of Josiah Hornblower, a renowned patriot in the Revolutionary War, a member of the first Congress of the United States of America, and the man who brought the first steam engine to this country!

hornblower_Wm_HAll of which made William H. Hornblower, born on March 21, 1820, a child of promise and expectation.  He graduated at Princeton College in 1838 and began studying law, but within a year or two began to consider the ministry and so entered Princeton Theological Seminary. Graduating from there in 1843, he was soon called to serve as Assistant pastor at the First Presbyterian church of Paterson, New Jersey. When the senior pastor resigned just a few months later, the congregation called Rev. Hornblower to serve as their pastor, and there he served for twenty-seven years.

In those closing years of his life, an honor and a decided change of course came when he was appointed to serve as Professor of Pastoral Theology and Sacred Rhetoric at the Western Theological Seminary, at Allegheny City*, Pennsylvania. In this capacity he served from 1871 until his death on July 16, 1883. One notable student during those years at Western would have been Robert Dick Wilson, whose exceptional abilities in Semitic languages brought him back to teach at Western in 1883, just a few months after Dr. Hornblower died.

[*Allegheny City was a distinct municipality from 1788-1907, located across the river from the city center of Pittsburgh. In 1907 it was annexed and became part of Pittsburgh]

It was said of him in eulogy that “As a preacher, he was instructive and impressive. His life was one of growing usefulness, and he enjoyed the cordial esteem of his brethren, and of the people among whom he lived and labored.”

At the Patterson church, where he had served for so many years, the Session composed their own eulogy on behalf of the church, and stated in conclusion, that,

“In view of the life, labor and character of such a man, the language of the Apostle might not unfittingly have been appropriated as his dying assurance of victory over death: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing.”

Words to Live By:
Do you love His appearing? That is, do you look forward to, and long for Christ’s return? If so, that is a very real assurance of your salvation and your hope of glory. But if you find your love is weak, decide now to spend more time seeking the Lord, in His Word and in prayer. Humble yourself and turn to Him. God will surely bless and answer your prayer to draw near.

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28, KJV)

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“He Went About Doing Good”

Our subject today is the Rev. James A. Bryan, known affectionately as “Brother Bryan.” To introduce him, I would like to take the liberty of quoting from the opening three paragraphs in Dr. David Calhoun’s recent article, which appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of PRESBYTERION:

James Alexander Bryan [20 March 1863 - 28 January 1941]“For years James Bryan walked the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, ministering in the name of Jesus to the people of the fast-growing city–not only to respectable people but also to gamblers, drunkards, and prostitutes. He was the pastor of Third Presbyterian Church, a downtown church surrounded by African Americans, poor white families, Jews, and immigrant workers from Italy, Hungary, Greece, and other countries. Bryan knew the people of Birmingham and they knew and loved him. They called him “Brother Bryan.” To him all people, black and white, native-born and immigrants, poor and rich, were his brothers and sisters.

“James Alexander Bryan was born near Kingstree, South Carolina, on March 20, 1863, two years after South Carolina seceded from the Union. His parents were poor in money, but rich in faith. Every morning and evening the family gathered to sing a psalm or hymn, to read a passage from the Bible, and to kneel in prayer. At his little country school James studied reading, writing, arithmetic–and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. At the town’s Presbyterian church he listened to good sermons. A visiting preacher who made a deep impression on the young boy was Hampden C. DuBose, a student at Columbia Theological Seminary who, during a summer vacation, supplied Bryan’s home church. DuBose became a missionary to China, where he preached, planted churches, and successfully fought the opium trade.

“Bryan studied at an academy in Raleigh and at the University of North Carolina, where he was known for his ability as a public speaker. He went north to Princeton Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry, arriving in September 1886 with $1.85 in his pocket. The piety of the slim young Southerner earned him the nickname “the saint,” spoken not in mockery but seriously by his fellow students. Bryan loved his professors–William Henry Green, Alexander McGill, Caspar Wistar Hodge, and B. B. Warfield–and loved his studies, especially those in Bible and preaching. In Princeton Bryan worked at the Negro church on Witherspoon Street, teaching Sunday School and often leading the Wednesday prayer meeting. Here among black friends he was at home. Years later when his Princeton Seminary class gathered for its fortieth reunion, Bryan slipped away from the festivities to preach to the people at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.”

