Boston Recorder

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This summer seems to be a time when a number of my friends who are pastors are taking up new calls and so moving to new locations. In that light, this post from last year is appropriate to re-run today. (not to mention that there simply wasn’t much to be found happening on this date in Presbyterian history.)


A few years back, an alert ruling elder at the Hixson Presbyterian Church spotted an old copy of The Central Presbyterian at a local sale. Purchasing the old newspaper, he then graciously donated it to the PCA Historical Center. Reproduced here is one of the articles from that July 24, 1858 issue. The language reflects the era, and the piece is obviously sentimental in nature, but interesting nonetheless —

A Pastor’s Farewell to his Study.

Providence has assigned me another location, and I must leave, among other places greatly endeared, that upper chamber, called the study.  It is now more than twenty years since I first took possession of it.  It seemed an interesting locality then; but how much has occurred since to give the place a deeper hold upon my mind.

Charles Hodge's StudySermons have been studied out here, with long and earnest thought.  And there they lie on that shelf, piles of them.  They have had their day.  The simple author thought quite highly of, now and then, of one of them, when in the glow and excitement of effort he finished the last sentence.  But the mist in which they loomed up so auspiciously, has passed away and their glory has drooped sadly.  He does not exactly know how much light they gave at first; but he has tried some of them lately, and he has the comfort of saying, they ignite freely, and give a cheerful radiance in the place of the ordinary kinds of in-door illumination.

[Above right: A drawing of Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836, when he suffered from lameness.]

There are ranges of books.  Old men are there—fathers and ancients.  And young men are there; some of them wiser than their fathers—others less so.  They have stood there through slowly rolling years.  They disagree, some of them, with each other.  And the words of some of them are like those of a fierce hussar in anger with his fellow.  But they have not broken the peace of the study, standing quietly side by side.

There is a book.  As I look at it in its place upon the shelf, it awakens interesting trains of thought.  I will take it down and read the inscription on the fly-leaf.  The hand is fair, and the heart was warm that dictated the utterance made by that pen.  But they use no such things where the writer has gone.  It is a good book—a good man gave it, who has gone to be with the good.  And good the work did me.  It will outlive me, and do good to others.  I love to pray for those who may yet use those books.  They will soon be scattered.  Let them go.  They have been my pleasant and profitable companions in the study; may they go and do good, yet greater good to others.

I look round about the study.  That map of the world, how often I have gazed upon it, as I looked to see where moral darkness yet reigns unbroken and again to see where the kingdom of Christ has come in the place of Satan’s kingdom.  That map has been a powerful preacher.  Silently it revealed to me those works of God, the continents, the islands, the oceans, the kingdoms.  That map has hung long against the wall.  Often as I rested from driving the pen, and looked up, it caught my eye.  There was the world—light and shadow—civilization and barbarism—delusions hoary with age, fortified as by mountains and rocks, in the depravity of the heart, and there was Christianity, a little cloud in the vast horizon, but bright and growing brighter, and hastening to fill all lands with its brightness.  I am much obliged to that map.  It has made many valuable moral impressions upon my mind.

Another book arrests my eye.  A note, in a fair hand, is pasted on a fly-leaf, and it reads, “Presented to our pastor by his Bible Class: a small token of their gratitude for his labors for their good.”  The writer was one of the liveliest of youthful saints, and long since went to the presence of that other Teacher, who leads his friends to living fountains of waters.

I muse on.  In this room have been numbers of anxious inquirers.  “Hit of the archer,” they came in here, sore wounded, and would fain know how they might be healed.  Some were healed while here, for the Great Physician was present; and many more, following counsels here given, went away and soon after, “touching the hem of his garment, were made whole.”  They will never forget this room.

Here have been those—their number is great—who came here to ask, if Zion’s gates were open to them, for, hoping in the Saviour’s mercy, they would fain confess him before men.  They told us, who watched at Zion’s gates, why they wished to come.  And most touching tales have here been told of the anguish of conscious guilt, and of the terrible gloom of a soul that had no God, of conflict and struggle and temptation, of light dawning upon darkness, of the calm that followed the storm, of a Saviour found, trusted, loved, enjoyed. Ornaments they became of Zion below, though not a few of them have gone up higher.

