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One Pastor’s Influence — Benjamin Morgan Palmer [1818-1902]

Benjamin Morgan Palmer, who was born on this day, January 25, in 1818, served a long pastorate in the city of New Orleans and had a fruitful ministry there. His was an important voice in the larger community outside the church, as well. When gambling interests sought to re-establish and continue a lottery in that city, he spoke against it. What follows is the report of Rev. Palmer’s efforts, as found in C. W. Grafton’s history of Presbyterianism in MississippiThe title of this chapter in Grafton’s history is a bit misleading in that, of course, the lottery was not something sponsored by the Synod of Mississippi, but rather was a grievous concern occurring within their borders.
[Note: Grafton’s work was never published, but we are pleased to have a photostatic copy of  the original typescript here at the PCA Historical Center, received by the kind donation of the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway.]

Chapter 24
Lottery in the Synod of Mississippi

At the very beginning of the Presbyterian church in Mississippi a strong decided attitude was taken against all ungodly amusements.

The Presbytery of Mississippi was organized in 1816 and in the second or third meeting it passed strong resolutions against card playing and games of chance. They say “All games of chance are so many inconsiderate and irreverent appeals to divine providence. If we may not take the name of God in vain, neither may we trifle with his providence, or make sport of it for our amusement. Games of chance being abused for the purposes of gain are odious to the feelings of the moral and upright. Christian feeling has long since proscribed games of chance and all forms of gambling. There is but one sentiment on this subject among the truly pious and it has become the moral sense of the Christian church. To offend this sentiment is to offend the church.”

For a long time in early days the habit of raising money by lottery prevailed throughout the land. But it proved to be a most vicious and destructive agency in polluting the morals of the people.

The city of New Orleans and the whole state of Louisiana, we must continue to remember, were a part of the Synod of Mississippi and did not become separated from the Mississippi Synod till 1901, when the Synod of Louisiana was organized.

The Legislature of Louisiana had chartered a corporation in the state to raise money by lottery. In 1891 the license was about to expire and its promoters throughout the state were inaugurating a big effort to have the charter of the company renewed. It was a critical period in the history of the state. The evil effects of the lottery had been set forth during a long period of years and there was a growing spirit in Louisiana against renewing the license.

The Christian citizens all over the state agitated the question and were outspoken against it. The money power in favor of the lottery was very strong and it seemed as if the great evil was about to be fastened anew upon the state. The good people of all the neighboring states sympathized with Louisiana and they held meetings far and wide condemning the lottery.

In the fall of 1891 a great meeting was held in New Orleans in order to stir up the heart of the people and warn them to use all efforts to arrest the spirit of public gambling.

Some fine addresses were delivered, but Dr. Palmer of the Synod of Mississippi delivered the crowning address. His whole heart was aflame with the subject and the sympathy of the big congregation was with him. His address struck the right chord at the right time and it broke the backbone of the lottery. It was a great address and for the purpose of embalming it in the memory of our young people, we are giving it word for word as delivered that night. We leave out the cheers and the plaudits and the handclapping which were in evidence all through the speech.

When you read the address take your place in our big city. Think of the occasion and you will have something in your mind that will help you always. It is scriptural, patriotic and convincing to the highest degree and we make no apology in bringing it before you. It accomplished the grand result for which it was delivered. The address now follows:

Mr. Chairman and fellow citizens of Louisiana.

“I lay the indictment against the Lottery Company of Louisiana, that it is essentially an immoral institution whose business and avowed aim it is to propagate gambling throughout the state and throughout the country. This being not simply a nuisance but even a crime, no Legislature as the creature of the people nor even the people themselves in convention assembled, have the power to legitimate it either by legislative enactment upon the one hand or by fundamental charter upon the other. In other words, I lay the indictment against the Louisiana Lottery Company that its continued existence is incompatible not only with the safety but with the being of the state.

