Abraham Lance Lathem Papers
Manuscript Collection #146
Box number tba
Content Summary: Sermon notes, Summer Bible School curriculum and correspondence, historical notes on the churches served by Dr. Lathem,
Span Dates: 1892-1955, 1960-1970
Size: 1.0 cu. ft.
Administrative Information: The Lathem Papers consist primarily of materials donated to the PCA Historical Center from Widener University, Chester, PA. Another notable donation, received separately, is Dr. Lathem's Ph.D. thesis, as published by the Wooster Quarterly in 1902. Additional materials were gathered by the staff of the PCA Historical Center from 2001 onward, and these items are marked in the finding aid with the notation "[HC]".
Preferred Citation: Abraham Lance Lathem Miscellany Collection, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.
Access Restrictions: None
Related Collections: Bible Presbyterian Church
Selected Items from this Collection:
Old Testament History: Adam to Saul in Question and Answer, by A.L. Lathem, D.D. (1924)
The Twelve Apostles and James the Lord's Brother, by A.L. Lathem, D.D. (1926)
"How to Conduct a Summer Bible School," by Dr. A.L. Lathem (1937)
Francis A. Schaeffer's letter in commendation of the Summer Bible School program (1942)
Administrative History: Arrangement and description of the collection was performed in July 2009 by Mr. Greg Parker, PCA Historical Center intern and then reviewed by Mr. Sparkman, the director of the Center.
Bibliography of Dr. Lathem's published works

Biographical Sketch:
On February 21 [1955], in Chester, Pennsylvania, the death of Dr. Abraham Lance Lathem marked the passing of a fearless warrior for "the faith once delivered unto the saints." Pastor-founder of the Bible Presbyterian Church (unaffiliated) of Chester, and founder of the national and international Summer Bible School movement, Dr. Lathem was peculiarly blessed of God with an active ministry for a full quarter of a century after most ministers retire. He was laid aside for three weeks before his Homegoing, during which time he underwent surgery, and had he lived, he would have been 89 years of age in May [of 1955].

Summer Bible School

Dr. Lathem was an internationally known figure through the Summer Bible School movement which he founded in 1911. In the forty-four years from 1911 until his death in 1955, this movement extended throughout the United States, Canada, Korea, India and other countries. Satisfactory completion of the prescribed curriculum of intensive Bible study, including twelve five-week sessions, entitled pupils to a diploma, and in some instances, college credit was even earned. The Summer Bible School program also provided one year of Kindergarten and two years of post-graduate work. Dr. Lathem was himself the author of much of the supplemental material used in the School, including The Bible, the Christian's Sacred Book, The Way of Life, The Life of Jesus, Adam to Saul, The Apostle Paul, The Twelve Apostles, Character Building, and other studies.

A native of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lathem spent more than fifty years in Chester. For thirty-five years he was the pastor of one of the city's larger churches, Third Presbyterian Church. Then in 1939, he was constrained for conscience' sake to break away from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as it was increasingly falling under the throes of modernism, and he sought to form a new church free from all entangling alliances. Full texts of Dr. Lathem's testimony to Chester Presbytery [PCUSA], his last sermon before the Third Presbyterian Church, and reproduction of other pictures and accounts in connection with this courageous step were printed in the Christian Beacon of 3 March 1955.

Editorially, the Chester Times, a secular newspaper with circulation of over 38,00, paid this tribute to Dr. Lathem in its issue of 23 February:

"Rev. Abraham Lance Lathem has been one of the most significant religious personalities of this city for the past half-century . . . a representative of the old school of fundamental conviction who would not compromise with sin or modernism . . .
"After 25 [35] years in the pulpit of Third Presbyterian Church, Dr. Lathem was called upon to make a break with the Presbyterian Church over the question of the fundamentals of the faith.
"Believing that the church that he had served for over a quarter of a century had 'just gotten away from the Bible' but with no unfriendly feeling toward the Third Presbyterian Church, he broke away and formed the Bible Presbyterian Church (unaffiliated).
For a young man to make such a decision would cause much comment. For an eminently successful clergyman of 71 years of age to embark on the formation of a new church from the ground up seemed impossible."
[brackets and italics added]