Sons and daughters of sorrow have come in here.  It would relieve them to tell their griefs, even to so poor a representative of “the Man of Sorrows,” as the pastor.  Some of them sorrowed as does the world, and groped after comfort, and found it not because of their unbelief.  Others were children of the Highest, passing under the rod, and through the fire.  They came to see if they could not pick up a crumb that had fallen from the Master’s table, to see if sorrow’s solace could not be found in what they might hear of Him “who carried our griefs.”  In cases not a few, the weary found rest, and sorrow’s tears were wiped away, and the retiring mourner could say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”

Little children have been here in the pastor’s study.  He welcomed them, seeing the Great Shepherd’s example, and was interested in their childish wonder at so many books, and pleased their curiosity by such pictures as a place so lean of that material as the study, could furnish.  Those loved little ones!  Childish things have dropped from their hands, for years and years are gone.  They are scattered—some to distant regions of this land, and some to the farthest realms of the earth; though some in childhood fell asleep, and others later fell asleep,—

“That sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.”

But I must leave the study.  Much it has to do with time, more with eternity—a place of wearisome toil though often of joyful labor; a place of anxiety and care, mingled with gleams of light from the celestial land; a place where God was sought for the anxious pastor’s own soul—oftener for the souls of others; a place, a humble Pisgah, where glimpses were caught, at times, of the Delectable Mountains and the Celestial City!

My study!  Others will look out of those windows on the pleasant scenery—on the verdant hills and meadows here, and on the glorious ocean yonder.  Other voices will be heard within these walls.  Others will be here, who have never known what joys and sorrows have been here before them.  May it still be a hallowed place, honored by the occupancy of Pilgrims to nobler mansions above; a place where others shall try the power of prayer, and know the sweetness of submission, the strength of faith, the joy of hope, and all the sacred pleasures which flow from communion with God, the Infinite One, and the invisible world.

– H.B.H.

[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian, vol. 3, no .30 (24 July 1858), pg. 1, and originally published in The Boston Recorder.]

Words to Live By:
We seem to be designed for places. Whether our home, our study, or our church, we place a special value on these places and derive an earthly comfort from them unlike any other. But this world is passing, and God has designed us to have an eye on our eternal home, that we might walk before God in the light of the living. As we seek His mercy and grace, may our surpassing comfort be found in Christ alone. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, may we be made ready to worship God in sweet fellowship, through all eternity.

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10, ESV)

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Lacking a sermon for our Sunday post, the following seemed an acceptable substitute, since the subject of revivals has been making the rounds among some of the blogs. This is from an issue of a venerable old newspaper, The Charleston Observer, which we are blessed and honored to be able to preserve at the Historical Center. And as we have said before, a longer post seems allowable on Sundays.

From the Boston Recorder.


The subject incidentally fell in our way; and we ventured week before last a remark or two, as we were then aware, not altogether coincident with the current of public opinion. But public opinion is not our acknowledged guide. What will the Lord have us believe, and say, and do, is the question.–That we mean to do; and that we beg all our readers to do.

Protracted and elaborate discussion is not our design. Our columns are out of the appropriate place for it, had we full confidence in our own ability to conduct it. A few desultory thoughts are all we promise. Connected or unconnected, popular or unpopular, true or untrue, they are the result of our own judgment, untrammeled by any of the course or fine spun theories of the day.

1. All pure religion among men, in its first inception, is the result of special divine operations alone.

2. God is guided in these operations, only by the counsels of his own infinite and benevolent mind.

3. The instrumentalities he employs; the seasons of his operations; and the individuals or communities he favors, are selected and ordained by Him, without taking counsel of any.

4. While TRUTH, in various aspects and measures is the grand means of his appointment for the conversion of men, he may, and sometimes does employ other subsidiary means in the same work.