In saying this, sir, I desire to be understood as not simply uttering the language of denunciation. I frame the indictment and I propose to support each of its specifications by adequate proof; and I do this the more distinctly from the conviction that there are many citizens throughout our bounds, who, having been accustomed to look at the lottery simply as a means of revenue either public or private, have not sufficiently considered the inherent viciousness of this system itself.

And it is that class which I hope this night to reach and to range upon our side in this great controversy.

Indeed, sir, if the worst should come to the worst in this present campaign, I for one could wish that, all technicalities being swept away, there might be some method by which the question might be carried up to the Supreme Court of the United States whether it is competent to any state in the union to commit suicide. And if that venerable court should return an answer, which I think they would not for a moment consider as possible, I would then for my part make the appeal to the virtues and common sense of the masses of our people, that the very instinct of self-preservation may stamp out of existence an institution which is fatal to the liberties and the life of the commonwealth.

To read the rest of this chapter, click here.

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LarnedSylvester02On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who could not afford to flee the city. It was in that context that “The whole of his discourse was solemn, and he himself was unusually affected by the considerations he presented to his hearers; and as he concluded, he wept.”

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’ — Philippians 1:21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).

“To a sentiment like this, my hearers, what can we conceive superior in dignity of thought, or loftiness of feeling? How majestic does he appear who can look with so triumphant an emotion upon the grave,—and that too, not in the sternness of philosophy, nor the torpor of fatalism, but simply in the meek and confiding hope of salvation in Jesus Christ! In the present case, also, there are some facts which render the spectacle still more illustrious. When St. Paul uttered the language of our text, he was a prisoner at Rome. The terrible Nero had hunted long and eagerly for the aged saint, till at last the apostle was seized and conducted to that imperial monster, who had so often feasted on the blood and tears of the Church. Here it was that the godly old man—chained to a soldier, to prevent his escape, uncertain what day might prove his last, and listening, at every sound, for the fearful tread of the executioner,—here it was, under circumstances which might have appalled the stoutest heart, that he exclaimed, more like a conquerer than a captive,

‘To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’

Now what, my hearers, is life? It comprises, you well know, two leading ideas—activity and enjoyment. Every man has some great object upon which his activities are more awake than upon any other. Wealth to one, Beauty to a second, Fame to a third, and so on; and, I trust, experimental religion to a few, calls forth that paramount solicitude and exertion which show most decisively in what direction the main current of the feelings is set. By this rule, if you look at the apostle Paul, you may find out, at a glance, the real spring of his movements. His whole efforts were bent to the single aim of promoting Christianity, not only abroad, but in his own bosom—not alone in the display of its external embellishments, but in the urgency of its work upon the affections and thoughts.

The same is true in regard to the idea of enjoyment. There is scarcely a man in a thousand who does not show to the eye of his acquaintances, and indeed to his own eye, if he be candid and impartial, the actual feelings by which he loves chiefly to be engrossed. The secret will come out. The votary of pleasure, of fashion, of gold, and, may I add, of the Saviour, are sure to betray the supremacy of their attachment to their separate objects of pursuit.

By this rule, too, St. Paul appears in a character the most unequivocal. His enjoyments were in Christ. All his views of happiness appear to have centered on the one absorbing principle of union with Him, ‘in whom,’ to use his own words, ‘tho’ now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Well then did the great apostle of the Gentiles say, that ‘To him to live was Christ.’ But, my brethren, does not his language convey a sentiment of conviction and reproof to you? Could you adopt it, and assert that the Lord Jesus constitutes the primary object of your lives, either by making you supremely active in His service, or by making you supremely happy in His promises?

These are inquiries which lie, depend upon it, at the very basis of personal religion. Easy as it may be to carry about us the semblance of a hope for eternity, the Bible declares that God looketh at the life, not simply in its visible conformities and observances, but in the entireness of its dedication to Jesus Christ. But the venerable Paul goes on to say, that ‘to him to die was gain.‘ How is this? How should a poor frail mortal, who had known only one world, feel a confidence so strong in approaching the untried scenes of another? The reason, my hearers, plainly was, that he had an interest in the Saviour’s blood.