Soul Winner
Dr. Lathem was taken ill on 28 January 1955. About two weeks prior to that time, he and Mr. Robert Bell, his assistant, were out calling. "He had been asking for some time," Mr. Bell recalled, "how we were coming along with our attempt to cover every home represented in our church, as was his usual custom in the fall months. It was also nearing the time for communion when he looked for additions to the visible church. But he turned to me this day and said, "Mr. Bell, how much longer do you think it will take us to finish our own people? You know, they will have all eternity to visit with us in Heaven, but we must get out to the unsaved and reach them for Jesus." This was his concern many times in much the same words."

Dr. Lathem was survived by four children: Miss Elizabeth Lathem, of Chester; Rev. Lance B. Lathem, of Chicago; Mrs. Helen Taber, New York City; and Mrs. Evangeline Buisse ["Buysse"?] of Washington, D.C.

Of this great man of God it can be well said that "he being dead yet speaketh."

[excerpted, with modifications, from The National Missions Reporter 8.3 (April 1955): 3, 18.]

More on the history of the Summer Bible School is available off-site at this web page:

Finding Aid [Additional items gathered by the PCAHC staff are marked with the notation "[HC]". All other materials were received from the Widener University archives in 2009.]:

Subject Box File
Finding Aid - 1
Biographical Information [HC] - 2
Untitled Holographic Manuscript on “The Book of the Law” – an examination of Higher Criticism’s views of the Pentateuch, dated 2 April 1892, Princeton, New Jersey. [This volume is unsigned but Lathem was at Princeton in 1892 and the manuscript bears strong resemblance to his known writing. - 3
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1902, The Soul: What Is Its Nature, Origin and Destiny? Wooster, OH: University of Wooster, 1902; Ph.D. dissertation, reprinted from The Post-Graduate and Wooster Quarterly, January 1902. 53 pp.; 23 cm. [HC] - 4
Lathem, Abraham Lance, circa 1927, The Sayings of the Lathem Children, handwritten diary of home spun remembrances of his children and their pearls of wisdom; 21pp.; 13.5 cm. - 5
Latham, Lance B. [evangelist, organist, pianist; Pastor of Third Presbyterian Church; note: last name spelled differently than father’s], 1935, church bulletin, photo, and various cards - 6
Lathem, Elizabeth M. [wife of Dr. A.L. Lathem], undated, Resolution of Respect, presented by the ladies of the Missionary Society and bearing thirty-one signatures, attesting the Christian character, family devotion, and hard work of Elizabeth M. Lathem; black bound volume, 14pp. 25.5cm. - 7
Lathem Papers Miscellaneous. Handwritten notes, Biblical; 20th Century Overcomers Program, Rev. John A. Carrara pamphlet; Last Will and Testimony of Nancy Sample (4 pages); newspaper article decrying gov’t spending and taxation in 1942; 30th ministry anniversary bulletin for Rev. Tedesco (1915-1945); sympathy card from Huston family; letter from Mrs. Alfred S. Gillet with donation of $100.00 for building fund; bulletin from The First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport, CT; handwritten address of Harvey V. Prentice; agent’s coupons from the Eastern Clergy Bureau (3) for A.L. Lathem; clergy fare certificate of Eastern Clergy Bureau; Mount Olivet Church Constitution Doctrinal Basis Pastoral Counsels (1942); note from James L. Rankin 12/23/42; manila cutout with notation of Lance’s meetings; letter from Abraham Lathem exhorting the church faithful to observe the Holy Sacrament; musical selection “Jesus is the light of the world”; invitation of Abraham Lathem and daughter to banquet 7/10/50; address list of Chester meeting members (20); best wishes note to A.L.; 6 point crime prevention newspaper article 3/29/44; handwritten notes 5/26/47; handwritten note of thanks 8/20/43; reminder notes “School Board”; list of Christmas gifts 1954 (3 pages) - 8