5. Whatever truth he employs in this work is brought forth from the treasures of his WORD, and applied to the conscience through the ministry of men whom he has chosen, called and sanctified for the purpose.

6. Men who are thus called to “preach the word,” are bound, beyond men of any other calling, to be “instant in season and out of season” in the discharge of their duty; to expend all their strength judiciously in this service, “whether men will hear or forbear,” to do it, not once in a year, or once in five years, but at all times; and to do it, under a lively and ever growing sense of responsibility to God, and in simple reliance on the Holy Spirit.

7. Those who thus “preach the Word,” may not live long enough to see Israel gathered; but their labors shall not be in vain, and they will have glory in the eyes of the LORD, if not in the eyes of men. “Well done,” will fall gratefully on their ears, from the lips of their final Judge.

8. The most useful minister, is the man who labors diligently according to his strength, in his closet; in his study; in his pulpit; and at the fireside; looking to God as his only resource for wisdom and power; aiming at the conversion of individuals, rather than of the whole community in the gross; at solid conversions rather than showy ones; or, at permanent efforts, rather than those which are temporary.

9. When revivals attend the labors of such a man, they will be productive of rich and valuable accessions to the church.

10. Ministers, who study little, preach loosely, pray loudly, aim at immediate and dazzling effects; talk flippantly about revivals; think nothing of one or two conversions; in the spirit of John say, “Come see my zeal for the Lord,” and enumerate converts by hundreds and thousands, are much to be feared. Revivals under their ministry are unworthy of confidence. Such men there have also been in Zion; and the earthquake and the fire and the thunder have attended their movements, and the mountains have been rent in twain; but THE LORD WAS NOT THERE!

11. No heavier curse can fall upon a community, than a spurious revival. Stupidity is dreadful; but it is mercy compared with false excitement. Lukewarmness is deplorable; but it leaves room for repentance. Infidelity is horrible; but it may yield to conviction. Hypocrisy and self deception are worse than all. The fire of God’s wrath only can remove them. They are the offspring of spurious revivals and combine in their character all, and more than all that is fearful in stupidity, lukewarmness and infidelity together.

12. A genuine revival is noiseless, orderly, solemn and even awful. God is in the midst of it. And his presence carries death to levity, presumption, arrogance and proud display. It inspires an awe like that felt at the foot of Sinai. It creates a trembling throughout the whole camp. It is marked by deep and often long continued conviction of sin; overwhelming sorrow for the hardness of the heart; earnest pleadings with a holy and just God for light and direction; a disposition to retire from observation, and vent the souls anguish in the closet; love for the Bible; abhorrence of all lightness of speech and behavior; clear apprehension of the law of God, in its purity, spirituality, compass and ends; great fears of self deception; thorough searchings of the heart; many, many tears and heart-breakings, in view of past offenses; and many strong fears that the day of mercy may have gone by forever.–Where religious excitement is not attended by marks like those both among Christians and sinners, we have no confidence in it.–Some souls may be converted; but more are likely to be ruined, beyond all hope of recovery.

13. The spirit of a genuine revival repudiates all excesses of feeling, speech, and action. It abhors all irregularities; all eccentricities in the manner of the preacher; all wild incoherent ravings; all personalities of address; praying for individuals by name in public assemblies, irreverent familiarity with the name of God; and calling on individuals in promiscuous meetings, to tell what God hath done for their souls. It rejects whatever is theatrical in gesture, pompous or vulgar in expression, and offensive to a cool dispassionate judgment, in stories and anecdotes. It demands solemnity; deep, heartfelt, all pervading solemnity in the preacher, the church and the congregation.

14. Great good has sometimes resulted from protracted meetings. This has been uniformly true, when they have been attempted in the spirit of a genuine revival; a spirit of humility, faith, prayer, and confidence in God alone. They have sometimes resulted in great evils. This has been uniformly true, when they have been attempted in the spirit of pride and self-sufficiency; with a determination to “get up a revival” at all events. Then, God has righteously blown upon them.