This inspired his triumph, and having this, Death, was to him, as it is to every believer, a subject of thanksgiving and praise. It released him from all his sorrows; and many a one have the children of God in walking through this vale of tears. The hand of God’s bereavement, or the reverses of His Providence, break in upon their happiness so often, that, ‘if , in this life only, they had hope in Christ, they were, of all men, most miserable.’

And besides, in entering the grave, the Christian leaves his sins behind him; and I know of no one consideration more glorious or more animating to a renovated heart. Certain it is, that by just how much we are assimilated to the Redeemer, by just so much will the bare danger of violating his commandments, or incurring his displeasure, be to us a source of the most lively uneasiness and anxiety.

And then, more than every thing else, the hour of death, however shrouded for the time in gloom, ushers the experimental believer into a better and a brighter world. To him it is that God has promised ‘an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.’ The very moment life is gone, the certainty of Heaven comes home to him; and thus it happens that every one, rich or poor, bond or free, who can truly say, with the apostle, that ‘to him to live is Christ’, may say also with the same assurance, that ‘to die is gain.’

And here, my brethren, let me again inquire, if the sentiment of our text do not tacitly imply a reproach—or an expostulation to yourselves? In what sense is it that death, to you, would be ‘gain’?—Death, which will stop you short in your pursuits, and lay you motionless and cold, beneath the lids of the coffin—death, which will put forever beyond your reach the offers of mercy—which will cut short the busy activities of the world, and dismiss you at once to the tribunal bar of the Omnipotent God. Justly indeed might St. Paul contemplate these things with joy; for he was prepared to put off his clayey tabernacle. But, to us, the question comes most impressively up, whether we have any evangelical and well-grounded reason to believe that Christ has been formed in us the hope of glory?

“Now, my hearers, in looking at the subject which has been briefly examined, I cannot repress a remark, adapted, I think, to the serious reality of our present circumstances. It is this: At all times a becoming preparation for eternity presents itself to us as a most desirable attainment—but now more than ever, for the simple reason that now the distance between time and eternity seems to be most solemnly short. You can all attest how suddenly a few weeks past have hurried some of our fellow-beings from health to the tomb. Do not, however, mistake my meaning,—do not think I say this with a design to alarm. By no means. Your own good sense will teach you, that at a moment like the present, composure and tranquility, even without religion, ought carefully to be sought. But what I say is, have an interest in Jesus Christ. Then death will have no terrors, and the grave no victory.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. Why will you put off the business of your immortal souls? Why will you rush forward with the infatuation of madness and the rashness of despair, when the arms of a compassionate Saviour are thrown open to welcome you with all your sins and all your fears? I entreat, and God grant you may remember the appeal—I entreat you to be up and doing—to work while it is called today, because the night cometh,—and how soon or suddenly we know not,—wherein no man can work.”

———

By the exertions of this Sabbath he appeared to be much overcome, but complained of no indisposition until early the next morning, when he was seized with fever, which no medical skill or appliances could subdue; and on Thursday evening, the 31st of August, the very day on which he completed his twenty-fourth year, he resigned, in the full confidence of a blessed immortality, his soul to God.

To read more of the life of the Rev. Sylvester Larned, along with a small collection of his sermons, click here :
Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned; first pastor of the First Presbyterian church in New Orleans, by Ralph Randolph Gurley (1844).

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mallardRobert Quarterman Mallard, son of Thomas and Rebecca (Burnley) Mallard, was born at Waltourville, Liberty county, on September 7, 1830. He was received into the Midway Congregational church on May 15, 1852, and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1850, before entering on his preparation for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Then graduating from Columbia in 1855, he was licensed by Georgia Presbytery on April 14, 1855 and ordained by this same Presbytery a year later, on April 13, 1856, being installed as pastor of the Walthourville church, where he served from 1856 to 1863. Rev. Mallard next answered a call to serve as pastor of the Central Presbyterian church in Atlanta, and labored there from 1863 to 1866. He then took up the pulpit of the Prytania Street Presbyterian church in New Orleans, where he labored from 1866 until ill health forced his resignation in 1877. It was not until 1879 that he was able to return to the pastorate, answering a call to serve the Napoleon Avenue Presbyterian church, also in New Orleans, from 1879 until 1903, no long before his death on March 3, 1904.

