James Waddel Alexander (1804-1859) was the eldest son of Archibald and Janetta Alexander. His early education was in Philadelphia where his father was minister of the Third Presbyterian Church from 1807 until his call to be the first professor at the new Princeton Theological Seminary in 1812. James came to assurance of his salvation in 1820 and entered the Seminary in 1822. Licensed for the ministry in 1825, his first charge, the church at Charlotte Court House, Virginia (1827-29), was followed by three years in Trenton, New Jersey.
His literary work was already well-known (including his famous translation of Gerhard’s hymn, ‘O sacred Head! sore wounded’) and in 1833 he was appointed Professor of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres in the College of New Jersey. But his chief attachment was to the pastorate and the pulpit, and from 1844 until his death in 1859 (except for three years as a professor at Princeton Seminary, 1849-51) he occupied influential pastorates in New York. His health, never strong, appears to have been finally undermined by excessive labours in the great revival of 1857.