[To read the full article by Dr. Calhoun, please contact Presbyterion Editor, Covenant Theological Seminary, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO 63141. The annual subscription rate for the journal is $8.50 per year, or you may be able to secure a copy of that issue through Inter-Library Loan.]

Recently I was able to locate and purchase a copy of Brother Bryan’s sermons for addition to the PCA Historical Center’s research library. Apparently this was one of three volumes that were published between 1900 and 1930. Few copies have survived. The first was a slim volume of 53 pages, then another of 72 pages, which we have in photocopy, and the last, our recent accession, is a booklet of 111 pages. From that last booklet, I have selected one sermon to post here today, to give a better sense of Brother Bryan’s ministry and also because this particular sermon has some additional biographical insights:

(March 26, 1927)

Prayer to God is the lifting up of the soul to God. It is the pouring out of the heart unto God, our Father, in adoration, praise, confession and submission.

Someone asked the question, “What is the need of the Christian Life?” Another person answered, “Love for Jesus Christ.” We know this is true. You cannot love anyone unless you are acquainted with them. You cannot love Christ unless you are well acquainted with Him. You become acquainted by reading the Bible and especially by communing with Him in prayer. The people whose lives have counted for the most in the world have been people who were intercessors unto God.

Think a minute of Moses, how he interceded for God’s people, who had forgotten God. He spent 40 years in the school of prayer in the desert of Midian. It was his prayer life that made his life powerful. Prayer to God is asking what we wish, expecting to receive the things according to God’s will. We go to our Heavenly Father knowing that He will not withhold from us the best things for us.

Think of Elijah praying to God, the heaven’s being shut for three years and six months. I can hear him praying for rain and the heavens opened and the rain came. God’s people in the time of Samuel sent for him and begged that he not fail to pray for them.

Is your life a life of prayer? We have a great many church workers in this country but we need more church prayers. Praying is not saying your prayers. Christ taught us to enter our rooms and pray to our Father in secret. Christ teaches us to pray always.

Paul writes, pray without ceasing. Then he says: “I exhort first of all the prayers, supplications, intercessions be made for all people.” Do you enjoy praying? How much time a day do you spend in prayer? How many people have you on your prayer list? I am sure that I cannot meet the trials, the temptations, the burdens, the sorrows of life, without spending much time in prayer.

Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do I spend the ealry hours of the morning in prayer to God.” If you haven’t anyone else to pray for, pray for the writer of this note.

The calls come thick and fast, day and night. I have just returned from a cottage over the mountain, a father dying in one room, mother and children in sorrow, in the other. Pray for hundreds in that condition. The phone has just rung bringing the news of old people in a certain section of this city, unable to work, without food or fire. Pray to God that He will supply the needs of hundreds; that He will heal thousands of broken hearts. “There are lonely hearts to cherish, while the days are going by. There are weary souls that perish, while the days are going by.”

If Christ felt the need of spending whole nights in prayer and rising before day and going to the mountainside to pray, do you not feel the same need? Certainly you do. Christ is praying for us now. He is the only advocate between God and man. He presents our case to the Father. One of the sweetest recollections that I have of my earthly father is this: he took me to Charleston, S.C., when I was a small boy. Late at night when everything was still in the hotel, I heard a voice; in the dim moonlight that shone through the window I saw my father on his knees. I heard him praying for me. I think of that scene most every day and think of the prayer that I heard him offer. Maybe our children do not need so many material things but they need our prayers and they need to be taught to pray. You cannot have a spiritual life, without prayer.

Will you not pray more? Will you not pray for your own city, for every man, woman and child, that Christ may take His rightful place in every life? Pray that all of the people will be intercessors unto God.

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A Biblical Stand in a Biblical Way

The Rev. John Mitchell Mason [1770-1829] was an Associate Reformed pastor who served for many years in New York City.  He was born in New York City on March 19, 1770, and was the son of the Rev. John Mason, D.D., who had emigrated to this country in 1761 to take the pastoral charge of the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church in the New York City. John Mason proved to be a faithful pastor and remained in that pulpit until his death in 1792. William Sprague notes that “one of the noblest tributes which a son ever paid to the memory of a father, is to be found in the Address which Dr. Mason (the son) delivered before the Presbytery, relative to the resignation of his pastoral charge;—a tribute which no one can read without feeling a sentiment of veneration for the parent, and of admiration for the intellectual greatness and filial sensibilities of the son.” [perhaps we can relate some of that Address on another occasion.]