Honors accorded Rev. Mallard during his years of ministry included having served as the Moderator of the Thirty-sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., as it met in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1896. Rev. Mallard also served as editor of the Southwestern Presbyterian from 1892 until his death in 1904. His published works were few, notably Plantation Life before Emancipation (1892) and Montevideo-Maybank (1898)

During the Civil War, Dr. Mallard was taken prisoner at Walthourville on December 14, 1865, where he was temporarily stopping, and kept with other prisoners in pens on the Ogeechee. After the fall of Savannah, he was carried into the city, and for a while imprisoned in a cotton warehouse on Bay street; was entertained for about three months at the home of Dr. Axson, as a paroled prisoner, before being finally released.

Words to Live By:

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LarnedSylvester02On August 27th, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned appeared for the last time before the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans. He had remained in the city during the summer’s “sickly season.” Death from fever was everywhere, and Rev. Larned has spent those weeks and months ministering to the city’s poor who could not afford to flee the city. It was in that context that “The whole of his discourse was solemn, and he himself was unusually affected by the considerations he presented to his hearers; and as he concluded, he wept.”

To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’ — Philippians 1:21.

“To a sentiment like this, my hearers, what can we conceive superior in dignity of thought, or loftiness of feeling? How majestic does he appear who can look with so triumphant an emotion upon the grave,and that too, not in the sternness of philosophy, nor the torpor of fatalism, but simply in the meek and confiding hope of salvation in Jesus Christ! In the present case, also, there are some facts which render the spectacle still more illustrious. When St. Paul uttered the language of our text, he was a prisoner at Rome. The terrible Nero had hunted long and eagerly for the aged saint, till at last the apostle was seized and conducted to that imperial monster, who had so often feasted on the blood and tears of the Church. Here it was that the godly old man—chained to a soldier, to prevent his escape, uncertain what day might prove his last, and listening, at every sound, for the fearful tread of the executioner,—here it was, under circumstances which might have appalled the stoutest heart, that he exclaimed, more like a conquerer than a captive,

To me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.’

Now what, my hearers, is life? It comprises, you well know, two leading ideas—activity and enjoyment. Every man has some great object upon which his activities are more awake than upon any other. Wealth to one, Beauty to a second, Fame to a third, and so on; and, I trust, experimental religion to a few, calls forth that paramount solicitude and exertion which show most decisively in what direction the main current of the feelings is set. By this rule, if you look at the apostle Paul, you may find out, at a glance, the real spring of his movements. His whole efforts were bent to the single aim of promoting Christianity, not only abroad, but in his own bosom—not alone in the display of its external embellishments, but in the urgency of its work upon the affections and thoughts.

The same is true in regard to the idea of enjoyment. There is scarcely a man in a thousand who does not show to the eye of his acquaintances, and indeed to his own eye, if he be candid and impartial, the actual feelings by which he loves chiefly to be engrossed. The secret will come out. The votary of pleasure, of fashion, of gold, and, may I add, of the Saviour, are sure to betray the supremacy of their attachment to their separate objects of pursuit.

By this rule, too, St. Paul appears in a character the most unequivocal. His enjoyments were in Christ. All his views of happiness appear to have centered on the one absorbing principle of union with Him, ‘in whom,’ to use his own words, ‘tho’ now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ Well then did the great apostle of the Gentiles say, that ‘To him to live was Christ.’ But, my brethren, does not his language convey a sentiment of conviction and reproof to you? Could you adopt it, and assert that the Lord Jesus constitutes the primary object of your lives, either by making you supremely active in His service, or by making you supremely happy in His promises?

