Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 19, 1970
NUMBER 41, PAGE 5b-6a

Advice From A Presbyterian Preacher To His Son, 1791

Walton Weaver

John Mason immigrated to America from Scotland while a young man, in the year 1761. He came as a minister in that branch of the Caledonian Church commonly called the Secession. In Pennsylvania a group had formed themselves into an organization known as "The Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania" about seven or eight years before Mr. Mason had arrived. This body was subordinate to the Associate Synod of Scotland. Many letters and petitions were sent by them, and from the Associate Congregation of New York, to Scotland for a supply of preachers. In response to these requests Mr. Mason was sent.

When John Mason's son, John M. Mason, went to Edinburgh to study at the University in 1791, the father wrote to his son on April 27 of that same year, giving him some excellent advice regarding both his habits of study and manners of life. His suggestions should prove helpful to those of us who endeavor to preach the gospel of Christ. After making several preliminary suggestions, he continues:

"These things deserve your attention, but the following advices are of much more importance:

"Keep your eye constantly on the state of your soul, the principles which govern your conduct, and the great realities of Eternity, some of which will soon be the objects of your experience. To be a Christian, and to live as a Christian, is the sum of your happiness and of your duty.

"Never neglect the reading of the Holy Scriptures in the manner to which you have been accustomed. Be attentive to every part of your Bible, especially to the Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Proverbs of Solomon, the Prophecies of Isaish, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zachariah, and the books of the New Testament. Make short annotations on what you read. Mark those texts which touch your heart, and while the impressions of them are fresh, prepare schemes of discourses upon them.

The Study Of Languages

"Be very intent on the study of the Hebrew language, for three or four months, and make yourself well acquainted with its grammar. When you shall be able to understand the Hebrew Scriptures with some ease I wish you to attend as the professor directs to the Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldaic, especially the Arabic, as much at least as will enable you to make progress in the study of them, after you shall leave the University.

"Do not however, neglect the Latin, Greek, and French languages. Be a classical critic. Read some of Plato's works, and make notes on what you read. In a particular manner attend to the purity of your own language. Lay in a store of classical words, that you may be able to express your sentiments on any subject, and on any occasion, with propriety and ease. In order to do this, labor to have clear ideas of things. Endeavor to acquire the habit of speaking in a plain, neat, unaffected style. Avoid bombast and vulgarity. Seldom let the proud monosyllable I, have the place in your compositions or discourses. Accustom yourself to read aloud, as one of the best means to fit you for public speaking. Be accurate in all your compositions.

The Study Of History

"Read with great care the Fathers of the three first centuries, and the Apostolical Constitutions. In these you will find many jewels, mixed with much rubbish. Observe the exposition they give of the Scriptures and what views they had of the doctrine of the Trinity, and of the person and office of the Redeemer. Write your remarks upon them; this will save much time in the future periods of life.

"Make much use of Prideaux Connections. Be very exact in reading the history of the Church . . . . Read with attention, but not with explicit faith, the Ecclesiastical Histories of Eusebius, Socrates, Evagrius, Mosheim, and Spanheim ...

Exercise And Recreation

"That you may not fall into confusion, and give unnecessary fatigue to your mind, make a prudent distribution of your time. If you sleep only seven hours in one day, you will have seventeen hours for devotion, for study, and for exercise. Let me again recommend to you the strictest attention to exercise. It may sometimes be necessary to lay aside study for a week or two, and to make an excursion into the country on horseback."

— 1324 Boyte Cove, Memphis, Tennessee 38128