Educated at home and prepared for college by his father, John displayed a brilliant intellect and graduated from Columbia College at the age of 19. More importantly, John had come to faith in Christ at an early age, God having blessed the faithful efforts of his parents. “His mind was imbued with a knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel, as soon as its faculties were sufficiently developed to admit of comprehending them; and these truths seem to have become very early, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the commanding principles of his conduct.”

Stopping on that last note, we relate the following anecdote, in evidence of the point, that the character of a child, established early, often remains fixed through a lifetime. This story was originally published in The Evangelical Guardian in 1846, and it is told by the editor of that magazine, as he relates an account of his 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 hers 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.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, vol. IV, no. 6 (November 1846): 285.]

Words to Live By:
Sin creeps into the Church in myriad ways. We are after all still in this sinful flesh. But racism has no place in the Church. It is at heart a way in which we put ourselves on a pedestal, thinking ourselves better than others. It is, if you will, a form of self-deification, and as such, becomes a particularly destructive sin. The best stand against such sin, perhaps the only true stand against it, is to peaceably, lovingly demonstrate the objective truth of Scripture, as Dr. Mason did, by living in obedience to the Scriptures.

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism…For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all…For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:1, 10, 13, NASB)

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Early American Missionary Prayer Letter

It was on this day, March 18th, in 1781, that John Brainerd died at the age of sixty-one. His remains were buried beneath the floor of the Presbyterian church in Deerfield, Massachusetts. John was one of several sons born to the Honorable Hezekiah and Dorothy (Mason) Brainerd, and he was born in Haddam, Connecticut on February 28, 1719. In time, his older brother Nehemiah tutored him in preparation for college, and John subsequently graduated from Yale in 1746.

It was during his college years that his brother David wrote to him, warning John against “spurious religious experience that is too often found in connection with great religious excitements.” Any actual date of John’s conversion or public profession of faith in Christ is lost to history, the records of his home church having been destroyed. Nonetheless, John must have begun to anticipate entering the ministry while he was still in college, for very shortly after graduation, he began to preach and was even engaged in work as a missionary among the Indians.

A small portion of a letter that John wrote to a Mrs. Elizabeth Smith serves to provide details on the missionary work that John and his brother David were engaged in.

BROTHERTON in New Jersey, August 24, 1761.

Madam: According to my promise, I here send a particular account of the Indian mission in this Province, which, for some years, has been the object of my care. I shall take a brief view of it from its first rise and foundation.

brainerd02In 1743, my brother and predecessor, Mr. David Brainerd, being employed by the Corresponding members of the Honourable Society in Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge, entered on the arduous business of Christianizing the Indians, and for that end, on the 1st of April, arrived at Kaunaumeck, an Indian settlement about twenty miles from Stockbridge Northwest. AT this place he continued about the space of a year; and having so far gained upon these Indians as that he could persuade them to move to Stockbridge, and settle themselves under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Sargeant, he, by the direction of the Correspondents, removed to the Forks of Delaware in Pennsylvania. Among these Indians, he spent a little more than a year; had some encouraging appearances, but no very great success. He then took a journey of about thirty miles to a settlement of Indians at Crosweeksung in this Province; where it pleased the Lord greatly to smile upon his endeavours, and in the most remarkable manner to open the eyes of the poor savages, and turn them from the power of Satan to God, as appears at large by his printed Journal.

Partly with those Indians, partly at the Forks of Delaware, and partly on the banks of the Susquehanna, (where he made no less than five journeys first and last,) he spent near two years, till he was so far gone in a consumption [tuberculosis] as rendered him utterly unable to officiate any longer.

But by this time a number of the Indians had removed from these Northern parts; the Indians also at Crosweeksung had left that place, and settled themselves on a tract of land near Cranberry, far better for cultivation, and more commodious for such a number as were now collected into one body.