Lathem, Abraham Lance, mostly undated, Sermon Cards, including announcements for the following sermons: Cities of Refuge; God’s Wireless--An Ancient Patriarch Noah Receives a Message, The Receiving Station a Burning Bush; Invitation Card (1946); Welcome Card; Reference Card (listing 4 sermons); Evening Subjects--Four Topics; Four Sermons Announced for January: Isms That Hurt; The Hand of God; The Angel of the Lord; and The Dread Sound of Wrath. - 9
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1895-1896, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], brown booklet, 40 pages. - 10
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1896-1898, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], October 1896 – September 1898, brown booklet, 40 pages. - 11
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1898-1900, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil and ink], October 1898 – March 1900, brown booklet, 40 pages. - 12
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1919-1920, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil and ink], February 1919 – March 1920, black booklet, 56 pages. - 13
Latham, Lance B. & Lathem, Abraham Lance, undated, [handwritten, black and red ink] How to Win People to Christ. 1 st 34 pages belong to Lance B. (small neat handwriting), 2 nd 112 pages belong to Abraham L. (large handwriting), brown booklet (fragile state) bears title Lance B. Latham | Nasal Sephin – Biol. - 14
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1940-1945, Sermon Notes, loose leaf notebook papers (unbound), 150+ pages (handwritten in pencil), plus letter with personal correspondence letters from Debbie Ward Sammons, Ann Stewart, and E. Louise Kruse. - 15
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1945, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], 36 pages. - 16
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1947, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], 60+ pages, receipt for grave basket, $6.00 from Talley’s flowers, newspaper clipping from March 4, 1948. - 17
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1948-1952, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], 71 pages. - 18
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1952-1953, Sermon Notes [handwritten in pencil], 50+ pages, 2 letters: one from William Albany, one written by Lathem. - 19
Lathem, Elizabeth, 1937-1961, various correspondence; text of hymn Onward Christian Soldiers; church bulletin July 29, 1937; Living Water for Summer Bible School; letter by Elizabeth advocating Summer Bible School; brief biography sketch of Dr. Lathem (hand written); letter to Mrs. MacRae (typed), with handwritten draft; letter to directors 11/28/61; letter to teachers of SBS; SBS notes; letter to Dr. McIntire; Dr. Lathem's letters to parents; report of board of directors of SBS; handwritten history of SBS notes. - 20
Lathem, Abraham Lance, 1934, Sermon Notes; Details on the history of Third Presbyterian Church; Details on the history of the Summer Bible School program. - 21
Lathem, Abraham Lance, circa 1894-1955, Miscellaneous materials on the churches served by Dr. Lathem; includes Order of Exercises of the Installation of the Rev. A.L. Lathem, Ph.D., into the Pastorate of the Third Presbyterian Church, Chester, Pa., 1904. - 22
Bible Presbyterian Church (unaffiliated), Chester, PA, 1939-1955, Correspondence - 23
Faith Theological Seminary, 1938-1955, Miscellaneous correspondence - 24
Summer Bible School, 1924-1926, Curriculum: includes 1. Old Testament History (1924); 2. The Twelve Apostles (1926); 3. The Shorter Catechism (undated). [HC] - 25
Summer Bible School, Folder 1 - 26
Summer Bible School, Folder 2 - 27
Summer Bible School, Correspondence - 28
Summer Bible School, Fifth Grade, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1970 - 29
Summer Bible School, Senior Class, undated, Study Notes - 30
Schaeffer, Francis A., 1942, Letter in commendation of the Summer Bible School program - - 31
Summer Bible School, 1946-1953, Teacher Instructions - 32