While Monergism.org dishes out awesome e-books of the past Christian giants, there is a new kid on the block that is solely dedicated in publishing unknown 18th-19th century American Presbyterians. As you go to their website Log College Press, you’ll find over 1700 works by 350 authors that are free for download. So we reached out to Caleb Cangelosi, founder of Log College Press, to talk about church history, old books and of course Log College Press:
Delighting Grace: First off, why is it important for us to look back and read materials of and about the past? In other words, how essential is history for a believer?
Caleb Cangelosi: The study of church history is vital for Christians today because we are not the first ones to study the Scriptures, wrestle with theological questions, and engage in apologetics and evangelism. God has been working in His church far before He brought us into the world. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and have much to learn from our forefathers in the faith. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The study of history also teaches us that God uses sinful saints to accomplish His purposes, and therefore gives us great hope and encouragement as we go forth into the world today. Additionally, we must recognize that our religious experience in American has been impacted by our American theological ancestors – the past is not dead. At Log College Press, we are committed to encouraging the reading of both primary and secondary sources, for it is important to hear directly from those in the past, and to understand their writings in proper historical context, so that we might rightly apply their teachings to the present. We are motivated by the conviction that as Christians in the present root themselves in the past, we will bear fruit forward into the future for the glory of God and the church of Jesus Christ.
Delighting Grace: Can you tell us who are these authors and what is the most important contribution by this group in Christianity specifically in America?
Caleb Cangelosi: Log College Press is devoted to collecting and reprinting the writings of and about American Presbyterians from the 18th and 19th centuries. Our website contains authors from several different American Presbyterian denominations, and each of these bodies made unique contributions to the church of Jesus Christ, so it is difficult to state just one important thing they gave to America. But in general, in the books on our site you will find a commitment to the Scriptures as the inerrent, authoritative word of God; a commitment to the Westminster Standards as the summary of Scriptural teaching; a commitment to a gospel-centered and law-delighting piety; an emphasis upon the church of Jesus Christ; a focus on missions, evangelism, and apologetics; and a love for preaching (many of the writings on our site are sermon collections).
Delighting Grace: There are already tons of Christian books out there that a Christian read. What do you think makes reading old stuff a unique experience for a Christian?
Caleb Cangelosi: C. S. Lewis put it best in his essay, “On the Reading of Old Books.” He wrote, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…The only palliative [to ignoring our cultural and chronological blind spots] is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”
Delighting Grace: Wow! Please tell us how Log College Press started and what goals LCP wants to target?
Caleb Cangelosi: For some time I have had the desire to create a website that collected all the digitized writings of early American Presbyterians, much as the Post-Reformation Digital Library did for the Post-Reformation period. Over the past several years I have also wanted to see some of the books and booklets that I appreciate from these authors reprinted. After not finding any publishers interested in doing these reprints, I finally decided I would try to do it myself. I quickly realized that I could kill two birds with one stone and combine my two desires into one project – Log College Press (the name is taken from the earliest American Presbyterian “seminary,” William Tennent’s Log College – as many universities and colleges have a publishing arm, I thought it a fitting name on several levels).
So Log College Press is really two things. It is a website, offering free PDF downloads of all the public domain writings we can find online (or digitize ourselves) from 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians, and a near-daily blog that discusses the authors and writings we’re putting on our site. It is also a publishing company that aims slowly but surely to reprint some of the hidden gems from these authors, and hopefully one day secondary sources about them (we also have on our website a bookstore that possibly contains one of the largest online collections of secondary sources on American Presbyterian history). The website and the publishing are both designed to bring these authors and their writings back to the knowledge of the general public, so that by taking root in the past we might bear fruit into the future.
Delighting Grace: And some are free to download and read!
Caleb Cangelosi: Yes! We want people to be able to read the writings of this period, and so the primary service we provide is collecting in one place what is already out there on the internet. Nearly all the books on our site have been found on Google Books or Archive.org. The digitization projects of these websites is a tremendous blessing of the internet age. What formerly was hidden away in a library is now accessible with the click of a button, and can be loaded onto a tablet for easy access. We’ve done the work of locating the books and organizing them by author, so that those who are interested in this period can discover them more easily. Hopefully our work will enable these authors to reach a new audience – including an international audience who has never heard of these writings, or does not have American library access to them. I like to say that our job is that of “biblio-paleontology” – the finding of ancient books by unknown authors, who though dead can still speak God’s truth to our hearts.