In this situation I found the Indians when I arrived among them, at their new settlement called Bethel, which was about the middle of April, 1747. And this summer I officiated for my brother, who took a journey to the Eastward, thinking that possibly it might be a means of recovering his health. But his distemper had taken such a hold of his vitals, as not to be diverted or removed by medicine or means. He was, on his return from Boston to New Jersey, detained at Northampton by the increase of his disorder, and there made his exit out of the world of sin and sorrow, and no doubt entered upon a glorious and blessed immortality, the October following.

The work of Divine grace still went on among the Indians, although those extraordinary influences that appeared for a time, had begun some months before to abate, and still seemed gradually going off, but the good effects of them were abiding in numbers of instances.”

[Brainerd’s letter continues, but is too long to reproduce here.]

About 1760, John Brainerd came to reside in Mount Holly, Massachusetts, where he had a meeting-house, which was later burned by the British in the Revolutionary War. Several other places also shared in his pulpit ministry. Finally, in 1777 he retired to Deerfield, and it was there that he died in 1781.

Words to Live By:
The 20th-century missionary to the Auca Indians, Jim Elliott, once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” I can think of no better summary for the lives of David Brainerd and his brother John. We still have missionaries today who wholeheartedly expend their lives for the proclamation of the Gospel in foreign lands. Increasingly, those missionaries come from some of those foreign lands once destitute of the Gospel, now sending thousands elsewhere on the globe. Pray for our missionaries. Support them. Encourage them with your letters and visits.

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What Are My Duties?

[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, 12.15 (14 April 1838) 58, col. 6.]


It is the duty of my pastor to “preach the Word”—to “watch for souls as they that must give account”—to “feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made him an overseer”—to “warn, reprove, and rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine”—to comfort the afflicted, support the weak, and be “all things to all men that he may win some” to Christ. But it is not my object to specify all the duties which devolve upon him in his relation as a Minister of the Gospel, and as the Shepherd of a flock. These duties are delineated on the sacred pages in scattered fragments, and may be collected at leisure by every diligent student of the Bible. They are laid down for the most part in general terms, and relate to the care which he is to take of his own heart, “lest after having preached the Gospel to others he himself should be a castaway.”—to the improvement of his own mind, so that his “lips should keep knowledge,” and impart it to others—to his own temper and spirit, that he may prove “an example to the flock—and to the Church in particular and society at large, that he may “edify the body of Christ,” and bring in to the fold those who are wandering from the great Shepherd of Israel. From this hasty and very imperfect sketch it will be seen that his calling has a responsibility which no mere mortal man can adequately perform. Like every redeemed sinner, he must throw himself upon the grace of God, and there must be his reliance.

And now I have a word to say as to myself. I have been one of those who have demanded that my Pastor should exhibit a perfect character. And my standard of perfection has been drawn more from my own state of feeling than from the Word of God. If he did not preach to suit me I felt a disposition to complain. If he reproved, I thought him personal. If in his public performances he exhorted to a duty, I inwardly said that I would act my own pleasure about it. If he did not visit me as often as I thought he might, I looked upon him as neglecting his charge.—And when he did visit me I was not in a suitable frame of mind to be profited by the interview. I talked about him and against him to others, and thus sowed the seeds of dissatisfaction among the members of the Church. But was I right in this course? Can I justify it? Is it consistent with my covenant vows? And how can I answer for it when he and I shall meet at the judgment bar? These and similar reflections begin to give me serious concern. If a pastor has duties to perform, there are correspondent duties that belong to his people, and I am free to acknowledge that mind have not been done, and I too must, if I am to be forgiven, take sanctuary in the grace and mercy of God.

[The author here takes the Latin word for “I confess” as his pseudonymn]

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From a small collection of juvenile literature at the PCA Historical Center, the following artwork is from a Scottish publication titled THE MORNING WATCH, dated 1910. The caption reads:

“These young Scottish theologians are settling the point as to whether the Shorter Catechism says the Sum of the Ten Commandments is . . .  to love our NEIGHBOR, or, our NEIGHBORS. The upper boy says it’s the plural, the under says it’s the singular, each of them, especially the upper one, forgetting that the important thing in the sentence is not the letter S, but the word LOVE. But so did their fathers before them!