15. If there be a revival in progress, a protracted meeting is not often needed to sustain it; the ordinary means of grace are sufficient; and the introduction of other and singular means is adapted to deliver the public mind from the TRUTH, and engross it with what is foreign to the “great concern.” If there be no revival, and a protracted meeting is resorted to to produce one, it will either be followed, ordinarily, by no marked effect, or by a spurious excitement, which will prove fatally destructive to multitudes.

16. It is deserving of serious consideration that excitements which are preceded or accompanied by protracted meetings are usually of very short continuance. They are rather like the wind from the wilderness, that cometh suddenly, and uproots or breaks down every thing in its track, than like the north wind that awakes, and the South wind that blows upon the garden of the Lord, till the spices thereof flow forth in sweet perfume. It is a matter of alarming notoriety, that modern revivals, to a great extent, unlike those which blessed our land forty and eighty years ago, are got up and put down in a month; we hear of them to day as all glorious and wonderful; we inquire after them tomorrow; and lo! they are not!–Are they the work of the wise Master builder?

17. We are sick of every day’s report of “revivals” resulting from protracted meetings, (and we hear of few others) without any notice of the doctrines preached; of the nature of conviction that preceded the indulgence of hope; or the peculiar exercise of the converts; and without any other detail of “fruits,” than, so many have been added to the church, and, so many will be added at a subsequent communion. We refer not here to any particular case, but to a general fact in the report of modern revivals.

18. It is a fact, not to be disguised, that there is a vast difference between the revivals which blessed the Church in the days of Edwards, Strong, Griffin and Payson, and the revivals of the past ten or fifteen years. They are not to be named together. There are individual exceptions, no doubt. But we speak of them as classes. And in the first class, the whole truth of God was declared plainly, pungently, argumentatively, and without compromise. The whole reliance of Ministers and Churches was on the Holy Spirit. They stood still, and saw the salvation of the Lord. When the pillar of fire moved before them, they moved. When it passed behind them they passed in holy awe. And long did those revivals continue; deep and all penetrating was their influence; lasting as time and eternity were their visible and happy effects. In the second class, the truth of God is half wrapt up; doctrines offensive to the carnal heart may not be preached, lest the revival stop; total depravity; the sinner’s utter helplessness; eternal election; God’s absolute sovereignty; the resistless agency of the Holy Spirit, must all yield to the doctrine of the sinner’s ability; this is the grand fulcrum on which rests the whole moral machinery, by which he is to be renewed, and sanctified and transferred to heaven! And then, in order to complete success, protracted meetings of various kinds, extending from four to forty days must be maintained, and the most popular, not the most spiritual preachers in all the country must be called in, to give repeated and powerful impulses to the work. And when these means are exhausted, and the excitement once begins to flag, the Minister loses his order, the Church remits her prayer meetings; and the mass of community move on as if nothing had happened.

In such revivals we have little confidence. “Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

With all our hearts we love the revival that is pure and un-defiled. Give us such as are described in “Edwards’ Narrative;” in the first volumes of the “Connecticut Evangelical Magazine,” and such as have been witnessed in many of our Churches in earlier days, and we will call on all that is within us and on all around us, to bless the name of the Lord.

We believe that the Spirit of God is now in many of our Churches, and that he is ready to do a great work for the “American Zion”; nay, that he will do it, unless prevented by the spirit that is “wise above what is written.” But if the great doctrines of the Gospel are to be held back, or adulterated with impure mixtures; if we are to be taught reliance on protracted meetings, anxious seats, note for prayers, public female cooperation, &c., &c.; though there may be great excitement, there will be no such revival as carries joy through all the courts of God above. The Church will weep and clothe herself in sackcloth; and angels will turn away from the distressing scene, to regain composure from the unruffled face of man’s dishonored Saviour.

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, Vol. XII, No. 15 (14 April 1838): 58, columns 2-4.]

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