Delighting Grace: That’s one noble cause for Christians to bring these authors back. How about the process of getting these materials and putting it online. It must be interesting process, isn’t?
Caleb Cangelosi: It is indeed. Currently two of us (a gentleman named Andrew Myers, and I) work on posting books to the site. As I just mentioned, we typically locate the works we are looking for on Google Books or Archive.org. Discovering books – especially books we had not known of previously – is the best part of this work. Sometimes we have to manually scan a work ourselves, or pay a library to do that for us. Since all these works are in the public domain, it is not a legal problem to copy them and post them online. We also clean up the PDFs, deleting blank pages to make them more visually attractive and “user-friendly.” We try to find as many pictures of the authors as we can find. That has also been a neat part of this work, because often there is only one picture that everyone thinks of with regard to a particular author – and yet there are often more pictures online, some from the authors’ youth. Seeing additional pictures can help change the way you think about a person.
Delighting Grace: Is there a one material from LCP that has a unique backstory?
Caleb Cangelosi: Two items come immediately to mind. First, Archibald Alexander’s Lecture Notes on Systematic Theology. Not only do we see what seminary class was like back in 1818, but also the notes were taken by Charles Hodge, Alexander’s student who followed Alexander as professor at Princeton Seminary. It is not alway easy to make out his handwriting, but it is fascinating to read hand-written notes from this era. Second, Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. This is a treasure trove of historical and biographical information, pictures, and Biblical-theological studies on important topics.
Delighting Grace: Now that’s a gem! If a Christian wants to read books from Log College Press, which one would you first recommend and why?
Caleb Cangelosi: Of the four publications that we have put out thus far, William Swan Plumer’s Christ All in All: The Right Temper for the Theologian that would be appealing to the broadest audience. Plumer’s booklet, though originally addressed to seminary students, is an easy introduction to the writing of the period, and is so rich in its Christ-centered piety. It is also a great read for anyone who desires to study theology, for Plumer teaches the manner in which one ought to approach this joyful task.
If any of your readers are pastors or teachers, they should definitely buy Francis Grimke’s Meditations on Preaching (about the glorious calling of feeding God’s sheep with the truth of Christ), or C. W. Grafton’s A Forty-Three Year Pastorate in a Country Church (about small-town ministry). Finally, if anyone is interested in learning more about Presbyterianism, Thomas Dwight Witherspoon’s The Five Points of Presbyterianism is a great introduction. We are about to publish Archibald Alexander’s Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autum of Life (about the trials of growing old, and the Christian’s hope beyond the grave).
Delighting Grace: How about those freebies? What is your Top 5 must read from the Free PDF Library?
Caleb Cangelosi: This is a very difficult question, as we currently have on our site over 1750 works by over 350 authors! But here are five that I would recommend:
- Archibald Alexander’s Biographical Sketches of the Founder, and Principal Alumni, of the Log College – to learn more about the history of the Log College and early American Presbyterianism.
- William Catto’s A Semi-Centenary Discourse – A History of the the First African Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, and a Brief Notice of Rev. John Gloucester – to learn about early African-American Presbyterians.
- Henry Alexander White’s Southern Presbyterian Leaders– biographical sketches of Presbyterians in the 19th century Southern United States.
- William Swan Plumer’s Commentary on the Psalms (or Hebrews orRomans)– commentaries filled with exegetical insights and practical wisdom for the Christian life.
- Stuart Robinson’s Discourses on Redemption– a great study of the gospel from Genesis through Revelation; a 19th century Biblical theology.
Delighting Grace: Thank you for this interview Caleb, so please invite our readers to go check Log College Press and share us your social media accounts so we can get in touch with LCP.
Caleb Cangelosi: Thank you so much for the privilege of communicating to your readers what we are doing! We would love for them all to visit our site (www.logcollegepress.com) and browse our free library, our blog archives, and our bookstore. We are giving away a free ebook on our home page, so your readers should definitely take advantage of that (currently, it’s William Swan Plumer’s Christ All in All: The Right Temper for a Theologian). Your readers can also sign up to receive our blog posts in their email inbox (this is a great way to learn more about the authors and works on our site). We are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To keep the website going, and to enable us to reprint more works, please buy our publications! I don’t currently ship to the Philippines, but I do sell ebooks (in Kindle and EPUB formats), so international readers can purchase them. We also sell our books on Amazon. If anyone has more questions, there is a contact form on our website. We would love to hear from them!