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Train Up a Child

Robert Baird [6 October 1798 - 15 March 1863]Concerning the Rev. Robert Baird, we read in Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia, that he was born on October 6th, 1798, in the neighborhood of Uniontown, Fayette county, Pennsylvania,; that he graduated from Jefferson College with high honors in 1818 and then studied theology at Princeton Seminary. In his final year there, he was a tutor in Nassau Hall. Immediately upon graduation in 1822, he took charge of an Academy which had just been established in Princeton and oversaw that work for five or six years. He had been licensed to preach in 1822, and in 1828 was ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunwsick and called to serve as an Evangelist. A year later, he accepted a post to serve as General Agent for the American Sunday School Union, a post which he held for six years. Finally, in 1835, he began the work which consumed the remainder of his life, seeking to advance the cause of the evangelical Christian faith in various countries in Europe. For twenty-eight years this was his life’s passion. Finally, returning from London in 1862, his last year was spent at home in New Jersey, and on March 15, 1863, he breathed his last.

Baird’s greatest work was most likely his treatment on Religion in America. Written while he was residing in Geneva, it is a work which remains quite useful to this day. The full title of the work is Religion in America; or an account of the Origin, Progress, Relation to the State, and Present Condition of the Evangelical Churches in the United States. With notices of the Unevangelical Denominations. First published in 1842, Baird continued to rework and expand the book, and the final 1856 edition is the most complete.

Some three years after his death, Baird’s son, the Rev. Henry Martyn Baird, wrote a biography of his father, and in the following passage, Henry speaks of Robert’s childhood and how he was raised in the Christian faith by a father who was careful to catechize his children:

“His father was a man of staunch integrity and of exemplary deportment; and, as such, he had won the esteem and confidence of all his neighbors. Unostentatious, but with very decided views, which he never avoided expressing on all suitable occasions, he was a man who left his imprint upon all with whom he came in contact. His habits of industry and thrift, formed in youth, he strove to inculcate in connection with the higher obligations of religion. Often did his children, in later years, advert with pleasure to the instruction given to them in the Westminster catechism under the parental roof. On Sabbath evenings, when the entire family was gathered around the blazing hearth, the father was accustomed to hear his children recite that admirable summary of the great truths of the Gospel. His memory was extraordinarily tenacious, and he had himself been so thoroughly drilled in his childhood, that he experienced no difficulty in conducting the exercise, and never required a book in order to recall either the form or the order of the questions. He always began at the very commencement of the catechism, and went regularly through it to the last answer with those of the older children who had advanced so far. His son Robert often blessed God for the familiarity which he thus acquired with the matchless compendium of Biblical theology of the Westminster divines; and expressed regret that Christian parents generally are not more faithful in laying in the minds of their offspring, at an early age, the foundations of an intimate acquaintance with the all-important doctrines of the Christian religion.”

Words to Live By:
Catechising your children may not always be easy, but it can be enjoyable, if conducted lovingly and in a firm yet patient way. Start when they are very young, and build a family habit around the time, whether over the dinner table, at bed time or in the morning. Any discipline involves effort, but this is something which will bear a good—even an eternal—blessing.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14-15, NASB)

For Further Study:
Last October 6th, we first looked at the life of Robert Baird. To review that post, click here.

To read The Life of the Rev. Robert Baird, by Henry Martyn Baird, click here.

To read the review of Religion in America written by James W. Alexander, click here.

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Dr. Charles A. Stillman and The Presbytery’s Right of Examination.

Today we are drawing from a short biographical sketch that Dr. Barry Waugh provided for a section of the PCA Historical Center’s web site. He is the author of these first three paragraphs. Then following the biography, something of an aside for the policy wonks out there, (which I hope will prove interesting), on the Presbytery’s right of examination.

stillmanCharles Allen Stillman was born in Charleston, South Carolina to James S. and Mary Stillman on March 14, 1819. He attended Oglethorpe University in Georgia and received his degree in 1841. He then received his divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1844 and proceeded to be licensed by Charleston Presbytery later that year. The Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston provided the opportunity for Charles to exercise his ministerial gifts until 1845. In 1845 he was ordained by Tuscaloosa Presbytery to receive a call to the Presbyterian Church in Eutaw, Alabama where he served until 1853. Remaining in Alabama, Rev. Stillman received a call to be the pastor of the Gainesville church where he ministered until 1870. It was in 1863, while he was at Gainesville, that Charles received the Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Alabama. Dr. Stillman’s next call was to the Presbyterian Church at Tuscaloosa where he began his longest ministry in 1870 and continued there until his death on January 23, 1895.

