Thomas E. Peck was a nineteenth century southern Presbyterian in the school of Thornwell and Dabney. Born in 1822, he taught at Union Theological Seminary from 1860 until his death in 1893. He taught church history for the first 23 years and theology for the last 10 years.
The contents of the three volumes are individual articles, sermons, and lectures gathered for publication as a collection of miscellaneous writings after Peck’s death. Some had been published in various journals while Peck was living; others had not. The book suffers, therefore, from the lack of any relation of topics and chapters. On the other hand, the subjects of certain chapters are of great importance to Reformed theology and life. Overall, the volumes flesh out the theology of nineteenth century Presbyterianism in the south of the United States.
Volume 1 is mostly devoted to public worship. Peck was an ardent advocate of the regulative principle of worship. The opening chapter excellently argues the necessity of defending the truth against false doctrine. Peck wrote the piece against certain who pleaded that there be only a positive proclamation of the truth. Like the poor, these church members are with us always. Peck charitably called them the “brothers of charity.” The first volume ends with a few biographies, including a good sketch of Luther (“terribly in earnest”).
Volume 2 is theological. Included are a helpful account of the call to the ministry; Peck’s inaugural address on church history at his installation at Union Seminary; a chapter on “The Judicial Law of Moses,” in which Peck contends that the judicial, or civil, laws were intended only for Old Testament Israel; and some explanation of the book of Revelation. The second volume concludes with a treatment of issues of church polity, including an interesting chapter on “Church and State.” The impending division of the war between the states, affecting both the nation and the Presbyterian Church, looms large in Peck’s discussions of church government.
The last volume is exegetical, consisting largely of explanatory notes on various passages of Scripture and of sermons on the book of Acts, although there is also brief sermonic material on other passages.
One of these is a sermon on II Peter 3:8, 9, God’s not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is the passage that many professing Calvinists, not least the Banner of Truth men, who publish these volumes, are determined to press into the service of the heresy of universal, resistible grace in the preaching of the gospel, the “well-meant offer.” Peck would have none of it. His exposition of “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” goes like this:
The time is fixed; but so long as there breathes upon earth one solitary human being for whom Jesus has laid down his life, who has been ordained to faith, repentance, and life eternal, and destined to be an assessor with Jesus upon his throne, so long shall the heavens contain him whom our soul loveth but after the number of the elect shall have been accomplished, not one moment longer. Then shall he be revealed, and the earth with all its works and wickedness be given to the flames (p. 390).