These are inquiries which lie, depend upon it, at the very basis of personal religion. Easy as it may be to carry about us the semblance of a hope for eternity, the Bible declares that God looketh at the life, not simply in its visible conformities and observances, but in the entireness of its dedication to Jesus Christ. But the venerable Paul goes on to say, that ‘to him to die was gain.‘ How is this? How should a poor frail mortal, who had known only one world, feel a confidence so strong in approaching the untried scenes of another? The reason, my hearers, plainly was, that he had an interest in the Saviour’s blood.

This inspired his triumph, and having this, Death, was to him, as it is to every believer, a subject of thanksgiving and praise. It released him from all his sorrows; and many a one have the children of God in walking through this vale of tears. The hand of God’s bereavement, or the reverses of His Providence, break in upon their happiness so often, that, ‘if , in this life only, they had hope in Christ, they were, of all men, most miserable.’

And besides, in entering the grave, the Christian leaves his sins behind him; and I know of no one consideration more glorious or more animating to a renovated heart. Certain it is, that by just how much we are assimilated to the Redeemer, by just so much will the bare danger of violating his commandments, or incurring his displeasure, be to us a source of the most lively uneasiness and anxiety.

And then, more than every thing else, the hour of death, however shrouded for the time in gloom, ushers the experimental believer into a better and a brighter world. To him it is that God has promised ‘an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.’ The very moment life is gone, the certainty of Heaven comes home to him; and thus it happens that every one, rich or poor, bond or free, who can truly say, with the apostle, that ‘to him to live is Christ’, may say also with the same assurance, that ‘to die is gain.’

And here, my brethren, let me again inquire, if the sentiment of our text do not tacitly imply a reproach—or an expostulation to yourselves? In what sense is it that death, to you, would be ‘gain’?—Death, which will stop you short in your pursuits, and lay you motionless and cold, beneath the lids of the coffin—death, which will put forever beyond your reach the offers of mercy—which will cut short the busy activities of the world, and dismiss you at once to the tribunal bar of the Omnipotent God. Justly indeed might St. Paul contemplate these things with joy; for he was prepared to put off his clayey tabernacle. But, to us, the question comes most impressively up, whether we have any evangelical and well-grounded reason to believe that Christ has been formed in us the hope of glory?

“Now, my hearers, in looking at the subject which has been briefly examined, I cannot repress a remark, adapted, I think, to the serious reality of our present circumstances. It is this: At all times a becoming preparation for eternity presents itself to us as a most desirable attainment—but now more than ever, for the simple reason that now the distance between time and eternity seems to be most solemnly short. You can all attest how suddenly a few weeks past have hurried some of our fellow-beings from health to the tomb. Do not, however, mistake my meaning,—do not think I say this with a design to alarm. By no means. Your own good sense will teach you, that at a moment like the present, composure and tranquility, even without religion, ought carefully to be sought. But what I say is, have an interest in Jesus Christ. Then death will have no terrors, and the grave no victory.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. Why will you put off the business of your immortal souls? Why will you rush forward with the infatuation of madness and the rashness of despair, when the arms of a compassionate Saviour are thrown open to welcome you with all your sins and all your fears? I entreat, and God grant you may remember the appeal—I entreat you to be up and doing—to work while it is called today, because the night cometh,—and how soon or suddenly we know not,—wherein no man can work.”

———

By the exertions of this Sabbath he appeared to be much overcome, but complained of no indisposition until early the next morning, when he was seized with fever, which no medical skill or appliances could subdue; and on Thursday evening, the 31st of August, the very day on which he completed his twenty-fourth year, he resigned, in the full confidence of a blessed immortality, his soul to God.

To read more of the life of the Rev. Sylvester Larned, along with a small collection of his sermons, click here:
Life and Eloquence of the Rev. Sylvester Larned; first pastor of the First Presbyterian church in New Orleans, by Ralph Randolph Gurley (1844).