Dr. Stillman’s non-pastoral ministerial efforts were many. He was the Chairman of Tuscaloosa Presbytery’s Home Missions Committee. From 1847 until 1884 he served as the Stated Clerk of Tuscaloosa Presbytery. One of his most significant achievements was when a group of Tuscaloosa Presbyterians, headed by Dr. Stillman, presented an overture to the 1875 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States concerning a training school for Black ministers. The 1876 General Assembly followed the recommendation of its specially appointed committee and authorized establishing the Institute for Training Colored Ministers at Tuscaloosa. In the fall of 1876 Charles Stillman taught its first classes. The Institute came to be named the Stillman Institute in honor of its devoted founder who served as its superintendent from its founding until his death. The curriculum and nature of its educational program has changed over the years and it is known today as Stillman College.

Charles Stillman was married three times. He married his first wife, Martha Hammond of Milledgeville, Georgia, on October 15, 1846. His second marriage was to the widow Fannie Collins of Shubuta, Mississippi, whom he married on April 17, 1866. Elfreda Walker of Clarksville, Tennessee was his third wife and they were married on April 17, 1872. At least two of Dr. Stillman’s descendants continued to serve the Presbyterian Church–his daughter, Anna M. Stillman, was a secretary for Rev. T. P. Mordecai at the First Presbyterian Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, and his grandson, Rev. Charles Sholl, was the pastor of the Avondale Presbyterian Church, another of the Presbyterian churches in Birmingham.

Now, on the thin ruse that it was Dr. Stillman who initiated the following discussion at the 1866 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern Presbyterian), we present the following narrative, which concerns the Presbytery’s right to examine men transferring into the Presbytery from elsewhere, whether from within the denomination or from without. To compare the PCA’s stance on such matters, click here.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer 45.1 (4 January 1866): 1.]

The Committee on Bills and Overtures reported adversely to an overture from the Presbytery of South Alabama, asking for the repeal of the rule requiring the examination of ministers coming into a Presbytery from another.

Rev. Dr. Stillman reported that there is a Presbytery in South Alabama prepared to unite with us—they are well known, and have the entire confidence of all the ministers of the Presbytery of South Alabama. They are thoroughly orthodox. The Presbytery has a delicacy in examining them. This rule requiring their examination is the only obstacle to the union. The request of the Presbytery is unanimously endorsed by the Synod of Alabama. We believe that the rule is unconstitutional as far as its action is concerned—the necessity for it has passed away—it has been abrogated by the Assembly in reference to one large body—the United Synod—and now it is hoped that there will not be no hesitation in abolishing a rule which excludes a Presbytery of another body ready to unite with us.

Rev. Dr. [Samuel J.] Baird sketched the history of the origin of the rule requiring the examination of ministers passing from Presbytery to Presbytery. Dr. Lyman Beecher came to a Presbytery in New York from some Congregational Association, and was admitted without examination, and immediately took a letter of dismission to an Ohio Presbytery, and was received, and subsequently stated that he had never signified his adoption of the Confession of Faith. The late Dr. Alexander therefore advocated the adoption of the examination rule, for without it a single Presbytery might deluge the church with heretical ministers. The rule was not directed especially against the New School Church, for at the time of its adoption that church had no existence. Nor had it been suspended in the case of the United Synod.—They had examined the Old School and the Old School had examined them, and it was not until they were thoroughly satisfied as to one another’s soundness that they came together. Nor could it be reasonably objected to. He was not ashamed to proclaim anywhere what he believed as to the great doctrines of religion, and he was not willing to alter our whole system to open the door to a few who were not willing to come in the same way that others had been received. The importance of it is increased at this time—it is more necessary than ever in these days of fanaticism that we should have such a rule. Even in the case of old ministers he thought it a good thing to talk over our views occasionally. When a venerable father in the church comes to be examined, if we cannot find any heresy in him, we can at least learn a great deal from him about the great doctrines of grace. The speaker continued that if the rule is absolute, nobody’s feelings can be hurt by it. He therefore saw no necessity for its repeal.

Rev. Dr. [Robert] Nall said these brethren have not even asked the repeal of this law — they do not make their coming to depend on the repeal of this law—they would, however, prefer to come in without an examination, and if we repeal the law the Presbytery still has the right to examine all who come to them.

The report was adopted, refusing to repeal the rule requiring the examination of all ministers entering a Presbytery. Rev. Dr. Brown proposed that a letter be addressed to the Presbytery of South Alabama, explanatory of the views of the Assembly, to be used by them as they see fit in communicating with these brethren. Dr. [George] Howe and Dr. Baird were appointed to that committee. On motion, adjourned.

Closed with prayer by Rev. Ed. P. Palmer.

Words to Live By:
One strength of the Presbyterian system is the safeguard provided for the congregations by the Presbytery, as they watch over who may lawfully enter the field to tend the sheep. When a church calls a man to be its pastor, that man must first be examined by the Presbytery before he will be allowed onto the field of service within that Presbytery. The Presbytery has ever right and every responsibility before God, to watch over and protect the congregations within their bounds. God help them if they take their duty lightly.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
(1 John 4:1-2, NASB).

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Student Days at Princeton, 1822

James Waddel Alexander was the eldest son of the Rev. Archibald and Janetta (Waddel) Alexander, and he was born in Louisa county, Virginia on March 13, 1804. The young parents had wed in April of 1802 and a month later relocated to Hampden Sydney, where Rev. Alexander resumed his duties as the President of the College there. When James was about two years old, his father was called to serve as the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Then another six years later, the family moved for the last time, relocating to Princeton, New Jersey, where in 1812 Archibald Alexander became the first professor at the newly organized Princeton Theological Seminary.

Growing up, James had every encouragement for learning, and while the youngest in his class at college, he made friends easily. Upon graduation from the College of New Jersey, he next entered upon his preparations for ministry at the Seminary, beginning those studies in 1822. By this time, Charles Hodge was already numbered among the faculty, joining Professors Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller.

For forty years, James Waddel Alexander kept up a correspondence with his friend John Hall (he later became pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City). Not long after J.W. Alexander died, in 1859, the surviving correspondent gathered up the letters for publication, and the resulting two volume set was issued in 1860 by Charles Scribner of New York. The set has been reprinted at least once in more recent times.

Among the many letters, there is this very interesting look at James as he settled into his time at the Seminary in 1822.

“I said I was happy,—never more so in my life. I enjoy good health, good spirits, and I have a most comfortable room, and a most delightful room mate. I never had so great a variety of excellent company before: Metaphysicians, Wits, Theologians, &c, &c. I have here dearly prized friends, who endear Princeton to me. Books in the greatest abundance, as I have access to six public libraries, as well as my father’s. Our studies are not burdensome, and far from being irksome. I saw a letter the other day from an alumnus of this institution to a member of it, in which he says: “My dear C________, you are now enjoying your happiest days, and whether you realize it now or not, you will feel it deeply when you are cast out upon the world.” These sentiments are not peculiar to this individual, I hear them from every one who has ever been here. Indeed, the greatest cares I experience, are such as arise from an oration to be spoken, or a tedious lecture. Will you not say with Virgil, O fortunati nimium sua si bona norint. I will now proceed to give you some account of my course of life. I rise at half after six. Public prayers in the Oratory at 7. Breakfast at 8. From 9 to 9:30, I devote to bodily exercise. From 9:30 to 12, Study. 12-1, Exercise. Dine at one. 2-3, I usually devote to works of taste, and to composing. 3-4:30 at Lecture. 4:30 Prayers. Until tea, at Exercise. After tea, until 12 (at which time I close my eyes) Societies, study, &c.