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The Gospel to New Orleans

LarnedSylvester02The Rev. Sylvester Larned, the subject of our post today, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on August 31st, 1796. He was the son Col. Simon Larned, a high-ranking officer in the American army who had served during the Revolutionary War. Of young Sylvester, it was said that in early childhood he gave good indications of future promise, and that the commanding eloquence for which he was so much distinguished in later life, began to be developed in his earliest years. He had a remarkable, upbeat temper, and other indications of a superior mind. One story that is famously told of young Sylvester–that while not even yet in his teens, he made a wager with his brother that he could make him weep just by talking to him. Now there was nothing solemn or painful ongoing in their lives at that time. But Sylvester began to ply his brother with words, and such was the force of those words, that in a very short time he actually melted down his brother into unwilling tears; whereupon, with a playful jab, he claimed his prize.

At the age of fourteen he began attending college, and in his senior year, God’s hand rested on him, bringing him to a conviction of his sins. Soon after, he decided it was his life’s purpose to serve the Lord in pulpit ministry. So, in the autumn of 1813, he began his preparations at Andover Seminary. However, he left after only a semester and returned home to teach for a year. Then in 1815, he renewed his studies, this time at Princeton Theological Seminary. He grew in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ particularly in his final year, graduating in 1817, and was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of New York. Wherever he preached, crowds would gather, “overflowing congregations hung in rapture on his lips, and were melted down under the power of his eloquence.” Not since Whitefield had one so young made such an impression in this country.

It was at about this time that the Church began to sense the strong need of the Gospel in Louisiana. The claims of Christ Jesus had barely ever been proclaimed in New Orleans. One stalwart pioneer, a Rev. Cornelius, had done spade work, preparing the way, but he had no fixed connection with the city. For the true advance of the Gospel there, the work required someone committed to the people of the city. Larned was selected for that work. Ordained as an evangelist, he began his journey south.

“On his first arrival in that city, a general and unprecedented interest was awakened by his preaching; and everything seemed to indicate that Providence had sent him there to produce a great revolution in the character of New Orleans. The uncommon majesty with which he exhibited the truths of the Gospel, the almost magic power by which he entranced and rivetted his hearers, drew after him a multitude composed of all classes, from the highest to the lowest in society.” Soon influential people stepped forward to call him as their pastor, to commit to his support and to the building of a home for the new church.

In those years, the summers were known as the sickly season; those who could afford to, would vacate the city for healthier regions. But in 1820, Rev. Larned resolved to stay with the poor among his people, those who could not afford to flee the city. He resolved to die on the field of service if God so willed. Well into August of that year, Larned remained healthy, ministering to the sick and dying throughout the city. Then, on the last Sunday of that month, a day of public humiliation and prayer, Larned met with his people in the morning, and again in the afternoon, but by the close of the day, he had been laid low by the fever. It broke his strength, and on August 31st, 1820, the Rev. Sylvester Larned breathed his last. “When the delirium of death was not on him, he was firm and collected. When most aware of his danger, he was most assured of his Saviour’s presence and power…”

Words to Live By:
As we read through some of the accounts of the life of Sylvester Larned, his tremendous powers of persuasion are a common focal point of these accounts. That can be quite troubling, for we know that true spirituality depends not on clever words, but upon spiritual reality. So it is reassuring to read in one account that “When he first appeared as a Minister of the Gospel, he was led to bestow too much attention on what he thought most likely to attract the mass of men; we allude to his style of writing, and mode of illustrating divine truth. But when he became a settled pastor, he found that eloquence would not feed his people. A great revolution immediately took place in his style of instruction. He became more plain, more didactic, and evangelical; and the consequence was, that while they who had been attracted by human power, were displeased, the sheep of the fold found more of that food which came down from above.”

Trivia: Did you note that the Rev. Sylester Larned was born and died on the same calendar day? That sort of thing is actually a rather rare occurrence.

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palmerBM_02

—The decease of Dr. Palmer of New Orleans is like a change in the landscape of the South. As far as it is possible for one man in the space of a lifetime to grow to be a part of the fixed order of things, Dr. Palmer had become identified like some old-time landmark with his denomination, his city and his section of the nation. he was one of that class of men who are incapable of change; what he was as he came to the maturity of manhood he remained until death. It is doubtless true that the world would be unfortunate if all its strong men should crystallize in that adamantine way, but living in a time that suffers little lack of impulses to progress, we ought to thank God that He still scatters through the churches some immovable men to hinder and obstruct headlong haste.