“Perhaps you think I exercise my body sufficiently. I find it absolutely necessary to my well-being, or almost to my being at all. You may think, too, that I do not study a great deal; true—and moreover that I need not complain of want of time for correspondence; true, at present I need not complain; I have plenty of time for writing, and general reading. At the beginning of the term, before I had fairly got into the harness, our business appeared too much to grasp; but it is now methodized, and I find that I am quite a gentleman of leisure. To proceed: we recite twice in the week on Hebrew, once on Greek, once on the Confession of Faith, once on Biblical History. Hear Lectures once on Theology, (preparatory to the full and regular theological Lectures,) twice on Biblical history, once on the Criticism of the Bible; President, Mr. Hodge. On Tuesday night, the Theological Society, where every student delivers once in six weeks an original oration. On Thursday night, I am at liberty to attend an evening lecture at the college. On Friday night, Theological Society, where questions in ethics and divinity are discussed. On Saturday night, a weekly prayer meeting. On Sunday, we have sermons from our three professors, and Prof. Lindsly, in rotation.” [Philip Lindsly, D.D., was the Vice President of the College of New Jersey at that time.]

Words to Live By:
We all live very busy schedules, but every Christian should spend regular, consistent time in prayer and in the Word of God. This is one reason why we present a daily reading plan in the margin column of this blog. Slowly, a little at a time, you will grow in your understanding of the Scriptures and in your ability to share your faith. Persistence and consistency pay off in their cumulative effect. James Alexander succeeded in his studies because within a short time he had his demanding schedule “methodized,” making an appropriate allowance of time for everything that needed to be done.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB)

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (1 Peter 3:15, NASB)

Last July 31st we paid an initial visit, looking at the life of J.W. Alexander. To view that post, click here.
[you’ll note in that post, his middle name was spelled “Waddell”, while in today’s post it is spelled “Waddel”. James’s mother’s maiden name was Waddel, and so I’m inclined to think that is the correct spelling, though both spellings are found.]

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Boanerges! – A Son of Thunder

Son of the Rev. Thomas Craighead and Margaret Craighead, Alexander was born near Donegal, Ireland on March 18, 1707. His father was a Presbyterian minister who immigrated to America in 1715, settling with his family in Freetown, Massachusetts. In 1721 the family moved to New Jersey and later to Delaware, then finally to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.

Alexander was, in the modern parlance, homeschooled, taught by his father, even studying theology under his father’s guidance, and successfully so, in that he was licensed by the Donegal Presbytery in the fall of 1734. His first labors as a pastor were with a congregation at the Meeting House Springs, about two miles north of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and by some accounts Alexander was the first pastor to preach west of hte Susquehanna River. He was ordained by the same Presbytery in November of 1735 and installed as the pastor of the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Craighead reportedly preached with great zeal, and was a supporter of revivals. He was an admirer of the efforts of the Rev. George Whitefield and even accompanied him on some of his tours. But Craighead’s zeal was not tempered by prudence, and he spoke freely in criticism of others whom he deemed lax in their discipline or even unorthodox in their theology. Rev. Craighead expected Presbyterian pastors in the colonies to uphold the practices of their home church across the ocean. He was unrelenting in his standards, in his expectations, and in his accusations against those who did not measure up. Charges and division followed, as Craighead’s strict views ran counter to the majority. Finally the Synod of Philadelphia expelled him.

And so Rev. Craighead migrated yet again, and settled on the Catawba river in Mecklenberg county, North Carolina. Here he was installed as the pastor of both the Rocky River and Sugaw Creek congregations, in 1758. His final years as a pastor were spent here. Fiercely independent and an ardent critic of the King, Craighead conveyed his values to his congregations, and those same members of his congregations later formed a Convention which met at Charlotte, framing what has been termed the First Declaration of Independence. This was in May of 1775.

After long years of ministry, the Rev. Alexander Craighead died at his home near Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 12, 1766, and was buried in the cemetery adjoining his church.

Words to Live By:
Aptly named, Alexander Craighead was a fiery, irrascible, headstrong man with definite opinions about most everything. It is not often easy to hold to a fervent zeal, while at the same time remaining peaceable and calm. In all things, and at all times, we are to stand immovably fixed upon the truths of God’s Word. May God give us wisdom, to know when to be zealous, and when to seek peace.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

For Further Study:
The Presbyterian Church at Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr. (1954)
A History of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, by Neill Roderick McCeachy (1954).”

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