From an almost opposite pole of Christian temperament THE INTERIOR clearly recognizes that Dr. Palmer served God and his generation as a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of our religion. His faithful witness to Jesus Christ in the word of his preaching and the example of his ministry gave him such power in New Orleans as few of the Lord’s ambassadors have ever wielded in any age of the church. By all consent he was acknowledged for years to be the most influential man in that city, and he was so brave and outspoken that he made for righteousness not only in the private lives of men but in the civic life of the community. He was born in Charleston, S.C. on January 25, 1818 and had been over leading churches in Savannah and Columbia before he went to the First Presbyterian church of New Orleans in 1856. His pastoral term there covered fifty-six consecutive years.

He retained excellent vigor and still preached powerfully despite his great age, and his life might have been prolonged still for several years if he had not suffered injury beneath a street car which ran him down in the streets of New Orleans a few weeks ago. He did not die from the direct effects of that accident, but the shock seemed so to weaken his vital powers that fatal disease soon supervened.

[excerpted from THE INTERIOR, Vol. 33, No. 1671 (5 June 1902): 734.]

palmerbm02As an example of Dr. Palmer’s influence, not just within the Church, but in the civic life of New Orleans, here is a portion of an account of his opposition to the lottery there.

In the fall of 1891 a great meeting was held in New Orleans in order to stir up the heart of the people and warn them to use all efforts to arrest the spirit of public gambling. Some fine addresses were delivered, but Dr. Palmer of the Synod of Mississippi delivered the crowning address. His whole heart was aflame with the subject and the sympathy of the big congregation was with him. His address struck the right chord at the right time and it broke the backbone of the lottery. It was a great address and for the purpose of embalming it in the memory of our young people, we are giving it word for word as delivered that night. We leave out the cheers and the plaudits and the hand-clapping which were in evidence all through the speech.

Mr. Chairman and fellow citizens of Louisiana.

“I lay the indictment against the Lottery Company of Louisiana, that it is essentially an immoral institution whose business and avowed aim it is to propagate gambling throughout the state and throughout the country. This being not simply a nuisance but even a crime, no Legislature as the creature of the people nor even the people themselves in convention assembled, have the power to legitimate it either by legislative enactment upon the one hand or by fundamental charter upon the other. In other words, I lay the indictment against the Louisiana Lottery Company that its continued existence is incompatible not only with the safety but with the being of the state.

In saying this, sir, I desire to be understood as not simply uttering the language of denunciation. I frame the indictment and I propose to support each of its specifications by adequate proof; and I do this the more distinctly from the conviction that there are many citizens throughout our bounds, who, having been accustomed to look at the lottery simply as a means of revenue either public or private, have not sufficiently considered the inherent viciousness of this system itself.

And it is that class which I hope this night to reach and to range upon our side in this great controversy.

Indeed, sir, if the worst should come to the worst in this present campaign, I for one could wish that, all technicalities being swept away, there might be some method by which the question might be carried up to the Supreme Court of the United States whether it is competent to any state in the union to commit suicide. And if that venerable court should return an answer, which I think they would not for a moment consider as possible, I would then for my part make the appeal to the virtues and common sense of the masses of our people, that the very instinct of self-preservation may stamp out of existence an institution which is fatal to the liberties and the life of the commonwealth. . .

To read the rest of Palmer’s message, click here.

Words to Live By:
Pastors, and Christians in general, can and ought to have a voice as citizens, and our voice should and must be informed by the Scriptures. PCA pastor Mike Milton has a new book forthcoming titled Silent No More, which speaks to this issue, and which should be well worth reading.

Image sources:
1. Carte de vis photograph from a collection gathered by Thomas Dwight Witherspoon. The original was lost in a fire, but had been thankfully scanned prior to that loss.
2. Cover photograph from THE INTERIOR, Vol. 33, no. 1671 (5 June 1902).
All scans prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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